An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Don Boudria  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 2, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-51, particularly on this Friday, possibly the last day of this session, to talk about enhancing and restoring democracy in Canada, which we must not take for granted.

Bill C-51 is an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act. I believe members on this side of the House have many questions, and hopefully we will have further opportunity, but it would be nice if we could ask the government House leader questions.

We know why the bill is before us. The bill is designed to address the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in what is known as the Miguel Figueroa case. Miguel Figueroa is the leader of the Communist Party of Canada that was founded in 1921, and had been registered as a party under the Canada's Elections Act since registration first began in 1974.

In the 1993 federal election, however, that party lost its status as a registered party and all the benefits because it failed to nominate at least 50 candidates. As a consequence of deregistration, the party was forced to liquidate its assets, pay all its debts and remit the outstanding balance to the Chief Electoral Officer.

Mr. Figueroa commenced an action against the attorney general seeking a declaration that several provisions of the Canada Elections Act infringed various provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and were therefore of no force and effect.

The original decision in the case was rendered in March 1999 by the Ontario Court of Justice that described the requirement to field 50 candidates as draconian and held that it was in violation of section 3 of the charter, which guarantees the right to vote and to run as a candidate. However that decision was not what the Liberals wanted to hear so they appealed the judgment and won.

In August 2000 the Ontario Court of Appeal declared the 50 candidate requirement was within the bounds of reasonableness. Mr. Figueroa then took his case to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in his favour and struck down the 50 candidate threshold. According to the court, this requirement treated small parties unfairly by denying the benefits granted to registered parties. This unequal treatment was found to infringe on the rights of citizens to participate in a meaningful way in the electoral process as protected by section 3 of the charter.

The court has, however, suspended the application of the judgment until June 27, 2004, in order to allow Parliament time to bring forward the necessary changes to the Canada Elections Act.

It is interesting how when it comes to the Canada Elections Act the government keeps appealing court decisions that suggest Canadians' democratic rights are being violated but when same sex marriage is the issue, these same Liberals are quick to say that the courts have spoken, and immediately alter legislation.

For the sake of restoring and enhancing democracy, they keep on appealing decision after decision to the courts. It seems that taking away the constitutional right of Canadians to voice their opinions in federal elections is worth appealing to a higher court but destroying eons worth of common law governing holy matrimony is not worth the bother. Give me a break.

According to departmental documents, the primary objective of Bill C-51 is to strike an appropriate balance between fairness to parties and the need to preserve the integrity of the electoral system. We therefore find that while the bill drops the 50 candidate rule, it also proposes new requirements applicable to all parties. These new requirements are meant to exclude from registration entities that do not intend to participate in the electoral process.

The new registration requirements include the following: that the party have at least 250 members who have signed statements declaring that they are members of the party and support its registration; that one of the party's fundamental purposes be to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election, and that the party leader make a declaration to that effect; that the party actually endorse a candidate in an election. Parties that do not endorse at least one candidate during a general election will be automatically deregistered. The last requirement is that the party have at least three officers in addition to the leader.

The legal recognition and registration of political parties is a relatively recent development. Registration was introduced in the early 1970s as part of various changes to Canada's electoral legislation.

Registration does convey significant benefits and opportunities to a party. Benefits include: entitlement to issue tax receipts, reimbursement of election expenses, access to broadcasting time, access to copies of the voters' lists on an annual basis, and continue to have their candidates identified on the ballots.

In 1993 the government of the day responded to the report of the royal commission on electoral reform and party financing, known as the Lortie commission, with amendments to the Canada Elections Act. It was Bill C-114 that made it mandatory rather than discretionary for parties to be deregistered for failing to nominate at least 50 candidates in a general election. The bill also made life more difficult for smaller parties by raising a candidate's deposit from $200 to $1,000. This effectively became a $50,000 obstacle for parties wishing to participate in the democratic process.

The bill, which also put in place the limits on third party advertising, which were recently found unconstitutional, became commonly known as the “gag law”. The bill had been debated for only 15 minutes in the House and was cunningly passed at the end of the day, on a Friday, before a two week recess.

The Globe and Mail referred to the bill as “the worst violation of Canadians' rights of free expression in years” and suggested it was an attempt by federal politicians, particularly on that side of the House, “to perpetuate themselves in office”.

If the 50 candidate rule was meant to eliminate small parties and their dissenting voices, it was a resounding success in stomping on democracy.

