House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was harbours.

Topics

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader was silent about the Friday of the week that we return. That would be three days after the budget. I wonder if he could indicate if he has plans for that day.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, a review of the calendar and the requirements of the Standing Orders would lead one to conclude that there will have to be many opposition days, allocated supply days, in the time that follows the budget debate. There is, of course, some possibility that that Friday may be one of those days.

Committee Amendments to Bill C-21
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to seek a ruling on whether two amendments to Bill C-21, adopted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, are in order. I submit that these two amendments are actually out of order because they are beyond the scope of Bill C-21 that was set at second reading.

Bill C-21 was referred to committee after second reading, as we all know, and page 654 of Marleau and Montpetit states:

An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.

I would like to emphasize that the bill was adopted at second reading and had a very narrow scope. Namely, it contained just three specific items: first, it repealed section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; second, it provided for a parliamentary review of the repeal of section 67 within five years; and third, it included a transitional provision concerning the implementation of the repeal of section 67.

Page 661 of Marleau and Montpetit states:

Since a committee may appeal the decision of its Chair and reverse that decision, it may happen that a committee will report a bill with amendments that were initially ruled by the Chairman to be out of order. The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then considered by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.

This passage flows from a Speaker's ruling from 1993 when the members of a committee rejected the decision of their chair, who had ruled three proposed amendments to a bill to be out of order. The amendments were then adopted by the committee and included in the report to the House.

Following a point of order raised in the House in respect of this matter, the Speaker upheld the ruling of the chair and ordered that the three amendments be struck from the bill.

Marleau and Montpetit, on page 662, also cites a 1992 ruling by Speaker Fraser. It reads in part:

“When a bill is referred to a standing or legislative committee of the House, that committee is...restricted in its examination in a number of ways...it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting this may be”.

The first amendment to which I wish to bring to the Speaker's attention is an interpretive clause, which was added as a new clause, clause 1.2, to the bill. This amendment was ruled inadmissible by the chair because it is beyond the scope of Bill C-21.

During the committee's consideration of this amendment, the member for Nunavut stated:

I don't believe we are asking for too much beyond the scope...I want to take it into the House of Commons for further consideration and see how the ruling would be on that in the House of Commons.

Notwithstanding the acknowledged uncertainty of the member for Nunavut with respect to the admissibility of this amendment, the chair's decision was overruled by the committee, which then adopted this amendment.

The second amendment to which I wish to draw to the Speaker's attention is a non-derogation clause, which was also added as a new clause, clause 1.1, to this bill. While the chair did not raise admissibility concerns with the amendment, this new clause clearly adds a new purpose to the bill and is therefore beyond the scope of Bill C-21.

As I have noted, the purpose of this bill is to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Since the bill is silent on how the Canadian Human Rights Act should be interpreted and applied to first nations, I submit that the amendment to add an interpretive clause and the amendment to add a non-derogation clause exceeds the scope of this bill.

Both of these amendments are beyond the scope of the bill by attempting to prescribe how the Canadian Human Rights Act should be interpreted and applied to first nations people on reserve. Since the purpose of the bill is to bring first nations people the basic human rights that every other Canadian enjoys, I question why the opposition would want to water them down.

What is more disturbing is that the opposition was willing to achieve this goal by overriding a fundamental principle of parliamentary legislative practice. It overruled the chair, who rightly ruled an amendment out of order because it went beyond the scope of this bill. These amendments attempt to bring back much of the intent of section 67, which, of course, the bill proposed to repeal.

I believe this view has been supported by the Speaker in his ruling of February 27, 2007 on Bill C-257, which states:

Given the very narrow scope of Bill C-257, any amendment to the bill must stay within the very limited parameters set by the provisions of the Canada Labour Code that are amended by the bill...They argue that these amendments are admissible for they only make clearer the bill's provisions...However, I fear that their views are precisely what Mr. Speaker Fraser meant in the 1992 ruling...when he warned members against being led into the temptation of amendments not contemplated in the original bill.

On Tuesday, January 29, 2008 in a decision on the admissibility of an amendment that was beyond the scope of Bill C-3, the Speaker ruled:

The amendment was ruled inadmissible by the committee chair on the grounds that it was beyond the scope of the bill. It was contended that on the contrary his amendment was within the scope of the bill because it simply expanded the appeal provision already contained in the bill.

