House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wheat.

Topics

Department Of Natural Resources Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

No.

Department Of Natural Resources Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take what little time is left to congratulate the minister on this bill. I hardly think that it is merely housekeeping. By defining sustainable development in accordance with the Brundtland report and by putting it into the part of the bill under the clause which says "the minister shall", it has given this principle of sustainable development some validity. The other aspects of the minister's duties should be considered in light of that statement. I want to refer to one or two of them. Subclause 6(c) states:

The minister shall participate in the development and application of codes and standards for technical surveys and natural resources products and for the management and use of natural resources.

Subclause (d) as we have noted and as my hon. colleague from Davenport pointed out so well states:

Having regard to the integrated management and sustainable development of Canada's natural resources.

Subclause (c) says:

To seek to enhance the responsible development and use of Canada's natural resources.

It seems to me that it makes it pretty clear that the minister has a twofold purpose and that they must be integrated. Further in the bill we get to subclause 3(2):

The minister may enter into agreements with the government of any province or with any person for forest protection and management or forest utilization and for the conduct of research related thereunto or for forestry publicity or education.

It seems to me that this allows the minister considerable leeway in assisting all Canadians who desire to preserve or enhance or continue our natural resources to be accommodated.

Personally, 24 years ago I entered into an agreement with the province of Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources, under its Woodland Improvement Act and established forest on my property. It was a joint venture. I must say it is a pleasure to walk through those trees now, 24 years later.

The minister is also empowered to collect and publish statistics for the mineral explorations development and production of the mining and metallurgical industries of Canada. The words `exploration and development' have been added. I think that suggests that the minister has some responsibility for not only maintaining that industry but for maintaining it in a sustainable way.

With respect to some of the comments of my hon. colleague opposite, I find in clause 6 that the minister must co-operate with persons conducting applied and basic research programs and investigations. I have had concerns for some time that much of our research money tends to go to applied research and not basic research. We need to pay some attention to basic research.

My colleague from Davenport talked about biodiversity, old growth forests and some of these rather intangible and not fully understood benefits of the conservation of our natural resources. I notice that again in clause 6(b) the minister can keep under review and consider recommendations with respect to transportation, distribution, sale, purchase, exchange and with respect to matters relating to the sources of these resources within

or outside Canada, which hopefully would mean that disasters such as the Exxon Valdez might be prevented in future.

In clause 7(1) the minister may formulate plans for the conservation, development and use of resources specified in that section and for related research. The word related has been added and it adds a world of meaning to that clause.

I mentioned the woodland improvement act. Our forest resources need protection, development and sustainable development if we are to continue to be a world leader in these things.

With respect to a carbon tax I have a few comments. If we adopt green accounting in the resource industries, it might serve the same purpose. It might put in the hands of the captains of industry the kind of techniques, the kind of information that they need in order to make the kind of decisions that will continue to sustain us in the fields of forestry and mining.

Department Of Natural Resources Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Moncton
New Brunswick

Liberal

George S. Rideout Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Oxford on his speech and the points that he raised in his rather brief address. I realize he was trying to give other hon. members an opportunity to speak.

I would like to ask him a couple of questions. First, what is his opinion of the inclusion of a definition of sustainable development in the legislation? Second, maybe he could confirm the rather strong position taken by the Prime Minister with respect to a carbon tax.

Department Of Natural Resources Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that the definition of sustainable development is in the bill. It would be very shortsighted at this juncture not to include that definition in the bill.

If we do not move wholeheartedly in that direction, and I mean at this level of government as well as provincially and municipally, we are going to be in a bad way.

I must apologize, I did not catch the hon. member's second question.

Department Of Natural Resources Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 5.50 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

September 27th, 1994 / 5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Don Valley North, ON

moved that Bill C-229, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (registration of political parties), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, first I wish to thank the House for allowing me this opportunity to speak on Bill C-229. I also want to say that I am a bit disappointed that this bill will only have one hour of debate and will not have a chance to be voted on. However, that is how the system works and that is what we have to live with.