More and more Canadians were becoming disaffected by government and the old line political parties. One result was the emergence of fringe or protest parties. They served, and for that matter continue to serve, although to a lesser degree, an important function. They allow for the expression of ideas important to some voters. They allow Canadians to be heard, giving them a voice that might be lost in the larger parties.

The protest vote is more substantial than most would think, even in this House. In the 1988 federal election precisely 584,521 Canadians voted for fringe parties or independent candidates. To put that in perspective, only 540,941 Canadians voted in the Manitoba election.

Eleven fringe parties ran candidates in the 1988 election, including such old parties as the Social Credit and the CCF, and one new party that would soon become an important player in federal politics, the Reform Party of Canada, which had made a significant contribution to the political arena.

With the stricter enforcement of the 50 candidate rule, the 2000 election results showed considerable change. Only six fringe parties ran candidates but they collected about 300,000 votes.

Every time there are amendments to the Canada Elections Act the government seems to make it more difficult for Canadians to organize new political parties. The Liberals have shaped the act to perpetuate the monopoly on power of the major parties. The result is that it has a prejudicial effect on small parties and independent candidates.

For real debate and democracy, we need parties representing a broad range of interests. Many Canadians abstain from voting because they feel alienated by the mainstream parties. Voter turnout has been falling steadily since the 1980 federal election from 75% turnout to just 61%, a new low in the 2000 federal election. What about the other 39% of potential voters? This is a serious concern.

If we are truly interested in voter participation the system should be fair. We should make it easier for small parties to get on the ballot, participate in the debate, get media coverage and receive public funding.

The Liberals are dismissive of small parties. It is part of their arrogance. They fail to realize that there is more to democracy than winning power. Democracy is also about sharing ideas, respecting and protecting the rights of others, particularly minorities or minority opinions. Members of small parties are not under some false illusion that they will win the next election. However just because they will not be forming the next government, just because they are unlikely to even win a seat, does not lessen their enthusiasm for participating in the democratic process.

Participating in elections allows smaller parties to demonstrate the popularity of their platforms. In that way they might gain more adherents or their ideas might be accepted as a policy of a major political party. These parties also provide an opportunity for those dissatisfied with the major parties to register protest votes, which can tip the scale in a closely contested election.

Democratic reform has been a core principle of my political party, the Reform Party of Canada and now the Canadian Alliance for the last 16 years. Unlike the party opposite, we did not develop a temporary itch for democratic reform when we were seeking approval of backbenchers, or in a leadership struggle, or when we go to the voters every three and a half years. It has been a constant theme of this party since 1987.

Democracy is something in which everyone should participate, including the small parties. The 50 candidate rule of the Canada Elections Act not only attacks small parties but seriously infringes and endangers the public's right to free political expression and association, both rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It seeks to perpetuate the dominance of big political parties by hampering the establishment of small or new political parties.

The government's attempt to wiggle around the 50 candidate rule decision suggests that the Liberals are downright hostile to democracy; in fact, it seems like an elected dictatorship in Canada. We all know how the incoming leader of the Liberal Party staged a slow coup within his party. He and his cronies took over the control of the riding associations. They bullied their caucus, including the Prime Minister. They scared away the competing leadership candidates. Eventually the Prime Minister will be forced out prior to the end of his mandate.

The Liberals have been trying to make it as hard as possible for any political group to challenge them at the ballot box. Despite all this, still the incoming leader of the Liberal Party is doubting democratic reform. I do not know how he can say he stands for democratic reform.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the government House leader's speech and I hope he will stay with us for a long time. Yesterday, when he answered the Thursday question, we weighed his every word when he said something to the effect of, “My colleagues, the House leaders, who have given me their support for all these years”. It sounded a lot like a farewell speech.

But we are not there yet. My question is mainly on the Supreme Court ruling in the Figueroa case. If I understand correctly, the government had no choice but to accept this Supreme Court decision because requiring a minimum number of candidates for an election was deemed unconstitutional.

Consequently, one candidate could be enough. With the 50-candidate rule no longer applying, the government has to adjust its legislation. That is what the government is doing with Bill C-51.

Later, I will have an opportunity to speak to this bill, but I would like the government House leader to reply to this question first. Would it not have been a good idea to take advantage of the Figueroa decision, which in a way amends the Canada Elections Act, to respond to a repeated demand from the Bloc Quebecois—from myself, as a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and also my colleagues from Verchères—Les-Patriotes and Laval Centre, who are associate members of that committee—to review the procedure for appointing returning officers?

