I think I'll read it, Mr. Chairman, just so it's clear and on the record.
I move that the following report be adopted and that the chair report it to the House:
AIl members of the standing committee agree that the measures contained within Bill C-54 will increase transparency and accountability within the political process and have therefore passed the legislation, as amended, at committee stage. However, members of the committee continue to have serious concerns regarding the implementation of this legislation, specifically regarding the lack of testimony received by our committee on behalf of the Canadian financial services industry, which will be significantly impacted by this legislation. Under this legislation, total loans, loan guarantees, and contributions by individuals could not exceed the annual contribution limit for individuals established in the Federal Accountability Act. Furthermore, only financial institutions, at commercial rates of interest, and other political entities will be entitled to make loans beyond that amount.
Despite efforts by our committee, no representatives from the financial institutions, nor their trade associations, e.g. the Canadian Bankers Association, were able or willing to make submissions regarding the impact this legislation will have on Canadians' access to their democratic system. Will all Canadians have equal access to loans by financial institutions? Obviously, not all candidates for elected office have equal opportunities to win elections. Historically, the Canadian political system has been dominated by a small number of parties at the federal level. Will financial institutions take into account a candidate's relative chance of winning an election, or, perhaps more importantly, their chance of obtaining enough votes to receive a rebate from Elections Canada under the Canada Elections Act before deciding whether or not to extend credit to smaller parties or independent candidates?
Will interest rates be equal for all candidates? Financial institutions make loans based on a number of factors, primarily factors related to their probability of being repaid for the loan. These factors have a tremendous impact on interest rates that are charged for equivalent loans. Will higher interest charges for higher-risk candidates—independents, smaller parties, etc.—become a barrier or a deterrent for Canadians seeking to enter the political system? Are financial institutions prepared to accept these new regulations? Under this bill, individual guarantors for loans are limited to their annual contribution ceiling. Therefore, if a candidate is seeking a $50,000 loan for the running of a federal election campaign, the candidate will have to secure approximately 50 separate supporters, each of whom are willing to guarantee one-fiftieth of the loan being sought. This significantly increases the amount of work and risk for the financial institution issuing the loan.
Will financial institutions now become the gatekeepers of the Canadian political system? Under this legislation, financial institutions are being granted unprecedented access to the democratic process. Their unqualified ability to provide financial resources to candidates seeking federal office will almost give them an effective veto over who can and cannot fight an effective election campaign with the resources necessary to win.
Therefore, this committee recommends, one, that the Minister for Democratic Reform immediately begin consultations with Canada's financial services sector to address the concerns raised in this report and provide the House of Commons with a report of his findings; two, immediately following Canada's next federal general election, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs study the impact of this legislation on the accessibility to financial resources by candidates for federal office and whether or not this legislation represents a barrier for women candidates, independent candidates, and smaller-party candidates.
That is the report I put forward as a resolution, Mr. Chairman. I think in support of this I might only refer us back to the information we heard from witnesses, both from Equal Voice as well as the representatives from parties.