House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the challenges that the House affairs committee has been dealing with is the in and out issue that were pointed out by Elections Canada following the last election.

If my memory recalls it right, I believe 62 members in the Conservative Party were pointed out by Elections Canada as overspending their limits due to a so-called in and out scheme. Unfortunately, that got tied up in the procedure and House affairs committee and I believe, through the filibustering, absolutely nothing has happened to resolve that issue. Quite possibly we will be going into another election campaign. It is unfortunate for the 62 members because they will be going into an election campaign not having cleared off from the last one and, no doubt, could have additional problems as a result of that.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak about the bill before us, Bill C-29.

First of all, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which seeks to prevent individuals from bypassing campaign financing rules. We believe that it is necessary to regulate loans in order to prevent people from getting around the financing limits. Remember that these limits were established after a long fight by the Bloc Québécois to put an end to corporate funding and to limit individual contributions, as Quebec did 30 years ago.

This bill corrects another problem in the Federal Accountability Act—formerly Bill C-2. As we were studying this bill, the Conservative government was more interested in quickly passing the bill than putting an end to ethical problems. The opposition parties, the media, and Democracy Watch pointed out the problem at that time, but the government refused to take action.

The current bill solves the problem of loans that made it possible to circumvent limits to political contributions. It must be said that several ethical difficulties were not addressed by Bill C-2, for instance, poor protection for whistleblowers and the failure to reform the Access to Information Act.

Bill C-29 incorporates the only change proposed by the Bloc Québécois when Bill C-54 was studied in committee. Remember that the Bloc Québécois was strongly against political parties being held responsible for debts incurred by their candidates, even though the political party is not named on the contract between the candidate and the bank. Remember also that the government listened to reason and reintroduced the Bloc Québécois amendment in Bill C-54.

The Conservatives introduced this bill, claiming that a number of Liberal candidates in the last leadership race took out large loans in order to circumvent the contribution limits. It may be true that some Liberal candidates did this, but let us not forget that the Prime Minister himself has not yet disclosed all the contributions he received during the 2002 leadership race.

The Conservative Party is not a bastion of transparency and ethics. Consider, for example, all the back and forth between political offices and lobbying firms, the contracts awarded to political friends, the use of public funds for partisan purposes, the many partisan appointments, the ideology-based appointments of judges and immigration commissioners, and the publication of a guide for Conservative committee chairs describing how to obstruct the work of committees.

Of course, we must prevent the law from being circumvented. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill that, as I said, would prevent people from bypassing campaign financing rules.

At the time, Bill C-2 introduced new restrictions on campaign contributions, limiting any individual's annual contribution to a registered party or candidate to $1,100. Furthermore, the amount a union or business could contribute annually to a registered party or candidate was reduced to $0.

Unfortunately, it was still possible to circumvent these restrictions by taking out personal loans. We saw this when several candidates in the recent Liberal Party of Canada leadership race took out sizeable loans from individuals and financial institutions. The hon. member for Toronto Centre comes to mind, for example, who took out loans totaling $705,000.

The Leader of the Opposition took out loans to the tune of $655,000. Bill C-29 corrects other shortcomings that were in Bill C-2 at the time.

The bill before us is intended to correct another problem; that of government accountability. As I was saying earlier, during the study of Bill C-2, the Conservative government was more interested in passing the bill than in correcting ethical problems. At the time, organizations like Democracy Watch, the opposition parties and the media raised the issue of circumventing contribution ceilings and the government refused to do anything about it.

And yet, other ethical problems persist. Bill C-29 corrects the problem of loans that circumvent limits on political contributions. However, a number of ethical problems, such as protecting whistleblowers, were not resolved by Bill C-2. A number of Conservative election promises to protect whistleblowers did not make it all the way to the Federal Accountability Act.