Before I speak about the changes I want to apply with Bill C-229, I want to briefly describe to members of the House the present situation existing in the Canada Elections Act.

The law reads that if 50 candidates are nominated in any region of the country they qualify as a national party. That is a very narrow definition of the law. It has to increase in order for democracy to work.

The changes I would like applied to the act are the following: first, to be a national party, that party should be running candidates in seven provinces at least. Second, representation should be from 50 per cent of the population of Canada. Third, 50 per cent of the candidates should be from each of the seven provinces in order to qualify as a national party.

In last October's election we had 15 political parties running for office. At the top of the list were the two national parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals who had 295 candidates nominated, next were the NDP, followed by the Natural Law Party of Canada which nominated 231 candidates, and the lowest party was the Marxist-Leninist Party which nominated 51 candidates.

Some people will argue that Bill C-229 restricts Canadians from practising their right to become a candidate or to form a political party. This is far from being true. In effect, what this bill does is it allows people in all regions of the country to participate in the change. For example let us take one of the principles of this bill. It states that the party must run 50 per cent of its candidates in seven provinces in accordance to population.

Today in the House we have an opposition party that ran 75 candidates in only one province. Out of the 75 candidates it won 54 seats and became the official opposition. By tradition the official opposition is the government in waiting and the leader of the official opposition is to be the Prime Minister in waiting. Can you imagine this country and this House which has a political party whose sole purpose is to break up this country and a Prime Minister in waiting whose sole purpose is to implement that break-up? That is not democracy.

I live in Ontario. I am the member for Don Valley North. People in Don Valley North never had a chance to vote on who the opposition is in this House. That is not democracy. We in Ontario have the right to decide, as much as the people in Quebec have the right to decide, who will be the opposition party. People in B.C. have the same right as do the people on the

east coast. The way it is, this right is denied to the citizens of this land.

Two opposition parties is the way it is today. One of them is headquartered in Quebec City claiming to be a national party. The other party is headquartered in Calgary again claiming to be a national party. If a national party is to be in this House of Commons, their headquarters should be located in the nation's capital in order to facilitate their activities.

Seventy-five per cent of Canadians did not participate in choosing this opposition party. It is only fair that we would also be asked. Twenty-five per cent of the population in this case should not decide the opposition party of this House.

When I was campaigning in the 1993 election campaign I saw a big sign, 4 by 8, in front of the Reform Party candidate's headquarters which said: "We will run the country the way we run the campaign". The Reform Party ran the campaign without Quebec.

I am very happy that Reformers are thinking of expanding into Quebec. This is very good and I commend them for it. I also hope that with the changes I am proposing in this bill the Bloc Quebecois will have a chance to run candidates in other provinces, in other regions, next time around. I am sure they are going to be here and I hope to be here so we can have constructive discussion about the future of our country.

I return to the point I made about the 15 political parties that ran in this election. One of the benefits of being a national party is that you get reimbursement from the federal government.

For example the Conservative Party spent $10,398,101. They received $2,339,752.72. The Canada Party had the lowest expenditures in the last election campaign and had 56 candidates. They spent $172.72.

Surely today's opposition party spent more than $172. Surely it can spend more than that in order to have a proper opposition, a good opposition in this House, so the system can work and function.

Without implementing these changes I think we will lose the unity of this country.

I want to conclude my remarks for the time being, but pick up again toward the end. If we intend to have strong central government we have to change the law in order to achieve it. When we change the law we can achieve a united, indivisible Canada.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-229, which would amend the Canada Elections Act with respect to registration of political parties.

This bill, which would oblige a political party to put forward candidates in a minimum of seven Canadian provinces that have, in the aggregate, 50 per cent of the population of all the provinces, is, in our opinion, undemocratic and contrary to one of the provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act.

The least that can be said about Bill C-229, introduced by the hon. member for Don Valley North, is that it targets the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, among others. In our opinion, it is an insult to democracy, as it denies Quebec, a distinct society, the right to its own representatives in the House of Commons. It must be pointed out that the people of Quebec are true believers in democracy.

