House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parties.


Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-22 proposed by the federal government is flawed since it contains no provisions aimed at making the work done by lobbyists more transparent.

This bill just cancels one of the most important political scandals concocted by political friends and well-connected lobbyists. The government simply wants to put out the fire without anyone knowing how it was started in the first place.

Moreover, Liberals do not want to lift the veil on the whole issue of lobbying. If they are behaving in such a way, it is because they want to spare the people around them and not smear anyone, since they too are stuck with some powerful friends in the Pearson affair. And yet, the Prime Minister had promised to get right to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the negotiation and agreement on the airport privatization.

The results coming out of that promise are very small: a mere study done by a former Ontario Liberal minister behind closed doors and explaining to us that the political staff and lobbyists played an uncommon role in that affair. If the government wants to show that it is clean and transparent, it should order a public inquiry in the Pearson matter.

I remind you that several Liberal members of the Toronto caucus were in favour of such an inquiry. But after realizing that the interests of some friends of the party were at stake, and not only of the Conservative Party, the government, or I should say the Prime Minister unenthusiastically fell back on a mere report produced behind closed doors, that is the Nixon report.

When going through the list of people involved, one can easily make a close connection between these friends and lobbyists, and the previous Conservative administration and the present Liberal one.

I would like to name a few actors that took part in the deal: Pat MacAdam, Conservative lobbyist and schoolmate of Brian Mulroney; Bill Fox, a crafty fox of lobbying and a Conservative, ex-media relations officer and personal friend of Brian Mulroney; Harry Near, lobbyist for the Conservatives and an old member of the party. Also, Hugh Riopelle, lobbyist and strong-man of the Mulroney cabinet; Fred Doucet, always closely or remotely tied to that party that was almost wiped out of this House. There is also John Llegate, a good friend of Michael Wilson. And finally Don Matthews who is the king of the ex: ex-president of the nomination campaign of Brian Mulroney in 1983, ex-president of the Conservative Party and ex-president of the fund-raising campaign for the same party.

All those people gave a helping hand to cook the biggest Tory pie in the history of Canada. But with pies, it is the same as with puddings: the proof is in the eating. We did not swallow that. However all those Tory angels, who always considered public interest as a priority, were not alone in the kitchen of the Pearson Airport.

There were also Liberal angels and that is probably where the shoe pinches. It is surely for that reason that the royal commission of inquiry suddenly became the Nixon study. Transparency went out of the door. There were a few actors, namely senator Leo Kolber who is the specialist of private dinners at $1,000 a plate. For that price you can shake hands with the present Prime Minister. There must have been more than bread and butter served to guests on that evening, among whom was Charles Bronfman, also part of the Pearson deal.

Bread, butter, dignity, pride, openness-all words used to excess by the people opposite. Come on! Let us have a bit of decency and respect for the low-income people of our society. Those people have a clear eye and know pretty well what friends discuss about during picnics at $1,000 a plate.

In the Liberal group there was also Herb Metcalfe, a lobbyist for Capital Hill, representative of Claridge Properties and former organizer of the present Prime Minister. Ramsay Whitters, a Liberal lobbyist closely related to the Prime Minister. A

pretty nice bunch! A bunch of heavies exerting undue influence on the government decision-makers in an unspeakable manner.

Their domination puts our institutions in danger. It produces harmful effects on decision-makers who see and rub shoulders only with one reality, the reality of rich people and large firms. That is very disturbing for ordinary people because decision-makers get disconnected from real social and economic problems that affect the poorest.

The social and human issues are over-shadowed by financial and economic interest linked to profit. All those ex-friends and lobbyists wandering around government offices are looking for profits and they have exceptional tools and means to reach that goal. They can easily open all the doors that give access to ministers and senior officials, and it is not to discuss the weather. All the pressure and influence peddling often gives good results. Decision-makers yield to the requests of friends and lobbyists who are often working for firms that will not hesitate to contribute to the old parties' election funds.

What becomes of ordinary citizens in that system? What becomes of those thousands of organizations without money that are working to improve the well-being of groups and individuals? Do ordinary citizens and those organizations have the same powers, the same access and the same opportunities as those who use their considerable means to influence decision-makers? I do not think so. Certain results are very revealing. The poor and people living in difficult conditions are increasingly forgotten. There are more unemployed workers and more people on social welfare. There are more people who are hungry, more children living in unacceptable conditions and more elderly living alone and receiving less treatment.

As a matter of fact, there are more poor people. And the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer! Is that the kind of society that we want? Do we want a society increasingly divided into categories? That is what is happening on the field. Figures and statistics are clear. Decision-makers must absolutely come back to reality and try to ensure a better distribution of disposable income between social classes, and they must find a solution to all those excruciating problems. I do not believe that ex-friends and lobbyists can be trusted to see to that. As regards the airport and big profits, I agree they do an excellent job; but when it comes to social problems, we should look elsewhere.

It is urgent that the government establish strict rules for lobbyists. The population has the right, and it is essential, to be informed of all activities pertaining to public administration. The population has that right because at the end of the day it is the one who pays.

Those rules must allow us to know everything about lobbyists. Who are they? Who hires them? Who pays them? What are the goals and results of their activity? Whom do they meet? Actually they should be X-rayed and they should be followed around by a little bird so that we can know everything they do. If the government does not address that problem, the confidence of the population in its elected officials and in our institutions will continue to deteriorate even more rapidly.

I ask the people opposite to wake up because the population is awakening and it is getting fed up with favouritism, bribing on the part of the friends of the party and lobbying of the rich at the expense of the ordinary citizens.