The Conservatives said they wanted to “ensure that whistleblowers ... are provided with adequate legal counsel”. The Conservatives' bill provides just $1,500 to cover legal fees, which is totally ridiculous. It is also worth mentioning that the Conservatives said that we need to “give the Public Service Integrity Commissioner the power to enforce compliance with the [whistleblower] act”. They said they also wanted to “ensure that all Canadians who report government wrongdoing are protected, not just public servants”. Finally, they planned to “remove the government’s ability to exempt crown corporations and other bodies from the [whistleblower] act”.

Allan Cutler, one of the original whistleblowers in the disclosure of the sponsorship scandal and a former candidate for the Conservative Party during the 2005 election, was somewhat critical of Bill C-2 at the time. He maintained that Bill C-2 was far from perfect and had some problems that needed fixing, especially with respect to the provisions for protecting whistleblowers. The government could have used Bill C-29 as an opportunity to fix the shortcomings of Bill C-2 with respect to whistleblowers. However, the government did not decide to make such amendments to the legislation.

Bill C-29 could have done something about reforming the Access to Information Act, an important aspect that Bill C-2 ignored.

On April 5, 2005, the Liberal government released a discussion paper on reforming access to information. This document met with general criticism. In addition to doubling the minimum administrative fees charged to the public, the Martin government's plan would have maintained all the exceptions provided for in the legislation. In fact, in 13 years, the Liberal Party never managed to introduce one valid reform of the Access to Information Act, which severely penalizes the opposition parties as well as citizens and media who use the system to get more information. Bill C-29 should have included significant amendments. Bill C-29 should have included reforms to the Access to Information Act.

We are still waiting for the Access to Information Act to be reformed. As it turns out, once in power, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals are especially eager to reform the legislation. The Information Commissioner recently pointed out that all governments share this reluctance.

This is how he put it:

The reason that action, not more study, is required is that governments continue to distrust and resist the Access to Information Act and the oversight of the Information Commissioner.

That is what the Information Commissioner said in an earlier report.

With respect to election financing transparency, both the Liberals and the Conservatives are vying for the title. When the Conservatives introduced Bill C-29, they claimed that several Liberal candidates took out significant loans to bypass funding limits during the last leadership race. As I said just now, in December 2006, the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister admitted that they had failed to disclose receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Chief Electoral Officer. The money was collected in the form of “registration fees” paid by Conservative delegates to attend the Conservative Party of Canada's May 2005 convention.

Clearly, there is a lack of transparency. The government refuses to enforce the ethics and transparency rules. A few months into its mandate, the Conservative Party released a road map that demonstrates its lack of political will to follow the rules and to put an end to the political culture of entitlement.

This government reprimanded the Liberals for the comings and goings between political offices and lobbying firms. Yet, since taking power, the Prime Minister has appointed former lobbyist and current Minister of National Revenue as the head of National Defence, and he made lobbyist Sandra Buckler his director of communications.

This government also awards contracts to Conservative friends. The Prime Minister's government awarded a communications contract to Marie-Josée Lapointe, a former member of the Prime Minister's transition team. This contract goes against the spirit of the Federal Accountability Act, since political staff are not allowed to receive contracts from the government for 12 months after they have left. Believe it or not, the contract was cancelled halfway through.

This government also uses public funds for partisan purposes. In March 2006, the Conservative government awarded an $85,000 contract to gauge public support for the Conservative Party's five electoral priorities. In July 2006, the Conservative government awarded a contract to Strategic Counsel in order to poll public opinion on various political issues. The very partisan report identified the environment as a very important issue for the government's re-election. It should be noted that Strategic Counsel is run by Allan Gregg, who was the Conservative Party's official pollster under Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell.

To sum up, the bill would establish a uniform and transparent reporting regime for all loans to political entities, including mandatory disclosure of loan terms and the identity of all lenders and guarantors. The bill would prohibit all unions and corporations not only from making contributions, in accordance with the Federal Accountability Act, but also from lending money.

Moreover, loans, loan guarantees and contributions from individuals could not exceed the limit set out in the Federal Accountability Act, which was $1,100 for 2007.

Additionally, only financial institutions or other political entities would be able to lend money—at market interest rates— exceeding that amount. The rules for unpaid loans would be tightened so that candidates could not default on their obligations.