Admittedly, the hon. member’s amendment deals with this same principle, namely the right to appeal, but where it goes beyond the scope of the bill is in relation to the conditions under which the appeal may be made...Consequently, even if the principle remains the same, its scope is clearly expanded.

Any attempt to establish how the Canadian Human Rights Act is interpreted and applied to first nations people should be seen as an expansion of the scope of this bill since this clearly introduces new issues which were not part of Bill C-21 as originally introduced.

I would like to conclude by stating that these two amendments, particularly the nature of the interpretive provision, would undermine the universality of human rights principles embodied in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the very purpose of Bill C-21, which was simply to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Clearly, these two are beyond the very narrow scope of the original bill.

Mr. Speaker, if you agree that these amendments are out of order, I would suggest that they be removed from the bill, as you did in your previous ruling on February 27, 2007.

Committee Amendments to Bill C-21
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to this point of order on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. We must be careful because this is becoming common in all the committees. The same thing happened during the last clause by clause study in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The Conservatives tend to give the chair, who is often a Conservative, the responsibility of declaring amendments out of order. In that case, we will make other representations.

I would like you to be very vigilant. One of the amendments proposed in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, according to our law clerks, should only have been deemed out of order on constitution grounds. The chair deemed it out of order simply because he found it went beyond the scope of the bill. That is something we must watch for carefully.

I hope you will be very vigilant and that you will look at this trend that has started in all the committees. I hope this is not a new Conservative tactic, in other words, a way to reject opposition amendments simply by declaring them out of order.

Committee Amendments to Bill C-21
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do and on this very specific issue.

I think the parliamentary secretary said it himself, he said it was “a very narrow scope”. I strongly feel that those of us who work very hard on committees, our job is to make sure that we get the best legislation in this country. Those of us who have experienced living in these communities, living with the people whose lives are affected, feel that we have to put in amendments to make the legislation better.

We were doing our job as opposition members on the committee. As he said, it is “a very narrow scope”. We have to make sure that the rights of people are protected. If he really believes that is the case, then I would say that these amendments have to go through. I trust your good judgment in this, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Amendments to Bill C-21
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg South, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and the hon. member for Nunavut for their comments. This is certainly a matter that will be examined with diligence by the Speaker.

I recognize the fact that committee chairs make rulings in matters of this kind. I recognize also that their rulings can be appealed, and this happened last year on an occasion. In effect, the Speaker acts as a court of appeal, as it were, from decisions of committees in respect of admissibility of amendments for certain purposes that they can be arguably beyond the scope of the bill or beyond the principles of the bill that was sent to committee at second reading.

I will look into the matter with due diligence and come back to the House with a ruling.

I want to thank hon. members for their submissions on this point. I hope that whatever the outcome, members will not be disappointed on the basis of their views of what would be nice to have in the legislation rather than what is permitted, given the technical rules surrounding the adoption of bills in this House at second reading and therefore, approval by the House of the principle of the bill before it goes to committee, which does restrict the committee in its scope of consideration.

I do not say those words to prejudge the issue in any way, but just to indicate some of the parameters that will be looked at by the Chair.

I thank all hon. members for their interventions, and I will get back to the House regarding this issue soon.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans) as reported by a committee with amendments, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this bill was being debated, the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup had the floor. He has five minutes remaining for his remarks.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, before question period I started to explain our position on the various amendments the government made at report stage. It is quite amazing that the government has decided to reverse what was decided in committee. This is not necessarily related to the point of order that was just raised, but it is still in the same spirit.

These are in fact very practical matters. We were talking, for example, about an amendment adopted by the committee providing that someone could contribute $1,000 in total to the leadership contestants in a particular leadership contest. The committee wanted to add “in any calendar year” so that the same logic that applies to funding under the Canada Elections Act would apply to leadership contests.

The amendment seems to us to be simple, clear, precise and desirable, but the government has decided to go against the amendment adopted in committee. We hope that this House will go back to the position adopted by the committee, which represented a majority of the House. It is important that the Canada Elections Act be organized in a logical way. That concept is not reflected in this amendment, however.

Another motion by the government is even more unacceptable. In an election, if a party’s candidate incurs personal expenses and takes out loans, the party will automatically be responsible for those loans, even though it was not a party to the loan. I believe that this encourages irresponsibility.