You have denounced for years the absence of openness. I think time has come for you to act.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pity that the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell decided to go to lunch right when I was going to tell him why the Bloc Quebecois had moved in this House the motion that we have been debating. I see that he is back. I would not want to paraphrase the minister of Transport who said in this House, this morning, about us, the members from the Bloc, that we thought he was stupid because we did not seem to understand his answers. I think that my colleague from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell has the same resentment towards us.

I am going to read again the motion moved by the Bloc. It is important to understand the meaning of it. The motion asks that the motion be amended by striking all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

"this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-22, An Act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of Terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport, because the principle of the Bill is flawed due to the fact that it contains no provisions aimed at making the work done by lobbyists more transparent".

It sounds clear to me. The member said that the Bloc would have wanted that bill to settle the case of lobbyists. I think that we might as well specify something for the member without necessarily writing it down. We are talking about the lobbyists who were involved in the Pearson deal, not about the lobbyists who, day after day, stick around the Liberal Party to get favours.

It is crystal clear. Those who reject that motion must not understand its relevance. The motion says that the bill contains no provisions aimed at making the work done by lobbyists more transparent. We are talking about those numerous lobbyists that can be found sometimes on the side of the Liberal Party, sometimes on the side of the Conservative Party but, at all times, on the side of the government. We want to know about that, and that is why we are asking for a royal commission of inquiry.

Of course the Bloc would like the government to present a bill on lobbyists; we will support any measure that would determine the scope of their work. Contrary to what the member for Broadview-Greenwood said this morning about there being Bloc lobbyists one day, Quebecers elected 54 lobbyists and they are all here in the House defending the interests of Quebec, day after day, openly and publicly. That is transparency.

Besides, several members from the other side tend to agree with Bloc Quebecois members on that point. I will even mention one, and I am sure the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell will appreciate that greatly; I am talking of course about the member for York South-Weston who said repeatedly in this House during this debate that, and I quote: "There were a lot of backroom negotiations and much manipulation. There were a lot of payoffs". It is in Hansard . I am sure my colleague will consult it the minute I finish my speech.

He added: "It takes a lot of audacity on the part of Mr. Bronfman and other principals in the Pearson Development Corporation to put forward a claim of close to $200 million for compensation after all of the shenanigans that took place". Finally, he said: "One could almost conclude that the activity bordered on the criminal. I have considerable respect for M. Nixon, but he conducted his investigation and prepared his report in private". There you have it! That is why the Bloc has presented this amendment; its purpose is to shed light on the role played by lobbyists in this issue and not to settle the case of lobbying in Canada once and for all.

Therefore, as I said last week, it is very disturbing to see not only that this bill does not clarify the lobbyists' role, but also that it hints that there is a deal somewhere. As colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and Reform Party have said, there is an obvious contradiction between clauses 7 and 10. I repeat it for the information of my colleague who was not here last week when I made my remarks. Clause 7 states that no proceedings for damages can be instituted against the government or its representatives concerning Pearson airport. Clause 10 specifies that if the minister considers it appropriate to do so, the Governor in Council may enter into an agreement recommended by the Minister of Transport. Paragraph 10(3) specifies that such an agreement must be concluded within a month after passage of the bill.

What I explained last week, and I will conclude with that, is that people involved in that scheme are told not to worry, that they will not have to litigate and pay legal costs because the bill prohibits legal proceedings. On the other hand, they are told they only have to go to the Minister of Transport right away, make a deal with him, and Cabinet will ratify the deal. But they have to move fast because everything must be done within a month.

If the government took such care to include so many details in the bill, surely a deal has already been made. Otherwise, there would be no need to say it must be settled within a month. The evidence speaks for itself.

If we want to go to the bottom of this issue, and know once and for all what happened with these dealings, we need a royal commission of inquiry. I will repeat for the information of members opposite, we need it in order to know about the work of lobbyists involved in this scheme. Of course, this will teach a lesson to the government, at least we hope so, but we will also get relevant information that will enable us, in the near future, to pass satisfactory legislation to restrict and control lobbying.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, I was told that there was another speaker before me.

We cannot support Bill C-22, an Act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of Terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport.

Even if the purpose of this bill is to cancel an inadequate contract which, as Mr. Robert Nixon noted in his report to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, was "arrived at with such a flawed process and under the shadow of possible political manipulation", it sets cancellation conditions which, in our opinion, are just as irregular and make us think that they are the result of more political manipulation to protect friends of the party in power.

We must first ask the following questions: Why did the government want to change the management framework of Lester B. Pearson Airport? Was the airport losing money? On the contrary, in 1993, this airport made a profit of $23 million, excluding revenues from renting Terminal 3. Did the government believe that the new consortium would offer customers better services at a lower cost? On the contrary, since the deal provides that, for air carriers, the costs would be raised from $2 per passenger now to $7 at the end of construction. And we know that carriers pass their costs on to passengers.

There was only one acceptable reason, and it was the implementation of the new policy on the future framework for the management of airports in Canada that was published by the Conservative government in April 1987. But there again, the Conservative government at the time departed from its own policy by entrusting the modernization of Terminals 1 and 2 of Lester B. Pearson Airport to a private consortium.

Indeed, the new policy on the future framework for the management of airports in Canada called for the implementation of the new approach chosen by Transport Canada; one of its two main thrusts was to emphasize the commercial orientation of airports, their possible contribution to economic development and their taking into account of local concerns and interests.

That approach called for private sector involvement, especially in traditional or innovative airport services as much as possible.

