An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (fiscal equalization payments to the provinces and funding to the territories)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make fiscal equalization payments to the provinces for the fiscal years beginning after March 31, 2004 and to change the manner in which those payments will be calculated. It also authorizes the Minister to pay, under a new legislative regime, grants to the territories for the fiscal years between April 1, 2001 and March 31, 2005 and territorial formula financing payments for subsequent fiscal years. Finally, this enactment also makes consequential amendments to that Act and to other Acts.

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

May 9th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the Liberal opposition and address Bill C-54. I must say at the outset that the government House leader was not able or willing to answer my earlier question about the disclosure of the Prime Minister's leadership funders in 2002.

He did not address that topic, but I think this House needs to know that, particularly in relation to the comments that the government House leader made about the open disclosure of all loans, of all lenders and all amounts by the Liberal leadership contenders last year. Clearly they were acting beyond what the Canada Elections Act required, in good faith and with full disclosure. Everybody knows both what is going on there and the rules that apply to it.

As for the Prime Minister bringing forth this legislation, I think the government House leader suggests that he is somehow on the road to Damascus, leading this House in some epiphany in terms of loans and the way they are treated. Perhaps he was waylaid, misled or turned around and is actually on the road to perdition, because this bill of course has a perverse consequence. It is a non-accountability act. Again, it is Orwellian in many of the impacts that it will have. I will take some time to explain exactly why this will make democracy weaker in many ways in our country if it goes ahead as it is written, without amendment.

The Liberal Party is certainly very much in favour of transparency and accountability and will be looking toward a bill that properly and effectively tightens up the application and the use of loans in political financing in this country wherever it might be necessary. However, we certainly will also want to ensure that as the bill goes forward the proper amendments are made so that it does not, whether consciously or unconsciously, create a barrier to entry to the political process for those who do not have access to funds or friends who have access to funds, or to financial institutions that reflect their willingness to give loans because they realize that these people already have money, or they have people who will sign for them and back them up with money. We have to be very careful that this is not a barrier.

Let me go back to January 2004, when the former Liberal government brought in the most dramatic changes to electoral financing in this country's history with Bill C-24, and indeed perhaps the most dramatic change than had happened in any democratic jurisdiction in the world, which of course reduced the union and corporation donation limits per year to a mere $1,000. That is almost meaningless when we are talking about a nation this size. To suggest that a $1,000 donation by a corporation could buy favour across this country in an electoral process is beyond imagination. In any case, we effectively took that out and left the donations at a $5,000 level for individual members of the public, who are of course the basic building block and the basic unit of democracy. That is where it should be. That was an extremely important step. It was a dramatic step in the political history of this country.

Bill C-24 also did some other things. It introduced an aspect of proportional representation. I know that many members in the House in all parties are interested in seeing us proceed with consultations and consideration of that. However, when the private money was taken out to such a dramatic degree, Bill C-24 provided for public funding of electoral processes by providing $1.75 for every vote that any party received in the general election nationwide.

That allowed for a proportionality that corrected some of the difficulties with the first past the post process, where often the number of seats in this House achieved by parties bears very little relation to the proportion of the vote they get. As an example, the Green Party got 600,000 votes in the last election. Under that provision, it received over $1 million, which allows its members to express the views of the people who voted for them through the financing of their political activity, although not yet representation, across the country. That is a first tentative but important step. It was part of that groundbreaking electoral financing legislation.

Let me correct a perception that the government House leader gave, which was incorrect. He suggested there were no rules now covering loans and the disclosure of loans. In fact, the current statutory provisions require the disclosure of all loans. They require the disclosure of the lenders and the guarantors of those loans.

Another misconception is that there are no consequences if these loans can be written off. In fact, there are consequences. Those loans must be repaid within an 18 month period or they fall under the political contribution rules, which are very strict.

It is not a way to have money given. It is money loaned for a period during an electoral process, either a leadership process, as was involved last year with the Liberal leadership, or perhaps a nomination process where someone does not have access to party funds or riding association funds. If people were unable to take a loan, that might well be a barrier to entry into the political process for people who were not of independent means. There are consequences. Those must be converted and that is an important aspect to it.

Who owns the Prime Minister? The government House leader raised the issue of the Liberal leadership candidates and the influence of big money, but we still have not had an answer about who financed the leadership bid of the Prime Minister in 2002.

Why do we want to know that? We want to know that for the very reason the government suggests we need the bill. We already have provisions in the Canada Elections Act that cover both disclosure of loans and repayment of loans and consequence if we do not. In any event, why do we want to know? It is an immensely important question. Is it U.S. gun lobby? Is it big oil? Who made those contributions to the Prime Minister's leadership race in 2002? We will come back to that until we get a proper answer, until the Canadian people get a proper answer. These are important issues.

Let me talk about the name of the act, the accountability with respect to loans act. It could be called the new Conservative bank of Canada act. It is big money that would get more influence because of the way the act is written currently. We will seek amendments to ensure it does not simply limit the influence that can be exerted to those with money or have access to big money. Let me tell members why.

Financial institutions are the only ones that can make big loans to individuals. If people are maybe from a disadvantaged group or an under-represented group who have not been in politics before, who seek a nomination in a riding, those people do not have independent wealth, they do not have a riding association yet to loan them funds, as is allowable under this bill, and they do not have, perhaps, credit worthiness to go to a bank. What does that person do? The individual is left out. They simply cannot, effectively. With the limits under this, there is a barrier to entry into the nomination process.

If we look at the Liberal leadership process that went for nine months of fulsome discussion and debate across the country, presenting 11 candidates for scrutiny by the public in a highly open and democratic process, those were expensive. We cannot do that in a country the size of Canada without having some funds to expend for it.

