House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.


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4:55 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the rather sensationalist comments made by the hon. member when describing the various cases which have taken place either in his riding or elsewhere across Canada.

What I heard in his exposé is that there is a lack of understanding of what kind of population we are dealing with. We are often dealing with illiterates. We are often dealing with people who never had a chance in life. We are not actually looking for solutions. Actually the only solution the Reform Party is looking for is basically to throw the key away and leave them to rot in prison for the rest of their lives.

One of the best deterrents to fight crime in this society is education. Does the hon. member know the figures of illiteracy found among the incarcerated in Canada?

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4:55 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

So what are you doing?

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4:55 p.m.


Patrick Gagnon Liberal Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

I am asking him the question, Mr. Speaker. Can he tell us why there is a disproportionate number of aboriginals in our prisons? In many cases these people have been treated like

second class citizens. In many aboriginal communities more than half the population is 18 years or younger and have been given very few chances. Many of them regrettably have turned to crime.

It is not only the aboriginals. They are also pointing to immigrants, new arrivals to Canada, people who were not really given a chance. It is regrettable the hon. member does not look into greater detail on ways to prevent crime. That is the basis of the bill: To reorient our young Canadians or older Canadians for that matter to try to set them straight in order to make them better and more productive citizens.

Obviously I am not going to hear the voice of reason and compassion on that side but they should recognize that those who are incarcerated in Canada today are often those who were not given the privileges of education, who were not given work in some instances and have had to turn to crime in order to pursue their lives. That is what is regrettable.

As a government we are trying to turn this society around. As we very well know the rates of incarceration in Canada are second to those in the United States and they are much lower in Europe. These are things we have to look into. We should start looking into what is happening in Europe, not quoting Russia of 1917 as one of his Reform associates did earlier. We have to look at what is happening elsewhere, what we can do and how we can improve the system.

Of course being a compassionate society we understand what the victims are living through. I am sure it is a living hell for many of them. We cannot turn around and say: "No. The only way we are going to solve this question is by throwing the key away". There is the question of education. There is the question of trying to encourage Canadians to find other ways and means of earning their living.

This is what we have to do as legislators, as members of this proud Parliament. We have to try to find ways to set the course straight for many of these people who regrettably turn to crime.

What percentage are actually illiterate and what percentage come from different classes and different backgrounds? Could the hon. member come up with those percentages?

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September 22nd, 1994 / 4:55 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that virtually every time we have a debate on criminal justice reform we keep on hearing that the Reform Party is just talking about the sensational.

We fully recognize there is a segment of the population that has gone through an unfortunate situation in terms of education, economics, or their upbringing which will have an impact. Everyone of those people who is in a disadvantaged state in Canada has the opportunity to move forward and get ahead.

Not all of them fall through the cracks. With respect to the specific question, of course I do not have that answer at my fingertips. With the greatest respect, I would suggest that probably the member having walked into this House as I did at some point in time today probably also does not happen to have those numbers at his fingertips.

If this Parliament really wants to focus on reason and compassion, I wonder if just once this government might be able to have reason and compassion for the victim. I wonder if just once this Parliament would talk about bringing in the same kind of resources.

I said in my speech very clearly that I was not critcizing the fact that this criminal behind bars had ended up getting his university degree. I was not criticizing that. I was asking what resources were made available to the victims of his terrible crime. I would suggest not many.

The last time I spoke on this issue I believe we were talking about the Young Offenders Act. It was a Thursday. Perhaps some of the Liberal members will recall that this was immediately preceding their convention here in Ottawa.

It was very instructive because we brought up what the members consistently called sensational things, that we were off base, that the only place where there is any problem with the Young Offenders Act is in the constituencies that have a Reform Party member, that we were completely out to lunch is exactly what we are hearing from the other side the entire day.

It was really quite instructive that at the conclusion of their tête-à-tête in Ottawa the Prime Minister stood up and said: "We have suddenly discovered on the basis of the input that we have received from these Liberal members that we have a problem with crime. Therefore this is what we are going to be doing".

It turns out that maybe the problem was not isolated to the 52 constituencies that are represented by Reform. Maybe it is a problem with the balance of constituencies that do perhaps need the Q-tips I was offering.

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5 p.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend from Kootenay East suggested in his remarks that retribution is not vengeance. I looked it up in the Concise Oxford Dictionary . According to the dictionary, retribution is vengeance.

He was indicating that one of our members was treading on dangerous ground. When the member stands up and suggests that we should be basing our criminal justice system on retribution as opposed to basing it on the rule of law, he is treading on very dangerous ground.

I want to make one other point, his arguments with respect to hate crimes. He is arguing as have other members of the Reform Party that we should not be drawing any distinction when it comes to crimes based on hate.

We should all remind ourselves that this great country of ours is a multicultural country. It is made up of peoples from all around the world and that is one of the reasons why this country is so great and so strong. We have the best peoples from all parts of the world.

