House of Commons Hansard #202 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was dairy.

Topics

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

An hon. member

And Western wheat.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Lotbinière, QC

We could say plenty about Western wheat, Madam Speaker.

I will say this, if the Reform Party does not want an economic marriage, it can refrain, but as a politician, I say that we are going to have a real marriage, a marriage that is economically and politically sound.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am happy to join my colleagues in the debate on Bill C-86, an act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act and to add my support to this important initiative.

Dairy farmers of Canada as well as producers in my home province of Prince Edward Island are very anxious to see the bill passed prior to the end of June so that the legislative requirements laid out in the act are in place prior to August 1.

The P.E.I. milk marketing board held a number of public meetings on the proposals outlined in the act and had strong producer support. However I underline the important point that producers in my province do not want to see this as the first step in moving toward a national quota exchange. It is important to have the quota distributed throughout the country and not drawn basically into Quebec and Ontario through quota pricing practices. I underline that as a concern.

The bill provides Canada's dairy sector with the ways and means to successfully face demanding new market realities. As well the amendments are very much in line with the government's fiscal goal of getting the deficit under control.

The new milk pricing and pooling system will not require any additional resources from government reserves. It will not entail any contingent liability on the part of the federal government or involve any reallocations from within the Canadian Dairy Commission's current operating funds.

As my colleagues before me have noted, the principal amendments to the act provide the commission with the legal administrative authority to work co-operatively with provincial milk marketing authorities to calculate the average national price level for the milk classes whose returns will be pooled, to obtain the returns from sale to processors through the provinces and then to redistribute the returns to producers through provincial authorities on an equitable basis under the terms of a formal federal-provincial agreement.

The other amendments contained in Bill C-86 are even less complicated. They are necessary to add clarity to the act to ensure compatibility and consistency with provincial authorities and legislation, to enable proper and efficient banking procedures and administration of producer money, and to strengthen the enforcement provisions of the act.

Through Bill C-86 a provincial milk marketing board is specifically defined to add clarity to the act and to ensure consistency with similar provisions contained in the dairy products marketing regulations. The new industry pooling system for milk marketing returns will be carried out through arrangements agreed upon by the Canadian dairy commission and the provincial milk marketing authorities.

An amendment has also been included for clarity to ensure that there is no misinterpretation of the fact that the regulations made under the CDC act do not take precedence in terms of the authorities provided to the commission under the act.

The provisions contained in any legislated act always take precedence over any regulations made pursuant to the act. That is an important point. Other amendments provided by Bill C-86 enable the commission to recover pool administration costs from the pool, to establish a special bank account to deal solely with the producer moneys entering and leaving the pool through the provincial authorities, and to permit the CDC to establish a line of credit to ensure continuity of producer payments. These are important principles to ensure that we meet our GATT obligations and that we are not using government moneys to fulfil these procedures.

Under pooling arrangements the Canadian dairy commission will simply be administering a pool of producer moneys on behalf of producers. If necessary, any borrowing costs would be undertaken on a short term basis only to ensure timeliness of payments as moneys enter and leave the pool. Any such borrowings would be subject to prior approval by the Minister of Finance and be totally funded by producers.

Bill C-86 also enables the CDC to continue its long standing practice of returning any excess fees or levy funds rightfully owed back to producers. The amount of in quota production per producer can only be estimated at the beginning of each dairy year. The amount of actual production is not known until the end of the year.

While no penalties are charged for under producing milk, under the supply management system over quota production is exported and levies are charged on these amounts to cover export costs and other related CDC program costs. The same type of situation may well occur under the pooling system as average national prices will be calculated at the beginning of a certain period and may differ when the marketing costs are finally determined. Again, no additional government funds are involved.

The last amendment contained in Bill C-86 strengthens the enforcement provisions of the CDC act. Given the attorney general conducts all litigation for the commission and has the power to seek injunctive relief in its own name the new provision will ensure the same relief is available if litigation is commenced by or against the commission in the name of the CDC.

Again I urge my fellow members to fully support Bill C-86. Such approval will demonstrate clear recognition of the importance of Canada's dairy sector and the continuation of the supply management system and its benefits to not only producers but to all Canadians. This is a model we should be encouraging other countries to adopt and these amendment will go a long way in terms of making it compatible with GATT agreements.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Madam Speaker, my distinguished colleague and member for Malpèque is an expert in dairy production, and I have considerable respect for him.