The hon. member for Don Valley North, in introducing such a bill, shows a very poor knowledge indeed of the Canadian political scene and of its diversity. The social, economic and cultural make-up of Toronto, where the member hails from, does not apply to every part of Canada, to Quebec in particular. It must be pointed out that Quebecers do not, any longer, feel comfortable with the old national parties, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, whose policies always sought to champion the interests and pursue the objectives of a mythical Canadian nation, with a total disregard for regional specificity.

Quebec chose to be represented by the Bloc Quebecois, and it is certainly not a member from the Toronto region who is going to stand in the way of the political representation of one fifth of the citizens and taxpayers of Canada in the House of Commons.

This bill is completely inconsistent and does not respect Canadian political tradition. Since the passage of the new Canada Elections Act in 1970, there has been provision for the registration of political parties. However, the multi-party system appeared in Canada well before then. As early as 1920, members of other parties began to be elected to the House of Commons in sufficient numbers and with sufficient support and credibility to influence the system.

I would remind the members that, in the 1930s, Social Credit and the Commonwealth Co-operative Federation represented very special interests, with demands and hopes that were not at all national in scope. They were movements formed by Western producers to protest the excessive taxation authority of a highly centralizing federal government. None of them were represented in seven provinces or by a total of 50 per cent of the population of Canada. This is an important point to remember.

In the early 1960s, these movements, which evolved into political parties, became important elements in Canadian party politics, hence the inconsistency and irrelevance of Bill C-229.

In the past, a number of political parties that sprang up on the Canadian scene were limited to a single province. Why then, today, is there a wish to take extreme action and amend the Canada Elections Act, except to stop the democratically elected Bloc Quebecois from demonstrating its repudiation of the old national parties and thus seeking to attain political autonomy. Nothing in the existing elections act mentions the need for a political party to nominate candidates in more than seven provinces to qualify for registration.

The act mentions only that in order to be registered and thus officially recognized nationally, a party must nominate more than 50 candidates, whether in one province or in the whole country, for the purposes of consistency, credibility and visibility.

This bill is a flagrant contradiction of the Parliament of Canada Act regarding the official status of political parties in the House. May I remind the member for Don Valley North that there is a rule whereby a political party must have at least 12 members elected to be recognized in this House.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member: How is it possible to recognize, in the House of Commons, a party which might not even be registered at the next general election? Even if the Elections Act requires that a given party nominate at least fifty candidates to be registered-which increases the probability of it being present in at least seven provinces-we consider that Bill C-229 is in net violation of the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Elections Act. In 1990, although the House had by then 295 seats, 12 members were still enough to be recognized as a party. The New Democratic Party's current status is a case in point: it wanted to be recognized, but it failed.

Let us be clear, the inclusion of such provisions in the Elections Act would mean the end of the multiparty system within the Canadian electoral system and the emergence of a "one-way" political system in which two parties, largely dominated by two parliamentary executives, would alternate serving the same interests and the same vision of a highly centralized Canada.

I should add that this bill lends credence to the argument that Canadian diversity is just a myth and that the distinctiveness of the Quebec society is gradually eroding. This is what we read recently in the Globe and Mail . That editorial said that Canadian society was one of the most homogeneous in the world. This is not what was reflected in the results of the last general election. In fact, the real myth is the notion of Canadian nationhood; to believe that one day there will be only one culture from coast to coast is ludicrous.

We could say that somehow the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois are the political arm of Quebec's culture, fighting to protect its originality and distinctiveness.

We believe that Bill C-229 introduced by the member for Don Valley North is a sham since it does not take into account cultural diversity or the legitimate position of the party forming the Official Opposition. I will remind you, Mr. Speaker, that as the opposition we have behaved in a responsible manner and according to parliamentary rules. We have dealt with issues of interest to Quebec and Canada and used question period with efficiency and respect, no matter the issue. We have proven to be efficient, transparent and respectful of fundamental democratic principles.