We also have to say to all these people from all parts of the world that they are equal, they will not be the targets or objects of contempt, hate or prejudice, and that when we witness contempt, prejudice and particularly the acts of hate, the acts of violence of hate, we will express our dissent and our loathing in a very strong fashion.

There are different kinds of violence and different kinds of crimes. Surely my friend from Kootenay East would not suggest that violence that comes from a drunken brawl is bad and no worse and no better than violence that comes from hatred.

It seems to me that whether it is a woman, whether it is a person who belongs to a religious group or a so-called ethnic group harmed, and they are the victim of terrible violence only because that person belongs to a particular group, we as a society have to condemn and contend that strongly. That is why I disagree with the member from the Reform Party.

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5:05 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I understand the motivation of the member and that behind this legislation. The motivation is to work against discrimination, to protect people who are of a visible minority within our society. I understand that completely.

What Canadians want are safe streets. A person who is beaten up, a person who has cracked ribs, a person who has his teeth jammed down his throat with an iron pipe has his teeth jammed down his throat with an iron pipe. The minute this House walks away from the fundamental principle that all Canadians are equal regardless of race, language, creed, colour, religion or gender, and we make more worthy victims than others, we are on absolutely indefensible ground.

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5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We have exhausted the five-hour segment of the second reading of this piece of legislation. We will now go to the next stage of debate which are 10-minute interventions without questions or comments.

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5:05 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-41 with all its original and recommended revisions is a manifestation of objectives, directives, purposes, even hopes and wishes that have been produced through a demanding problem solving process. By its very nature it can be classified as a democratic one, one in which information is gathered from a multitude of sources, from publications, studies, research, reports, individual and group experiences, input from all aspects of society, each being driven and governed by their own agendas, personal beliefs and value systems-an extremely complex process which produces a declaration of intent, purpose or direction; in other words a statute, a measure, a rule, a regulation, a law.

This government has used this complex democratic process to produce constructive reforms found in Bill C-41.

As we listen to members of the opposition parties we hear their subjective presentations, each believing that they possess some segment of the perfect law. No law made by man is absolute or perfect. No law is safe from the forces of change in a dynamic society. Each change brought about democratically brings us closer to the more perfect solution.

The justice department has heard the voices through the great country of ours and the outcome is a Criminal Code which is more balanced, fairer and rational than the codes of the past.

The section of Bill C-41 that lifts the Criminal Code to loftier heights is the proposed statement of purpose and principles of sentencing. For the first time direction is to be provided to the courts on the fundamental purpose of sentencing which contributes to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.

Revenge is no longer the basic purpose of sentencing one who has committed an unlawful act. Although this may be judged to be true by some, a sentence will still reflect the seriousness of the offence.

To diminish the criticism of unjust sentencing the courts throughout the country must give similar sentences to offenders who have committed similar acts. A just law is one that is perceived consistently to be just and fair in every court of the land.

Significant is the statement of principle that states when an offence is motivated by hate based on the race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation of the victim, the offence must be considered as a more serious offence than in the past, thus demanding harsher sentencing.

This bill provides the courts with more options to distinguish between serious, violent crime requiring incarceration and less serious non-violent crime that could be dealt with more effectively in the community.

It is in this area that I feel the most positive strategies can be created to rehabilitate the perpetrators of minor offences. Community service options which have been determined co-operatively with officials of the judicial system, community leaders

and agents from various facets of society will without doubt produce the most effective results.

Rehabilitation programs which keep the offenders from any semblance of normal societal structures, in other words segregated or isolated, rarely are permanently successful. The position of segregation or isolation has built in connotations of inferiority of being a second class citizen. The proposed changes within this bill will reintroduce the minor offender to the normal patterns of community life.

Too often the poor are victimized by well intentioned rules or regulations. The 18th century law that jailed the offenders who could not pay their fines no matter how small the amount is finally being revisited and revised. Such offenders will be subject to other options such as community service or probation. This proposal will result in less crowded, safer prisons as well as decreased costs. Also, more human and financial resources will be free to deal with the more serious offenders.

Many of my colleagues have expressed their opinions regarding section 745 of the Criminal Code. Here violent crime victims are being provided the opportunity to present information which may influence parole decisions pertaining to the offender, a very worthy initiative that is also supported by police chief Karl Ratz in my constituency of Thunder Bay-Atikokan, as well as many others in the law enforcement segment of society.

There is much that can be said about the proposed revisions in the Criminal Code and the relationship to a safer and more just society. Many assumptions can be made and shall be made regarding the various sections of the Criminal Code without seeing their relationships to other forces in society.

It takes more than the breaking of a law to make a criminal. Criminal behaviour is precipitated by a myriad of social causes and ills. Desperate people often resort to desperate means in order to survive or to maintain the family unit. We must address the roles of poverty, racism, family violence, depression, plus many other factors to determine the relationship to criminal behaviour.

We could add a million more laws to the Criminal Code and operate under the illusions that the more we have the better and the closer we will be to the utopian crimeless society. That is nothing but an illusion.