The Federation of Dairy Producers of Canada decided to comply with the provisions of NAFTA-and NAFTA is the reason we are here debating Bill C-86 this afternoon-because the $3 levy per hectolitre of milk could have been reduced by 15 per cent a year. However, GATT determined that, as of August 1, 1995, this $3 deduction from the income of industrial milk producers would be illegal under the NAFTA agreement, because it would be considered a direct export subsidy.

This is debatable, but since it seems we do not want to overly upset the Americans, we bowed to their demands. We still do not know which takes precedence-GATT or NAFTA-so we comply with the requirements of NAFTA.

Under this agreement, we obtained an extension in order to become legal. As the member for Malpèque pointed out, the quota may be negotiated between provinces. The hon. member for Malpèque could buy part of Quebec's quota to expand his farm. Better yet, if he wants to swell his coffers, he could sell his quota to Quebecers, who could take his quota from Prince Edward Island and bring it to Quebec.

I think this is a very good point in Bill C-86, given that, in the agreement signed by the farm producers of the six provinces, if, for example, Prince Edward Island sees its milk quota vanish like snow in springtime after the 1 per cent sale, it can temporarily withdraw from the agreement it signed with the other five provinces.

What I want to find out from my colleague for Malpeque, who is very familiar with agriculture across Canada, is: what is going to happen to the three recalcitrant provinces? I will not go so far as calling them separatist, but I would like to know what we can give these three western provinces to get them to sign the agreement with the six other provinces, since they produce barely 18 per cent of Canada's milk.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

I want to make it very clear that Bill C-86 is only talking about the legislative authority to implement a national pooling system of market returns from the different classes of milk. It will not establish a national quota exchange. To be very clear, it will set up a national pooling system of market returns and would give that authority within the context of federal-provincial agreements on pooling mainly through delegated functions. I raised quota exchange because it is a concern of producers in Prince Edward Island that this legislation not been seen as the first step toward moving in that direction.

This requirement is really as a result of the GATT. In terms of the point he raised with respect to GATT and NAFTA, we in Canada know which tariff reduction regime has priority. We know it is the GATT negotiation and not NAFTA. The Americans may differ in their opinion but certainly we are firmly behind the stand that the GATT tariff reduction rules apply.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the debate to this point has been quite insightful. It tells us a bit about Canada and some of the problems we face. It is interesting that the debate is over something as simple as milking cows. The previous Liberal speaker has been actively involved in the dairy industry. I cannot say the same although I have milked cows.

It is very interesting to see a debate in the House, an argument, a scrap might be the correct word, between the Liberals and the Bloc over milking cows. It was at the point at which they were talking about marriages and divorces over milking cows. We have to wonder, in the marriage or the divorce who is the cow and who is the bull. Maybe we have two bulls, in which case where is the milk?

If we have this kind of debate over milking cows, can we imagine a fight over the future of Canada as to whether we remain a united country? We can imagine how the scrap will intensify. We will not be talking about milking cows, we will be talking about the St. Lawrence seaway, the division of assets, federal buildings across the river in Hull, federal buildings in Montreal and all across Quebec, apportioning the federal debt. We can only imagine the difficulty.

The problem is we have two parties in the House talking about marriage and divorce. It is time to change the parameters of the debate and start talking about life and death. With the parties involved in the debate all I see is the potential of death. They will scrap until someone is killed.

We may be talking about some new life in this issue. When I think about new life I think about Reform because Reform talks about a constructive new way of looking at things. Perhaps both parties need to lay aside their instruments of war and listen to Reformers who talk about a new Canada, the birth of new ideas, a new Confederation with 10 equal provinces working together because they have responsibilities appropriated to each level of government in a manner that will allow us to work co-operatively and lay aside some of these foolish and silly debates like the debate over how we milk our cows.

I farm and I have milked cows, mostly as a young lad. I do not claim to be an expert but I recognize the importance of the industry. Therefore it is a privilege for me to speak this afternoon on Bill C-86 which provides for the replacement of levies with a pooling system of market returns from different classes of milk use, which system maintains producer equity and is consistent with Canada's international trade agreement.