Loans not repaid within 18 months would be considered a political contribution. Riding associations, or where there are none, the parties themselves, would be held responsible for their candidates unpaid loans.

I would like to take this opportunity to make a small correction. Unfortunately, the government did not listen to reason and did not reintroduce the amendments proposed by the Bloc Québécois. Sadly, that Bloc Québécois amendment was defeated at the report stage, by the NDP and the Conservatives, among others.

I just had to make that correction. Overall, however, I must say we are in favour of a bill that prevents individuals from circumventing the campaign financing rules.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I returned a little late from committee so I did not hear the entire speech put forward from the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

However, I am following this debate, and I know that many Canadians are following this debate as well, especially in light of the energy and all the hype around the upcoming presidential race, the selection of the Democratic leader, that leadership process, and the vast amounts of dollars that are laid out within that process.

It just astounds me. I know that many Canadians watch Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room every day and are awed by the amount of money that it takes to pursue that opportunity within the American system. It is considerably different in Canada.

I had the great privilege to work with former prime minister Chrétien when he brought forward the initial tranche of changes, with a different focus and approach as to how we go about funding political parties here in this country. It has evolved since the last election, bringing us to where we are today.

The member may have addressed this through his remarks, but I want to go back to the work of the committee. We know that committee recommendations are not binding on the House, in that they are brought forward as recommendations, but I wonder if he could comment on two in particular.

The first one, brought forward by the Conservative Party, allowed for loans and suretyships that are repaid in a calendar year not to count against donation limits for that year. That recommendation was supported by all parties.

The one that was put forward by the member's own party, supported by both the Liberals and the NDP, was an amendment that removed a section of the bill that forced registered political parties to assume the liability of an unpaid loan. It was thought that since candidates could conceivably secure loans without informing the central party of the status, then they could declare bankruptcy. But this would be without the approval of the national party.

The Conservatives opposed that, but as I said, it was a Bloc motion supported by the Liberals and the NDP. With the motions that are brought forward now by the government and the changes in this, it would gut both of these recommendations. Could the member could share with me why the thought is different now than it was when this piece of legislation came to committee? What has changed since then?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, what was vital and remains vital is that we prevent them from doing indirectly what they cannot do directly. That was vital.

Bill C-29 contained amendments proposed by the Bloc Québécois under former Bill C-54. One of the amendments was that the Bloc Québécois was strongly opposed to the political party being held responsible for the liabilities of its candidates, even though the political party was not a party to the contract between a candidate and the bank. Thus, at report stage, the Bloc Québécois—if I am not mistaken—introduced an amendment which, as the member said, was rejected by the Conservatives and the NDP. The attitude of those political parties with respect to this amendment is rather suspect because there had been a debate and it was a question of transparency. We must ensure—and I am going to the trouble of repeating it—that we cannot alter or get around the limits established by obtaining loans from individuals.

Thus, from this point forward, the law could guarantee that only financial institutions can enter into contracts with candidates. The intended purpose is to have a very transparent process. In Quebec, we are proud of the political party financing act, which resulted in greater transparency in our democracy.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the comments of the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and his input to the debate.

I would ask for his insight on a situation whereby the Liberal Party proposed an amendment and the Bloc Québécois supported that amendment, one that would have allowed annual contributions to a leadership campaign debt until that debt had been repaid in full, and the government submitted a motion to revoke that amendment.

Could he provide the House with any compelling reason why the Liberal amendment should not proceed as worded?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government is characterized by its culture of secrecy and entitlement.

Just as with Bills C-2 and C-54, it is clear that the government hopes to be able to get around the established rules and give itself an out with Bill C-29. We have a legislative process in place, and we must study Bill C-29. It was a golden opportunity to make these amendments. However, it is clear from the government's stubbornness that there is a lack of transparency on the other side of the House, and we think that is too bad. These amendments and changes should have been made in Bills C-2 and C-54. Bill C-29 gives us that opportunity, but unfortunately this government has missed the boat.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for indicating the Bloc's support for this very important piece of legislation.