Instead of delegating the management of Pearson Airport to a local public authority similar to the ones in place in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, the government decided to favour a private consortium, thus going directly against its general policies.

It has not been proven that the decision to change the management framework of Lester B. Pearson Airport was made according to generally recognized principles of good public management. One has to look elsewhere to find the real reasons that prompted the Conservative government to sign in a rush, in the middle of an election campaign, the October 7, 1993 agreement.

We would have more luck finding the real motives behind this transaction if the present Liberal government appointed a royal commission of inquiry. We would get answers to some troubling questions. On June 22, 1987, the Conservative government selected Airport Development Corporation to build and operate terminal 3 at Pearson. Airport Development Corporation and Claridge Properties Inc. are essentially the same corporate entity. What do we know about Claridge Properties Inc.? It is a real estate company owned by Charles Bronfman, who is associated with the Liberal Party of Canada. The key people in the company are: Peter Coughlin, the president; Senator Léo Kolber, the manager of Claridge Properties; Herb Metcalfe, a lobbyist representing Claridge Properties and a former organizer for Jean Chrétien; and Ray Hession, an influential former deputy minister who had recently been appointed to the board of Paxport.

On December 7, 1992, Paxport's proposal for the privatization of terminals 1 and 2 was accepted. There were only two proposals, the other one being the one made by Claridge Properties. The companies had only 90 days to submit their bids.

Paxport was then given two months to demonstrate the financial viability of its proposal. That condition was never met. What then do we know about Paxport Inc.? It is another consortium made up of six companies associated with the Conservative Party through some key people, and I will name a few: Don Matthews, president of Paxport Inc, the former chairman of Brian Mulroney's nomination campaign in 1983 and former president of the Conservative Party; Otto Jelinek, a former Conservative minister, now a member of Paxport's board of directors; Fred Doucet, who was mentioned earlier, a lobbyist representing Paxport and long-time friend of Brian Mulroney; Bill Neville, another lobbyist representing Paxport, the former chief of staff of former Prime Minister Joe Clark and a member of the privileged transition team of former Prime Minister Kim Campbell.

What happened next? On February 1, 1993, having been unable to demonstrate the financial viability of its proposal and experiencing some difficulties, Paxport merged with Claridge under the name T1 T2 Limited Partnership. Again, T1 T2 is made up of the same companies: Claridge Properties, Paxport Inc. and the Allders Group.

All of these people have ties to either the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party.

In short, Mr. Speaker, during the whole process, the whole time these transactions were prepared, the present Prime Minister never complained and never said anything about what was going on in this matter.

It was only a few days after the announcement of the general election that the Prime Minister opposed the way it was done. For these reasons, I ask the Liberal Party and some of its supporters why they are afraid of revealing the hidden aspects of this privatization?

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry. You have three minutes left for next time.

Colleagues, I have received written notice from the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway that he is unable to move his motion during private members' hour on Monday, May 9. The member's office, I am told, indicated yesterday that he would not be in Ottawa on Monday and could thus not proceed with his matter on that day.

Since it was not possible to arrange for an exchange in the order of precedence, pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(a), I ask the Clerk to drop the order to the bottom of the order of precedence.

It seems proper to add in the interests of all private members in the House that this is unfortunately the fourth time this has happened since Private Members' Business began on March 14th.

The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business will consequently be suspended. Pursuant to Standing Order 99(2), the House shall meet at 11.00 a.m. for the consideration of Government Orders.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member has the floor on a point of order, but very briefly, since it is now time for private members' business.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member for Joliette could conclude his remarks. He is almost done, with two minutes left. I am sure he will get unanimous consent to finish his speech.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to let the member finish?

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Agreed. The member for Joliette has again the floor.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had reached August 30, 1993, when the Minister of Transport in the Conservative government announced that a general agreement had been reached with the Pearson Development Corporation concerning the management of all three terminals at the Lester B. Pearson Airport. What is Pearson Development Corporation?

It is a corporation specially created to manage the three terminals and that incorporated all the activities of T1 T2 Limited Partnership. This new company was also controlled at about 17 per cent by the Matthews Group-Matthews being the chairman of Paxport-at 66 per cent by Claridge Properties, allied to Mr. Bronfman, and at 17 per cent by public companies which were to provide conventional airport services.

You will agree with me, Mr. Speaker, that this structure closely resembles the one of T1 T2 Limited Partnership. On September 8, as we all know, a general election was called by the Government of Canada.

It is then, and only then, that Mr. Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister to be, warned that he would not hesitate, once in office, to cancel that deal if completed. Following this statement, the chief negotiator requested written instruction to sign the contract and, on October 7, Prime Minister Campbell demanded that the legal privatization document be signed that very day.

Three days after the general election, on October 28, the Prime Minister appointed Robert Nixon as special investigator to scrutinize the privatization of the Pearson terminals.

At this point, we should note that Robert Nixon was Treasurer of Ontario in the Liberal government of Premier Peterson, and had been leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

On November 29, Mr. Nixon delivered the report on his findings, opinions and recommendations to the Prime Minister who decided to cancel the privatization deal on December 5.

The government may want to show its good will by passing Bill C-22 which cancels the deal, but how is it that the Liberal Party never denounced the situation while they were in opposition, and while all these dubious dealings were unfolding before their eyes? Why did the Liberal Party not denounce its political friends and those of the Conservative Party who were gearing up for such favouritism?

Why is the Liberal Party still seeking today to protect its political friends by closing this case in such a way that it will punish the bad Tories who were party to these transactions, but compensate its good Liberal friends who were involved to the same degree in this murky deal?