Society must be proactive in the most aggressive manner to prevent crime, thus diminishing the need for impulsive, knee-jerk reactive measures. We must stop pretending. We must stop applying solutions of the 1930s to the problems of the 21st century. This bill brings us one giant step closer to a safer society.

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5:10 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to stand in the House today to speak to Bill C-41, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to sentencing of criminal offenders.

Since the opening of the 35th Parliament on January 17, 1994 this government has set in motion a number of initiatives to reform and strengthen Canada's justice system.

Amendments have been tabled in the House of Commons to revise the Young Offenders Act to crack down on violent youth offenders. Legislation has been introduced to reform the corrections and parole systems in order to improve our handling of sex offenders and, in particular, those who victimize children.

Today we are discussing the initiative announced by the Minister of Justice to reform the sentencing process in the Criminal Code. Bill C-41 is a well balanced, wide ranging bill that not only reorganizes but rationalizes the sentencing system in Canada. These reforms provide a number of options that address the public's concern for safety and the victims' demands for restitution. They include an important principle that serious offenders should be treated differently from minor or first time offenders.

Currently Parliament's role in sentencing is limited to setting maximum penalties for specific offences. The court systems in each province have been responsible for determining the purposes and principles of sentencing. As a result the values in sentencing structures in Canada's judicial system have varied from province to province.

Under the proposal a statement of purpose and principles would be added to the Criminal Code to provide guidance to judges from coast to coast in the sentencing process. The statement describes the objectives of sentencing as follows. They help in the rehabilitation of offenders as law-abiding persons, separate offenders from society where necessary, providing restitution to individual victims or the community, promoting a sense of responsibility by offenders including encouraging acknowledgement by offenders of the harm done to victims, denouncing unlawful conduct and finally deterring the offender and other people from committing offences.

This provision would allow the federal government to take a lead role in directing the courts on the fundamental purpose of sentencing, that is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.

Furthermore the proposed statement of principles would direct the courts to hand down sentences that reflect the seriousness of the crimes. The proposed statement of principles would meet the concern about hate motivated crime and crime committed by those in a position of trust or authority in society. It would state that these types of crimes must be considered aggravating circumstances, therefore carrying heavier weight when handing down a sentence.

Bill C-41 also provides amendments to the Criminal Code that would improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency of the sentencing system. First it needs to amend the probation provisions of the Criminal Code. The proposal would encourage the transfer of important information to the courts during sentencing hearings.

The Criminal Code would be amended to specify that basic information be included in pre-sentence reports, including the offenders' juvenile records, their criminal records, information about the offenders' employment and social history and active steps taken toward rehabilitation.

Furthermore the bill seeks to strengthen the penalties for breach of probation. Strict time limits for reporting to a probation officer, for example, will be added to the Criminal Code. The penalties for breaking these conditions of probation would also be increased to bring more credibility to the probation system.

Second, if the bill is adopted by the House it will work to decrease the work load of Canada's already overburdened court system. Like most Canadians, I shudder every time I hear of a case that has been thrown out of court because of delays caused by an exhausted court docket.

The bill provides alternative measures to court proceedings that would prevent more criminal behaviour and would lessen the harm that can sometimes be done when minor offenders are dealt with through the courts. Furthermore alternative measures would involve the community and put greater emphasis on victim-offender reconciliation in court proceedings.

A final area of concern addressed by the bill is the impact of criminal activities on the victims of crimes. I am pleased the Minister of Justice has listened to the needs and concerns of those citizens. Victims feel a sense of frustration and loss when dealing with the criminal justice system. They want their voices heard. In particular they want to be involved in the process and have their interests taken into account during sentencing hearings. Bill C-41 addresses these concerns.

In recent years our justice system has seen the development and limited use of victim impact statements. The bill would oblige judges in sentencing hearings to consider these statements when handing down their penalties. This would ensure that a victim has the opportunity to speak about the harm inflicted upon them by the offender and would ensure that the victim's experience was taken into account in determining whether the parole ineligibility should be reduced.

We all know that crime is very costly not only to the judicial system but more importantly to the victims I speak of. Often expensive or cherished family heirlooms and personal possessions are stolen, lost or damaged during the commission of a crime. Currently if victims wish to seek restitution for personal or property damages they must make a special application to the court or seek recourse through costly civil litigation.

While they should not lose their right to follow a civil course of action, Bill C-41 would allow judges under their own volition to consider restitution to cover property and personal injury suffered by victims.

We can be proud of these proposals. They are indicative of the government's commitment to the rights of the victims of crime.

I would like to take a moment to compliment the Nepean Police Services victim crisis branch for the work it has been performing for victims of crime since 1983. Staffed mainly by a large contingency of trained volunteers from my city of Nepean, the service provides direct crisis intervention assessment, short term counselling and referral to suitable community resources to individuals and families that suffer the effects of trauma due to crime.

The mandate of the Nepean victim crisis branch not only operates in the best interest of the client it serves but follows the mandate set out by the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada.

