House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was religious.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am signalling to you that you are somewhat diverging from the subject at hand. We are discussing Bill C-24. Please come back to the matter.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, my very next sentence was leading up to what all this really illustrates. There are problems on the government side and that is what Bill C-24 is really about. The Prime Minister is trying to deflect these problems by claiming that there is a perception of problems and that he has introduced this bill to take care of all those problems, but in fact it definitely will not take care of them.

Because it will not take care of the problems, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-24, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing) be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for the purposes of reconsidering clause 40 with a view to investigating ways in which all taxpayer subsidies for political parties could be completely eliminated”.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

If I can get the attention of the hon. member for North Vancouver, given that there was no prior notice to your amendment, I will take it under deliberation and give you a ruling very shortly.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Gasoline Prices.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to use my ten minutes to counter various arguments that the our hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance has just made.

It is difficult—

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before the hon. member continues, I thought I heard him say he had ten minutes. The hon. member has 40 minutes.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Chair's generosity is appreciated, except that certain agreements will enable me to share my time with my hon. colleagues in other parties. So, I will be very brief.

I simply want to review some of the arguments made by my hon. colleague who spoke before me. To those listening who might be outraged by the previous speaker's comments, I would say that it is important to consider the bill before us in its context.

First, since 1993, the Bloc Quebecois has been demanding that the House pass legislation to make political party financing democratic. Such legislation exists in Quebec, and all the Quebeckers listening are well aware that this legislation is now part of our legislative heritage and that it is appreciated because it has helped avoid so many excesses with regard to political party financing.

So, as a result of our experience, we have made many recommendations to this House and to the government to encourage them to proceed with this kind of legislation. Today, as I said at second reading, I am pleased to confirm that the Bloc Quebecois supports this government bill, given the positive effect it will have on restoring order to Canada's political mores.

It is difficult to complain, on the one hand, that political parties will be financed in part using taxpayers' money—it would be hard to get upset with a bill that democratizes funding and prohibits companies from giving $25,000, $50,000, $75,000 $100,000 and more to a political party—and, on the other hand, explain to the public that we do not really agree and disapprove of the government and the Deputy Prime Minister having received $25,000 or $50,000—I am not sure exactly, but it was an impressive amount—from a billionaire for his leadership campaign. We cannot have it both ways.

We can make the choice in this country to prevent anyone, whether businesses or individuals, from gaining undue influence and control over the political parties. If we do, we must accept the bill before us.

Where do abuses come from? They come from businesses that in the past, gave $250,000 or $300,000. We have discussed examples of such abuses in this House. We have identified the businesses and major banks that give impressive sums to the government and political parties and who, consequently, have enormous influence.

So that everyone understands, if I am the president of a large corporation and I give $250,000 per year to the Liberal Party of Canada, the odds are good that if I want to fix some problems politically, I will find a sympathetic ear on the government side. There is nothing strange about that. If someone gives $250,000 per year and has a problem that needs fixing, they will expect their problem to receive attention commensurate with the amount of their contribution.

It must be understood that this kind of abuse must be avoided. When the citizenry is stirred up with cries of, “Listen, it is going to be awful. Public money will be used to finance some of the expenses of the political parties” and there is a public outcry, we must say that the corollary is that the undue influence exercised by a limited number of people will disappear. That is what will enable the citizens to take control of their democratic institutions.

If the financing is shared among the general population and is provided in large part from public funds, in accordance with specific rules, clearly this will give people the influence they thought they did not have or might not have had when individuals were financing political parties to the tune of $25,000, $50,000, $100,000 or $300,000. It seems to me that that should not be difficult to understand for our listeners, the members of the Canadian Alliance and the other members of this House.

Allowing large donations inevitably results in those making donations having an influence over the government which those who cannot afford to make donations do not have. If large donations are prohibited, the political parties must nevertheless be able to finance their activities. We cannot turn off the funding tap and at the same time announce that we will not be providing a cent, that political parties are expected to operate with so little funding that it would be tantamount to killing them. Their very existence would be jeopardized.