I have been a candidate and I have won five elections. Early in the campaign there is money to get it started, but you need additional money because a candidate has additional expenses. If we adopted the position taken by the government it would mean that someone could decide of his or her own accord to borrow $10,000 or $15,000, and the bank would lend the person the money because the party would be guaranteeing it, without necessarily knowing about it. That makes no sense.

We absolutely have to go back to the Bloc Québécois proposal adopted in committee, which is meant to ensure that there is some logic to the scheme. When someone is a candidate in an election, he or she incurs expenses. Each person must be responsible for his or her own choices. If the party wishes to help out, it can do so within the rules in the law. However, it must not be surprised by the discovery that someone has borrowed $10,000 or $20,000 in his or her personal capacity. If we leave the provision as it stands in the government’s proposal, then that $10,000 or $20,000 would become the party’s responsibility. Things done by an individual would therefore sometimes have consequences for all elected members of that party. That is not an appropriate approach to take.

In terms of the bill, we will see whether those amendments are adopted. The purpose of all this is to have an Elections Act that demands transparency and that guarantees that when electors make their choice they have been fully informed and will respect the system in which they are participating.

The few technical elements that were discussed in relation to these amendments make things clear. There have been all sorts of leadership contests in the past. After those elections it is often impossible to get a clear idea of where the money came from. If someone gives $10,000 or $20,000 or $50,000, that may have a particular influence when the successful candidate is in a position of responsibility.

We have started to clarify these things and we have to keep going down that path. We have to adopt a legislative framework that is as precise and independent as possible. When citizens exercise their right to vote they must be aware that they are engaging in a very important democratic activity.

Given this situation, the Bloc Québécois hopes that the amendments in Motions No. 1 and 3 will be rejected. We think Motion No. 2, however, is acceptable. We hope that the House has listened to our suggestions.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his presentation. My question is simple. The Conservatives make things difficult, particularly when it comes to amending the Canada Elections Act. In fact, 63 of their own candidates have not yet been reimbursed for their expenses during the last election campaign. Now the Chief Electoral Officer is investigating their expense accounts because they may not have complied with the law. Given that they now want to amend the law, we have to ask: is that in their interest or not?

With respect to amendments Nos. 1 and 3, obviously we thought this was about limiting contributions to $1,000 per year, as for individuals. We thought that was a good idea, even when we were in the middle of a leadership race. Lastly, with respect to the problem of granting loans, current legislation provides that if the loan is not paid back within three years, it automatically becomes a contribution, a donation that exceeds the maximum limit under the Elections Act.

According to this bill, the party would be responsible for paying off that debt. Anyone who contracts a loan and does not pay it back within three years no longer runs the risk of breaking the law and being charged with contravening the Canada Elections Act, because the loan would become a party debt.

We have to wonder what the Conservatives are trying to accomplish. I think that they want to use the Canada Elections Act once again to justify election expenses that do not comply with the law.

What is my colleague's position on this issue?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the example given by my colleague is very impressive. More than 60 Conservative candidates—63 or 67 candidates—have not yet been reimbursed for money they borrowed during the last election campaign because of a faulty interpretation of the law and the fact they made certain expenditures that were not accepted by Elections Canada.

As a result, Elections Canada is refusing to reimburse those amounts. That raises some questions because the amendments made by the government seek to maintain the fuzziness in the act that exists with regard to other factors. To some extent, they were caught with their hands in the till since the practice was not legal. They have been told that by Elections Canada and they are contesting it in court but the fact remains that those candidates have still not been reimbursed because they did not comply with the law as interpreted by Elections Canada.

In the same way, if we were to adopt the amendments proposed by the government, we could be repeating the same kind of fuzziness and thereby adding to the problem. It is somewhat irresponsible to tell us that now , according to the government's proposal, a party could not prevent a candidate from borrowing $60,000 from a bank. Yet, if a problem arose, the same party would have to assume the debt. In addition, we must also consider this plan to see whether it might not enable some funny business.

The past being our best predictor of the future, the ethics spokesperson of the Conservative Party is showing the same behaviour and the same attitude as we saw in the last election—and as we can read this morning in the newspapers. He does not deny that he could use the same system once again even though it has been denounced by Elections Canada.

It should be understood that we on this side will be very demanding. We want the federal government—the Conservative Party—to send out a clear notice that this type of behaviour will no longer be permitted; moreover, that they accept the arguments presented in the examination of the different amendments and will support the two amendments adopted by the committee. These amendments were supported by the majority of the parties and should be incorporated into the bill. That would provide for a clearer interpretation and would also allow the public to see that the electoral system is working well and operating transparently.