Those should be under rules, and there are rules. There may be some tightening up that the bill can do, and that is fine. However, to say that people taking out loans so they can exercise their right to take part in the democratic electoral process for leadership, for nomination, is going down the wrong road.

In fact, the bill, as written, does not, as Bill C-24 previously did, take out corporate money and put in public money that was properly and evenly distributed according to the proportion of the vote achieved by each party that ran candidates. This cuts out the public and brings in the big money.

Who can get a loan from a bank, from a financial institution? It is someone with a lot of money or property to put up as collateral, or someone to co-sign or support the loan. Those are people of influence and money. This is letting the money in. It is not keeping the money out. That is what we will have to see. I look forward to working with members of the Bloc, the NDP and the government to see if we can get some amendments so we do not create a barrier to entry for people who have no means and are not yet part of the political process. That transparency is immensely important.

We have an organization called Equal Voice. All members of the House will be well aware of and knowledgeable about it. The organization seeks to encourage women to enter the political process so we can rise above the deplorable disproportion of men to women in the House of Commons, with 20% representation by women.

The leader of the official opposition, the leader of the Liberal Party, has pledged that in the next election one-third of the Liberal candidates will be women. We are well on the way in the nomination process to achieving that. This is a demonstrative move to try to get a proper proportion of gender equity into the House.

If this goes to committee, I am sure Equal Voice, representing all parties and all people across the political spectrum, will be very interested to come to talk the committee and to give evidence, as will many other groups who represent disadvantaged or under-represented sectors of this society. They will want to come and give their evidence on it. I hope we will take instruction from them as to how, perhaps unintentionally, the unavoidable consequence of this will be, to exert more power, not less, in those who have access to large amounts of funds.

This new Conservative bank of Canada act is interesting. It may tighten up the rules a little. It is not so that the Canada Elections Act now does not require loans to be repaid or be converted into contributions under the very restrictive rules. It is not so that contributors, lenders or co-signers do not have to be disclosed for political loans. They do have to be.

I am as anxious as anyone else in the House to see that this process is not abused, and if we can tighten it up, all the better. However, we have to ensure there are no unintended consequences of creating barriers to disadvantaged and under-represented groups.

The government House leader took some time to describe a number of what were called democratic reform bills, or statutes, in the House as brought forward by the Conservative government, and it is worth talking about a few of those.

One is Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. Members of the House and the committee of the House spent a great deal of time on this as did members of the Senate. In fact, unencumbered by a set deadline that was forced on the House committee in the House, the Senate put forward dozens of amendments through its careful review of that act, even under the constant shrill criticism of the government that it was slowing things down.

Regarding slowing things down, royal assent was given to the Federal Accountability Act on December 15, 2006. Here we are, almost five months later, and one of the central parts of that act was the appointments commission. Amendments by the NDP sharpened that up. We had two choices. The Liberal opposition put forward amendments. The NDP put forward amendments. All of them would have been effective, and will be effective, as it was finally passed, but all these months later, all of these appointments later, dozens of them, and we still do not have the appointments commission. This was one of the key things that was said by the government to be so important about the Federal Accountability Act. We do not even have a commission.

We continue without the proper controls. We had suggested that the Public Service Commission take over this role, that there be amendments to its mandate to apply the same rules, competitive process and objective criteria used in the public service for any order in council appointments, but we still do not have that.

I would be very interested to hear from the government when it is going to proceed with that important part of Bill C-2. There were so many complaints about it being delayed when in fact there were a very large number of responsible, thoughtful and careful amendments suggested by the Senate, and actually passed into law.

Bill C-16 deals with fixed dates. We supported that on this side of the House. There was no delay. There was careful consideration in the Senate. There was a thoughtful amendment put forward. It was brought back to the House with that amendment. We on this side offered the government, before the Easter recess, to pass the bill through all processes in the House, back to the Senate, hopefully, for royal assent in the day before we broke. That was rejected. We would have needed unanimous consent, but we did not get it from the government.

Bill C-43 was mentioned by the government House leader. It is not a Senate elections act; it is a consultation act, with provincial elections. It is being put forward as a great democratic reform. I think all members of the House believe, as do probably all members of the other place, that the Senate needs reform in becoming a fully democratic legislative chamber, and we should all work toward that. This is going at it piecemeal. We get criticisms of trying to block the incremental reform of the Senate, but the fact is it all fits together and it must be dealt with at once.

There are three critical aspects of the Senate that have to be considered together.

One aspect is the selection process, which could include elections or involve terms. The term limit is suggested in Bill S-4.

Another aspect is the mandate. In the future how does the mandate relate to the mandate of the House of Commons? Will it be a mirror legislative body with the same electoral validity that will then lead to gridlock. We have to do to deal with that area of comprehensive reform is to have some kind of dispute resolution mechanism whenever the legislative powers mirror each other in the House and the other place.

Then we have the distribution. We cannot do anything else with the Senate until we work out the distribution. It is amazing that the Prime Minister, and all members of the government, would consider doing something to give a greater validity, greater power to the Senate without fixing the very unfair, inequitable distribution of seats to western Canada, particularly to British Columbia and Alberta.

For all of us from British Columbia and Alberta, it is extraordinary that we might think of increasing the power of that body without fixing the horrible lack of fair distribution to western Canada.

Bert Brown has been mentioned in the House by the Prime Minister as being the senator in waiting, to be appointed sometime this summer. He has played a very important role in the political life of Canada. He did not play that role by plowing one E into his barley field or a wheat field. He plowed three E's into it. To try to deal with just one E at once in a piecemeal incremental way, as the Prime Minister says, is not in the favour of Alberta, from where that fine gentleman comes. Nor is it responsible reform in the comprehensive way to properly bring the Senate into the modern age of a democratic legislative chamber. We have to work together to do that.