I rise in the House today to talk about an issue that should have been addressed many months ago. While I congratulate the government for finally addressing the issue of supply management, I have many doubts whether the government has the resolve to develop a policy that addresses farmers' concerns for the long term.

Canada's supply management system has provided stability to the dairy industry. In the system farmers are given a reliable means of marketing their product with a consistent price. Consumers are guaranteed in receiving a product of high quality. However, this has come with a hefty price tag for consumers with goods in some cases double what the same product would cost in the United States.

As long as our dollar is relatively low, below 80 cents U.S., it does not create too much of a problem. However, when we see our dollar increase above the 80 cent mark certainly we have cross-border shopping. Any Canadian who goes across the border to shop in the United States will put in their hamper large quantities of dairy products such as cheese, milk and the like. That indicates perhaps there are some fundamental problems and pitfalls ahead with regard to not only the dairy industry but all supply managed areas we need to openly discuss in the House and in the industry.

Recent developments in world trade have signalled the inevitable end of Canada's supply managed systems as we know them. The status quo will go, just as it will go with regard to the squabble between separatists and federalists. The status quo in the supply managed system will have to pass away as well.

As of August 1, 1995 under the Uruguay round of GATT all import quotas must be converted to tariffs. While tariffs may protect supply managed commodities in the short term, it is doubtful they will be a fixture in the long term. Canada will try

to maintain the 85 per cent tariff level until the year 2001 but it is likely the United States will challenge it. Even the parliamentary secretary to the federal minister of agriculture has said publicly this is inevitable.

I quote the MP for Prince Edward-Hastings:

What will likely happen is that the Americans will ask for a NAFTA panel in the very near future. The panel of industry experts is made up of two Americans and a fifth person who is chosen by a flip of a coin'. The system is somewhat biased, depending on which countrywins the toss of the coin'. That's the way the system works.

The government is confident it can win an American challenge against tariff levels. However, what plan of action has the government developed if the Americans win the challenge? It reminds me that the Liberals said they were sure Canada would win the debate over article XI in the GATT negotiations.

Everyone knows the Liberals were wrong. We have found out the Liberals are wrong a lot of time. We are concerned that they do not always accurately communicate the conditions not only of the dairy industry, but those that many sectors of our economy may face in the future. The Liberals are not being straightforward with the results of the ongoing deficit and increasing debt.

It is about time we started to deal realistically with the issues before us and address in a very direct form the concerns of the dairy industry. For instance, a ruling in favour of the Americans would put the current system in jeopardy. We are reminded that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The Reform Party supports the tariff levels which were agreed to under GATT.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

It being 5.30 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

May 16th, 1995 / 5:25 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

moved that Bill C-319, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (reimbursement of election expenses) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, this is a very straightforward bill. It intends to put one more very small hurdle in the path of registered political parties before they are eligible for reimbursement from the public purse. It would be a hurdle similar to the one that is in the path of individual candidates. When individual candidates run in a particular riding, the candidate is required to have 15 per cent of the total votes cast in that constituency before the candidate is eligible for reimbursement from the public purse.

Reams and volumes of books have been published over the years on election financing in Canada. The stack is quite high. It all has to do with financing elections in Canada and ensuring that financing is straightforward and transparent. It ensures that candidates who are able to run in elections come forward to represent their constituencies without having to be independently well off.

The election financing rules are intended to ensure that candidates are not bought by individuals. That is why there are limits on campaign expenditures. That is why there is full disclosure on funding of individual and national campaigns.

The bill speaks only to the national campaigns. It was motivated during the last election when I found myself, as everyone in the House did, in the situation where there was a cacophony of candidates representing quite a wide variety of platforms.

Perhaps the most outrageous was the platform of the yogic flyers. While the debates were going on I wondered what yogic flying had to do with running our country and what yogic flying could do to get our country out of debt and make our country work better. At first I am sure many people thought it was a joke. We certainly do not want to dissuade anyone from running and getting involved in politics. And perhaps yogic flyers do have the answer to Canada's problems.

I wish to inform the Chair that it is my intention to share my time with my colleague from Okanagan Centre.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is that agreed?