I am pleased to stand here today in support of Bill C-41. I would like to congratulate the Minister of Justice for having the heart and courage to listen to Canadians and for carrying out the promises we on this side of the House laid out in our electoral platforms. I am convinced that all who carefully examine the provisions of the bill will recognize that it is in the best interest of Canada and works toward restoring Canadians' faith in the safety of their homes and streets.

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5:20 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the Bill C-41 amendments to the Criminal Code respecting sentencing.

It seems to me that the Liberal Party, as I mentioned earlier today in another speech, has been listening to the Reform Party but only with one ear. I say "only with one ear" because it has made a bit of a U-turn and is only halfway around the curve. If that party were to listen with both ears perhaps we would get all the way around the U-turn, get the job done once and for all, and get it done properly. As Reform members on this side of the House we feel the job is not being done by this bill.

It would have been simple to get it done. Then we could have moved on to other things of equal importance such as unemployment and deficit control. Here we are talking about a little change to the Criminal Code that could be so much better. If I do have to praise the Liberals for their efforts in the bill it would be so faint that it would never be heard above the noise that sometimes comes from that side of the House.

As Reformers we are serious. We want serious changes to the Criminal Code to recognize that victims deserve our sympathy and criminals are to be punished. This is a relatively simple statement of policy, but we find that the bill is into mind reading

games in order to determine the state of mind of a criminal when he commits a criminal act.

I ask the mover of the bill and the government that is introducing the bill if they can tell me the difference from a victim's point of view between, for example, someone who is murdered out of hate or someone who is murdered because he or she happens to be an innocent bystander when a bank is being robbed and catches a stray bullet. In both cases the victim is dead. Perhaps this analogy is not very good because the victims in both cases are dead and their opinions would be hard to obtain. However let us think about that particular point. A victim is a victim.

As my colleague was saying just a few minutes ago, if we are going to start differentiating between the motivation of the criminal in determination of the sentencing and what went through his mind when we determine sentencing, we are totally and absolutely forgetting the fact that the victim and society are what criminal law is here to protect. That is the number one objective. Canadians are equal in every sense under the law. If we are going to start differentiating between one class and another class then I agree with my colleague from Kootenay East that the country will have lost it.

My point is that whether it is motivated by hate or any other reason the victim suffers. The whole reason we have criminal laws in our country is to ensure that society and individuals are protected.

Any attempt to vary the sentencing according to the mindset of the criminal will not only do what I have just said. It will cause more avenues of appeal by the criminal and more money to be spent by the legal profession and the courts to review the case ad nauseam while the innocent victim is ignored, helpless and forgotten.

The Minister of Justice will tell us that he is introducing victim impact statements. This is only a very small step in the recognition that victims have rights. I am glad to see they are introducing victim statements. It is the first acknowledgement we have had. The Reform Party policy states that where there is a conflict between the rights of the criminal and the rights of the victim, the victim's rights shall prevail.

Here we have not only a small acknowledgement but the first acknowledgement that we should be hearing from the victim, that we should be considering what has happened to him. We can deal with the criminal. We can lock him up. We do not advocate that we throw away the key. We do advocate that we have rehabilitation, that we have punishment and that society has to be protected. That is part and parcel but let us remember the victim is number one.

Talking about the review after 15 years, the very faint hope clause, the government is going to allow a victim impact statement when the criminal comes up for a parole hearing after an automatic 15-year period if he is in for longer. Again I think it is getting a bit late if we have to wait until then to hear what has happened to the victim.

As I said, let us get the job done once and for all so we can move on to other things that are equally important. We feel we should talk about the debt and the deficit. Crime is important. The debt is important. If we get the job all wrapped up at once we could really improve the efficiency of the House.

Another thing I want to speak about is that the court will become an offshoot of the credit bureau: if your credit is no good you are off the hook as far as fines are concerned. Taking a look at the bill, I quote from section 734.2 regarding fines: "A court may fine an offender under this section only if the court is satisfied that the offender is able to pay the fine discharged under section 736".

We are only going to fine people if they can afford to pay. The rich get it in the neck and the poor get off scot-free. Is that what we are saying? Does this mean that destitute criminals are going to get a free ride, commit petty crimes and small thefts and get parking tickets and so on with impunity? If they have no money they do not have to pay. It says it right there. That is the section.

Who is going to believe him if he is standing in dock saying: "Your Honour, I have no money"? Is the court going to say: "Let us set this case aside and launch an investigation into how much money is in his bank account and how much money he owes on his credit card"?

Let us be reasonable. The law has to be applied to everybody regardless of their status in society. Not only are we talking about creating different classes according to their mindset, but we are talking about different classes according to their ability to pay. More pay for it, more avenues are appealed and so on.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from May 6, 1994 consideration of the motion and amendment.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, most people have heard the expression if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This is what ran through my mind as I studied the wording of the

motion before us and the previous debate which took place on March 18, 1994.

If we were to limit solely to individuals the right to donate to a federal political cause, we would surely want to do so for a good and sensible reason. Frankly, I do not see that good and sensible reason.