We often hear about the ghosts of Meech Lake and the ghosts of Charlottetown. We also hear that we cannot go near the Constitution because, my goodness, we might all get distracted and not be able to do anything else in this country and we will never get anywhere. Thank goodness the Fathers of Confederation were not so shy about dealing with the Constitution. We should take on that responsibility ourselves.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague makes a very good point. Most of the discussion this afternoon and morning did not focus on the bill at hand. What the minister indicated earlier on today was the importance of us following through on a commitment and not allowing the period to elapse, ending up with a very untenable situation. I believe everybody here is very much on board in terms of whether we should discuss Bill C-3 and Bill C-24. We should review them at the same time. I think everybody agrees with that. I do not think there is a dispute there at all. It only makes a lot of sense.

My feeling is that if we had kept to the discussion at hand, we would be talking about a government that is prudent, that ensures that we do the right thing in a minority situation.

When it comes to electoral reform or democratic reform, my colleague makes a very good point. One thing I would like to talk about, which I have not heard here, is free votes in the House of Commons. On this side of the House, we have had the most free votes in a long period of time. I am very proud to talk positively about that. I am not sure I can say the same thing about the other side of the House, but my colleagues will confirm that.

Again, with respect to private members' business, we have been very aggressive in ensuring that private members get their say and get to discuss their bills in the House.

In terms of democratic reform, we have absolutely nothing of which to be ashamed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Madam Speaker, it is important for us to get back to the bill at hand which is Bill C-63. The minister spoke earlier about the fact that it was very important to link Bill C-3 and Bill C-24. Would my hon. colleague agree with that? It seems to me that it would be reasonable for the process to be done at the same time. When we are talking about the government not allowing the review to take place, the opposition has a majority on the committee and in fact control the outcome of the review. Maybe the member could respond to that.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister earlier was constructing a narrative about why he had to put forward legislation that would remove the sunset clause in Bill C-3 rather than engaging in a review of Bill C-3, the legislation that deals with smaller parties and the potential for money to be given to organizations that masquerade as parties. That is the purpose of the bill.

Now his narrative goes like this. I use the word “narrative” because it has only a marginal connection to the truth. It is not a lie; it only has a marginal connection to the truth.

First, he said that the bill was passed days prior to the election of 2004 so there was no time for any review at that time.

Second, he said that the bill must be reviewed in connection with Bill C-24, the electoral finance law, which deals with among other things restriction of individual donations. He asked the committee in a letter he sent out in November 2004 for this to take place, and nobody objected. He got no response to the letter.

I have my researcher trying to find the letter, the existence of which I have to admit was a mystery to me. Perhaps I did not see that correspondence. The parliamentary secretary sits on the committee. One might have thought that at some point he would have said a response was needed to the letter. The minister could have done it. The minister crosses the floor to chat with me all the time. This was almost a year ago and I do not recall this. Anyway, nobody objected and therefore it must be done in conjunction with Bill C-24.

Finally, he said that the Chief Electoral Officer's report on Bill C-24 was delayed and it would not happen until later. Therefore, we could not review Bill C-24 so we could not review Bill C-3 either. This meant we would miss the legislative deadline, which meant it would be irresponsible to go ahead and not pass a law getting rid of the sunset clause, ensuring we could deal with Bill C-3 and its subject matter off at some distant time. I want to emphasize that this is nonsense, and I will ask my hon. colleague a question that relates to this.

However, first, with respect to the logical link to Bill C-24, one would expect to see this in the original letter that was sent to the procedure and House affairs committee. A letter was sent by the prior minister for the portfolio dated February 10, 2004. Members will note that this was not right before the election. It was long before an election. In it, he asks the committee to take a look at this. He makes no reference to any connection with Bill C-24. In the letter to the committee he says:

Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that the Bill is necessarily a permanent solution. The Supreme Court's ruling in Figueroa is complex and may well have broader implications, which the Committee should have a full opportunity to assess.

For this reason, I would invite the Committee, following its consideration and reporting of the Bill, [Bill C-3], to begin a more extensive study of the wider implications of the Figueroa ruling on the Canada Elections Act. I also welcome the Committee's views on other aspects of the electoral process that it believes warrant attention.

There is no necessary connection to Bill C-24.

The review could not begin until right before an election. However, the letter was sent out. That minister then became minister in June and proceeded never to bother following up. Where does the fault lie? Is it with all those incompetent members of the committee who just could not get around to it or is it with one minister who just could not remember to take care of his own portfolio until a year had gone by?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comment and the respect he showed me by not rising on a point of order. Of course, what I was doing was citing many examples of why the opposition distrusts the government when it comes to a bill like this that is going to commit the House to a review to take place in two years.

As I pointed out through all my examples, when it comes to parliamentary and electoral reform the government has come up short time and time again. This is just the latest example. I am sure when my colleague speaks to the bill he will as well cite some examples of how the government consistently comes up short.

The issue at hand is the government's suggestion, followed by some suggestion from the committee, that somehow we should link the review of Bill C-3 with Bill C-24. As my colleague from Lanark—Carleton addressed during questions and comments to the minister, once the government knew it had the responsibility to conduct this review in a timely manner and understood that it would be unnecessarily delayed by linking it to Bill C-24, it certainly had the wherewithal, as I indicated, to come before the procedure and House affairs committee, on which it had members, and suggest, in the strongest possible terms, that if the House must adhere to the law then the committee should undertake the study right away.