It is important to take positive action to ensure that political parties remain healthy and operate relatively at arm's length—everything is relative of course.

This is therefore the kind of action we applaud. What the government did here took courage. It could not have been easy. Witness the fact that, within government, there is opposition to this bill. It is public knowledge.

Those opposed are probably right in terms of being true to themselves, when they make comments like, “We do not want our own government to pass this bill because it is taking away too much leeway. We will not be able to operate anymore. What is provided in terms of public funds is insufficient and at the same time we are not allowed to raise money”.

When there is this kind of reluctance coming from the government side about a bill, it generally means that a worthwhile effort has been made. The bill will ensure that from now on, the members of this House, cabinet members and members of the various parties will be more independent vis-à-vis large corporations, big labour unions and all sorts of lobby groups which could previously have strong leverage through financing.

Who could argue against the principle of democratic institutions becoming more independent? Who could argue against citizens having greater influence over political parties?

I would just like to point out that the reality is that the citizens are well served by a bill such as this one. It will improve political mores. We will likely no longer have to rise in this House, as we have done in the past, to criticize the government for awarding contracts to firms that hand a large chunk of the money back to the Liberal Party, or other parties in this House.

This will no longer happen. It is already no longer happening in Quebec. The situation was regularized 25 years ago in Quebec. Everyone is pleased with that way of doing things. The cost of implementing this bill is around $21 million, or $22 million if we prefer a round figure. In a country the size of Canada, $22 million to ensure independence for political parties, to preserve the quality of democratic representation, strikes me as very affordable. It seems to me that $1.75 per voter is not a huge sum to ensure that our parties are less beholden to those who provide funds to them.

I would say in conclusion that I believe we are serving our fellow citizens well by voting for this bill. On the basis of principles, it is unassailable when we consider that we are preserving the quality of democracy. It is unassailable considering that the purpose of this bill is to prevent excessive financing.

It is also extremely important that this bill prevent examples such as those we denounced earlier of leadership campaign contributions to the tune of $250,000, $100,000 or $25,000, depending on the situation.

This is a major victory for the Bloc Quebecois because we have been trying to have this type of system implemented here in the federal government since 1993. This is a good thing that this is happening for democracy in the rest of Canada.

There is no opposition to this bill in Quebec, but in the rest of Canada, in some areas, there is. However, today, we can tell people who are listening that this type of legislation has been very much appreciated for 25 years now in Quebec and in some other provinces where financing rules are a little more civilized than they were here. We can certainly tell our fellow citizens that we are doing something positive, responsible and respectful of democracy, something that will guarantee that politics will be better in the future.

What we would all like to see is legislation based on honesty, justice and democracy. That is why we are pleased to support this bill and invite all our colleagues in the House of Commons to do likewise.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the amendment submitted by the hon. member for North Vancouver to be in order.

Business of the House
Government Orders

June 11th, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place among all the parties with respect to tomorrow's supply day. I believe if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following order. I move:

That all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion under consideration Thursday, June 12, 2003, as well as all questions necessary to dispose of the motion or motions to dispose of the main estimates, pursuant to Standing Order 81(18) be put at 8 p.m. rather than 10 p.m.; and

That during debate that day on items in the main estimates between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. no member shall speak for more than 10 minutes.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad duty for me to rise today to speak to a piece of legislation that is being imposed on the people of Canada in the dying days of the spring session of the House. This is one of those bills on which we must all agree in principle but in which we find the real devil in the details.

At a previous stage it was my right hon. colleague from Calgary Centre who spoke to this legislation. He argued, and I agree, that had the government truly been interested in the process of reforming our system of political donations, it would have introduced this legislation in a manner that would have better ensured the full consideration of this great Parliament. Instead we have again been rushed in our deliberations.

One of the most significant concerns that I have about this legislation relates to the fact that it would put into place a formula by which the amount of money that a political party would receive would be based upon their results in the last election. As my friend, Mr. Irving Gerstein, has said, that would be the same as saying that we would calculate one's next mortgage based upon the value of one's last house.