There is ample evidence that access to large amounts of money does not in itself ensure success in an election or in any other political activity for that matter. There is no need whatsoever to restrict the size of political donations.

The traditional parties in this House authorized enormous sums to be spent on the yes side of the Charlottetown accord referendum but it was the no side with just a fraction of the resource but with all the logic on its side that won the referendum.

As a result of the money spent by the yes side, there was no success in buying the result. As another example I use the National Party, which formed prior to the past federal election. It received a huge donation from just one person. I believe that it may have been in the range of $4 million to $5 million.

I well remember the billboards going up all around Vancouver several months prior to the election. It was very clear that the National Party was being well funded and there was certainly no shortage of funds for the individual campaigns.

Despite this abundance of funding, the National Party has in the last week or so wound up its affairs without electing a single member to this House. In contrast, if we look at the Reform Party of Canada, information from Elections Canada shows that Reform spent significantly less per person elected to this House than any other party in the last election.

Reform also received virtually all of its funding from individual small donations. In my riding we raised between $40,000 and $50,000. If memory serves me only one donation was above $200. Well over 90 per cent were below $90.

I see absolutely no need to limit the freedom of people to donate any amount they wish to political parties. As I have already said there are ample examples that money alone does not affect the outcome of an election.

There is already full disclosure of donors to election campaigns and that is all that is needed for interested voters to track down the source of funds. The corporations and the organizations such as the Federation of Labour, which may donate to various political parties, are after all just groups of individuals. It does not take much work to find out who is behind the donations.

The present system works pretty well but let us suppose for a moment that legislation were actually brought into this House to do what is requested in motion M-150, that is, to limit solely to individuals the right to donate to a political party.

The law could easily be broken by a corporation which, as members will remember, is simply a group of individuals. All that would happen is that the individual board members would make individual donations to the party. Within organizations other than corporations such as unions, the new law could be circumvented simply by having the members make the donations.

How would this avoidance of the law be detected? There is absolutely no point in putting in place a law which could be so easily ignored quite apart from the fact it would be an attack on our individual freedom to contribute to the special interest group of our choice.

The previous government with the full co-operation of the opposition old line parties tried to muzzle organizations like the National Citizen's Coalition with laws similar to the one proposed in this motion. Thank goodness past attempts by the old line parties to do this have been struck down by the courts.

Members in this House cherish their right to freedom of speech but sometimes some of them give the impression they would prefer if such freedoms were not extended to organizations such as the National Citizen's Coalition. Why? Simply because it could be embarrassing exposure of government waste which this House could easily eliminate if there were the will to do so.

To anyone who thinks that way I say tough luck. Maybe the truth hurts but it is morally wrong to pass laws that attempt to muzzle the free speech rights of organizations like the National Citizen's Coalition. It is also morally wrong to try to control elections and referendums by restricting the ability of people to contribute financially to the parties or issues they support.

Of course the supporters of this motion will argue that the corporations or the individuals making large donations are expecting something in return. The inference is that the elected person or government would reward with patronage or contracts anyone who supported their campaigns with large donations. The truth is that most people donate to parties and candidates because they believe that the policies and promises are consistent with their own political beliefs.

Of course they expect rewards. These are not necessarily sinister or immoral in nature. For example, donors to the Reform Party obviously want Reform to form the government. This is because among other things they expect the reward of job creation, lower taxes and more disposable income that come with getting government expenditures under control.

They expect the reward for their children to be a manageable rather than an out of control federal debt. They expect the reward of a return to sensible immigration levels and solutions to the refugee and crime problems. They expect the reward of direct democracy through the citizens' right to initiative referendum and recall, recall of an MP who is not properly representing his or her constituents. Are these causes not worth donating to?

It is not the least bit surprising to me that people want to contribute to a party which will give them such rewards. I will not vote to restrict their ability to do so. I am prepared to let the free market decide what is philosophically worth supporting. I am prepared to let the free market then decide what is the appropriate level of support.

My constituents can count on my protection of their right to support the party and candidate of their choice to the financial extent they believe is appropriate.

Finally, in dealing with the proposed amendment I have the following comments. The amendment if passed could force taxpayers to contribute $1 per voter to each candidate in the riding. What a cash cow that would be. We would have candidates and parties springing up all over the place to climb into the trough for the guarantee of an $80,000 handout every time an election was called. The worst part would be that candidates would not have to earn the right to their donors' support. It would be the worst example of grants using taxpayers' money I would ever see.

To support this amendment would be to support more government waste of tax revenues. How easy it is to give away other people's money. I wonder whether the supporters of this amendment would be prepared to give money out of their own pocket to support the amendment.

I will vote against the amendment and the motion.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

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.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

An hon. member

They agree.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

No, I am referring to the hon. member who said that he was-

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

An hon. member

He was against the amendment.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Ah, he is against the amendment. I must have misunderstood.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I was distracted by the noise in my vicinity.