Therefore, we strongly denounce the bill introduced by the member for Don Valley North as being undemocratic in its very intent.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, for those who are watching the parliamentary channel instead of Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy , the purpose of this private member's bill is to change the Canada Elections Act so that a party can only be a legitimate registered party here in Canada if it is running candidates in at least seven of the ten provinces, one of which has to be either Quebec or Ontario.

Of course, the purpose of this bill is very clear, and that is to knock the Bloc. I suppose there would be a lot of Canadians who would have a sneaking sympathy for the intent behind this bill. A lot of Canadians I have talked to, a lot of Canadians all of us have talked to are pretty ticked that we have in this House, making laws for our country, deciding or helping to decide how our money is spent, shaping the future of our country, a group of people essentially intent on the destruction of Canada as we know it.

A lot of people are asking is there not a way we can stop this. They are particularly exercised, particularly angry, when a group of people in this House who call themselves Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition have interests in mind, have an agenda in mind, which again is adverse to the interests of the national unity of our country.

A lot of Canadians would sympathize with the member for Don Valley West and the intent behind this bill to try to stop regional parties from forming and coming forward.

Sometimes the cure is a lot worse than the disease. Although the disease is bad, this cure is a whole lot worse. It is kind of like those ancient dragons. You cut off one head but two worse heads, more fierce with larger teeth, spring up in its place.

What this bill really does is abrogate a lot of democratic rights in this country. Canadians should be aware that the reason a party has to run 50 candidates somewhere in order to be registered as a party is really designed to make sure that taxpayers' money is not totally and frivolously spent. What happens, as most of us know, is if a candidate is successful half the candidate's election expenses are returned to them courtesy of the taxpayer. A lot of people think that is an abuse of taxpayers' money but it would be a lot more of an abuse if anybody could run and expect to have half their expenses paid by the rest of society.

The law was designed so that there had to be at least some threshold of support for a group or a party before they could expect to receive some funding from the taxpayer. That is the real reason why the present act says that a party must run 50 candidates somewhere in Canada in order to qualify as a registered party.

The law was not designed to limit the right to association of Canadians and limit the right of Canadians to get together for purposes of political activity.

I would suggest that it is very important that we not limit the right of Canadians, not make it more difficult, not put onerous requirements on Canadians who want to participate in the political process. This is a subject that obviously is very near and dear to my heart because for the last seven years of my young life I have spent building a new political dynamic to inject into a hidebound and reactionary system. We need change sometimes in democratic society and democratic politics.

That change usually starts small. It starts with a vision and support for it grows. It does not sort of arrive full blown from the soil. I am here to tell members that because I have participated in that kind of exercise.

If we insist that a political movement, a political dynamic, only has legitimacy if somehow it has instant support so that it can have registered candidates right across the country, and lots of them, it simply is going to limit the change, the newness and the renewal that we allow in our political system which is very unacceptable in a democracy.

The hon. member for Don Valley North when he spoke made two statements that I take very grave exception to. First of all, as a westerner I am absolutely outraged that he would say that you are only legitimate as a political party if you have an office in Ontario.

Somehow the arrogance of certain assumptions just overwhelms me. To say that only something rooted in Ontario has legitimacy in our political system is outrageous. I would suggest to the hon. member that the political renewal that has its base in western Canada is every bit as useful to this country, is every bit as positive a dynamic in our political system as a political party that has its roots in Newfoundland, Montreal or in Yukon. It does not matter where your head office is, it matters where your head is and that is the important thing.

I also take exception to the continual distortion by members opposite of the Reform Party and its policies. Here is another example that we just heard a few minutes ago. The member for Don Valley West said that the Reform Party signs during the election campaign said this we will run the country the way we run our campaign. Then he went on to say since we ran our campaign without candidates in Quebec, obviously we would run the country without Quebec.