This process would give the party of government a clear advantage over all the rest of the parties in the House and in Canada, even if its popularity had fallen significantly since the time of the last election. If the government of Kim Campbell had introduced this legislation prior to the 1993 election, the current Prime Minister would have opposed it vigorously. He would have said that given the place of the parties in the polls at the time, it would have been grossly unfair to award them funding based upon the results of the 1988 election.

There is another matter here that strikes me as being equally unfair. As the legislation currently provides, it will be the tax dollars of the people of Canada that will effectively be used to fund our political parties. In the past, we have said that people had a democratic choice in Canada. If one had wanted to support the Progressive Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Alliance Party or the Bloc, one had the choice to do so as a free-minded Canadian citizen. Now however, we are saying that the Canadian people will have to donate to every political party through their hard-earned tax dollars, even if they would never have supported four or five of the parties in a million years.

They are saying that the tax dollars of my son, who lives in Calgary, would go to the Bloc, to the Alliance, to the Liberals, to the PC Party, to the NDP. That is not how he feels about this, I can say that. He would pick and choose himself whom he supports. They are saying that Lucien Bouchard's tax dollars would go to the Canadian Alliance. I am sure the Bloc wants that and I am sure he does as well. My tax dollars would go to support the Liberal Party. Mr. Speaker, do you want to ask me if I agree with that? I can tell you right now it does not seem very fair to me.

When did we lose the freedom of choice in our democracy? When did we give that up in Canada? When did we lose the right to support our political party of choice and only our political party of choice?

I know that the government House leader would argue that all of us who received 15% or more of the popular vote in the last election received a certain refund from the government, but that was based upon the results of that election. The money returned was based upon the costs of that election, not of the 1997 election or even the 1957 election. There was a direct relationship between that rebate and the election at hand. This bill offers something completely different.

There is an issue that I have not heard discussed in this debate prior to today. It is the power that the bill gives to the Prime Minister and a select handful of people, the power to eliminate with the stroke of a pen any Liberal association that he wishes. That is not democracy.

There is a leadership convention taking place on the government side at this point in time. We know that if we pass the bill, the Prime Minister can eliminate a lot of the businesses that supported those who are running in the leadership. That is not right.

Section 403.2 allows, on the application of any party leader and two of its officers, the deregistration of one of the party's registered associations by the Chief Electoral Officer. This puts too much power in the hands of party leaders.

I do not believe that this important issue has been significantly considered by the House. We should not be making a decision on this at this time. We should be sitting down and discussing it. I think that if we went across this nation we would find that Canadians are very upset about the bill. Canadians do not believe that this is right. They never thought that in Canada the day would come when legislation such as this would be before the House.

What if the Prime Minister wanted to deregister all of the riding associations organized by the member for LaSalle—Émard? He could do it if we pass the bill. I cannot believe that anyone sitting on either side of the House could agree to this. It could be done and certainly we could conceive of it.

I have to say that the Progressive Conservative Party is very concerned about the bill. We are very concerned about the fact that it takes away from us our rights that we have had in the past for those people who wish to support my party. It takes away the rights of people who feel that some of us do come here to the House of Commons to represent them and our citizens back home. They feel very strongly that they want to support us. I have to say there are many people who do not feel that their tax dollars should be coming here and given to the parties in the House of Commons. That is now how many people see this.

Then there are people out there in the private sector who want to support a party. I am not opposed to the fact that perhaps the Liberal Party gets a whole lot more support than some of the rest of us. That is the system that is out there. That is the democratic system that is out there.

However, passing Bill C-24 and going to all Canadians is not right. I have stated that I do not think Lucien Bouchard wants his tax dollars to go to the Canadian Alliance or the PC Party or the Liberal Party. No, that is not what he wants. That is the situation with a lot of Canadians. I have used Lucien Bouchard as an example.

