Mr. Speaker, the hon. member of the Reform Party who just spoke more or less supported the amendment. However, we feel the amendment contradicts the intent of the motion introduced by the hon. member for Richelieu. I may recall the wording of the motion, which says that the government should bring in legislation limiting solely to individuals-that is the operative word-the right to donate to a federal political party, and restricting such donations-this is also very important-to a maximum of $5,000 a year.
I would like to start by commending the hon. member for Richelieu for introducing this motion in the House, because I think there are two objectives here, the first one being to improve our democratic system. I imagine and, in fact, I am sure that members speaking for the various parties want to maintain and improve our democratic system. The purpose of the motion presented by the hon. member for Richelieu is to improve the system.
The second objective is transparency, which ensures that we know who contributes to political parties and how much, because increasingly, people are saying that they feel cut off from government and from the decision-making process.
Recently, Enjeux , a program on the CBC French network, described the situation very well. The impression was that although elected by their constituents, members were losing their ability to influence the government, whether they were in the opposition or not.
According to public opinion, governments are mainly influenced by lobbyists working for big corporations. There is another factor as well. Many people say that since they are elected, members may be influenced by or mindful of the contributions they received in their riding or the contributions their party received.
So what can we conclude from the report of the Chief Electoral Officer? The report now lists the names of those who made contributions, including companies, so we know where the money comes from. But I am not sure the general public is aware of the main items in the report.
In the latest report by the Chief Electoral Officer, in the case of both the Liberal Party now in power and the Conservative Party, the statistics show that individuals are responsible for less than 50 per cent of the campaign funds raised by these parties, which alternated as the party in power. People wonder who is influencing the government, and they wonder whether contributions affect the way we are represented.
This debate took place in Quebec 20 years ago, finally leading to the legislation referred to as Bill 2 on political party financing. Since it came into force, this legislation, according to many observers, has improved the public's confidence in government. I say this for the benefit of my colleagues in all political parties, because we all meet constituents in our riding offices.
I imagine that when someone who made a generous contribution asks for an appointment, it is harder to say no because these people probably think the way they used to in Quebec: Now look, I helped to get you elected and contributed to your party's campaign fund, so the least you can do is see me. Rightly or wrongly, politicians get a lot of criticism nowadays. It is often a matter of public perception, however. It may not happen in every case, and I do not want to tarnish the reputation of our parties, but my point is that it must influence what members or ministers
or governments do when they have to make a decision. At least that is what the voters think.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer to the latest report from the Chief Electoral Officer, which says, for instance, that in 1992, the Progressive Conservative Party received only 41 per cent of its financing from individuals and the rest from corporations. The Liberal Party of Canada, the party in power today, received only 53.4 per cent of its financing from individuals. In the case of the New Democratic Party, only 41.1 per cent came from individuals, since the left-leaning NDP, if I can describe it that way, received more of its funding from the labour unions. Amounts of up to $300,000 were contributed by one major union and some smaller unions. Nearly 1,000 different unions made donations to the New Democratic Party, which certainly must have influenced the New Democratic Party's operations and policies.
I was somewhat surprised to hear the hon. member of the Reform Party objecting to the intent of the motion of the hon. member for Richelieu, because in 1992, and I think this is an important point, 90 per cent of his party's financing came from individuals.