Why are the Liberal Party and its financial supporters afraid of revealing the hidden side of this privatization?

Why is the Prime Minister still refusing to order a royal commission, the only way to get to the bottom of things?

If such an inquiry is not called, the Bloc Quebecois will not side with the Liberal government and will not support this bill which is as unacceptable as the airport privatization deal itself.

Pearson International Airports Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

It is understood that the debates will be prolonged by four or five minutes.

The House resumed from March 18 consideration of the motion.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 1994 / 1:30 p.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to support this motion which states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should bring in legislation limiting solely to individuals the right to donate to a federal political party, and restricting such donations to a maximum of $5,000 a year.

I wish to thank the hon. member for Richelieu for bringing such an important issue to the attention of the House.

This is a two-part motion in which both parts play very important roles because of the significant changes each will bring to the existing system.

The first part, as it eliminates donations to individuals only immediately eliminates any group of individuals from donating. I use the word group here in its broadest sense; that is, groups ranging from large corporations of individuals united under a common banner, be it a corporation, a union or an association, to the duo team of the Mr. and Mrs. group.

On the second part of the motion, individual donations limited to a maximum $5,000 a year, I reflect for a moment on the figure of $5,000 and admit that the reasoning for this particular figure versus any other tends to allude me at this time. If it is representative of a certain percentage of the average Canadian income I think it is a little on the high side. On the other hand I am very pleased to see that it does not relate to the amount allowed for an income tax deduction because I anticipate, quite strongly actually, that the present income tax system will itself be remodelled during the next decade.

The concept of identifying a maximum amount for an annual donation is a good one. It creates the need for a candidate and his or her team to go directly to the grassroots, to the individuals involved in the election process to raise the funds needed to facilitate their campaign in getting their message across to as many more voters as possible. It will also reduce any undue influence that wealthy individuals or groups of individuals such as corporations, unions, associations, et cetera may have on the political process.

Some people may criticize this analysis, especially the second reason about the undue influence. They will possibly criticize this as being too cynical or for downplaying the role of public policy in an election. In fact this has already been done.

When the motion was first debated in this House, my colleague, the hon. member for Cariboo-Chilcotin, was portrayed by the members opposite as believing that "all those who contribute to a political system expect something in return". That is from the March 18 Hansard , somewhere around page 2510.

At the same time members opposite use the standard line of many politicians contending that people donate money to political parties based on altruistic principles. That is, people contribute toward a process because they want good government.

I do indeed accept that many people donate for better government. It is certainly true and I wish to state unequivocally that individuals, corporations, unions, et cetera, do in fact donate to political parties and/or individual candidates for the purpose of good government and good representation.

However, as my colleague tried to point out on March 18, it is also certainly true that some donations are made in the political process for the purpose of influence. How else does one explain the fact that many groups, corporations, et cetera, donate money to two different parties? Do they believe that both parties have equally good policies? Or is it more realistic to believe that they want to retain influence in both parties so that whichever one forms the government they can point out later their financial support?

Another observation along this line would be the movement of some corporations, associations, et cetera, of their donations from probable losers to probable winners as the election campaign progresses. This does not mean we believe that every individual or group that contributes toward the political process is expecting something other than good government in return. However, it does point out there are other possible reasons for donating.

The Reform Party does not have a problem with private citizens spending their hard earned money toward achieving good or better government. What the Reform Party does have a problem with is large corporations, unions, special interest groups, et cetera, donating large amounts of money. I am not talking about $100, $1,000 or $2,000 here, but donating large amounts of money to certain candidates or parties because they may see this as a way to control the political process and to influence or dominate a government's agenda.

That is precisely what this motion is seeking to prevent. We are all aware it is a basic reality of politics that for an individual or a party to get elected it requires funding. As an American legislator once remarked, money is the mother's milk of politics.

That is not to say those with the most money to spend on campaigns necessarily win. That was demonstrated in the results of this last election. However, we in the House must recognize that small donations made by individual citizens are the best way of funding of politics in Canada. It broadens the support needed by candidates to get elected. It also removes the opportunity for undue influence of wealthy individuals, groups, associations, et cetera, on the political process.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, before delving into the substantive issues raised by this motion I would like to make a couple of general observations.

It is unfortunate that the hon. member for Richelieu chose in presenting his motion to make some disparaging remarks about the integrity of those who participate actively in the political process. For example, he made several references to greed, pay backs, conflict of interest, connections, access to the inner sanctum, smoke and mirrors, et cetera.

He also claimed that Canadian chartered banks "run political parties behind the scenes". Judging from the record and observation of the Canadian banks in the last few years, they have had enough problems running their own affairs without trying to run the political parties of this country as well.

Throwing aspersions on political parties, on members of Parliament and on those who make contributions to campaign funds does not advance the purpose of this debate. In fact such imprudent accusations reflect badly on the legitimacy and integrity of the House and its members, including the hon. member for Richelieu and the members of his party.

With respect to the issues raised in the course of the previous debate, I note that in presenting his motion the hon. member claimed that the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, known as the Lortie commission, hardly touched on the question of party financing.

It is important to set the record straight. The Lortie commission did look into all the issues raised in election financing. It looked into the question of financing registered political parties, limits on election expenses, public funding of election participants, disclosure of political contributions, political contributions and undue influence.

Three in depth studies were commissioned and published entitled "Money in Politics", "Provincial Party and Election Finance in Canada" and "Comparative Issues in Party and Election Finance".