What an abuse, what a distortion of what Reform really said. For the record, the Reform signs said, and I hope everyone is listening, that we will run the country the way we run our campaign, debt free. I challenge the member to indicate whether his party ran the campaign debt free. We sure know it is not running the country debt free. It is running this country into debt $110 million every single day. To it, success is placing a debt on our shoulders of another at least $100 billion in its term of office.

I would like to have less distortion and more facts from the other side about what the Reform Party has to offer this country.

The real problem in this country is not political parties and who they represent and where they have their head offices. The real problem in this country is that the status quo, the old system, the old thinking, the old way of approaching issues does not work for us any more. We need renewal. We need change.

What we see in this House with a party which represents only one province and whose agenda is to break up this wonderful country is not something that should be corrected by suppressing legitimate political concern and discontent, but by addressing the root of the problem that caused this situation to begin with. The root of the problem is that status quo federalism does not work. We are faced with an opportunity staring us in the face to fix this system, to acknowledge that changes are needed for the benefit of all Canadians. It is not just the province represented by the members beside us that are discontent with the way this country has been run. There are people in all parts of the country who are saying we need change.

We need to serve notice that there has to be an honest debate about renewing our federation so that it works better for all of us. We do not need bills to suppress legitimate political expressions and democratic involvement. We need a government that will put ideas on the table to renew the way we operate as a country.

We need solutions and we need a resolution of this problem, not to hide it, not to suppress it, not to make it illegal, not to push it under the rug but to say we need change and the kind of changes we need.

We need changes where governments live within their means. Not only the province represented by the Bloc but all of us are staggering under the load of a huge mortgage on our country which is getting bigger every single day. We need a federal system that lives within its means, where we pay for our programs today and we do not offload our spending on to our children. That is what is needed in this country.

We need a country where citizens are treated equally regardless of race, language and culture or where they have their head office. We need a system where all Canadians are treated equally. It is very important that we get those kinds of systemic changes.

I challenge the hon. member not to bring forward bills that suppress legitimate democratic participation but really have solid proposals to get to the root of the problem, fix the system, renew our federation and let us go on together as a country.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dianne Brushett Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I support my colleague from Don Valley North wholeheartedly in this most welcome legislative initiative, Bill C-229, a bill to amend the Canada Elections Act.

We did not have a mechanism like C-229 in place last October. Now we have a situation in this House where the Official Opposition party is dedicated to a proposition which can tear Canada asunder and whose agenda can monopolize this Parliament and eventually paralyse this government.

The Bloc members have been given all of the privileges and power that go with such a status. This party could constitutionally be called upon to govern the entire nation. How many nation states no matter how democratic or tolerant would accept as their official opposition, even as a legitimate national party, a party whose sole purpose is to rupture the country?

The answer of course is very few unless they have a collective national death wish. Surely it is not too much to ask that any party that aspires to represent Canadian citizens in this federal Parliament should reach out beyond the narrow parochial confines of its regional power base or of its own special interests.

My voters in Nova Scotia elected me to represent the interests of Cumberland-Colchester here in Canada's Parliament. They also expect me to bring a perspective to this job that extends far beyond the boundaries of my riding. After all, the voters of Cumberland-Colchester realize that my salary is paid by all taxpaying Canadians and that as their member of Parliament in this national capital I also have to serve the larger national interests.

In 1982 the former member of Parliament for Hull, Mr. Gaston Isabelle, with incredible foresight introduced Bill C-661 that would have required any party to receive registration in Canada to nominate at least 50 candidates in a majority of the provinces.

The purpose of this bill was to, as he put it and I quote: "remove any trace of ambiguity as to the national character of political parties desiring to operate at the federal level".

At second reading in March 1983 Mr. Isabelle noted:

It is easy to understand why a political party, if it wants to operate at the national level, should be obliged to field candidates in a majority of the provinces, that is in five out of six. These are candidates who will be working on the federal scene- Without this obligation, regional or provincial groups, which I prefer to qualify as local, will use Parliament as a platform for their own special interests.