The government House leader, insofar as I can read his lips, says that there is no connection. However, I am asking him if it would not have been a golden opportunity to clean up and modernize the way elections are run, to have returning officers chosen through an open, honest, transparent and public process. That is how it is done in Quebec.

I can see the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who was a minister in the Quebec National Assembly. He was a minister of some stature, if you consider his height. He had it over me, because I am only 5' 6" tall. Well, I am not going to flatter him too much.

I would simply like to suggest that the government House leader consult the people involved. I use the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry as an example, because he is right in front of me, but I could also mention the hon. member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, who also was a minister in the Quebec National Assembly, or the hon. member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies who also sat in that legislature. We remember one evening in the National Assembly, when the hon. member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, after a few glasses of wine, decided to seize the mace and leave the chamber. The official record tells it all.

The government House leader could consult his colleague, the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, who also sat in the National Assembly, to find out—there are some on our side, too, for instance the hon. member for Champlain—that the process of holding a public competition to appoint returning officers in Quebec works well and is not a source of patronage as it is here, where we get the list of 308 nominations for federal returning officers for our hasty approval. They are known Liberals and it is a process known for patronage.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I know he is a Tory MLA now, but notwithstanding that, we still liked him anyway.

While the court ruled the provisions in question unconstitutional, it suspended the judgment for a period of 12 months in order to allow Parliament time to amend the legislation. That is what we have before us today. Thus, if no legislative amendment is made by June 27, 2004, the 50 candidate rule will cease to have any effect, leaving a large void in the act.

It also means that it would be fairly easy for any group, if we do not do anything that is, to register as a political party and abuse the tax credits that are designed to assist true political parties. Of course, we do not want any group to fraudulently claim it is a political party only to get money from the taxpayers of Canada. That is why it is imperative that we act, and act quickly, to respond and ensure that the Canada Elections Act remains operational after June 27, 2004, to prevent any misuse of the system. The Supreme Court decision has left a gap and it is our duty to fill that gap while respecting the court's decision.

Before reviewing the key elements of the proposed legislation, let me take a moment to highlight the potential implications of the Figueroa decision, flowing from its impact on party registration.

Obviously, removing the candidate threshold in accordance with the ruling may well result in an increase in the number of registered parties. In theory, an increase in the number of parties could have an impact on the reimbursement of election expenses and other benefits.

However, parties must sustain a minimum level of voter support, that is to say 5% of the vote in the ridings in which they endorse a candidate, or 2% of the vote nationally, which is what we call the McCLelland amendment, in order to receive that allowance.

That particular provision is still valid because it provides us with some protection by not allowing a person to get money from taxpayers by simply creating a political party, running as a candidate and thereby drawing money from the tax system. Again, I give credit to the member who proposed that amendment at that time because it is very beneficial.

I would like to clarify that the Supreme Court did not rule on this issue, the McCLelland amendment or other issues like that, nor did it pronounce itself on any other requirements in the act. As a matter of fact, it specifically indicated that the decision did not mean that other thresholds in the act were unconstitutional. I believe that is quite clear.

The real risk is that there could be a number of groups calling themselves political parties and seeking registration simply for the sake of getting access to the tax credit system. They would only wish to get money from the taxpayers of Canada while not participating, save nominally if at all, in the democratic process.

The concern is that groups, including advocacy groups, could register as parties simply by fielding a paper candidate and complying with reporting requirements. These groups would then be able to issue tax receipts for contributions made to them, even though they have no intention of acting as a party nor even any intention of electing anyone. Not only is this objectionable as a matter of principle, it could well have considerable negative financial impacts. It is something we must address to ensure that the system is not misused.

Taking no action would leave our electoral system weaker and our fiscal regime vulnerable to abuse. Moreover, not legislating to comply with the court's decision could well mean that judicial intervention would be required after June 27, 2004, to either extend the suspension period--with no assurance of course that the court would grant it--or to provide guidance to the Chief Electoral Officer on the applicable rules from that day forward. We must be clear.

The absence of a timely legislative response would result in uncertainty as to the rules for party registration and may mean that at some point we would not have in place a fully operational electoral system, at least from the financial aspect.