As my colleague said, there is no reason that the committee could not be seized with this and do it between now and the deadline of May 16. We do not need this legislation to remove the deadline and establish instead this potential two year time period, which once again could be ignored. In fact, if Bill C-63 were to pass, it would not surprise me at all that in two years from now, if I am lucky enough to be re-elected by my constituents, I might still be standing here and the government will be bringing forward a new Bill C-63 to once again extend the deadline.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Madam Speaker, I would like to indicate to the hon. member that I was going to rise on a point of order to bring him back to the topic at hand. However, as I know he is the opposition House leader and should know better, out of respect for him I did not do that.

However we should come back to the bill at hand. It is very important that we focus on Bill C-63. I did not hear my colleague disagree with the minister in terms of the importance of interlinking, for instance, Bill C-3 and Bill C-24. We feel they are very closely related. I learned, however, that my hon. colleague watches too much TV and too many Monty Python movies.

The mandatory review would be done by the procedure and House affairs committee. In fact, the opposition has a majority on that committee. It seems to me that we should be sending this mandatory review to committee and allow it to do its work. Maybe he could comment on that, please.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, if Parliament is sitting next May and this has not been addressed, then there will be a vacuum. That is a situation which should not be left to happen. Therefore, we are proposing an amendment to the Canada Elections Act which would give two years and oblige a committee to do the review that has not now been done, for the reasons I have explained.

There is absolutely nothing nefarious here. Everybody agrees that Bill C-24, political financing, and Bill C-3, political registration, are intimately linked and that the revision of both perhaps should be done at the same time. No one on the committee has disagreed with that and this is why we are now in this situation. There is absolutely nothing nefarious about keeping a window open for two years in order for a committee of Parliament and Parliament to reconsider the rules concerning registration of political parties.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague opposite said, I wrote to the committee in November 2004 suggesting that it made sense to deal with the review of Bill C-3 at the same time that we were dealing with Bill C-24. None of the members of the committee, government members or opposition members, disagreed with that.

Only in August of this year did we find out that the Chief Electoral Officer's report vis-à-vis Bill C-24 would be tabled in the House later on, perhaps in December. Given that, we did the responsible thing and we suggested a course of action. If the committee wishes to act otherwise, it has the entire discretion to do so.

This course of action now is taking us into a situation whereby we could end up in May of next year with a vacuum in terms of rules for registration of political parties, which is an untenable situation, so the government is acting responsibly by presenting Bill C-63, which would add two years and oblige the committee to do a review of Bill C-3.

No one on the committee, government members or opposition members, disagreed with the notion that Bill C-3 and Bill C-24 are tied and interrelated and that the revision of both together would be a good thing to do.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister said he wanted to engage in a review of Bill C-3 and Bill C-24 together. That is peachy. However, the fact is that there is no legislative requirement. Bill C-24 is not about to expire. Bill C-3 will expire May 16, 2006.

There was over a year during which, with this minister as the minister for this portfolio, a review could have taken place. In fact, virtually that entire time, with the exception of the first month of that two year period, he was the minister. During all this time, this review could have taken place. There is almost exactly an additional seven months before May 16, 2006 when this bill will expire.

The question I am working up to is twofold. First, why did he wait an entire year, as minister, indeed why did he wait an entire 16 months now before bringing this matter before the committee or before the House, when he had this large amount of time set aside to deal with the bill?

Second, we still have seven months before the expiration of Bill C-3 and the provisions it contains. That is plenty of time to bring witnesses before the committee and to hear from witnesses who could be chief electoral officers, for example, of other jurisdictions or other provinces to take a look at what they do.

Why the rush to simply replace the sunset clause, which forces his government to deal with this, with something that means that a review is not necessary when his record clearly indicates that the government is not going to respect the kinds of reviews that are put into legislation, that it is not going to follow through? Why would we want to replace a mandatory review which now forces the government to take action with a non-mandatory review which means it can dither around for another year or never get around to dealing with the bill?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
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Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalMinister for Internal Trade

moved that BillC-63, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to begin the debate at second reading of Bill C-63, which is entitled an act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act.

We are referring here to a change to the act providing new rules for the registration of political parties, passed by this House in 2004 under the name Bill C-3. I will provide an overview today of the context in which the new rules were adopted in 2004 and will speak to the need to act quickly in order to preserve the system for registering political parties.

Bill C-63 proposes to do this by abrogating the sunset clause included in Bill C-3. It would be replaced by a provision requiring mandatory review of the new registration rules by a committee of this House.

The party registration rules adopted in 1970 required a party to endorse 50 candidates at a general election. It was believed that this would ensure that opportunistic groups masquerading as political parties did not gain access to the public funding that flowed from being a registered party.

The adoption of new rules was made necessary after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the 50 candidate threshold in the Figueroa decision. The threshold was found to be contrary to the right to vote and to be a candidate as guaranteed by section 3 of the charter. The Supreme Court suspended its decision for one year to provide an opportunity for Parliament to amend the Canada Elections Act and it was in this context that Parliament considered Bill C-3.

Bill C-3 was introduced on February 10, 2004 to lower the threshold to just one candidate and make other changes to prevent abuse of the public funding of political parties.

In particular, there is a new definition of “political party”. It states that one of the fundamental purposes of a party must be to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more candidates in an election. To determine the eligibility of a party that applies, the Chief Electoral Officer will require a valid declaration from the party leader that his or her party meets this definition and he or she must be satisfied that it does.

During the various steps in the study of this bill, many people raised concerns about the new rules under consideration. Some wondered whether setting the threshold at a single candidate would not allow opportunistic groups to get public funding. Others were concerned that as a result of the one-year suspension of the Supreme Court decision, no complete examination had been made of the Canada Elections Act to identify other provisions that might be challenged like Figueroa. Finally, the Chief Electoral Officer was opposed to this new job of evaluating whether applicants meet the definition of a political party.