Unfortunately Mr. Isabelle's bill disappeared and died inside a parliamentary committee and 11 years later what he prophesied has come to pass.

We have a chance once again to redress the great deficiencies he saw over a decade ago in the Canada Elections Act. The Bloc Quebecois got its present pre-eminence in this Parliament simply because it received 1.8 million votes that were distributed across the electoral landscape of Quebec only.

It won 54 seats in this Parliament, 54 seats of Quebec's 75, and yet the Bloc did not win the majority of the Quebec vote. There were over 3.7 million valid ballots cast in Quebec and the Bloc won less than 50 per cent, 49.3 per cent in one province only, yet they form the official opposition to the Government of Canada.

Compared to other parties in this House, the Reform Party received over 2.5 million ballots from Canadians in 9 out of 10 provinces and yet won two fewer seats. The Progressive Conservatives received more than 2.1 million votes across Canada yet won only two seats. The Bloc Quebecois based solely on the number of seats won has formed the official opposition of the Government of Canada.

It seems to me that the Bloc's claim to pride of place in the opposition benches based solely on the first past the post outcome is far from secure in terms of either ideal democratic practice or equitable electoral outcome.

No, I am not preaching for some kind of proportional representation to elect our MPs. Given our expansive geography and scattered population it is just not practical. Moreover it has been tried in various forms in various places in Canada in the past and each time has failed as too exotic a graft on the trunk of the Canadian body politic.

My daughter who is a master of political science tells me I must stress the importance of natural democracy rights. That is that we do have rights of the individual to mobilize parties in this country and to participate in government.

However, we must recognize the fact that Canada is very regionally diverse. Extensive country breeds regional political parties. At the last election we had 14 or 15 registered political

parties and our tendency is to divide and distinguish ourselves regionally.

This is not a trend we should encourage in a national Parliament. Yet we have as our official opposition the regional party the Bloc Quebecois whose sole purpose in being here is to take its one province out of this Canadian family.

I believe we should also have the humility as parliamentarians to recognize that many of us as individuals got to this place not as a result of any sweeping mandate from the voters but, given the multi-party nature of Canadian politics, through the grace of plurality.

During the Liberal sweep of Canada I got 42 per cent of the votes cast in Cumberland-Colchester and my next closest opponent took 36 per cent. In the Reform heartland a member from Calgary had a 44 per cent plurality. The list goes on across the country.

There are many of us in the same situation. We are not only a regionally diverse nation, our electorate is also very diverse. We mislead ourselves and do them and this country a disservice when we see our constituents as distinct little tribes.

There is no such thing as a homogenized Nova Scotian, nor is one in Quebec where one size fits all. I take great pride and satisfaction in knowing that there is unity, there is oneness in the diversity that identifies Canadians.

We should recognize our duty as parliamentarians to provide a focal point for Canada here in this House. We can best do that by ensuring those who enjoy this House's privileges do so as members of registered parties who reflect the entire Canadian spectrum and not narrow regional interests.

This bill in no way impedes the right of any member of any party to sit in this House now or in the future. What it does ensure, however, is that if they want to sit in this House as a member of a registered party enjoying the benefits that flow from registration their party must nominate candidates in at least seven provinces representing an aggregate of 50 per cent of the population.

That is not an onerous requirement for any party that aspires to run this country. As an Atlantic Canadian, I have a vested interest in regional special interests. However, I feel that this country and Atlantic Canada benefit from a strong national government.

We are best served by a strong national Parliament and this bill is intended to live up to the diversity and the multiculturalism of Canada. It is intended to represent the national character of Canada.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, the intended purpose of this bill is to stop single interest parties from being established.

The manner in which it is written could also stop multiple interest regional parties from forming. There is a realistic purpose in establishing a restriction on financial assistance in the form of a rebate or a portion of the election expenses.

However, this restriction now exists by way of a requirement to field at least 50 candidates in order to qualify for that election expense rebate. On one hand, it is understandable to want to prevent the emergence of political parties that advance the interests of a single province. This bill, however, is not a very democratic way to achieve that goal.