I am saying I want to see an honest and democratic process in place. If the Prime Minister feels that what we have had as a process is not fair and just, then there are ways to make changes. There are amendments that have been put before the House with regard to the bill. One was just moved. I also had an amendment, but because of the amendment that has been put forward I will not place my amendment on the floor.

I will say that having spent 10 years in the House of Commons, I really am dismayed that Bill C-24 is before the House. I ask that we not endorse the bill at this time. I ask that all members go back to the process that we had which was fair and just, and Canadian.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, first I want to heartily thank the hon. member for Roberval, who is the Bloc Quebecois House leader, for having allowed the other parties to have a few minutes to speak on Bill C-24.

In the final moments of this debate I want to say to the House leader of the Bloc Quebecois that I appreciate that he shortened his remarks in order to give the member for Saint John and me an opportunity to speak, because of course the bill is under time allocation.

I am pleased to speak at third reading of Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act. It is a bill that changes how we finance elections and political parties in Canada.

We as a political party have long called for the removal of big money from politics, so we have supported this legislation in principle throughout. Having said that, we recognize and will be pointing out that we still find there is some unfortunate and glaring errors with it, but on balance we believe it allows for better democracy and certainly greater transparency.

Prior to the clause-by-clause proceedings, when the committee on procedure and House affairs was meeting to discuss this in the spring, we heard from more than 70 witnesses. A number of them came forward and said that on balance this is good, supportable legislation. Many Canadians will have read the remarks of Ralph Nader who said that it is another example of Canada being first and should be quickly emulated in his country, the United States of America. When we see senators running for that institution in the United States, spending $30 million and $31 million to get themselves elected, Americans certainly need to see some urgent reform of their elections act.

The legislation goes a good distance toward getting big money out of politics. There has been a lot of big money in politics over the years. In the last election campaign, campaign 2000, the Liberal Party, which was returned as the government, took in almost $12 million from corporate donations. Sixty per cent of the total that the Liberals raised was from the corporate side. They received almost $700,000 from the chartered banks alone, another $100,000 from Bombardier, almost $100,000 from Canadian National and the list goes on. I would not want to lose sight of the fact that the Canadian Alliance, which claims to be the grassroots party, raised $7 million from corporate Canada in that same election campaign.

The equation is quite simple, especially when a party is returned to the government benches. The companies hand out big money and they expect something in return. They hand a cheque to the Liberal bagman with one hand and expect to receive a lucrative contract almost immediately with the other. The Prime Minister has admitted as much with his ethics package of a year ago. Indeed, the heritage minister, who is seeking to replace the Prime Minister, has said from her perch within cabinet that the ratification of the Kyoto accord was delayed in this country because big money does matter and does talk at the cabinet table.

The Liberal Party has been the party of big business. As I mentioned, big business accounts for 60% of its donations. The situation is somewhat reversed for the New Democratic Party. It is significantly reversed perhaps because we received 60% from individuals. They are modest amounts in the range of $50 or $100 for the most part.

If we look at the financial returns that parties have to post every year, we will see that the New Democratic Party has far more individual donors than any other political party in this country. That will come as a surprise to those who claim that the New Democratic Party is financed only by big labour. We have a long and proud tradition with the labour movement. That is certainly true. When the party was founded in 1961, it was founded on a partnership between the old Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and the Canadian trade union movement. That has remained and it will continue to remain as a partnership, I am sure, once Bill C-24 takes full effect.

Labour will continue to work with the New Democratic Party and vice versa, but the focus in future I believe will be to encourage union members to become more directly involved in the party and, if they so choose, to make donations on an individual basis.

The New Democratic Party supports getting big money out of politics. Our party convention in January instructed us to pursue that.

The legislation before us today allows individuals to donate $5,000 a year to a party. It was set at $10,000, which was reduced. We would have preferred a more modest amount of $3,000, which corresponds to the limits that are permitted in the province of Quebec and the province of Manitoba, the two other jurisdictions in Canada that have legislation along these lines, which essentially prohibits corporate and trade union donations from going to political parties. We would have preferred $3,000, but certainly reducing it from $10,000 to $5,000 is a step in the right direction and is certainly supportable.