Doing nothing is certainly not an option. It is incumbent on us as members of this House to do everything possible to avoid that.

The bill responds in a way that strikes an appropriate balance between fairness to parties on one hand and the need to preserve the integrity of the electoral system on the other, while of course, respecting the Supreme Court decision, which is what this does.

The bill consists of two key pillars: party registration and accountability provisions, and anti-abuse measures

We cannot have candidate requirements any more, except one. Anything beyond that, the court has ruled that we cannot do that. We cannot do 12 nor 11; we cannot do 9. We can do one because of course, if we do not run a candidate or put a name on the ballot, we are not a political party. We may be many things, but we are not that.

The second element concerns the series of anti-abuse measures. I want to touch on those two things before ending.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court indicated that candidate thresholds were problematic, leaving little for manoeuvre.

As I said, Bill C-51 would replace the 50 candidate threshold with a single candidate requirement. In other words, someone would have to run, but 12 candidates would not have to run because the Supreme Court has ruled that is not proper. We may regret it and we may think many things, but it is done and it was a unanimous Supreme Court decision, not that it changes much. However, we must respect it.

At the same time, the bill would add further registration requirements and other measures to ensure that parties seeking to register have a genuine interest in electoral competition.

First, The bill would, for the first time, add a definition of a political party in the act. Pursuant to that definition, a party would be required to have as one of its fundamental purposes the participation in public affairs through running and supporting one or more of its members as candidates. We cannot say a quantity of candidates because quantifying candidates has been ruled to be unconstitutional.

Second, the minimum number of party members would be increased from 100 to 250. A signed statement would be required from those members stating that they are members of the party and support its registration. If a political party is anything, it is a group of people. So, 250 was the number that we put in as identifying that critical mass of people. Some would argue that is still not a high threshold, but it is a bit higher than what we had before. We had 100 multiplied by several ridings, but we cannot multiply by several ridings any more so we have 250 overall.

Parties would be required to have three officers, other than the party leader, who would provide their signed consent to the act. In other words, to be a political party, there must be a total of four officers at least with hopefully many more.

With the removal of the 50 candidate rule, parties would be able to register at byelections. With a single candidate requirement, there is no logical need to allow registration only during a general election. If a party were only to have one candidate in a general election, and if there were one, two, or three byelections, why could a new party not be registered then? If we are going to respect the court's decision, we must allow registration at byelections. If a party were to fail to run a single candidate in a general election, it would automatically be de-registered.

The bill would also reduce from 12 candidates to 1 the threshold for party identification on the ballot. The court did not rule on that, but the fact is that if a party needs only one candidate to be a political party, why would it need 12 to have its name on the ballot? That provision has to go for reasons of logic if nothing else.

Overall, the party registration requirements would ensure that registered parties are genuine participants in the process.

In the few minutes I have left, I want to touch briefly on the anti-abuse measures. That is what we are left with now to identify political parties and to ensure that they do not do anything false, while at the same time, not creating anti-abuse measures that are so intrusive that the institutions cannot be created at all. So again we strike a balance.

First, the bill would include a new false statement offence for knowingly making false statements in relation to the registration of a party. The leader of a party is required to provide a declaration in this regard. In addition to the individual penalties attached to making a false statement, the provision would allow parties to be refused registration or even de-registered for making false statements.

Second, there would be a ban on the solicitation or receipt of contributions by a political party simply for the purpose of redirecting those contributions to a third party. In other words, if a political party is falsely created only as a front to feed money elsewhere, that would ban the solicitation of funds for that purpose.

A third measure would increase the powers of the Commissioner of Elections Canada who is responsible for enforcement of compliance under the act. Where the commissioner has reasonable suspicion that the party is not legitimate, for all the reasons I said, he could require the party to provide information to satisfy him.

Should the party fail to do so, the commissioner could apply for judicial deregistration of a party. It is of little good to identify that something fraudulent has gone on and then have to go through a six month court process to rectify it after one taxation year has gone by and after the taxpayers of Canada have been defrauded of a large amount of money. Therefore, we must give the commissioner the authority to do things rather quickly.

Further, when an application for deregistration is pending, the right of a party to issue tax receipts would be suspended. Judicial deregistration would also be available as part of the criminal sentencing process. In addition to deregistration, the judge could order the liquidation of the party's assets if it did all these things wrong. In other words, if that money was obtained fraudulently and used to buy goods for the party, then surely, the assets could be liquidated, because those funds belong to the taxpayers of Canada.