Many people have suggested that democracy really only exists for about one minute every four years when one enters the polling booth. That is not good enough. This country clearly does have different regions and from time to time problems in those regions give birth to new political movements.

Sometimes those regional parties disappear early in their existence, such as the Progressive Party. At other times, a party such as the Reform Party of Canada which saw its start in a region grows to become a contender to form the next Government of Canada.

I would point out to members that this can also work in reverse as we saw in the last election when the Conservative Party went from being the government to a non-party status in a single election.

Forcing political bodies to run in areas where they have no interest is more likely to create regional alienation than it is to present it. A far better solution would be to create a more responsive political system that would tend to address these regional problems before they could spawn a new local interest party.

Consider the problem created by a single issue like fiscal responsibility. The have provinces are having their financial resources stripped from them to finance irresponsible government spending while the have not provinces are getting less from the concept of wealth sharing because of that same lack of federal financial responsibility.

In this case, provinces on either side of the equation could spawn a regional party when the real solution should be found in a new sense of financial responsibility on the part of the government.

An issue could be much smaller, like the firearms legislation. Ill conceived legislation such as that currently proposed by the justice minister could conceivably result in the emergence of a group from a particular area wishing to ensure that we focus on control of criminals instead of persecution of law-abiding citizens.

A combination of issues could cause problems that might cause non-federalists in a particular party or province to form a party, such as what happened in Quebec.

My discussions with the Bloc Quebecois suggested that its biggest issues are the financial ruin of this country and its desire not to go down with the ship and the need for a province, the Bloc's, to have more say over policies and issues that affect it in a different way than it does other provinces.

Had the federal government addressed these genuine concerns which affect all provinces and the people in them, the Bloc may never have emerged. As members can see, it is not hard to create an environment in which the emergence of a single interest or regional party can happen.

There is another aspect to this bill that must also be examined. If passed, this bill would tend to ensure that no new parties ever got started again.

Given that the emergence of the Reform Party wiped out one old line party of the past and threatens to continue the existence of the one remaining party of the past, it is not too difficult to see the real reason for this bill. That is neither fair nor democratic. At any time if the party of the day loses touch with the people it is supposed to be serving, the capability of the system to give birth to a new political movement to replace outdated ones must not be suppressed.

There is yet another flaw in the drafting of this bill. The requirements for registration of a party include the number of provinces in which the party must nominate candidates, seven, and the need for those provinces to comprise at least 50 per cent of the Canadian population. It would be possible for a party to run in Ontario and east, including one of the territories, without any representation in any of the four western provinces. If that did not create regional alienation I do not know what would.

The hon. member from the government side of the House would be better to withdraw this bill. He should concentrate instead on getting his government to get on with addressing the real reasons for regional alienation and general dissatisfaction with the way the old line parties of the past have run this country into the ground.

The governments should deal with the pressing issues of runaway spending, out of touch immigration policies, an out of control criminal justice system, and social programs that are facing financial ruin. If it does not know how to do this, we do, and you know who we are. We are the party that started off as a regional party and grew to our current national status because the other regions were fed up with the old line parties just as the west was.

If the real needs and desires of the people of Canada were met there would be no reason for this bill to be discussed.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bernie Collins Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay special tribute to my colleague from Don Valley North. I commend him in this House where we have members opposite with simplistic answers to some very difficult questions.

I hear the proposals they put forward, that there is no vision. The people of Canada spoke in the last election and they elected 175 Liberals. They asked us on behalf of all of Canada to come forth with a vision.

This private member's bill is there specifically to deal with the problem that has arisen in this House. Never in the history of Canada have we ever had the arrangement where the Leader of the Opposition did not want to be Prime Minister of this country.

We are reviewing this bill today, a bill that puts forth a challenge to our democratic process. However it does not challenge the definition of what constitutes a party in a federal election and the obligation that party carries to all Canadians.