So, to get back to these figures, these are very substantial amounts. Perhaps I may start with the party in power. I am quoting again from the report of the Chief Electoral Officer for 1992, to look at the extent of these contributions. The SNC: $78,417; Canadian Pacific: $63,000; Mr. John F. Bankes: $48,454; Imasco: $47,000. I will go a little faster: Royal Bank of Canada; $45,000; Bank of Nova Scotia: $42,000; CIBC: $42,258; Toronto Dominion Bank: $40,872. There are other banks as well, and banks certainly have a vested interest: mortgage rates, and so forth.

As for the Conservatives, there was Bombardier: $70,480; Canadian Pacific, playing it safe again: $64,233; Bank of Montreal: $48,833; Bank of Nova Scotia: $42,000; Brascan Ltd.: $30,000; Baton Broadcasting: $28,833; BCE Inc.: $25,000; National Bank: $25,000. And there are more.

The Reform Party also had a number of contributions over $5,000, although not as substantial. I also have another example. The Bloc Quebecois, although under no obligation to do so, decided to act in the spirit of the legislation passed in Quebec, when in 1993, it raised $3,500,000 donations from 70,000 different individuals, the average donation being $50.

When we talked about real power during the election campaign, that is what we meant. We wanted to represent the voters, first and foremost, and as far as I know, corporations do not vote.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this amendment which restricts individual donations to political parties to $1. It sounds like an extreme thing in the current political context and I guess it is, but I am not naive enough to believe that I will witness something like this happening in Canada in my lifetime. However, I do think the debate this afternoon allows me to enunciate a few principles which I believe in and which I believe should be applied to political fundraising.

My friend from the Reform Party indicated a few minutes ago that he does not think the system is that bad and that it should not be fixed. He was not concerned about the use of money buying elections or buying a referendum. He pointed out the Charlottetown accord. We all know the yes side in the Charlottetown accord referendum spent more money than the no side. Despite that, it lost.

Anybody with an ounce of brains knows that the presence of money in any election campaign is not a guarantee of success. We all know that. Again, I think anyone with an ounce of brains realizes that money can help and it can make a big difference under many, many circumstances. That is why political parties and politicians are constantly on the search for money. They know it helps.

Let me ask my good friend from the Reform Party a question. How many candidates were there in the last presidential election in the United States? We know of three prominent candidates: Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Perot. They all did fairly well. Mr. Clinton won, but there were about 40 other candidates. How come we never heard about the other 40 candidates for the highest office in the United States? They did not have any money to provide a profile.

The only person who could break that barrier was Mr. Perot. That was because he is a billionaire. He was able to literally buy a successful campaign, successful that is in the context of a third party candidate. He could not beat the established candidates from the Republican and Democrat parties, but he could put on a fair showing because he had enormous financial resources. Money can make a difference even in lost causes such as in the case of Mr. Perot.

I support this amendment to the motion because I happen to believe that the business of political campaigns is public busi-

ness. I believe that public business should be paid for by the public. It should be publicly financed not privately financed.

I believe that democracy works best when we involve as many Canadians as possible and that includes the financing of election campaigns. We should not as democrats and believing in a democracy when calling an election turn that engagement, if I can call it that, over to private parties or private donors.

When General Motors carries out certain private affairs, let us say looking for a new board of directors, does it come to the public and say: "Gee, we have this little election campaign of our own to find our new board of directors and we would like you to help out". General Motors does not do that. It does it on its own. It expects that particular private engagement to be paid for privately by the shareholders of General Motors. We should apply exactly the same logic when it comes to political campaigns. We should not be looking to private donors to finance election campaigns. But we do it.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the system is fraught with corruption, that it is all broken down. But I think that we as politicians should constantly strive to do better, to improve our institutions including the largest and most pervasive institution that we have, the institution of democracy.

In this particular era we often hear the term level playing field. We want a level playing field when it comes to politics and especially election campaigns. But when we have private donations there is an edge for those who have money.

I will use the old jargon that when it comes to licking stamps, stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors and walking the streets the poor, the modest people, average Canadians are on equal terms with the rich. They are. They can walk as well and they can knock as well and they can lick stamps as well as anyone with a huge bank account. The one difference is that the rich have money and they can exercise influence. They can bring their clout to bear with money, something that most people do not have because most of us are not in relative terms rich. Therefore we should constantly look for a level playing field.

Then there is the whole matter of perception. There is a perception out there that money does have a major influence in political decisions in our politics, in our governing. I do not happen to believe that it is as bad as some people believe, but there is that perception that if you have money, if you are high and mighty you are going to get a little closer to the politicians, a little closer to the decision makers and you are going to have access and influence that other people do not have. That is the kind of thing that we should avoid.

Politicians and the people who work around politicians should not be spending a lot of time raising money. We should be spending our time governing the country, working on policy, working on legislation. It is not so bad in this country vis-a-vis the United States.

We hear horror stories about how much time politicians in the United States have to spend on the road raising money. Is that why Americans send congressmen or senators to Washington, so they can spend 50 per cent of their time raising money? I do not think the purpose of politics is to go around raising money. Yet a lot of politicians in the United States have to do that.