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, here we were in the middle of the election campaign surrounded by yogic flyers.

That would have been great, except that when the election was over I checked into it. They received a grand total of 84,000 votes in the last election, .6 per cent of the total votes cast. They also received $717,000 from the taxpayers of Canada in reimbursement for their national campaign expenditures. It worked out that the taxpayers of Canada reimbursed them $8.41 for every vote cast. They spent $37.38 for every vote they received, which is their business. It did not make sense to me that the taxpayers of Canada should be subsidizing what really is not a political party.

The intention of having the national campaign party reimbursement was to ensure that national or regional political parties had some income between elections. It was intended to

keep them going. National or regional political parties are necessary for the lifeblood of the country.

In looking at the campaign expenditures, we thought about how we would make sure the hurdle was low enough, so small that parties could get started yet high enough to be real. We came up with the figure of 2 per cent. Federal parties would have to have spent 10 per cent of their total allowable limit and also have garnered 2 per cent of the total votes cast. In the last election that would be something like 270,000 votes across the country.

Some with whom I have discussed this bill have suggested it might be appropriate to have a lower threshold. If that is the case, I would be quite happy to consider amending this bill to have a lower threshold, perhaps 1 per cent.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

Why not higher?

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

That would still be 130,000 votes across the country. As an hon. member opposite mentioned, why not higher? If it is the will of this House either in committee or in debate that it should be higher, that could be considered. In my view, 2 per cent was high enough that it was a hurdle but low enough that it was possible to achieve.

I wish to reiterate the intent is not to prevent new parties from getting going. The intent is in keeping with the spirit of the Electoral Reform Commission to ensure hurdles are in place to protect the public purse, to ensure that genuine political parties are able to benefit from the very wise intentions of those that preceded us in this House.

I ask hon. members opposite to give this bill their consideration and support. It may save us somewhere in the region of $1 million, which for most Canadians is quite a lot of money. For the federal budget, it is not that large an amount. However, it is not just the amount, but the principle we are talking about.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Okanagan Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased and happy today to be able to support my colleague from Edmonton Southwest and his bill to amend the Canada Elections Act.

Canadians are a people with a profound respect for democracy. Look around at the make-up of the House. We know by the change that took place from the last election to this one how democracy is respected in our country.

We understand representation very well. We respect it even when we do not necessarily agree with everything our representatives say. One of the things that brings this home most clearly is the structure of our electoral system.

We conduct open, free and fair elections in Canada. We give political parties tools to raise funds and to run candidates. We place limits and restrictions on their activities during and between writs to ensure fairness, even in dealing with each other and with the public. We have disclosure rules to make the system transparent. But our system also has some flaws. The bill put forward by my hon. colleague is all about addressing one of those flaws.

Bill C-319 seeks to limit the reimbursement of election expenses to those parties that have spent more than 10 per cent of their allotted expense amount as described in section 46 of the Canada Elections Act if and only if they receive more than 2 per cent of the vote nationally. What this would do is limit expense reimbursement to only those parties that have received a significant number of votes in the election, those parties that have a reasonable level of public support among Canadian voters.

In the most recent election, Elections Canada reports that there were 19,906,796 registered voters. This means that with this bill a party would have to have received 398,136 votes nationally to be eligible for reimbursement of election expenses. I do not think it is unreasonable for Canadians to expect a party to give a reasonable showing in an election before hard earned tax dollars are handed over to help it pay its bills.

What this bill seeks to prevent is the situation that arose in the last election. During that election certain parties were either well financed or had policies that were way out of touch with reality but were still well financed. These parties managed to field a large number of candidates and spent considerable sums on their campaigns. The taxpayer reimbursed them for a sizeable chunk of those expenses, even though they received only a very tiny portion of the overall national vote.

It does not sit well with me nor with many other Canadians that we are reimbursing expenses to parties that do not get more than a handful of the overall votes. I am not advocating the restriction of the electoral system here, far from it. I am only suggesting that it is about time we started to apply some fiscal restraint to our electoral system just as we are to the rest of the functions of government.