The Lortie commission, therefore, was very well informed when it made the following recommendations: first, that there be no ban on political contributions from business, trade unions or other organizations except for political contributions from foreign sources.

In arriving at this conclusion the commission paid particular attention to the historical significance and importance of organizations such as unions and business in Canadian politics and to the danger of diverting funds from political parties to third parties. We have seen in previous elections where vast expenses were made by non-political parties in the political process.

Second, it pointed to the possible problem of charter challenges to such restrictions.

Third, the Lortie commission recommended that there be no limits on the size of contributions to registered political parties. In deciding this the Lortie commission found that there was "an absence of any compelling evidence that the number and value of large contributions to federal parties and candidates raise serious concerns about undue influence".

I listened with interest to the remarks of the member for Surrey North. I am sure she was inspired by a sincere desire and interest in the political system. However, I suggest that a thorough examination of this subject by an independent inquiry looked into the matter and found there was no suggestion of the influence that seemed to trouble the last speaker in the House. Further, the Lortie commission concluded that it would be very difficult to enforce such limits.

We have seen other jurisdictions where such unenforceable or difficult to enforce limits run into problems and bring the whole of the political system into disrepute.

I am sure that Bloc members are aware of the problem in France arising from the funding of policical parties. Limits were set, but no pertinent regulations were adopted. It is very important to analyse limits on contributions to ensure they are practical and applicable to individual cases.

During the last Parliament a special committee on electoral reform was struck to consider the Lortie commission's proposals. In the end the committee did not recommend limits on who could make donations and the maximum amount of such donations. I agree with the final decisions of the Lortie commission and the special committee.

The Canada Elections Act, as it stands, provides the necessary mechanisms to ensure that our electoral system is fair and equitable. Notably there are controls on election expenditures. The transparency of political donations is assured in that registered political parties must provide an annual report setting out the amount of money received and the name of each donor who contributed more than $100.

I am of the view that these measures are more than sufficient to protect the integrity of the electoral system. We have a saying that it does no good to throw the baby out with the dirty bath water. There is no question there are problems with electoral financing as there are problems with every aspect of the electoral system of the country.

These problems deserve careful, mature examination and reflection before coming to conclusions. I find that the conclusions in the Lortie commission respect those criteria. It is for that reason I cannot support the motion before the House.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Gaston Péloquin Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the debate in this House this afternoon on the motion of my hon. colleague from Richelieu concerning financial contributions to political parties.

Mr. Speaker, we all know how important the financing of political parties is when elections come. Clearly, an election campaign takes money. But do we really have to let just anyone or anything finance our political parties? Canada's electoral system has serious shortcomings that allow multinationals, even American ones, to meddle in Canadian public affairs. If this electoral system does not soon acquire strict rules on the financing of political parties, it is in great danger of no longer being representative.

The Bloc Quebecois, which applied Quebec's rules on public financing during the last election campaign, is the only federal political party represented in this House which can boast that its election expenses were financed solely by individuals and that

it is accountable only to these same people. Not to interest groups, not to corporations or multinational conglomerates, but only to the people whom it proudly represents. We are dealing with the very principle of democracy today. But what do the members opposite fear?

When the Parti Quebecois introduced the legislation on political party financing in 1977, some feared that the Quebec Liberal Party would not recover. The party was cut off from most of its financing sources and had to make some adjustments. It had always depended on large corporations to fund its political activities. The party's financial position, although weakened at first, adapted to the change and is doing very well today, relying exclusively on private donations. Political parties in Quebec can survive without corporate financing, and it is much better this way.

What did happen for individuals to start making small donations to their favourite political party? It is simply that, once private donations were accepted, individuals slowly regained confidence in their elected representatives. Voters realize now that their 10 $ or 20 $ donations can make a difference. Quebecers know that election results and government decisions no longer depend on the mood of large corporations. The average Canadian, such as the one that we should be representing as parliamentarians, knows that he has a say in the state's business.

When in their ridings, members of the Bloc Quebecois are not afraid of being asked THE question so feared by members of other parties, which is the following: "Whose interests are you promoting in the House of Commons?" the Bloc Quebecois members simply answer: "The only interests that we promote are those of Quebecers". The least we can say is that the answer from Liberal Party members is likely much more complicated. If you look closely at who funded their election campaign, you soon realize that they are accountable not only to the people, but to others as well.

To find out whom the Liberals are indebted to, one only has to look at Elections Canada's report, which reveals that in 1991-92, nearly 50 per cent of contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada's election fund came from businesses and from various commercial and other organizations. How can Liberal Party members say they protect people's interests when half their funds come from companies? Let us not delude ourselves: these big corporations do not give tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to that party just because of its great democratic values.

French-Canadians used to say, "No taxation without representation." The Liberals and the Tories have made a few changes to this famous sentence over the years. Today their slogan would be: "No representation without contribution". Those who want their voices to be heard in Parliament should realize that they must make substantial contributions to the election fund or else their demands will disappear under the millions of dollars given to the national political parties by the big corporations. So much for the great democratic principles Canada is so proud of.

Some companies do not take any chances, like CN, which gave tens of thousands of dollars to each of the two big parties last year. They expect something in return, such as favours, contracts or legislative amendments favouring them. We should not think that these companies, which are not used to spending their money needlessly, are motivated solely by noble intentions. If we let these corporations influence through their donations the results of elections in this country, the decisions our governments will make may be biased by their debts, moral or otherwise, to these very companies.