If the act were not so clear on the matter of reimbursement, the Conservatives might not be in trouble today. However, Elections Canada has done its job and concluded that for more than 60 candidates, the practice was not acceptable. These people have still not been reimbursed and we do not want to see the same situation over the same issue in the next election or over any other question in the act. That is why it is better to be clearer and to adopt the amendments proposed in committee by the members of different parties.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will continue the debate on the report stage amendments to Bill C-29.

The government has said that the bill would fill in gaps in existing legislation governing loans to political candidates or parties. However, I point out that the existing law requires full disclosure of these types of loans and has procedures in place governing repayment. However, the bill purports to tweak and ratchet up the degree of regulation involved with these loans.

From a distance, it looks like the Conservative government is trying to do everything it can to lob grenades, regulate and obstruct the way people run for public office federally. I am imputing rationale here, but it is as though the Conservatives are saying they have their financing mechanisms all in place and the rest us can go find our own way. They are going to regulate the field and make it tough for everybody, including arguably, themselves. That is the universe the way they see it. They will continue to regulate and regulate. Every time they see something they do not like, they will pass another law and will continue to pass laws until the thing gets so gummed up that hardly anybody will be able to move on the street. That is my impression of the bill.

I accept it is a tweak, a ratchet up to the existing set of rules. However, I want to try to take a wider angle view of what is going on as it relates to the right of Canadians to participate in the political process.

I think there is some gamesmanship involved. I do not think it is all idealistic attempts to make the universe right. In their efforts at trying to kneecap the other parties, or other people who do not organize their campaigns the way the Conservatives do, are they really in a way obstructing participation in the process? Are we only thinking about existing parties when we make these new rules? Have we forgot about the new parties that have not made it into the system yet?

If we were talking about banking or the mining sector, we would be looking at such issues as obstacles and barriers to entry to ensure competition. We would not clutter the roadway with all kinds of rules and barriers to obstruct new entrants into the mining or banking field. We like to see competition. In adopting these measures in the bill, we would really be regulating. I will give two examples of how I think it may be a problem.

These new rules create barriers to people, although that may have been unintended. I think the intention is to create barriers for all the other political parties that are on the street now and we may have forgot about the ones that are not there yet.

I have two examples on which I want to focus.

First, the bill says that candidates and parties can only borrow from financial institutions. That would be a pretty significant law. In order to borrow from a financial institution, one has to have a credit rating. Does a poor candidate have a better credit rating than a rich candidate? I will leave that question unanswered, but I think the answer is kind of obvious. A poor candidate would not have as good a credit rating. Therefore, with the imposition of the mandatory financing mechanism with the banks and therefore the imputed need for a credit rating, are we imposing a barrier to poor candidates? I think we are. A poor candidate might be able to borrow from a brother-in-law, but might not be able to float a decent loan from the bank for his or her political campaign as he or she goes forward.

All of the existing incumbents in the House have been elected at least once. Most of us know how to finance a campaign or to raise money for it. We all have to do it. It is a very legitimate part of being involved in politics, but I think buried in this section is an adverse effect discrimination. Somebody out there will notice it and someday even the courts may notice it.

I am thinking of women who sometimes have less money and poorer people, who by definition have less money and resources, to participate in politics and sometimes may need a loan to get them over the hump.

Second, if we can only borrow from the banks and financial institutions, then the banks become an integral monopoly source of funding or borrowing for financial campaigns. I wonder how a bank makes a decision about its lending policies, about whether it will only lend to one party or one candidate. If it lends to one, does it have to lend to all? How will the banks handle this imposition of being the sole source for lending to political campaigns? If I were the banks, I would be kind of unhappy about it, because it is forcing banks to make decisions that may be seen to be political.

I mentioned earlier the problem of credit ratings for the poor candidates, the less pecunious candidates, but the banks also have a decision to make between political parties. They may decide to lend $10,000 to one party and $25,000 to the other party or cap everybody at $10,000. Maybe they will decide not lend anybody anything in a political campaign because it is too mucky and too political. They might leave it up to Parliament to figure out how it wants to finance campaigns, but they do not want people going to them. If we do not want candidates to borrow from the brother-in-law or from the friend, too bad.