Finally, individuals, including party officers, could be held civilly responsible if convicted of offences related to or leading to financial abuse and they could be ordered to make restitution to the public purse. If someone creates a false entity to defraud the taxpayers of Canada, the officers could be held responsible personally for doing harm to the Canadian taxpayers.

Hon. members will see that this is what I consider a measured and balanced response. It is what we are proposing.

For these reasons I encourage all members to pass this bill. We could refer it to committee for an in-depth study, but it ought, of course, to be passed fairly promptly in order to meet the Supreme Court deadline.

I thank all my parliamentary colleagues in advance for their contribution to this debate today.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that Bill

C-51, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act

be read a second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open the second reading debate on Bill C-51, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act.

As we all know, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its ruling in the Figueroa case last June, throwing into question some of the key aspects of the Canada Elections Act relating to the registration of political parties. The issue is an important one, as it goes to the heart of our parliamentary system.

Today, I would like to briefly review the impact of the Figueroa decision and to outline the government's legislative response to the ruling, as set out in Bill C-51.

The rule requiring parties to field 50 candidates in order to be registered was enacted in 1970, when, for the first time, the Canada Elections Act recognized the existence of political parties and allowed party identification on the ballot.

Before that, just the candidate's name was given, never the party. If I remember rightly, this led to abuses. A party would try to find an independent candidate with a name similar to the one most likely to win, in order to try to confuse voters. The situation was clarified by adding the political party beside the name on the ballot.

This was the first step toward a more comprehensive regulation of electoral finances that would occur a few years later, in 1974, as a result of the Barbeau and Chappell committees.

In that context, the 1970 Elections Act provided for the registration of parties that endorsed at least 50 candidates in a general election. The 50-candidate rule reflected the particular role that larger parties had come to play in our system of parliamentary democracy, based on the principle of responsible government.

There were then very few benefits attached to registration, other than ballot identification. Things have evolved considerably since that time, and registered parties are now entitled to a number of benefits, including financial benefits. This is when the challenges started.

At the same time, I should add, parties are subject to a number of significant obligations, in particular the requirement to submit annual and post-electoral reports. Registration carries both benefits and burdens. There are of course financial benefits, along with identification on the ballot and so forth. But these are counterbalanced by the requirement to file reports and the like.

In the Figueroa case, it was argued that the 50 candidate rule was unconstitutional because it operated to exclude smaller parties from certain benefits under the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act. Three benefits were at issue.

First, was the right to issue tax receipts for political contributions. That, obviously, has a financial advantage to the donor and similarly a financial advantage for the recipient party. If the donor has an advantage, it increases the chance that the donor is going to give. That is the whole object of having the rule in the first place.

Second, was the right of the party to receive a candidate's campaign surpluses. As members will know, when there is a surplus in a campaign, the candidate is not entitled to bring the amount home. It can be provided to the consolidated revenue fund or given to the constituency association of the political party or to the political party directly.

Third, was the right to have a candidate's party affiliation listed on the ballot, which is the original proposition that I raised a while ago.

The government took the position that the 50 candidate rule served as a reasonable and politically neutral benchmark level of electoral participation that parties had to meet in order to gain access to benefits under the act, in particular, the Income Tax Act. We thought this was a reasonable proposition. A party must run 50 candidates in order to have some of them elected, and of course, at least 12 must be elected to this place from that critical mass in order to be a recognized political party.

The Ontario Court of Appeal largely agreed with the government's position--at least it agreed with that part--except as a requirement for party identification on the ballot. In other words, to be entitled to the benefits, 50 candidates was okay and in the case of smaller parties, the name of the party would at least be on the ballot.

That is the way we acted at the time. We provided a bill in the House and corrected those measures. However, the Supreme Court disagreed and unanimously struck down the 50 candidate requirement. It is even more complicated than that and I will get to that in a minute.

The court concluded that the rule was inconsistent with the right to vote in section 3 of the charter. In the court's view, the rule's impact on small parties infringed the right to meaningful participation in the electoral process. The court also ruled that this restriction on section 3 rights could not be justified under section 1 of the charter.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 6th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer all these questions.

This afternoon, the House will proceed to the report stage of Bill C-19, the first nations fiscal legislation. If this is completed in time, we will call Bill S-13, the census bill.