The political parties taking office in Ottawa are supposed to represent the Canadian people, but until the federal government amends, as Quebec did over 15 years ago, its legislation on political party funding, people will always wonder whose interests the government in office is trying to protect. Quebecers have understood the meaning of the word "democracy" for a long time. Today, the federal government has an opportunity to show us it understands it too. It is up to it to seize this opportunity offered by the Official Opposition to restore the democratic reputation of Canada as a whole.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Mark Assad Liberal Gatineau—La Lièvre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on this motion on party financing put forward by the hon. member for Richelieu.

One of the speakers opposite referred to the Lortie Commission, a commission which has investigated extensively and heard the testimonies of numerous witnesses who wanted to voice their opinions on political financing. At the time, I had seized the opportunity to very humbly submit a brief on party financing because this is a subject I have been interested in for many years, even before I had the privilege of representing the people of the riding of Papineau at the National Assembly. All this to say that my main concern was with the way political parties were funded. I maintain, and I am not the only one, that the way political parties are funded leaves much to be desired. I have read extensively on the subject and I have come across a solution I consider very practical, yet revolutionary. It is from a professor at the University of New Brunswick who was completing a doctorate, and the subject of his thesis was party financing in Canada.

In this thesis, it was demonstrated that indeed, the easiest and most democratic way of financing political parties would be to eliminate all contributions from companies, labour and other organizations and allow only individuals to make donations or contributions to political parties. No companies, no legal, architectural or engineering firms. We all know the gamut of contributors to party funds. There is no need to elaborate. I do

not think that large contributions are made out of love for democracy. We must absolutely look at this issue.

I say this as the member for Gatineau-La Lièvre. I have had many discussions on this with my fellow citizens and they fully support the opinion which I have always expressed, not only in this House, but also in Quebec's National Assembly and before the Lortie Commission, to the effect that changes must be made. If we believe that we are a democratic society, then we must make changes to the financing of political parties.

I want to go back to the New Brunswick professor. I discussed this issue with him and, in fact, I had a question put on the Order Paper to get information to help him in his work. That person claims that only a citizen of Canada should make a donation and that the maximum allowed should be one dollar. One might say: How are we going to finance political parties? It is very simple. We are here to represent all Canadians; consequently, we should be elected only by individual Canadians and not by lobbies, law firms or engineering companies. Our fellow citizens should be the only ones allowed to financially help us get elected.

So, that person suggests a one-dollar limit. How would that be done? It is very easy. For all intents and purposes, one dollar per Canadian amounts to $25 million. That $25 million would be divided each year between the political parties. I will not get into technicalities here, but it would not be complicated. According to the professor, the procedure would be very simple-it only takes two pages-and the distribution would be done very democratically, thus ensuring that political parties would have the necessary monies to conduct their activities.

Subsequent to the conversations I had with this professor, I learned about the amount of tax refunds the governement of Canada grants to people who donated to a political party. You have all heard about tax credits and other such things. I do not have to get technical and go into details. Suffice it to say that such contributions entitle to tax credits. In 1990, in particular, these tax credits reached $20 million. And this does not take into account the management of the system, etc. In other words, it would almost amount to an economy for the state if people were contributing the funds needed to operate democratically the political parties of Canada.

This idea is very attractive and deserves careful thought. I submitted it to the Lortie Commission, which found it very interesting, but the opinion is divided on this issue. The principle is very simple.

If we believe in a democratic society and if we believe that one could represent people in this House without having to accept contributions from anyone, this would be the ideal situation. That is the goal aimed for in our society, because we know human nature. There is nothing illegal involved, but such is human nature. There are people making contributions who are very sincere in their contributions to a party or a candidate.

However, we have to take into account that we always have to find means to keep it as democratic as possible. I personally felt that this professor from the University of New Brunswick had a magic solution to this problem.

We do not have all the data, but we could have a closer look at it. I would have liked to speak longer, but the principle, the notion is very clear that only individuals, the people, our fellow citizens, should finance our election to this House.

In concluding, I would like to put forward the following amendment:

That the motion be amended by substituting to the figure of "$5,000" the figure of "$1".

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

We have already dealt with the content of that amendment and it was considered in order. The clerk gave me that assurance. Is there an hon. member who wishes to second the motion? The hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth is seconding the motion.

Debate on the amendment.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for my lack of experience, but could you explain to us the implication of this amendment on the unfolding of the debate? I would also like to know whether the mover of the motion, the hon. member for Richelieu, has been informed of the intent of our hon. colleague.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Good question. In theory, the debate is on the amendment. Actually, it is on the motion and the amendment to the amendment. At the end of the proceedings today, that is at 2:30 p.m., we will still have one hour left when we resume debate next time. In theory, the amendment to the amendment can be adopted with unanimous consent, or members can vote it down. The decision is up to the hon. members. So, we will proceed with the debate on the matter before us. I hope I made myself clear.

The hon. member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead has the floor.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am here to stay. I am very pleased to take part in this debate. I know that we are now debating the amendment of the member for Gatineau-La Lièvre, but I would also like to mention that I totally agree with the motion of the member for Richelieu in its present form. Consequently, even though I endorse most of the comments made by the member for

Gatineau-La Lièvre, I am not in favour of the $1 limit. I will explain why later on.

Before I do that, however, I would like to indicate why I wished to speak in this debate. There are three main reasons: the first is that, being a long time member and militant of the Parti Quebecois, it was an honour, naturally, for me to see that the first thing the Parti Quebecois, under the leadership of René Lévesque, did when it was elected in 1976, was to pass a law on political party financing. Mr. Lévesque and his government wanted to solve this thorny problem at the time because integrity was at stake. They enacted such legislation, and I believe it is a fundamental reason, to control the financing of political parties in order to ensure that the people would be able to believe in their elected representatives.