In conclusion, I would say that by moving toward a more publicly financed system in this country we would have a better, stronger and more representative democracy.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the Liberal amendment to the motion that is before us today. The amendment is to reduce the $5,000 figure to $1. I thought I was going to have the privilege of agreeing with the hon. member for St. James. Unfortunately, as usual, they take an entirely different point of view from ourselves.

I was wondering if the hon. member actually understood the main motion in front of us. We are not talking here about the federal government financing political parties. If I read the main motion, in part it says: "the government should bring in legislation limiting solely to individuals the right to donate to a federal political party, and restricting such donations to $5,000 a year".

That has been amended by the Liberals down to $1. We are not talking here about the federal government giving money to political parties. We are talking about the right of Canadians to donate to a political party of their choice. That would be completely denied apart from one single dollar by the amendment put forth by the Liberals.

Perhaps they have a problem raising money. I took a look at some of the donations and donors in the last election. Some constituencies had donations from 300 or 400 different contributors. Multiply that by the money they are allowed to give and of course they were able to finance their campaign. Under this amendment the entire constituency split between several different parties would be able to spend $300, $400 or perhaps $500 in total.

If he thinks we can get through to the electorate, publish brochures, purchase television advertising and split all that between two or three parties with only $500, the previous speaker must know something I do not know.

He was talking about the concern of raising money. In the last election the Reform Party was able to raise almost $10 million or $12 million from small donors. Perhaps the previous speaker

may wish to run under a Reform banner. Then money may not be that difficult to raise in future.

We as Reformers believe that the federal government should not be in the business of financially subsidizing political parties, which is in direct opposition to the previous speaker.

We believe that political parties and lobby groups should be self-funding, raise their own money, and be self-reliant. The level of financial support is going to be totally dependent upon the generosity of the people who support their cause.

We had a demonstration outside the Chamber this afternoon. Several thousand people showed up to support their particular cause. There is no doubt that particular lobby is going to be effective in raising money to advance its particular cause because people support the cause.

That is what politics and political parties are all about. Canadians say: "This is the policy I want to see put forth. Here is the money I wish to use to support them. Go ahead and accomplish the objectives".

We are against the tax credit that makes political donations subsidized by the federal government. We hear so often in the Chamber about how we should subsidize the poor and we should subsidize the disadvantaged. However, when it comes to political donations, it gets turned upside down and the subsidy goes to the largest, the richest and the party that spends most money which quite often is the party in power.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

They overspend.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

They always overspend. They overspend on the budget. They overspend in every department. Now they overspend in the campaigns.

Let us stop the federal subsidization of political parties and let them get on with it. If they can get the support of the people that way we will have a true representative democracy where people are prepared to put their money where their mouth is. That is what it is all about.

In 1991 the main estimates show that it cost the taxpayer of Canada, whether he believed in politics or not, $11,503,800 to subsidize political parties, and that was not an election year.

We do not have the numbers for the election in 1993, but I can assure the House that it is going to be a lot more than the $11,503,800 that taxpayers put out whether or not they think we should all be thrown out of office.

I would suggest to the mover of the main motion and to the mover of the amendment that they get their heads together and come up with a real policy, a reform policy that gets government out of subsidizing political parties.

Let us put money where our mouth is and let us introduce some real legislation to get the job done.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to close this debate on the motion calling for political parties to be financed solely by individuals who have the right to vote, thereby excluding unions, profit and non-profit organizations as well as corporations, so that only eligible voters have the right to donate to political parties.

I think this is in keeping with the measures taken over the past two decades. We will recall that twenty years ago, party financing depended chiefly-95 per cent of the time-on corporations.

Through changes to the election law, to allow tax credits for example, improvements were made, with the result that 40 per cent of the financing now comes from individuals. I think we need to take one more step toward a fully democratic system, in accordance with the electoral wish expressed by all the parties represented in this House to strive for fiscal consolidation. It seems to me that one way to achieve this is by limiting solely to eligible voters the right to donate to political parties.

At present, the only purpose of the federal election law is to imposes a ceiling on election expenses. Our public financing proposal would complete existing regulations in that it would apply before, during and after elections.

This motion is also consistent with the spirit of the bill. The hon. members remember the bill on lobbyists, Bill C-43, that the government introduced out of concern for transparency and integrity. I would remind the government that there is much talk in the red book of the need for restoring voters confidence, promoting integrity within political institutions and limiting conflict of interest and influence peddling. Would public financing not be a good way to implement the principles set out in the red book you brandished throughout the election campaign? Would it not be a positive step toward achieving these goals?

Over the past three hours of debate, government members have referred repeatedly to the Lortie Report. Let us not forget that this report was commissioned by the Conservative government. Before the 1988 elections, Mr. Mulroney had promised to institute public financing at the federal level, like in Quebec. This announcement made the front page of La Presse . Following the elections, he decided to establish the Lortie Commission to release itself somewhat of its responsibility in that regard. The commission, which was established on November 15, 1989, and was presided by Pierre Lortie, tabled its report in 1991. In this report, Mr. Lortie indicated that the report itself showed that

certain donations might be made in hope of obtaining some direct material gain.