Tomorrow morning the business will be Bill C-51, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act. In the afternoon, pursuant to the offer made by the hon. member and others, we will proceed with Bill C-57, for our aboriginal community of Westbank, and hopefully will do all stages.

There have been discussions among House leaders. I understand that we could also, pursuant to the outcome of further negotiations, deal with Bill C-56.

We would then return to Bill C-52, the radiocommunication bill.

On our return from the remembrance week break, we will return to the unfinished business from this week. We will also commence report stage of such anticipated legislation as Bill C-38, the marijuana bill.

May I in conclusion thank all House leaders for the excellent cooperation they have given me throughout the last several years. Of course I will get to say that when we come back in November. I thank the right hon. Prime Minister as well.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will return to consideration of Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments, followed by Bill C-54. If we get through this, we will proceed to consideration of Bills C-19 and C-6, two bills on first nations. If we have time, we will also look at Bill C-51.

If that is a bit too ambitious, the first item for consideration tomorrow will be Bill C-6, the specific claims legislation. After oral question period, we will come back to Bill C-54, which we debated this morning, concerning fiscal arrangements. If there is time, this will be followed by Bill C-46, the market fraud bill, and Bills C-19, on first nations, and S-13, concerning the Statistics Act.

Next week, we will continue to consider bills that have not been completed, beginning on Monday with Bill C-46, on financial institutions. We will add to that list Bill C-23, the sexual offenders legislation.

By mid-week, we hope to be in a position to consider Bill C-52, the radio communications bill, and Bill C-20, the child protection legislation, as mentioned by the Minister of Justice during oral question period.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

We should make it perfectly clear that the bill is not about boundary changes for the upcoming election. It is about pushing the date for the boundary changes up to an earlier date, from August 25 of next year to April 1 of next year.

For our viewing audience, I would like to give some background information.

On September 15 the Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons introduced legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries generated by the recently completed electoral redistribution process.

The new electoral boundaries were proclaimed on August 25, 2003, but, under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, they would not take effect until the first dissolution of Parliament occurring at least one year after proclamation, i.e., August 25, 2004.

As we have heard, the rumour is that the House may dissolve itself as early as November 7.

By virtue of the proposed legislation, this one year grace period would be shortened. The new boundaries set out in the 2003 representation order would now be enforced upon the first dissolution of Parliament occurring on or after April 1, 2004.

The April 1, 2004 date was selected following the public statement of the Chief Electoral Officer that he could be operationally ready to proceed with the new boundaries as of that date.

I raise the question, as other members already have this morning in the House, what is the rush? Why are we rushing ahead to move the date up to April 1, 2004?

There is no doubt that the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party is anxious and wants to call a quick early election, just like our current Prime Minister did in the last election in 2000.

Before the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party calls an election, Canadians need to find out who the man is. The only way that can be done is to actually have the next leader of the Liberal Party stand in the House and answer some very hard, serious questions. I am sure Canadians from coast to coast to coast would be interested to know what kind of person will be leading the Liberal Party in the next election.

As we know a lot of questions have been raised in the House about some of the past history of the former minister of finance and the dealings of his former company, CSL. People need to know whether he paid his share of Canadian taxes and whether his companies received grants that were really made up of Canadian tax dollars. We need to know whether he operated above board and in a transparent manner. The position of a prime minister is very important. He is the leader of the country. Besides that, there is plenty of time to have a fall election after the boundaries legislation comes into effect on August 25, 2004.

I came here in 1997, as did many members in the House, and since that date we have had two elections in the course of those six years. My understanding, according to the rules of operation, is that the mandate of any government is five years. Roughly, we have had a mandate plus one year and we have had two federal elections. Every time we have an election it costs the taxpayers a lot of money.

Maybe there is some rationale for fixed terms. Every four years on a set date the electorate would go to the polls so we would not have this manipulation of the system. Bill C-49 is a good example of manipulating the timelines and the dates as to when one can have an election. I do not think Canadians are looking for that. They are not looking for governments of the day to waste tax dollars.

This is not the first time that governments, certainly this Liberal government, have attempted to block riding changes. Just to recollect, this is not the first time the Liberals have moved to alter the date on which redistribution takes effect. Unlike their two previous attempts, this bill advances rather than delays the new boundaries. It is rather ironic. This one actually advances the changes; the previous attempts have wanted to delay changes.