Everybody knows, and I will not elaborate further on this, how much the credibility of elected representatives is in question, for all sorts of reasons. They wanted to assure the people, in this regard at least, that elected representatives were democratically elected and that they did not have special ties with any group of society, be it business people, unions or professional corporations. That is the first reason why I wanted to speak in this debate.

The second has to do with François Gérin, my predecessor in this House as member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, who proposed the idea of popular financing to the Conservative Party. Unfortunately, in spite of all its promises, the Conservative government never delivered the goods.

I would, however, like to underscore the considerable efforts of the member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead at the time and recall the words spoken by Mr. Gérin when he appeared before the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, the Lortie Commission mentioned a few moments ago by the member for Gatineau-La Lièvre. Mr. Gérin stated the following: "Limiting donations to individuals will restrict the number of bagmen, the real political parasites who wield a disproportionate amount of influence within their party". He also had this to say: "Canadians now demand more transparency from their government and morals standards that are beyond reproach".

"The lure of a reward is undoubtedly a very human reflect, but it is inconsistent with the political ideal of serving the common good". Lastly, he stated: "Companies do not vote. Neither do associations nor labour unions. There is no longer any reason for these groups to have a dominant role in our electoral or political system by virtue of the fact they fund more than half of the activities of Canadian political parties". This is how the member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, appearing before the royal commission in 1990, justified the need to move as quickly as possible to a system whereby political parties are funded by individuals.

As I mentioned earlier, this funding method was adopted nearly twenty years ago in Quebec. It is well known and enjoys widespread support from all sides, not only from members of the public, the vast majority of whom support this approach, but also from businesses. Oddly enough, a survey conducted in 1988 by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which had over 80,000 members at the time, showed that a majority of directors of companies and small and medium-sized businesses were also in favour of this type of reform. And, like all the members of this House and even people outside this place, the majority of editorial writers who comment on the political arena have spoken most highly and favourably of such reform.

Just a word on the amendment moved by the hon. member for Gatineau-La Lièvre. As I said earlier, I think his colleagues from the Liberal Party should read his remarks over carefully, draw inspiration from them and make them their motto, their theme with regard to party financing in the months to come.

I have a small problem however with the $1 limit on contributions. I think it comes from the right place, but the bottom line for these democratic bodies known as political parties would be near-paralysis.

Obviously, our electoral legislation-the hon. member for Rosedale referred to it earlier-both federally and in the various provinces, already provides for using public funds to refund in part the expenses incurred by candidates or political parties which have presented a number of candidates with a minimum of success. And that is perfectly all right.

However, political parties must continue to function between elections. They must be able to operate, consult their membership to seek advice on the general business of government and, to do so, naturally, they need money. So if we put a $1 limit on individual financing, it would be very difficult, in my opinion, to support an organization efficiently.

I think what the point of the motion tabled by the hon. member for Richelieu-and on this I agree with the hon. member for Gatineau-La Lièvre-is that political parties must be financed by individuals and not by corporate entities such as companies, unions and professional corporations of all kinds. We already allow a democratization of political party funding.

I am proud to repeat this since I feel I was part of this effort, the example that the Parti Quebecois always gives, the fact that all political parties in Quebec are now financed by individuals in a popular and democratic fashion because of the law passed at the beginning of 1977 by the Lévesque government, speaks for itself.

I heard a Conservative senator who used to be a Liberal, Senator Rivest, if I may give his name, Mr. Speaker, say in an interview on political party funding: "It is quite remarkable that since this legislation was passed in Quebec, no significant case of patronage linked to corporate or other contributions has come to light either in the Parti Quebecois government or the Liberal government".

So the results speak for themselves and clearly demonstrate that individual financing of political parties has improved our political ethics. That is what we want to bring in at the federal level.

I will conclude because I am told that I have about a minute left. When the member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead waged this fierce battle for popular financing within his own party, he obtained an agreement from the leader of the government at that time, Prime Minister Mulroney, who made a formal commitment before the 1988 election to present a bill on the financing of political parties once the House returned, which he never did, as everyone knows. We know what happened to that government, which is represented here in this House by just a captain and one foot soldier.

Mr. Speaker, there is a message in that for the government opposite, an important message, and I say that without partisanship. We must start work now on passing a bill on the financing of political parties along the lines of the motion of the member for Richelieu.

Mr. Speaker, I also say, and this is a point that was raised by the former member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, that such legislation must be completely non-partisan. It must have the unanimous agreement of members of this House. Through the motion of the member for Richelieu, we in the Bloc Quebecois reach out to the government and say to it that we are ready to proceed as soon as possible.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, briefly, I must say that I have great sympathy with this motion. However, it is a little disconcerting that the members opposite assume that someone like myself had large corporate donations to my campaign. I would like to set the record straight.

My total personal election spending contributions totalled $17,000. The largest contribution I received was $1,000. I received absolutely no money from the Liberal Party, it was all obtained from individuals. Also all the money was obtained during the election campaign. They were donations from individuals. I held a barbecue and did the customary things.

I find myself in sympathy because I feel it is right and proper that MPs who represent the people should be supported primarily by the people rather than by corporations. I want the members opposite to know that the Bloc and the Reform have no monopoly on receiving donations only from individuals rather than from large corporations. I did not enjoy that either.