One of my concerns is that many times before we have seen important government initiatives, particularly on the democratic reform side, make it through this place but then get stalled in the Senate.

I believe my hon. colleague understands the importance of getting royal assent for this legislation before the next federal election, whenever that may take place.

Does my colleague share my concern? If the legislation passes this place, does he fear, as I do, that the Liberal-dominated Senate may stall the bill to try to prevent the bill getting royal assent prior to the next federal election?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the governing party had carefully studied our proposed amendments to Bill C-29, we would not be here. I am thinking in particular of the amendment that the Conservatives and the NDP unfortunately defeated regarding political parties' responsibility for their candidates' debts. The governing party defeated the Bloc Québécois motion and the amendment to Bill C-29, unfortunately with the help of the NDP. If we had been able to get consensus on these issues, the Senate would very likely have discussed and studied the bill much more quickly.

I do not know what is going to happen in the Senate, but it is clear that when the House of Commons is missing opportunities and the NDP and Conservatives are joining together to defeat a motion supported by the Liberals and the Bloc—which I felt was a no-brainer—then it is inevitable that the Senate will have major debates on Bill C-29.

We do not know how the debate will go in the Senate, and we cannot speculate, but I hope that the Senate will consider the amendments that were introduced here by the Bloc Québécois but were unfortunately defeated by the members and the opposition party on the other side of the House.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-29. I think I echo the sentiment of all members that the House desires, very emphatically, to have an election system that is more open, transparent and clear. That is why the Liberals supported the general principle of the bill, which was brought forward to improve accountability for candidates to report loans taken during election campaigns.

Unfortunately, that is not what we get with the bill as it is presently amended. We will end up with severe limitations on the number and types of people who can run due to the fact that, believe it or not, the banks will essentially have the greatest decision-making power on the amount of financial support any given candidate can receive for his or her campaign. This is on the basis that different people have different income levels, equity levels and capacities to borrow money from banks. It is a fact.

The government continues to repeat that Bill C-29 would finally stop the undue influence of wealthy contributors who were supposedly skirting Elections Act donation limits through the use of personal loans. The bill would disadvantage potential candidates not only of the Liberal Party but of all parties. It would limit access to participation in political leadership for many Canadians.

As I have said once before when I spoke on this, we all want an electoral system that is more accountable, but what is really important is that this system of electoral accountability not limit access to different candidates who want to participate but have lower income status. The kind of accountability proposed by the government's amendments to the bill simply does not bridge accountability with equitable, fair and democratic accessibility.

Let us review the amendments proposed by the government and their impact.

First, the government wants to prohibit the possibility for individuals to make annual contributions to a leadership candidate. For a government that claims it wants Canadians to have more freedom in when and how they spend their money, this prohibition seems not to be consistent.

Second, the government proposes that all loans be repaid annually rather than at the point when the loan becomes due. Again, that does not seem to make sense since what we will end up with is an artificial limit on repayment. So much for the concept of freedom of contract.

Considering the fact that elections can be called at different times during the year and that leadership campaigns can last more than a year, it does not make sense to have someone pay off a loan before the time limit established by the loan contract. I am not sure if the government is aware that the amendments are inconsistent with the stated objectives of the legislation and will be viewed by many as narrowly inclusive, rigid and elitist.

Let us consider how much energy it would take for a successful candidate to work on repaying a loan at the end of the year rather than work on more broadly based repayment timeframes. It is totally unnecessary for anyone to have to focus on repaying by the end of a fiscal year if that was not the arrangement contracted with the lender.

Incidentally, the government wants to delete, as my colleague has said, the Bloc amendment that removed liability from registered political parties for loans taken by candidates. Again, I ask the House if it really makes sense to set up a system of responsibility for registered political parties and riding associations regardless of whether they are aware that the candidate has taken out a loan at the bank. I emphasize that making one entity answerable for the personal debt of an individual does not sound reasonable.

Let us review what we on this side have done to improve the electoral laws and what the Conservative Party has done by contrast.