Members opposite may say to be careful of regionalism. I say that perhaps we should challenge the definition of a party in a federal election. After all the taxpayers carry a heavy burden for the election and the benefits the official parties are allowed.

Presently the system allocates a spending level for parties which directly relates to the number of candidates in the field in any given election. If that party spends more than 10 per cent of its spending limit it is entitled to 22 per cent return.

Should the taxpayers pay for parties which either fail or refuse to represent themselves on a national scale? How can we ask the entire country to support a party that has no desire to represent the views of Canadians from coast to coast? Our Parliament assembled here in the House today strives to achieve the best for all Canadians, or at least that is how it is supposed to work.

It leads us to ask the question: What is an effective Parliament? Does an effective Parliament have an opposition that fails to effectively scrutinize the government's actions in the interests of the majority of Canadians? I would say no, no indeed. There is an important role to be played by the opposition to any government. The government needs to be asked tough questions and be made to answer them.

However what happens when the questions being asked are continually only for the benefit of one interest group and not in the interests of all Canadians? In that scenario I do not think the Canadian people get a fair bang for their buck.

In this proposed amendment a party or an individual can certainly enter into the political process, which was mentioned a minute ago as not being the case. The fact is that they can, but they must be obliged to offer up their ideas to a majority of Canadians if they wish to be supported by the taxpayers' money as well as receive all the benefits of the House of Commons.

This bill proposes that if a group applies for party status in an election and cannot fulfil the requirements as stipulated under the amendment, then that said group cannot enter into the House of Commons as an official party and subsequently will not receive the rights and privileges normally ascribed to official parties. That does not preclude the fact that parties can begin.

In summary, we have to ask: Can regional parties be permitted to dominate a national Parliament? Can our country remain united if the presence of single issue parties grows in size and consequently further hinders the chance for effective consensus? Finally, can the government continue to afford the money it provides through political taxation deductions to those parties which fail to provide a national platform?

I am glad to have had the opportunity to speak in favour of this bill. I believe these are changes that will benefit our national process and better the value of government to the people of Canada.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am rather amazed at some of the commentary I have heard today and the great naivety of some of the members opposite when they talk about starting off with a full-blown political party that can go out and do battle from sea yea unto shining sea.

I worked for seven years trying to build a party. We started with a few hundred members and pulled it up to 120,000. If we had the type of legislation that is proposed in this bill, the Reform Party would not exist. It is just absolutely impossible. It is not physically within the realm of possibility to do this.

I am also a little surprised at the rather tenuous grip on Canadian history which is held by members opposite. All of the parties in this country, save the two old parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, grew out of small beginnings, usually because people felt disenfranchised and angry in small areas of the country.

I could cite first the Progressive Party, which was at one time by the way the official opposition here and was founded under those principles. There are also the CCF, Social Credit and of course Reform. None of this could ever possibly have happened if this bill had been in place 40, 50, 60 years ago, depending on the particular political movement we are looking at. It is absolutely out of the question.

Finally, I am sorry that the hon. member for Souris-Moose Mountain has left because I did want to comment specifically-

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I want to remind colleagues of the practice of not mentioning the absence of members. Each one of us recognizes the demands on our time, of course, whether here on duty or from interest.

Given all the other demands on our time, we do not reflect or make mention of the absence of members. I want to make sure we are all cognizant of that.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, I assure you there was no pejorative intent. It is just that I wanted to speak to my opponent, if you will.

One of the justifications for this bill, if I understand correctly, is that taxpayers' money is handed out to officially recognized political parties and candidates of officially recognized political parties.

To me, the solution is quite obvious and quite simple. We do not kill the democratic process. We do not do away with the parties. We do away with the grants. We do not have to use federal money to support politicians. Let each support his own. Let 10,000 flowers bloom, if you will, but if a political party does not have the stature to get people, to give them money to pay for their election expenses, then it does not deserve to exist.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Not seeing other members wishing to speak there has been an indication from the mover of this private member's bill that he wishes to speak. I recognize him to close off debate.