I support the amendment, however, because the total amount of donations that I received only amounted to $17,000. If I had received a donation of $5,000 it would have been significant, almost one-third of what I had available to spend. I would be afraid in such a situation that the person giving me the $5,000 donation, whether an individual or corporation would expect some sort of favour in return. They certainly would have expected some sort of influence.

I find that the original motion has a weakness in stipulating a sum as high as $5,000. By supporting the amendment I believe we offer the government an alternative. The motion is flawed not because of any lack of proper motive on the part of those who have moved the motion but because it is something that requires very careful consideration by the government.

If I have a minute or two more, I would like to add to the debate an anecdote which may be of interest to members. When I was campaigning I had the pleasure of being accompanied at one point by an American television crew from the "MacNeil-Lehrer Show". They had come up to my riding of Hamilton-Wentworth because it was seen as a bellwether riding in the election. It had been a Tory riding for 22 years and they were very interested to see what would happen. The camera crew followed me as I went from door to door, as I am sure all members of this House did during the election. I would knock on the door, shake hands and go on.

Driving back at the end of the day the producer of this crew asked me how much I expected to spend in total in the election. I said I thought it would be at best about $30,000. I was counting the amount of money I had raised by donations and the matching money that would come as a consequence. He said: "That is just amazing because in the United States a congressman running for election would expect to spend at least $180,000". When I asked why he said it was because they would have to spend money on radio and television advertising and that kind of thing.

I hate to say this but he told me that is one of the reasons American politics has such difficulty with corruption and influence peddling. It is because the average individual cannot possibly run for Congress without substantial financial support from corporations and special interest groups.

I asked why they needed all that money. He said: "Because we as Americans cannot do what you as Canadians can do. We cannot go door to door as we saw you doing today. The simple

reason is that in the United States, in my Detroit, if we went door to door like that on a campaign, we would be shot and killed or attacked".

I leave that thought with you. No matter what we do as MPs, we do live in a democratic society and a political environment that is absolutely second to none.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I guess things are not going my way this afternoon. I think there is not enough time for me to make my 10-minute speech. First, I want to comment briefly the amendment to the motion, which was put forward by a member opposite a few minutes ago and which would limit the contribution to a political party to $1 per individual.

At first glance, this may seem like a very interesting amendment. For example, there were 85,000 voters in my riding during the last election. With a budget of $1 per voter or $85,000, I would have had a lot more money than the law allowed me to spend. I would have had something like $20,000 more money, without having to do anything, no door-to-door campaigning, no electoral committee, no solicitation for volunteers to work for me. In fact, without leaving my house, I would have been able to receive $85,000 from all Canadians for my election campaign, just like my opponent. And since I had four opponents, all five of us would have received $85,000, at $1 per voter.

This may seem interesting compared to the tax refunds the State has to grant to people who donated to a political party. I know that the tax refunds reached $20 million, at some point in the last few years, but if the federal government has to reimburse $20 million, that means that some voters decided, of their own free will, to donate about $6 million to $7 million. What is at the root of this action and very important for the preservation of our democracy is that, when, as an individual, I decide to donate even only $1 to a political party, I get at least the chance to pick the party I want to support.

The effect of the proposed formula will be that I will give one dollar to my own party and one dollar to every other party. I will have no other choice but to finance all political parties, whether I like it or not, whether their philosophy is compatible with my own beliefs or not. It would not matter anymore, everybody would be entitled to some degree of financing.

I do not believe that it is the way to build a democracy. Democracy is based first and foremost on a personal commitment, a personnel decision to support one ideology rather than another. I would hate to see legislation giving the government the authority to take my tax dollars to finance anyone who would feel like entering politics. Although appealing at first, this measure appears rather antidemocratic and would, in the short and medium term, cause people to lose interest in politics since they would be inclined to believe that it is no longer their business. They no longer would have to get involved. All those who would want to enter politics would have the money to do it anyway and to say what they want, whenever they want and to whomever they want, and they could stay quietly at home.

I am afraid that this is not the way to lay the foundation of a sound democracy, a democracy on the move.

To have to raise money during an election campaign has its positive sides too. The objective of today's motion is not to prevent people from giving money to political parties. Not at all. On the contrary, it is to allow private individuals to contribute, but to a reasonable level. The objective is to make sure that when individuals join a political party they can, irrespective of their wealth, express their free opinion, exercise their choice and be recognized.

We do not want any involvement of companies, unions and interest groups which exist for predetermined reasons. Companies, when they request a charter, state their objectives. Unions do the same, as well as professional associations. When they ask for a charter establishing their existence, they state their objectives, and what goals they aim for by forming an association. Most unions, most professional associations would say: to defend the interests or our members. It is not necessarily for the interests of the community, and not necessarily for the interests of Canadians in general, on the contrary. It is to protect the interests of their members. When they do, they do it well.

We should not allow these organizations, these corporations, these special interest groups to have disproportionate influence because of their financial means, in relation to the private citizen who, without a fortune, cannot have his opinion expressed and recognized by his peers in a democratic assembly because he has less influence, not having had the means to contribute as much.

Democracy is based primarily on respect of individuals. If we want to motivate people to work for our election, we should not do it only by asking them for money but also by giving them responsibilities.

It is when people take the time to work for a good cause that they get together and get involved in the political aspect of every day life. In this way, they take an interest in the operations of the organization not only during an election but in between campaigns.

This is a very good way for a political party to survive and to support itself, just as any good parent would find the money to support his or her family. Any political party should also have the decency and the ability to generate its own revenues so that it be truly democratic and allow its members to participate fully.

Naturally, I will vote against the proposed amendment while supporting the main motion as is.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 2.30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.35 p.m.)