The banks might not be too happy with this. I do not know for sure, but there may be some push-back there. If a person needs a loan and he or she has to go to a bank and the bank tells that person it does not lend to political candidates or parties, what have we done? We have created a barrier to participation and entry.

The amendments put forward by the government purport to roll back amendments that were put into the bill by the members of the committee. They were good amendments and I would like to keep them there. Therefore, I oppose the government's move to roll them back.

One amendment has to do with the amortization of loans of leadership candidates. Another one has to do with repeat loans during a calendar year, which looks pretty reasonable to me. The other has to do with the deletion of the automatic liability of a political party, as mentioned by the previous speaker, if one of its candidates defaults on repayment of a loan. That is just a dumb mechanism and it should not be there. However, it does relate to my earlier comments about banks and financial institutions. Maybe they would not mind having that automatic liability of the party being there, but I do not think it is a good way to manage the financing.

I therefore oppose the government motions to reinstate provisions of the bill.

For reasons I have stated, there may be some constitutional vulnerability related to the charter in these sections. We will not know until the appropriate case comes along. However, when that case does come along, I hope it is somebody who maybe did not have a lot of money, wanted to borrow money but was unable to do that. I hope the person can show that this relatively dumb, holier than thou government regulation of this part of the political process is seen to be an obstacle to political participation.

I hope my friends in the Conservative Party will see that perhaps they are taking too myopic a view of Canada. They are trying to regulate everything from their view inside their political party, but Canada is really much more diverse and demands a little more freedom than they are willing to accord in terms of the financing of campaigns and participation in the process.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the House would be particularly intrigued and interested in the member's response to the point he made with respect to the role banking institutions would play within the regime entrenched in the bill, particularly as it relates to the whole notion of the pecunious capacity of individuals to go to a bank and say that they want to borrow X amount of dollars toward a campaign.

What would the member's opinion be on to why the government is so concerned with the mechanism as opposed to a candidate being able to go to a number of people, as long as the reporting mechanisms were clear, transparent, reported to the Chief Electoral Officer and the whole issue with bankruptcy and unpaid loans was made transparently clear as to how the loan must be repaid and so on? Why is it so important for the banking institution? Is there something inherent in the banking institutions act that is a protector for the public purse, the public cause?

Is there not another way that would encourage democracy, encourage people to come forward? If they could avail themselves of the confidence of several Canadians to support them, is it not the process of reporting that is more important than the actual mechanism that they have to go to a bank?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has focused correctly on two of the problems with the bill and the amendments.

The Conservative government seems to have made two incorrect assumptions. One is that the rest of the world should be financing their campaigns the way the Conservatives have done it. They either do it their way or the highway.

The second is banks are just like public utilities. The banks are there and even though Conservatives probably will not have to borrow money, to heck with the rest of us. We can go to a bank and get a loan.

However, there are problems in doing that. The whole object of all the election financing legislation was to ensure there were no huge special interests vying for or currying favour in the electoral process. It was also to ensure there was transparency throughout so we could accomplish those objectives. If there were a special interest participating in some extra special way, it would be visible.

Those objectives were accomplished by the earlier legislation. We may quibble with caps, maximum amounts, minimum amounts and things like that, but the original legislation accomplished those results.

The new legislation that deal with loans goes too far and makes to incorrect assumptions. I would have been very comfortable if the parties, and I know there were discussions among the parties, had opposed it. I will vote with my party of on this one. However, I see the problem. They have gone too far.

The good news is we might have gone so far that it will not survive in the case of some candidates. Perhaps a single mother in Rimouski needs a bank loan and suddenly realizes she cannot get it. Then some of her friends tell her to deal with it in court because the legislation is an obstacle to her carrying on a campaign and getting through it.

I am not saying the bank has to pay for the whole campaign. The bank is just a bridge loan. The loan helps candidates get through the campaign period and then they pay the it back with their electoral contributions and their fund raising. That is my view.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I am usually quite happy to rise in this House to debate various bills dealing with social problems, I find it difficult to debate this bill because, for me, anything that has to do with money and math is esoteric. It is all Greek to me. It is a language that I do not understand at all. In that regard, the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women could corroborate. I have to work very hard to understand anything concerning money.