Our party has shown good faith in bridging those principles that I mentioned. We have demonstrated that we want to improve electoral laws. After all, the Liberal Party was the party that passed a bill aimed at limiting the role of businesses and unions in the financing of elections, Bill C-24, in 2003.

In addition, during the last leadership campaign of the Liberal Party, all candidates stated publicly all loans received by their campaigns and they went beyond the requirements set by Elections Canada in this regard.

Recent difficulties faced by the government should dictate greater sensitivity as opposed to the kind of influence that seems to be drawn into the bill. The Prime Minister, for example, has found it difficult to report his leadership campaign contributions, going back to 2002, and there must be some legitimate reason for that.

While we are talking about the Conservative Party's record and following elections laws, let us not forget to mention the efforts of the MP for Nepean—Carleton to denounce Liberal leadership candidates. He has demonstrated, in my opinion, a really inconsistent understanding of the legislation that he is purporting and that the government is bringing forward. For example, he has been declaring that Elections Canada is not impartial.

The member said that the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville and other Liberal Party members were acting illegally by actually following Elections Canada regulations with respect to loan repayment extension requests.

With all this grandstanding, one would think the government would have proposed limits on repayment that would reflect its convictions. Despite what the member for Nepean—Carleton might claim, members of his own party have been in hot water over loan repayments. That is why I am focusing on this, because there must be a problem with the loan repayment regime.

Elections Canada has records of five Conservative candidates with loans that remained unpaid 18 months after the 2006 election. I am not saying that because I am dumping on those candidates. I feel for them. There must be reasons why they cannot repay those loans within that period of time, and this legislation will not help. In three of those cases, the donations exceed the legal maximum of the $5,400.

The government solution to its electoral rule breaking problems is to try to come up with new rules that are inconsistent with reasonable practice. The only thing that is clear is the government appears to be taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. How can Canadians believe in the legislation if it does not match and bridge its principles with the objectives to which I alluded?

The Liberal Party supports legislation that would make all candidates more accountable. Unfortunately Bill C-29 will limit campaign funding conditions so severely that many people, considering participating in the political process and representing their communities, will be excluded from this option.

Is that what we want to accomplish? Do we want to exclude people from all walks of life the opportunity to run for public office? The legislation, whether it means to or not, in fact will do that. Furthermore, do we want to put the power to determine one person's chance to participate in politics simply on the basis of his or equity positions, on income levels, and let the banks determine that? Do we want to give the banks that kind of power in our political process? I do not think so.

The Liberal Party supports measures to make Canadians more confident in their politicians by seeking to approve the accountability of the electoral process. The government put that forward as a first principle and we supported this going to committee because we agreed. However, we cannot support a bill that will end up limiting the opportunities of so many Canadians who may have and hopefully will have the desire to campaign and participate in our democratic process.

Therefore, I really would hope that the government would reflect on the restrictive nature of the reforms it is advocating and see that they are inconsistent with the objectives the government has put forward in terms of transparency and accountability. They do not guarantee more accessibility for a broader cross-section of Canadians to involve themselves in politics in our great country.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I thought I was listening intently. If I did, I either misheard what the hon. member said or perhaps he misspoke.

I think the hon. member was complaining about the repayment regime being too strict because repayments had to be made yearly. In fact, the legislation quite explicitly states that repayment is due three years after polling day in the case of a candidate or three years after the leadership contest has concluded, and that is up from eighteen months.

An amendment was proposed that we opposed, but we accepted in the spirit of trying to get the legislation passed. To have a three year repayment regime, by anyone's definition, is more than generous.

Would my hon. colleague to respond that?

My second question deals with a point he made at the outset of his presentation, saying that the legislation would be somewhat restrictive inasmuch as it would penalize those of a lower income bracket by not allowing them to participate in elections or leadership contests, since they would be forced to seek financing from financial institutions.

The first premise that we have to establish is regardless of income levels, if anyone who seeks public office wants to borrow money, he or she should be compelled to repay that money. To suggest that those of lower incomes would not have access because they have to go through a bank and therefore may not be able to get money through a bank loan is simply nonsensical.