In view of all these concerns, all parties agreed to add a two-year sunset provision to Bill C-3.

Since the former Bill C-3 came into force on May 15, 2004, the two year sunset will operate on May 15 of next year, if it is not repealed beforehand. The sunset of the former Bill C-3 would mean that there would no longer be rules for the registration and deregistration of federal political parties. Such a closed system would be contrary to the charter and would be contrary to the democratic standards of Canada.

Some may question why a review of the new rules was not carried out previously within the period of time of two years provided in the sunset clause.

In response, it is important to remember that the adoption of Bill C-3 was closely followed by the dissolution of Parliament nine days later. The minority Parliament that resulted from this election was opened on October 5, 2004.

Soon after, and at the request of the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I wrote to the committee to suggest that the government's preference would be to review the new registration rules at the same time as the statutorily mandated review of the political financing regime adopted in 2003 with Bill C-24. Indeed, since these issues are intricately linked, such a joint process still makes sense.

The review of the new political financing rules will be carried out by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs once the Chief Electoral Officer issues his recommendations on political financing.

When I wrote to the chair of the standing committee in November 2004, the Chief Electoral Officer's report was expected in the spring of 2005. However, due to the need for his office to focus resources on election preparedness, because of the minority Parliament, the Chief Electoral Officer has since indicated that his report would only be submitted this fall, in two volumes.

In the first volume submitted in September, a few days after the opening of this session of Parliament, dealing with non-financial matters, the Chief Electoral Officer recommended that the sunset clause in Bill C-3 be removed. His second volume of recommendations, dealing with political financing, will be submitted later this session and a joint review of Bill C-3 and Bill C-24 would then be possible.

Given the need for a comprehensive review, and the government's commitment to hold an election 30 days after the issue of the final Gomery report, the government's proposal in the bill is prudent and responsible. Bill C-63 would provide a two year period during which this review is to take place to account for all contingencies, including election scenarios.

I want to close by saying that the registration and financing rules for political parties are closely linked. Registration gives parties access to public funds, which allows them to take part in the elections and maintain their registration. Bill C-63 will lead to a full examination of these fundamental aspects of the Canada Elections Act.

For all these reasons, I am calling on the hon. members to support Bill C-63 and to refer it to a committee for consideration so that we can pass it as quickly as possible.

Thank you.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

September 28th, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise today in the House to address Bill C-53 as the justice critic for the Conservative Party, the official opposition.

The key purpose of the bill is to provide a reverse onus of proof in proceeds of crime related to organized criminal activity. The provisions in the bill have long been a part of the Conservative Party platform and I hope to see the legislation passed as quickly as possible. Indeed, it is noteworthy that the bill generally speaking enjoys all-party support, something that is all too rare in the House of Commons.

I hope that some of the explanation that the parliamentary secretary gave just a moment ago in the House will assure some members of the New Democratic Party that the interest of innocent third parties are preserved. The bill does not need too much retinkering or amendments. I am concerned that the bill, which appears to be on the face of it a relatively good bill, not be held up any further.

The reverse onus provision for proceeds of crime was recommended by the subcommittee on organized crime but was not included in the government's last bill addressing organized crime, Bill C-24, which was tabled and passed in 2001.

I want to note that there are serious shortcomings in our organized crime legislation. This is an important step to address some of those shortcomings, but there are many other issues that need to be addressed.

I know that it is quite onerous now when we are prosecuting organized criminal organizations that in each specific case there has to be a reproving of the fact that the organization is a criminal organization. Quite frankly we should adopt some of the legislation from other jurisdictions and I specifically refer to the RICO laws in the United States that have been very effective in attacking organized crime. We could learn a lot from that legislation. It respects I believe due process. It respects the constitutional safeguards not only in the American constitution but in the Canadian constitution as well. We should not hesitate to adopt similar procedures where it is in the best interest of Canadian public security.

I make the comment that we do not consider this the fight against organized crime to be at an end simply because we are agreeing to what is an important amendment because in the overall picture it is still a relatively small step.

I feel compelled to point out that the Liberals did not act on the reverse onus measure until they faced significant provincial pressure from the provincial ministers of justice as well as the opposition justice critic since the beginning of this minority Parliament.

I know that certain provinces, including my home province of Manitoba, have passed similar legislation. I do not think we should hesitate in moving forward with federal legislation. The provinces did so out of desperation. They were not receiving any help from the federal government and quite frankly had to move ahead. I support what the provinces generally speaking have been doing. However, it is a much more cumbersome process that the provinces had to adopt.

I strongly believe that the level of government that is primarily responsible for the enforcement of the criminal law should also be responsible for passing appropriate legislation dealing with the proceeds of crime. We should not leave it to the provincial governments to do it under their constitutional jurisdiction under property and civil rights. It is cumbersome and not as effective. This is the right approach and we should not hesitate. I do not think there would be any province standing in the way of Parliament in terms of taking those steps.

Organized crime is a problem that reaches across nations, oceans and boundaries affecting communities everywhere. The violence, the welfare and the financial implications of organized crime are far reaching. Globalization and technological revolution has made it possible for organizations to exert enormous influence on an international scale.

Generally speaking, we are asking our police forces to face a 21st century problem with all of the technological advantages that organized crime has with essentially 19th century tools. Many of our evidentiary laws are old laws.

They are simply not updated often enough in order to keep abreast of the changes in technology, so we need to, on an ongoing basis, ensure that our police forces have not only the appropriate frontline police resources but indeed the legal resources in the form of effective laws. This is one such step in bringing our criminal law essentially out of the 19th century and into the 21st century. In that sense it is a quantum leap for Canada. Unfortunately, we have not learned from the examples which other countries have gained and therefore we are still far behind other countries in terms of addressing issues of organized crime.