Parties should in no way be limited from forming or running as many candidates as they can muster. Parties should be allowed to spend as they see fit within the current rules set out by Elections Canada. Parties that do not command a significant share of the vote should not expect the Canadian taxpayer to cough up money to pay their bills.

I need to correct myself. We want 2 per cent of the total votes cast which in the last election would have worked out to 270,000 votes or thereabouts. The earlier figure I used was a theoretical

number based on the actual number of people who could have cast a ballot.

The reimbursement of election expenses should be a privilege enjoyed by those parties that have demonstrated they have the support of a significant proportion of Canadians. It is that simple.

What Bill C-319 seeks to introduce is fairness and fiscal restraint in the electoral system. We all know that fiscal restraint is absolutely essential in Canada today. We want political parties to demonstrate that they are deserving of any benefits they might derive from the taxpayer. We want them to show that they have support at the ballot box before they get the support from tax dollars. It is really all about fairness.

If a party deserves to be reimbursed because it has support among the people, it will be. If, however, a party is using the electoral system in this country as a soapbox for personal or questionable exposure and the people ignore it, then it should pay its own bills.

Again, I am not suggesting that we limit participation in any way. It is just that parties that do not command a certain level of support from the voters should not expect those same voters to bail them out with tax dollars. It is about being fair, responsible and accountable to the taxpayer for the dollar spent.

I am pleased to offer my support to my colleague from Edmonton-Southwest in this Bill C-319.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am highly interested in the bill introduced today by the member for Edmonton Southwest. I congratulate him on the fact that his bill was chosen. I hope that today, or at a later date, the House will adopt the bill at second reading so that it can be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which will study it, and maybe recommend a few amendments before sending it back to the House for concurrence.

The bill purports to put a minimum in place for contributions from the federal treasury for parties participating in elections. The hon. member has proposed a political party must receive at least 2 per cent of the votes cast in order to be eligible for the 22.5 per cent reimbursement allowed under section 322 of the Canada Elections Act.

The hon. member will be aware there is a fairly significant history in relation to this issue which might be of interest to him and other hon. members wishing to participate in the debate today. The Lortie commission, the report of the royal commission on electoral reform and party financing, recommended registered parties that receive at least 1 per cent of all the ballots cast be reimbursed at a rate of 60 cents for each vote received provided that no party would be reimbursed at an amount greater than 50 per cent of its electoral expenses.

This increase proposed by the Lortie commission rewarded parties that received a large number of votes in proportion to the number of votes they received and also increased the rate for the major parties so they would get more money because there was a recognition that at the national level Canada's national parties are generally short of cash, particularly those not forming the government.

There was a recognition by the royal commission that the governing party had an easier time raising funds than parties in opposition to the government. In part to offset that the commission recommended this rather generous reimbursement procedure but based on votes so that only a party that was fairly successful in the polls would receive a substantial chunk of money.

The hon. member will know there were extensive discussions between the parties about the Lortie recommendations. In the last Parliament I had the honour to be a member of the special committee on electoral reform which dealt with the Lortie proposals in some detail and came up with a series of reports tabled in the House. One of the reports resulted in the adoption of Bill C-114, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, in the last Parliament. The other major report from the committee was never acted on by the government prior to the dissolution of Parliament and accordingly this issue, as were some others, was left untouched.

The committee, composed with representatives of the three recognized parties then in the House, the NDP, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Liberal Party-the Progressive Conservatives of course had a majority on the committee-was unable to agree on the Lortie commission proposal.

While it was something that would have been palatable with our party, the New Democratic Party in particular found it offensive because it would have received far less money than under the current legal arrangements. The Progressive Conservative Party, looking at the polls, was very nervous it might also be disastrous for it and so it was not very keen on it.

I say with some pride the Liberal Party has always done well in the polls, whether in opposition or in government. Hon. members opposite laugh but it has been a fact for really all of this century that we would have come out reasonably well on any scenario with this arrangement. Other parties were more apprehensive and based on the election results in 1993, I can understand their apprehension. We all know the New Democratic Party took a terrible whipping, although well deserved, and the Progressive Conservative Party similarly was thrashed, and very properly so.

They would have felt this rule in a very harsh way had they adopted it before the election, which this party would not and had not in any election. With all the elections it has lost in this century it still would have done all right under a rule of this kind.

