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.