The extent of collaboration within and among criminal groups has broadened greatly. The available technology has improved their ability to conduct organized crime by leaps and bounds, and therefore Canada has become a very attractive place for these types of criminals. According to Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, virtually every major criminal group in the world is active in Canada.

In 1998 the Department of the Solicitor General of Canada, now the public safety department, commissioned an independent study to assess the cost of certain activities related to organized crime. It was found that the economic costs of organized crime, I am not talking about the economic profits to organized crime, but the costs, amount to at least $5 billion a year. Frontline police officers who are struggling to maintain their fight on existing technology simply do not have the resources to compete with the new and emerging technologies to which these criminal organizations have access.

The reverse onus provision for proceeds of crime is vital for an effective war on organized criminal activity. At present, in order to obtain an order of forfeiture, the Crown must prove on a balance of probabilities that property is the proceeds of crime and that the property is connected to the crime for which the person was convicted. The Crown must prove that the accused or convicted person owns the property and that the property is the proceeds of crime.

Again, given the resources available to many criminal organizations, accountants, lawyers and the like, they have learned to distance themselves from their assets. Often criminal organizations do not use the regular types of security that other businessmen would have to use. They enforce their security in ways that legitimate business people do not and should not.

If there is no connection between the offence and the property established, the court nevertheless may order forfeiture of the property if it is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the property is the proceeds of crime. That is the existing law now.

The amendments introduced in Bill C-53 provide that once an offender has been convicted of the appropriate crime, that is a criminal organization offence or certain offences under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, the court shall order the forfeiture of property of the offender identified by the Crown unless the offender proves on a balance of probabilities that the property is not the proceeds of the crime. Once the conviction is made now, any property belonging to the accused is forfeited unless the accused establishes that the property is not the proceeds of the crime.

There have been some concerns about the constitutionality of the legislation. I think, however, it is very clear that there are no constitutional problems. The reverse onus provision does not impinge on individual liberty rights secured by the Constitution, but rather relate to property rights once he or she has already been convicted of a criminal offence.

We are not talking about double jeopardy. We are not talking about reverse onus in the establishment of an essential element to a criminal offence. This is an appropriate constitutional response of the federal government under its criminal law powers or a provincial government under its rights to regulate property and civil rights.

I am quite pleased to support the bill. I would urge my colleagues, not only here in the House but in committee, to move this bill through as quickly as possible.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2005 / 11:25 p.m.
See context

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct a couple of things from the hon. member's speech.

First of all, with respect to enabling legislation, he gave a commentary on the issue that the legislation enables the finance minister to spend in these particular areas. I am sure that if the member reviews the language in Bill C-48, he will find parallel language in Bill C-43. He will find parallel language in Bill C-33. He will find parallel language in Bill C-24. All finance bills are phrased such that the minister “may” spend in these particular areas. I just wanted to correct this impression that he may have inadvertently left for people who are still listening, although I cannot imagine why, at 11:30 at night, people are still listening to this debate.

The other thing that troubled me about the hon. member's speech had to do with the other areas which the bill did not deal with. It is true that the bill deals with only four areas. That therefore means there are a whole bunch of other areas that it does not deal with, but that seems to me like complaining to Moses himself. The 10 commandments are only the 10 commandments; they are not the 20 commandments or 30 commandments or 40 commandments. There are only the 10 commandments.

I do not understand why the hon. member is complaining about Bill C-48 covering only four areas of anticipated spending as opposed to 40 areas of anticipated spending, let us say.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

June 14th, 2005 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberalfor the President of the Treasury Board

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Vote 1, in the amount of $125,413,000, under PRIVY COUNCIL — Department — Program expenditures, in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006, be concurred in.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate in favour of the motion to approve the budget of the Privy Council Office for 2005-06.

I find it unimaginable that anyone could be against passing the Privy Council Office budget and that some hon. members in the opposition intend to obstruct it. This shows a lack of understanding of how the Government of Canada works. Those who oppose passing this budget should take the time to learn more about the basic principles of public administration and government.

The Privy Council Office plays a central, not to say crucial, role in the planning and implementation of major government policies. As a central agency, the Privy Council Office conducts strategic analyses of complex issues and does a thorough review of proposals and government orders as they are presented.

That is what allows the Privy Council Office to advise the government on developing and implementing its policies. It is the central agency par excellence and ensures that the general policy objectives, as set by the government and by Parliament, are met.

One of the most important documents setting out the objectives of the government's policies and its plan of action for achieving them is the throne speech. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Privy Council Office and particularly the Clerk of the Privy Council are closely involved in preparing the throne speech as advisors to the government on the aims of its policies and its plan for implementing them, in close cooperation with the PMO.

It may rightly be said that the throne speech is the equivalent of a bible for the PCO, as for the whole of the government apparatus. It reflects the government's vision of the type of Canada it hopes to build through the policies and programs contained therein.

There is another analogy, which perhaps better explains the link between the PCO and the throne speech. The throne speech becomes a sort of routing slip. It defines the government's legislative program and the commitments to be met. It is in this statement that the PCO and the rest of the government machine find their routing slip. The PCO ensures the work is carried out.

It will be remembered that the October 2004 throne speech dealt with a number of broad themes, namely a vigorous economy; the health of Canadians; children, caregivers and seniors; native Canadians; cities and communities; our environment; an influential role of pride in the world and governing with a common goal.

With your permission, I will describe some and, if time permits, each of them, bearing in mind that I do not have time here to mention all the objectives the government presented in each case. We have either accomplished or are on the way to accomplishing many more than what can be mentioned in a single speech.

