Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing). This bill proposes amending the Canada Elections Act to bring an unprecedented level of openness and transparency to federal political fundraisers. The legislation is just one of many steps that we are taking as a government to raise the bar on transparency, accountability, and integrity of our public institutions and the democratic process.
The year 2017 marked the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was signed on a blustery day in April on the front lawn of Parliament just a few steps from where we are right now. Canadians cherish our charter and rightly so. It is a model for democracies around the world.
Section 3 of the charter guarantees every citizen the right to vote and to run in an election. This fundamental democratic right, guaranteed to all Canadians, is one of our most cherished civic rights. The simple act of voting is an exercise of democratic freedom that unites all of us as Canadians. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also enshrines the freedoms of association and expression. Section 2 of the charter has been interpreted to include the right of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to make a donation to a party and to participate in fundraising activities. Of course, these rights are both subject to the reasonable limitations that might be imposed in a free and democratic society.
Political parties represent a vital part of our democratic system. They unite people from different parts of the country with a variety of different perspectives and backgrounds and experiences. Parties mobilize ordinary citizens to champion policies and ideas and they foster the kind of vigorous public debate about ideas that is at the heart of our healthy democracy. Voting in an election for a candidate is one of the ways Canadians play an active and engaged role in this society. We see this as an opportunity to make our country a better place for our children and our grandchildren. Some Canadians even choose to work or volunteer in a political party or a candidate's campaign, and for many of us here in this room, we probably know few people who do not. We engage all of our friends and family to help us in our political activities, and many of the people whom we meet are either our volunteers or people who work against us in campaigns.
It is true that it is a broad expanse of the Canadian population that participates in political activity at the municipal and provincial levels, and also here at the federal level, but not everyone has the time or inclination to become involved in politics in that respect. Still, people may want to have their voices heard, so for many Canadians, making a financial contribution to a political campaign is a meaningful way for them to play a direct role in our democracy. It is an important forum of democratic expression. Choosing to support a political party or a candidate is something we must continue to uphold and protect. Everyone in this place knows that donations given by people who believe in us, who believe in what we stand for and what our parties stand for, help make our work possible, and we must continue to ensure that Canadians are free to contribute to political parties and candidates openly and transparently.
It bears noting that Canada is known around the world for the rigour of its political financing regime. Donations from corporations and from unions are prohibited under the existing legislation. To further level the playing field, there are strict limits on the contributions an individual can make. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can each contribute a maximum this year of $1,575 to each registered party. They can donate a total of $1,575 to the leadership contestants in a particular contest. In addition, they can donate a total of $1,575 to contestants for nomination, candidates, and/or riding associations of each registered party. Contributions are reported to Elections Canada and the name, municipality, province, and postal code of those who contribute more than $200 are posted online.
Bill C-50 would build on this existing regime so that when a fundraising event requires an attendee to contribute or pay a ticket price totalling more than $200, the name and partial address of each attendee, with certain exceptions, would be published online. The exceptions are youth under 18, volunteers, event staff, media, someone assisting a person with a disability, and support staff for a minister or party leader in attendance.
Canadians take political financing seriously. There are significant consequences for disobeying the law, and that is why currently the Canada Elections Act provides tough sanctions for those who break the rules. Although Canadians can be proud of our already strict regulations for political financing, we recognize that they have a right to know even more and perhaps in a more timely fashion when it comes to political fundraising events. Bill C-50 aims to provide Canadians with more information quicker about political financing events in order to continue to enhance trust and confidence in our democratic institutions.
If passed, Bill C-50 would allow Canadians to learn when a political fundraiser has a ticket price or requires contributions above $200, that it is happening, and who attended. The legislation would apply to all fundraising activities attended by cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, party leaders, and leadership contestants who meet these criteria.
This provision also applies to appreciation events for donors to a political party or contestant. This legislation would apply only to parties with a seat in the House of Commons. It would require parties to advertise fundraising events at least five days in advance. Canadians would know about a political fundraiser before the event takes place, which would give them the opportunity to inquire about a ticket if they so choose.
Bill C-50 would also give journalists the ability to determine when and where fundraisers are happening. At the same time, political parties would retain the flexibility to set their own rules for providing media access and accreditation. Parties would be required to report the names and partial addresses of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days of the event. That information would then become public in a much more timely fashion than currently is the case.
The bill would also introduce new offences under the Canada Elections Act for those who do not respect the rules and require the return of any money collected at the event. These sanctions would apply to political parties and event organizers rather than the senior political leaders invited to the events.
We propose a maximum $1,000 fine on summary conviction for offences introduced under Bill C-50. Of course, this is in addition to returning the funds raised. This new level of transparency would further enhance Canadians' trust in government, and that is good for everyone.
If passed, Bill C-50 would deliver on the government's promise to bring greater transparency to Canada's political financing system and thus strengthen our democratic institutions. As I have said, this is just one of the efforts that we are putting into place. The government is also taking action to increase voter participation and enhance the integrity of elections through Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, and the government has partnered with the Communications Security Establishment to protect democracy from cyber-threats.
While we know that Canadians have confidence in our democracy, we recognize that there is always room for improvement. Shining a light on political fundraising activities as and when they happen builds upon our already strong and robust system for political financing in Canada. It should be welcomed by everyone in the House.