That is on page 448 of the Lortie Report and the hon. members failed to mention it while on the subject of public financing.

I also wish to remind you that public financing would induce many people who are in a conflict of interest position not to be. Section 121 of the Criminal Code clearly states that making a donation with the intention of receiving a favour from a government is a criminal offence.

Consequently, every time someone gives $50,000 to a political party, there is a risk of that person expecting the favour to be returned. The Lortie Report makes that very clear.

The report goes on to say that limiting contributions to candidates would have little impact on campaign financing but would provide a kind of "insurance policy" against any attempt to exert undue influence.

Again according to the report, studies done on the financing of candidates' campaigns in 1988 show that outgoing members, especially ministers, receive a greater number of large donations than other candidates. Why do companies give more to ministers than to others? There may be some influence peddling.

In this regard, I would like to quote from an article in the March 31, 1994 issue of Hill Times , which was itself quoted in the April 8, 1994 issue of Le Soleil . It says that the largest donations were made by the Seafarers' International Union of Canada, which gave a total of $31,500 split among 11 Liberal candidates. Six of them are now ministers or secretaries of state. The seafarers' union is closely followed by Burns Fry, Onex Corporation, Molson, three major communications companies, namely Rogers, Canwest Global and Unitel, and then pharmaceutical companies Merck Frosst, Apotex Limited and Magna International.

In all, some 24 ministers, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and six secretaries of state from the Liberal government, benefited from these companies' generosity. There is room for questions.

We recognize that there is a danger. There is a risk of influence peddling, and limiting to individuals the right to finance political parties would address that problem. Of course, a lower ceiling could be justified, say from $5,000 to $3,000, and I, for one, would be open to reducing the amount. Still, $5,000 sounds pretty reasonable to me. We must draw a line somewhere. Some have also invoked the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, saying it would not allow us to limit corporate involvement.

It can never be said often enough: it is not companies or corporate entities but citizens who vote in an election. The motion confirms the primacy of voters over public finances. Is this not in keeping with the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? This is also aimed at giving all citizens a renewed taste for getting involved in and controlling their political institutions whose credibility has been greatly undermined in the past, as we may recall.

The Chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada, Allan Taylor, in a speech given on February 26, 1991, argued that corporate funding of political parties does not contribute to the continuing democratization of and popular participation in politics. This quote is taken from page 446 of the Lortie report dealing with Mr. Taylor, Chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada. It is precisely this process of democratization and participation that we want to restore by proposing popular financing for political parties.

Restoring confidence means minimizing the dependence of all candidates, whoever they are, on large donations and thus limiting the risk of breach of trust. Is financing by the people feasible now? Keep in mind that seven Canadian provinces and Canada have legislated on financing. Four provinces limit donations; four provinces and Canada require publishing the source of donations.

Quebec is the most progressive in this regard since political parties there are financed only by the people. It is not something new, then, and in practice, one federal political party, the Bloc Quebecois, has put popular financing in its bylaws. No company, union or association gave anything to any Bloc candidate or to the national party during the election campaign, but we were still able to spend $3.5 million, with an average donation of less than $50 per contributor.

Now, and I conclude with this, I think that two main principles guide me and my fellow members in the Parti Quebecois, who have been joined by our colleagues in the Reform Party, so that popular financing will be enacted soon.

On the subject of transparency, voters want their elected representatives, their members of Parliament, to serve the common good and not vested interests. A voter who gives $20 has much less clout than a company that gives $50,000. If people finance political parties, voters become important again and parties are forced to be closer to their constituents and be concerned about their needs. The membership is more valued and has a greater feeling of belonging to the party; it invigorates democracy in a society and also forces a party to decentralize its authority.

I will close with this sentence, hoping that it might influence members in power and in opposition: "Tell me who finances you and I will tell you whom you serve."

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the bill introduced by the hon. member for Richelieu reflects the general principles defined by the Parti Quebecois when it came to power in 1976, which included a more grass-roots approach to the way political parties operated and to government in general. I believe this was a reaction to the way certain politicians behaved in Quebec and in Canada, but especially in Quebec, since the Parti Quebecois is a provincial

party, when the public began to challenge the integrity of politicians.

We all know the stories about the "frigidaires à Duplessis", refrigerators used to buy votes, and bottles of gin handed out during election campaigns. This was part of the political folklore, but there was also the story of the Liberal Party's Brinks trucks in 1970, in Quebec.

The Parti Quebecois wanted to clean up the system. I think we have seen what happened since that time, and today, even the Liberal Party of Quebec operates according to the democratic rules now in effect in Quebec. That does not prevent them from having a very substantial campaign fund, though it failed to win them the last election.

The fact remains that all parties abide by this rule. Other governments in Canada have tried to imitate the system but did not go far enough, which is why the hon. member for Richelieu presented his motion.

I think my time is up, Mr. Speaker.

Party FundraisingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 6.16 p.m., is the House ready for the question?