In February 1994 many Liberal backbenchers objected when they saw the proposed new maps that followed the 1991 census. Their response was Bill C-18, which would have thrown out the work already done and suspended the redistribution process for two years. The end result would have been for the 1997 general election to be fought on boundaries drawn up after the 1981 census, some 16 years prior.

At the time, the Progressive Conservative Party had sufficient numbers in the Senate to amend Bill C-18. The suspension period was reduced to one year from two. The boundaries commissions were allowed to complete their current phase of their work. After one year the boundaries commissions could continue their work from the point where it was suspended. The end result was that Bill C-18 could not kill redistribution and that an election call in 1997 would have to be fought on boundaries drawn on the basis of the 1991 census.

The Liberals tried again in 1995 with Bill C-69. That bill died on the Order Paper when Progressive Conservative senators insisted on a proper examination of the bill and its related issues in committee.

While we are talking about boundary changes, let me make some comments about boundary changes. There is no doubt that boundary changes are always good news because the country changes, the population base changes and demographics change from province to province. The current change is good news for the west because B.C. and Alberta will get more seats. In central Canada Ontario will get more seats.

In other words, I guess it is an advantage to grow one's province on a population basis, to have more babies. Maybe we need to go back to the plan that Quebec used to have to give grants to families to have more kids. Maybe it would be a good program for all of Canada because we know that one deficit in our country is people. That is why our immigration numbers have increased substantially. Perhaps we could do more to increase our own numbers in the country through birth.

On the subject of boundaries, there are two issues I would like to bring up. They are the changes to the boundaries relative to size and population base. It is a world phenomenon that people are moving from rural areas to urban areas. Not only is it happening in this country but it is happening around the world. That is going to create problems for ridings in our country that are very rural in nature. I noticed that with some of the boundaries that have changed there seems to an access to large urban centres in most areas. I suppose that eventually the population base in the rural areas will be outnumbered and outvoted by the folks in the city. I suppose that is inevitable with the change in demographics.

One thing I would like to say is that there are also limits to boundary changes in terms of geography. I know that many of the rural ridings which are very rural in Canada have no option except to get bigger. My own riding of Dauphin—Swan River is going to annex, I believe, another two municipalities to the riding and it is already over 200 miles long and over 100 miles wide. The question that needs to be raised is just how much space and population can one member of Parliament serve?

Already my riding has five provincial constituencies in it. Whenever I leave home it takes literally half a day sitting in my vehicle to get from place to place. I am wasting half the day if I am driving. I am fortunate enough that during the summer I can hop in my airplane and fly around the riding, but most people do not have that access.

Again we need to look at service. In Dauphin--Swan River I have eight satellite offices. I have eight offices in the riding and a staff of 11, but most members do not do that. I am very blessed with good staff and they do a great job. In other words, it is about serving the public but there are still limitations to that, not only on the geographic side but also on the dollar side. It costs money to provide service and that is an issue that needs to be raised.

Another thing with which I have a concern, like many MPs in the House, is the names that will come with the changes in the boundaries. At House leaders meetings there have been lists of submissions from members of Parliament who want the names changed to reflect the ridings. I agree that the members do know best, not a commission that was established because of politics. Members know the history of their ridings.

For example, originally my own riding was two federal ridings. One was called Marquette and the other was Dauphin--Swan River. The problem with the boundary change was that they forgot about Marquette which is of huge historical significance to the riding. Marquette was one of the first French explorers to explore that part of the country. Southwestern Manitoba at one time was known by Marquette. I believe that Joliet and Marquette explored the headwaters of the Mississippi right down to the mouth of the Mississippi. It is very important to the folks who now encompass the south half of my riding. They want the name Marquette put back where it rightfully should be.

I hope that through Bill C-51 all the name changes that have been proposed will be put back where they should be.

Let me close by saying that we as a party support the bill. We do not support this great rush to change the dates to give the new leader of the Liberal Party the option of calling a snap election anytime he wishes after April 1. Canadians deserve better.

Canadians need time in the House to find out just exactly who this new leader of the Liberal Party will be. To be fair to Canadians, I believe that the date of August 25 should remain. In any case, Bill C-51 talks about the name changes submitted by the members of the House. We support the bill. We will certainly vote in support of the bill, but we are not very happy about the intent of this bill.