I now want to turn to what the committee did. The committee came up with another way of enriching the parties a little, and that was to increase the reimbursement from 22.5 per cent to 25 per cent and simply leave the rules as they were. That was the only deal we could make which every party agreed on and it was part of a package which included other changes to the financing of political parties. Of course none of it was enacted.

I do not mind telling hon. members opposite one of the points the government was very anxious to include in the bill was a restriction on the minimum number of votes one had to receive in order to qualify. The government was very anxious to put in place a figure which I think was around 5 per cent. That would have put at risk various other parties that were more regionally based. When I say that I look at the two parties in opposition because both of those parties come from a fairly regional base. I think the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest would concede the Reform Party is not strong in Quebec or in Atlantic Canada.

We resisted that at the time because we felt if we were to have a regional basis to the parties it was unfair to stack the deck against the establishment of new parties and we were naturally somewhat concerned about that. Therefore we resisted and I think I can safely say from the point of view of hon. members opposite it is probably just as well we did.

However, that is history and certainly from a theoretical point of view there was no objection on our part to putting some minimum number of votes obtained in place. Therefore, to have this bill before us today and allow the committee to study it is very important. I support the hon. member in that objective.

However, I cannot let the opportunity pass without commenting on the 2 per cent figure. It strikes me as being rather low. In South Africa and in Germany where there is a system of proportional representation, in order to qualify to get any seats in the legislature they have to have at least 5 per cent of the votes. That is my recollection. That is to get seats, let alone reimbursement.

In our country we can win seats in Parliament in one or two places, as we had with the Reform Party which had one member in the last Parliament, the hon. member for Beaver River, who was here throughout that Parliament. With a modest number of votes in a general election a party can still have seats in the House. We have two areas in which there is reimbursement, at the national party level and at the constituency level. If one is successful at the constituency level, money is paid to the successful candidates and to the other candidates who run well.

In looking at the 2 per cent figure I cannot help but look at the results of the 34th general election, the 1988 election. Eight parties ran in that election which would not have qualified using the rule of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest. They all had less than 1 per cent of the vote. However, the one party over 2 per cent was the Reform Party. That party received 2.09 per cent of the vote in 1988. It is an extraordinary coincidence that 2 per cent is the figure which the hon. member chose because of course it saved the Reform Party based on the 1988 results. I am sure he did not look at the results to come up with the figure, but perhaps a researcher did.

While it has initial appeal, I think a little higher figure might not be inappropriate. I would have hated to see the Reform Party cut out of the financial jackpot if we had put it too high in the last election. I cannot remember if that party broke 5 per cent. I would want to look at a higher figure in committee. I served notice to that effect and I certainly look forward to hearing the witnesses the committee is able to call on this bill, should the House in its wisdom decide to give the bill approval in principle at second reading.

There are lots of ways to skin a cat, as they say, and I think there are many ways we could seek to improve Canada's electoral law with respect to the reimbursement of political parties. I am glad to see the Reform Party by this bill is adopting the principle that the state does have an important role to play with respect to the reimbursement of political parties because that is certainly something we have regarded as fundamental for some time and on which occasionally I have heard statements. I cannot say I have read the little blue book, but I have heard statements that make me wonder if the Reform Party really is committed to this principle.

I assume this bill put forward by the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest has some approval from the powers that be in his party, including the member for Calgary Southwest who I gather has some say in these matters, that this is okay and this principle therefore is satisfactory.

I am glad to support the principle. I hope we can work out a series of rules that will be fair not just to the parties currently in the House but to other parties formed in Canada and also to the Canadian taxpayer.

The problem with the current system is it encourages parties that are registered and fielding the requisite number of candidates to spend as much money as they can. As long as they spend 10 per cent of their limit, I believe, they become entitled to a reimbursement of 22.5 per cent of their expenses no matter how

many votes they get. I agree that is wrong. There should not be an incentive to spend.

In my view, the money paid should be based on some other principle, whether it is on the number of votes received or on a minimal number of votes one must get in order to qualify for the expense. Something needs to go into the law.

I quite agree with the hon. member in bringing this forward. I would be glad to support the bill at second reading in order that the standing committee may do a detailed study on the proposal.