What I do understand, however, is that the government was too anxious to put through Bill C-2 and that the bill has several shortcomings. That does not surprise me, but what I do find surprising is that the government now wants to address some of those shortcomings. Indeed, over the past two years, none of the objectives of Bill C-2 has been met in its original form. The purpose of the bill was to guarantee a responsible, transparent government that would never commit any wrongdoings as serious as those we had seen in the past. We now see that that is not the case and we must quickly put forward another bill to correct the shortcomings. Let us hope that Bill C-29 will correct these deficiencies, not only in words or in the text of the legislation, but also in action.

Contrary to what my colleague just said, if a young woman from Rimouski went to a bank to get a loan so that she could run in a federal election, I do not think she would have the problems he was describing. In Quebec, the caisses populaires have a social duty and must lend 60% of the amount that a person is entitled to receive from the Chief Electoral Officer for federal elections. So we have something here that is probably already better than what exists in the ROC, the rest of Canada. We have created financial institutions for ourselves in Quebec and passed laws that prevent the kind of abuses they are trying to prevent today with Bill C-29.

At the same time, though, as they try to prevent abuses, they are handicapping the political parties a bit by removing their ability to decide—along with the— whether he or she can borrow money. According to the bill, the parties would be responsible for the money their candidates borrowed. That is totally absurd. I wonder whether the party of which I am a proud member would have been able to meet my needs when I decided to enter politics. I made my own decisions about how much money I needed, an amount that was very personal. It is not up to the parties to foot the bill for people who decide to run for them in elections.

A candidate is chosen and talks with his party. He determines his strategy together and in collaboration with his party, but ultimately, it is the candidate who decides how much he wants to spend on his election campaign. If the political party were made responsible for the money that a candidate spends, we would be opening the door to major abuses.

It is the same as if I decided to buy a new house and told the bank it could have confidence in me because the Speaker of the House of Commons likes it and supports my getting a loan. Since you are a solid citizen, the bank would give me the money. That would be a bit ridiculous.

Once again, we see the party in power, the Conservatives, trying to put more restrictive rules in place when they do not follow their own rules. It is rather paradoxical. When we adopt rules, we should start by following them ourselves before insisting that other people should follow them or thinking that a new rule should be invented to prevent one party or another from making progress.

That is the impression given by this bill.

Bill C-54, which was introduced in the last session, was very similar to this bill. It was examined in committee and debated on several occasions. In fact, an amendment from the Bloc Québécois had been incorporated into the bill. As a result, it was a better bill that provided a great deal more latitude to political parties, to individuals and to companies. We know that we must act responsibly.

Now, the government has tabled other amendments, which are unacceptable, to prevent us from acting in a way that any political party should have to right to act.

In Quebec, we have had regulations governing political funding for more than 30 years. René Lévesque was very conscious of the difficulties and temptations that political parties, individuals and legislature members must deal with. Some members or ministers think they have a great deal more power because their party is in office. That is not how we are supposed to think. We are supposed to take our responsibilities very seriously. Unfortunately, too many people do not do that.

Therefore, we have created a very strict framework that requires parties, members of the legislature and individuals to follow the rules. Those rules have been followed for more than 30 years and that works very well in Quebec, contrary to what some government members here have said. If there is electoral fraud in Quebec it does not happen often. When there is fraud it is discovered immediately, and not two, three or four years later, because we have provided the tools to do that.

The government seems to forget that in the past two years it introduced Bill C-2 to deal with some of the difficulties that parliamentarians might encounter. But they have not even respected the spirit of Bill C-2.

We have heard of influence-peddling in recent weeks. We have also seen appointments that are clearly favouritism. In the past few weeks, we have seen contracts awarded to third parties in ways that do not comply with the regulations. Those contracts were for just under $25,000, which made it possible to award more contracts, to more people, without following the usual procedures.

In my opinion, when we create legislation it is because we recognize that we have a responsibility toward our fellow citizens. If we only do it to look good, would it not be better to think seriously before trying to put through a bill? Would it not be better, as a political body—I am speaking of the government—to look deeply into its conscience to ensure that Bill C-2 is respected?

They tell us all day long that they brought forward Bill C-2, but for the past two years that bill has been laughed at and ignored by the government in power. For two years they have twisted that bill in all kinds of ways. Now, they want to make amendments to Bill C-29 in order to make life difficult for the political parties that are not in power. It is ridiculous.

Part of this bill is certainly important. We will vote in favour of that important part; but the majority of the amendments that have been added are not acceptable to us because they simply do not make sense. We want nothing to do with those.

We do not want those.