Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for your excellent testimony.
It seems to me that it's boiling down to two questions and each of these bodies, Elections Canada and CRTC, have a role to play if we're looking at what kinds of rules we might want to put in place to have fair debates that reach the maximum number of Canadians. It looks like one mechanism is to get the debates on air, so that deals with broadcasting. The other is to get the leaders to show up in front of the podium.
Certainly your preference, Mr. Perrault, is that Parliament determine the criteria. I think that also makes a lot of sense. They should be predetermined so that, as Scott Reid was pointing out, we don't find out in the middle of the election campaign who's in and who's out, because it creates a lot of uncertainty.
On the point of how we might get the leaders there, I just wanted to put a question to you, Mr. Perrault.
It seems to me that election campaign financing might give us a bit of an effective inducement to show up. Contrary to the rhetoric when they cancelled the per vote support that we used to have due to the reform put in place by Jean Chrétien.... The rhetoric at the time of getting rid of that $1.75 per vote, or whatever it was, was that the Canadian taxpayer doesn't want to fund political parties. However, we know that the Canadian taxpayer does fund political parties quite a lot, and the part that was cancelled was the smallest part. The biggest part is the rebates at the end of the campaign, and there's also the benefit of very generous tax treatment.
Focusing on the rebate...and I got this idea from a private members' bill that Kennedy Stewart put forward, which didn't succeed. He was trying to put forward the idea that if you had gender parity you'd get all your money back, but to the extent that you didn't have gender parity in your candidate selection a political party would get less money back.
I'm just wondering what your view would be if the Canada Elections Act was amended to say that any party leader of a recognized political party who meets the criteria to participate in the debate and who refuses to participate, faces some form—I'm not going to dictate what it might be—of financial penalty for failing to provide the Canadian public with what we all agree and all witnesses agree is the moment of maximum public engagement to see how policies and proposals are put forward by different leaders.
Would that be something that you'd think the Canada Elections Act...? Obviously, Parliament would determine it, but I think it would be an effective inducement. I'd just love your opinion on that.