Our concern, however, is that if they so choose, people with deep pockets can donate $5,000 to the Liberal Party and donate another $5,000 to the New Democratic Party or the Alliance or any of the other registered parties. We would have said that this should be an amount in total, an aggregate amount of $5,000, and all in and not spread around. I tend to agree with those who say this is unlikely to happen, but nevertheless it would have been better to close the gate before any chance of the horse getting out of the barn. Overall, this is a good improvement in the Canadian political system, because before this anybody with deep pockets could really have a significant influence on an election campaign and certainly in an individual election campaign.

As I mentioned, there is a prohibition on contributions to political parties from corporations and trade unions or associations, but there is a small exception. This legislation does permit organizations to contribute a maximum of $1,000 annually to the aggregate of candidates, local associations and nomination contestants of a registered party so that all the contributions are combined under the $1,000 limit.

Our first preference would have been that this not be in there at all. We do not think this is required. This is something that was not in the Prime Minister's mind when he floated this bill last fall. I think it is fair to say that some backbench members of his party were concerned, so this came back as an opportunity for trade unions, associations and corporations to still participate, but to a much more limited extent than they have been able to heretofore in the political process.

Our first inclination was to get rid of that altogether. We were not successful. Our second suggestion, then, was to level the playing field. We said that if franchised corporations like Dairy Queen or Tim Hortons, with units owned by different franchisees, if that is the right legal terminology, could each give $1,000 then trade union locals should be able to give $1,000. However, we have been unable to persuade the members opposite of the wisdom and the good sense of having that level playing field. As a result, unions are considered as one unit for the purposes of donations no matter how many locals they may have, but corporate franchises like Tim Hortons or Dairy Queen or car dealerships are each considered as separate units for purposes of political donations and each of them is able to make a separate $1,000 donation.

The effect of all this has been to weight this class of political donation heavily in favour of corporations as opposed to trade unions. We think that will be proven very quickly when we look at this as the procedure and House affairs committee or some other committee to see the ramifications of Bill C-24. This will stick out like a sore thumb.

There are 16,000 locals in total in national and international unions in this country and the vast majority of them, we believe, will be excluded from contributing to and playing a part in the political process. We have put forward amendments on this, as I have indicated, and they have been voted down by members opposite. To add insult to injury, the House leader said in debate yesterday in this chamber that there is a fundamental difference between union locals and corporate franchises when it comes to exercising local control and independent judgment. I think in effect he was saying that local businesses have minds of their own and that local unions are simply sheep that follow the edicts of their national or international offices.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

An hon. member

That's repugnant.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

It is repugnant, and as the House leader considers those remarks I think he owes an apology to people in the trade union movement in this country.

I listened to the member for Elk Island a couple of days ago on this subject in debate on the bill. He was expressing his distaste for the fact that as a former member of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees he had no choice in that some of his dues went to the New Democratic Party of Alberta. He was insisting how unfair that was. Let me say to that member of Parliament that it was a decision made by the local union of AUPE at the institution at which he apparently worked in those days.

The obverse of that is to suggest that a board of directors at Bombardier, for example, is giving $100,000 of shareholders' money to the political party of its choice. Does he really think there is more democracy in that situation than in a trade union local deciding by a democratic vote of its members at a general meeting which political party it chooses to support? I think the member for Elk Island needs to reflect on that matter.

On the matter of public funding for elections and between elections, which is an important aspect of the bill, if we take corporate and union money away from parties, as Bill C-24 would do, then some of that money, we believe, has to be replaced. For the last almost 30 years, individuals have received a tax deduction when they donate to political parties but Bill C-24 would also provide for an annual public grant for parties based on each vote they received in the previous general election.

The previous proposal, up until last weekend, provided for an annual public allotment to parties of $1.50 per vote, per year, for every vote they received in the previous general election. Based on the election in November 2000, the Liberals would have received $7.8 million annually, the Canadian Alliance $4.9 million, the Progressive Conservatives $2.4 million, the Bloc Québécois $2.1 million, and the New Democratic Party $1.6 million.