What I want to get across to my colleagues opposite—in case some have not yet grasped it—is that the PCO was closely involved in defining each of these strategic objectives. It would be unrealistic to think that a government can successfully manage such a large range of problems without drawing on the PCO's functions of analysis, coordination and critical examination.

So I will start with a vigorous economy.

The current government is working to lower the debt-to-GDP ratio to 25% within 10 years, a goal it reiterated in the 2005 budget along with its ability to reach that goal.

We said that we would review the expenditures and reallocate the resources as needed. The 2005 budget confirmed that the expenditure review committee has identified nearly $11 billion in cumulative savings over the next five years, which will be reinvested in core federal areas of responsibility.

The first part of our five-point economic strategy—building a highly skilled workforce, promoting learning in the workplace and updating labour market agreements—is on track, as the 2005 budgetary statement confirmed.

We announced the implementation of an action plan on labour market integration of immigrants trained abroad. This plan allocates financial support to facilitate the foreign credential recognition process, provide immigrants with better language training and develop a portal so future immigrants can better prepare for their integration into Canada.

There is also the learning bond program—an innovative incentive to encourage low-income families to save for their children's education—funded with money set aside in the 2004 budget and which is supposed to begin on July 1. We also improved the program so as to introduce more people to the registered education saving plan and encourage low-income families to take advantage of it.

The second part of our five-point economic strategy is also progressing rapidly. The National Science Advisor was appointed to help universities, colleges and businesses renew their commitment to establishing a real national science program.

The third element of our five-point economic strategy, which deals with a smart regulatory system, was proposed by the External Advisory Committee on Smart Regulation; it provides for a transparent and predictable regulatory system. Work in this area is being pursued at the cabinet committee responsible for domestic affairs. Bill C-19, to amend the Competition Act, has already been introduced in the House.

The fourth element, which is the reform of the equalization program, has led to the adoption of a new framework for equalization and territorial formula financing. Under that new framework, federal support will be increased by $33 billion over the next 10 years. Legislation on the reform of the equalization program is currently before the House in the form of Bill C-24.

We promised a strategy for the north, a first in Canadian history, and we have started work on developing that strategy.

The fifth element includes the promotion of investment through the adoption of a sound monetary and fiscal policy and a competitive tax system.

The implementation of this sound monetary and fiscal policy has already been completed. The 2005 budgetary statement provides for balanced budgets through 2009-10. The 2004-05 fiscal year marked the completion of the five-year tax reduction plan totalling $100 billion, which was announced in 2000. The 2005 budget contains measures to reduce the general corporate tax rate to 19% and to eliminate the corporate surtax.

Another aspect of the fifth element of our five-point economic strategy consists in building on the Smart Borders initiative to strengthen security in North America while facilitating the flow of goods and people across the border.

Let me turn now to the health of Canadians. Long before last week's Supreme Court decision, this government set out an ambitious, yet absolutely crucial, set of policy deliverables to ensure that Canadians would have the timely and quality health care they deserve.

This complex set of policy goals includes: reduction in wait times; establishing a requirement for evidence based benchmarks; comparable indicators; clear targets; and transparent reporting. It also includes an increase in the number of doctors, nurses and other health professionals; improved access to home and community care services; improved access to safe and affordable drugs; setting goals and targets for improving the health status of Canadians; an annual report on the health status and health outcomes; the promotion of healthy living; enhancement of sports activities at both the community and competitive levels; and health protection. It also includes working with provincial and territorial partners on reforms and long term sustainability of the health system and on health promotion.

The cornerstone of our health care agenda is the government's commitment at last September's first ministers meeting of $41.285 billion over 10 years. Budget 2005 will implement the first year of the funding commitments related to the 10 year plan to strengthen health care.

As regards reductions in wait times, budget 2005 provides $15 million over four years for wait times initiatives. The provinces and territories are engaged with the federal government on developing a process for wait time reductions.

Budget 2005 also provides $110 million over five years to improve the data collection and reporting of health performance information; $75 million over five years to integrate internationally educated health care professionals; $170 million over five years to help ensure the safety and effectiveness of drugs and other therapeutic products; $300 million over five years to encourage healthy living, and prevent and control chronic disease; and finally, increased funding for Sports Canada to $140 million annually.

This funding builds on the additional $2 billion health care transfer to the provinces provided for in budget 2004 through Bill C-18.

The next theme in the government's agenda that I would like to address concerns children, caregivers and seniors. As members know, this government has placed very strong emphasis on children and the need for a national system of early learning and child care. We spent the day debating that.

Budget 2005 provides $5 billion over five years to help build the foundations of such a national system. To date, we have signed bilateral accords to support the development of early learning and child care with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia.

We have concluded an agreement with the government of Quebec to enable that province to establish its own parental benefits plan, with the federal government providing a one time start-up fund of $200 million and an annual premium reduction of approximately $750 million for the government of Quebec to use toward its plan.

Let me turn to our commitment to improve tax based support for Canadians who care for aged or infirm relatives or those with severe disabilities. The overall commitment of the federal government is $1 billion over five years. Budget 2005 is the first step toward a more comprehensive strategy to support unpaid caregiving.

Acting on the recommendations of the technical advisory committee on tax measures for persons with disabilities, budget 2005 proposes to increase tax relief for persons with disabilities by $105 million in 2005-06, growing to $120 million by 2009-10. In fact, with budget 2005 the government is acting on virtually all of the committee's recommendations.

It is important to note the impact of the reduced tax burden on low and modest income families which budget 2005 announced. By 2009 the amount that an individual can earn tax free will increase to at least $10,000 and most of the benefit will go to those with low and modest incomes.

The Speech from the Throne committed the government to do more for Canada's seniors. Specifically, it committed the government to continue the new horizons program and explore other means of ensuring that we do not lose the talents and contributions that seniors make to our society.