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

October 2nd, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-51, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Solicitation LawsPrivate Members' Business

November 18th, 2002 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to speak on Motion No. 192. The motion proposes the creation of a special committee of the House “to review the solicitation laws”, that is, the criminal law regarding prostitution-related activities,“in order to improve the safety of sex-trade workers and communities overall, and to recommend changes that will reduce exploitation of and violence” done to sex trade workers.

First, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver East for having introduced the motion so that we can have this debate on what is clearly a very important issue. It is no secret that public concerns in the area of prostitution-related activities are growing with respect to the safety of the prostitutes and the harm caused to communities. It should also be noted that careful consideration of prostitution-related criminal law issues is important and is consistent with the government's commitment to vulnerable people, children included, and their protection.

I want to stress that the intent of the motion is admirable in that it tries to find a way to help a group of vulnerable persons and communities in our society that have consistently been marginalized, as the previous speaker indicated. However, I cannot emphasize enough that prostitution is a complex and multi-faceted problem. It must be addressed on many fronts, including legislative reform, community support, social interventions and other related issues.

In addition, the various impacts of prostitution on sex trade workers and on communities must be addressed in collaboration with a wide variety of partners, including other federal departments and agencies, provincial and territorial governments, particularly their departments responsible for dealing with justice-related issues and those responsible for social services and child welfare issues, and last but not least, municipal governments across the country.

Having said that, I wonder whether a special committee would be the best vehicle to elicit the collaboration of all these partners that must be involved in any attempt to address these issues. Clearly the cooperation of all these partners would be necessary to properly and usefully address all facets of prostitution-related issues.

I would like to take a few moments to give a somewhat brief and general outline of some of the government's past accomplishments and its ongoing work on this issue.

The Department of Justice has already undertaken various initiatives to address the issues linked to street prostitution, including the safety of sex trade workers and the reduction of harm to communities. For example, past legislative reform has included Bill C-27, in 1997, which amended the Criminal Code to create a new offence of aggravated procuring, to facilitate the use of police decoys for the apprehension of customers of prostitutes under the age of 18 and to make available special protections to young persons testifying against their exploiters, that is, such things as a screen, closed circuit television or videotaped evidence.

Another example of legislative reform is Bill C-51, in 1999, which amended the Criminal Code to extend the list of offences for which an authorization to intercept a private communication can be granted to include prostitution-related offences. This allows law enforcement to use electronic surveillance to investigate organized and telephone prostitution rings.

In relation to crime prevention and community-based projects, the Department of Justice has supported a number of initiatives, particularly throughout phase two of the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention, a $32 million per year program for safer communities. One initiative, for example, was the production of the “Stolen Lives” video, which documents the difficult lives of young sex trade workers in Vancouver and Calgary. Another example is the Department of Justice funding of some $489,000 to Victoria's Capital Region Action Team to address problems linked with youth prostitution in the Victoria area.

In the international arena, Canada has been involved in addressing the trafficking of women and children. For example, we have actively participated in the negotiation of the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child relating to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in May 2000. Canada signed the optional protocol in November 2001.

As an example of working with our partners on this important issue, a federal-provincial-territorial working group on prostitution was established in 1992 by the federal-provincial-territorial deputy ministers of justice and reviewed legislation policy and practices concerning prostitution. It was co-chaired by the federal Department of Justice. Its final report was released in December 1998. It made recommendations on both legislation at the federal and provincial levels and on possible partnerships between government agencies. It underscored particularly the need for enhanced collaboration between justice and the child welfare systems.

As another concrete example of our partnerships in action, the federal Department of Justice co-hosted with the British Columbia child welfare services a national meeting of justice and child welfare officials in November 2000. Follow-up action to this national meeting has included the establishment of a network of justice and child welfare officials to allow for the prompt sharing of information on all issues related to children and youth involved in prostitution.

Additional follow-up action is overseen by the federal-provincial-territorial deputy ministers responsible for social services. Also, work is still being done, particularly to study issues and impacts relating to the possibility of decriminalizing street prostitution.

The Department of Justice will continue to build on past achievements and to work with its partners, including provincial, territorial and municipal governments and departments and agencies involved in justice related issues and in social services and child welfare issues.

Needless to say, this is a very complex matter and for all these reasons I support the intent of the motion in principle. However at this time I do not believe that a special committee of the House is the effective way for the development of recommendations and proposed changes to reduce the exploitation and violence done to sex trade workers.