We were assured that this had been looked at by the government, that it was revenue neutral and no party would suffer as a result of this $1.50 per vote, per year, to replace moneys lost from corporations and trade unions. Now suddenly it has come back in at $1.75. We have difficulty with that. We felt that if $1.50 was good enough and revenue neutral in March when the bill was introduced, then surely it is good enough in June. We do not understand why the price of democracy has suddenly risen by 25¢, but that is what we will be voting on today at third reading.

We think it occurred because various Liberals rebelled. They sent their president to testify before the committee on procedure and House affairs, which was looking at this issue. They said it was not enough and they needed more money. As a result this amendment was pushed through and introduced early this week. We think the Liberals are used to relying on a rich corporate diet and seem concerned about being weaned away from it in any way. They apparently fear perhaps going out and having to go door to door to raise money from people on the doorstep and elsewhere. We believe that a public contribution of $1.50 per vote to each political party is a fair and reasonable replacement for the loss of corporate and political donations.

As an aside, I note that the Canadian Alliance opposes this modest amount of money going toward political parties. I think it had an amendment to reduce the 43¢ roughly per quarter that would go to each party to 1¢. I just do not understand it. These folks stand up every day and grill the government about the latest scandal of Groupaction in accepting government money on one hand and getting a contract on the other. Perhaps the Canadian Alliance is concerned that it will actually have to get out and do some of its own research as a result of this cleaning up of the Canada Elections Act and the introducing of public money, which will have to be transparent at the local level and at the national level on a regular basis. But we can be sure that in any event, like the gold plated pension plan, the Canadian Alliance will vote against it but certainly take the money. On the matter of pensions, we happen to believe that people are fully entitled to pensions but the hypocrisy of the Alliance members on that issue, and again on this issue, is breathtaking.

I have only a couple of minutes left, and we are under time allocation, but we are saddened that we are unable to deal with current trust funds. I know that come January 1 everything will be transparent under this bill and trust funds will no longer be able to exist. We felt there should have been a way to have some reporting from the relatively few members of the House, as I understand it, who are in the business of trust funds, some reporting of trust fund money flowing in. We wanted to reinstate clause 71 on that. We debated it at report stage yesterday and we were ultimately unsuccessful in persuading the government.

On third parties, we all know about the destructive effects that third party money and interventions have had in the United States where groups like the National Rifle Association and others have intervened in a very undemocratic and unaccountable way in the political process. We all know about the soft pacts that have occurred there. Earlier I mentioned the enormous, unbelievable amounts of money that it takes to run for and win political office in the United States. In this country, the National Citizens' Coalition, just as secretive and unaccountable, has made similar interventions.

Bill C-24 does not deal with third party expenditures in any way. The assumption is that third party expenditures are going to be dealt with at the court level and the government is convinced that it is going to win that debate. I am not as confident, but we will have to wait and see. There was no opportunity to deal with that because these are amendments to the election financing act.

Once Bill C-24 comes into effect in January 2004, it will confine political parties to accepting only individual donations. Accordingly, it should follow that judges will find it more difficult to rule against legislation limiting spending by third parties in election campaigns. We hope that is the case but certainly there are no guarantees. I look forward to the first review of Bill C-24, and I hope and expect that by the time the courts will have ruled, the National Citizens' Coalition will have a much reduced role in the Canadian political electoral system.

In conclusion, the New Democratic Party believes that big money should be removed from politics and it largely will be removed from politics. Our party passed just such a resolution at its leadership convention in Toronto five months ago. Canadians are tired of a political system where money has bought influence. They want the government and political parties to clean up their acts, and I fully concur.

The bill is not perfect. We think there are obvious flaws in the bill. We tried to get those flaws dealt with in clause by clause and at other stages, but there is no question that overall this will provide a big improvement over the system as it exists now.

On balance it is a significant step toward getting big money out of politics. It also provides for greater transparency and accountability for our political system. For that reason the New Democratic Party will be supporting Bill C-24.