In the February 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government announced a new deal for Canada's cities and communities. The government also established a new secretariat for cities and a new federal department of infrastructure and communities. We said we would make available a portion of the federal gas tax to municipalities to enable the containment of urban sprawl and to invest in new sustainable infrastructure projects in areas such as transit, roads, clean water and sewers.

Budget 2005 has $5 billion over the next five years in gas tax revenue to be given to the cities and communities. It also adds new funding of $300 million to green municipal funds. This builds on budget 2004 in which the goods and services taxes paid by municipalities were rebated entirely by the federal government

The Government of Canada has now signed gas tax revenue sharing agreements with three governments: British Columbia, Alberta and Yukon. Two more are anticipated before the end of this month. They are with the governments of Ontario and Quebec.

In addition, the government committed to move quickly to flow funds within existing infrastructure programs. Significant infrastructure investments have been announced. There is the $1 billion funding package for the Toronto Transit Commission; $500 million for the expansion of the Vancouver Convention Centre; and significant projects undertaken at major Canada-U.S. border crossings such as Windsor-Detroit.

We have reached agreements with Quebec on financially supporting Quebec municipalities with the challenges of renewing their infrastructure; with Ontario in support of improvements to Ottawa's public transit system, and of course with the expansion of the Congress Centre also in Ottawa; and with Prince Edward Island on infrastructure funds for P.E.I. communities.

Other policy deliverables by the government to support and improve the quality of life in our cities and communities include the affordable housing initiative, the supporting communities partnership initiative for the homeless and the residential rehabilitation assistance program.

I may not have time to deal with the initiatives that we have taken on the environment and the numerous initiatives we have taken on Canada in the world.

I would like to provide an overview of the government's agenda as it relates to a role of pride and influence for Canada in the world. The government promised and released a comprehensive international policy statement which provided an updated and integrated approach to Canada's foreign policy objectives: trade and investment needs, defence requirements and the development assistance program.

One of the first actions of the government after the February 2004 Speech from the Throne was to develop and approve Canada's first ever national security policy. Considerable work has been undertaken since then in implementing the new security policy and a progress report on implementation to date will soon be released.

The government established a cabinet committee on security, public health and emergencies and has appointed a national security adviser to the Prime Minister. Separate legislation to create the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has been passed and the new Canada Border Services Agency legislation is before Parliament.

We have taken steps to build a more sophisticated and informed relationship with the United States. As part of the new enhanced representation initiative, the new Washington secretariat has been established and has commenced operations. Other projects are under way to advance advocacy, support policy coherence and share information among all levels of government.

Earlier this spring the Prime Minister, President Bush and President Fox announced the security and prosperity partnership launching a series of negotiations among the three countries on key aspects of security, prosperity and quality of life for North Americans.

On the defence front, our chief policy deliverable was to invest more in our military. Budget 2005 provides $12.8 billion in new money for defence over five years. It provides $3.2 billion over five years to strengthen military operations by improving training and operational readiness, enhancing military medical care, addressing critical supplies and repair shortages, and repairing infrastructure.

We have promised investments in key capital equipment, for example, new armoured vehicles and replacements for the Sea King helicopters. Budget 2005 provides more than $2.7 billion for new medium capacity helicopters, utility aircraft and military trucks.

We are increasing regular forces by 5,000 and the reserves by 3,000, and training regional peacekeepers, such as in Africa for the African Union mission in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The February 2004 Speech from the Throne promised the creation of the Canada Corps to help young Canadians participate in international assistance; provide to developing nations Canadian expertise and experience in justice, in federalism, in pluralistic democracy; and to bring the best of Canadian values and experience to the world.

The new Canada Corps was mobilized successfully and effectively for monitoring the elections in Ukraine last December, which we all remember with great pride.

Budget 2005 commits to doubling aid to Africa by 2008-09 from its 2003-04 level. It also provides additional funding to combat disease in developing countries and $3.4 billion over the next five years in increased international assistance. We are maintaining Canada's leadership role in the creation of a new international instrument on cultural diversity and continue to participate actively in a number of international organizations, be it the Commonwealth or the Francophonie.

This is not the complete list of the government's policy goals and the actions we have taken to achieve them. In each and every item that I have described to the members in this House, the Privy Council Office is right there helping to analyze and develop the policy, challenge any weakness, exert due diligence, bring together disparate parts from across the breadth of government, tie together the loose ends and manage the preparation of legislation and its follow-up.

In short, the Privy Council Office is engaged in all aspects of the cabinet's work in governing the country. Voting against the motion to support the approval of the Privy Council Office budget for fiscal year 2005-06 would cause considerable damage to the functioning of government as a result. It would most certainly be against the interests of all Canadians.

I therefore encourage and exhort all hon. members of the House to do the right thing and to vote in support of the motion. To do otherwise would be unconscionable. It is rather surprising that we would be confronted with a motion that would remove the entire funding for the Privy Council Office. It is a demonstration of a lack of understanding of how government functions.

In concluding my remarks, and I know I will have occasion to answer some questions if there are any, we definitely urge all members of the House to consider seriously the implications of not supporting this motion, which is central to the ability of government and Parliament to function.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

May 5th, 2005 / 2:30 p.m.
See context

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the Elections Act is quite clear. All funds received have to receipted and are declared.

After the passage of Bill C-24, if there were any funds in riding associations, these riding associations could register with Elections Canada and transfer all these funds, and that has occurred. As far as I know, there are no trust funds.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

May 5th, 2005 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Parliament has enacted Bill C-24, which allowed riding associations of all parties in the country to transfer any money they had into political associations registered with Elections Canada. As far as I know, that has been done and there are no trust funds to speak of.