Whether it be through a private individual, as is currently the case, or whether it should be to a bank, the intent, surely to goodness, would be that the individual would ultimately repay the money. If individuals from any walk of life, from any income level, are unable to demonstrate their ability to repay a loan, then suggest perhaps they should not be granted that loan.

Would my hon. colleague address those two scenarios?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can tell from the manner in which the question has been put forward that the member does not share the same experience as perhaps many Canadians have in terms of getting a loan from a bank.

Unless I have misunderstood him, he is suggesting that all Canadians are equal before the banks, but that is not the case. The banks do not particularly care whether in this sense the loan is related to the democratic pursuit of public office. If the member is suggesting that has any added value in the eyes of the banks, it may in the eyes of the bank manager who may have insights in his or her experience, but in terms of an institutional insight, I do not think that I would want to suggest that all Canadians will have that kind of equality.

If we take that line of reasoning, if someone has to get a loan, he or she is not going to have as much ability to do that depending on what the person's economic status is, if the person owns property, if the person has collateral. We cannot do that. We cannot even have someone put up his or her collateral in this instance.

Unless I am not understanding the bill, that is not a reasonable nor is it a fair or equitable position for us to put any Canadian in. If we are talking about bridging our principles with our desire to involve Canadians, it has been said that every private has a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. They all have the ability to stand for public office if they so desire, but at least we should guarantee the tools for them to do that.

In terms of the three years, I am saying it is not clear in the legislation that that can be contracted. If I am wrong on that, then there is one part of it that I feel an amendment has been made which accommodates that. However, that is not the understanding I have of the bill. The understanding I have of the bill is that if it is the bank and the bank wants to arbitrarily call the loan, then the loan will be called. Unless it is very clear and consistent with contract law, then there is a major inconsistency in this bill. I would suggest to the parliamentary secretary that that inconsistency has to be looked at.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I very much enjoyed the speech of the distinguished member for York South—Weston, and distinguished he is in this House and throughout his career in politics, including his many years in municipal politics. He is extremely well regarded in the Toronto area. Indeed he has brought those same qualities of class and dignity to the House of Commons over the last eight years. He truly knows a lot about integrity, about elections, about financing for elections and matters of that ilk.

My understanding of the legislation at this point is not as deep or as comprehensive as is his. I am not embarrassed in saying that, because he obviously knows this bill thoroughly. As I understand it, if a family member, a friend or an associate wants to lend to a candidate $2,000 on some repayment terms, the legislation will preclude or prohibit the family member, friend or associate from making a loan in excess of $1,100 per year.

I would like to ask the member for York South—Weston, is my understanding correct about that?

Canada Elections Act
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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his compliments.

I had indicated to the parliamentary secretary that the breaks in the connectedness of people to even take out a loan beyond the bank is along the lines that have been suggested. In the past if one contracted for a loan, and if that is established under this legislation, it should not matter whom the loan is with as long as it is within the limits prescribed in the legislation.

The member is quite right that not only are there limits on the amounts, but there is a prohibition with respect to doing that. I have said that it is not only impractical, but it is inequitable.

The legislation tries to make it transparent that unions and businesses and so on should not be able to buy their way into the political process, but it applies the same principle to people who want to get behind people they support. As long as it is transparent and it is established in a contract and there is adjudication and transparent oversight, why should it matter whether it is someone within the limits because it has to be repaid? The bill talks about repayment. That is the issue. As long as the loan is paid back to those people as individual citizens, why should it matter? I just see it as very inconsistent, inequitable and unfair.

Canada Elections Act
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June 12th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think every member in the House supports the idea of openness and transparency in election financing and a restriction on wealthy individuals or corporations that try to influence the political process by giving large sums of money to candidates.

We have agreed to extend the repayment period to three years, but I am still at a loss to understand why the government would oppose annual contributions to a maximum of $1,100 for a candidate until his loan was paid.

Canada Elections Act
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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Unfortunately the hon. member did not leave his colleague any time to respond, so we will move on.

Before resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Labrador, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Government Policies.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.