Madam Speaker, it is a delight to be able to enter into this debate today on a subject that is very dear to my heart. It is the subject of freedom. It is the subject of democracy. It is the subject of representation of the people. It is the subject of the use of the taxpayers' money. It is a subject in which I have a great interest.
I respectfully indicate to the member who has brought this bill forward that it is a very ill-advised bill. It is ill advised primarily because there is a proposal here to manipulate the democratic process from Ottawa, from a central government. That is not a democratic process. We take away people's freedoms when there are all of these different restrictions, especially the ones which are being promoted here.
I would like to point out to the member that it is not the government that funds the parties. The reason to have the registration of individuals for the voting process is to get them on the ballot. The only reason they would want to be organized into parties would be in order for them to effectively communicate a party policy and platform.
There is nothing preventing individuals from running as independents. That freedom must be preserved. If people in a community want to elect an independent, they should be able to do so. One might say he or she has that freedom but the problem with the current registration system is that they have that freedom at their own expense while the others have it at public expense.
It is not the government, it is not Ottawa, it is not the Liberal Party nor any other party that funds the elections. It is the taxpayer. The root of the problem we are dealing with here is that there are politicians in Ottawa who presume to pluck the money out of the pocket of the taxpayer and they decide who then gets to use it.
The finest solution to this would be to eliminate the funding of elections by Elections Canada, by the people of the country, through this process. Let us stop to ask the question: Why should I as a taxpayer send a bunch of money to Ottawa, let the bureaucrats spin it around and see how much spills over back to me if I qualify according to some arbitrary rules? When it comes to electing representatives to this place, each one of us as Canadians should have the right to use our money for whatever purpose we want and not be controlled by a centralist government which may have opposite political views.
I will relate a practical incident of this. For many years I was a member of a union. I had no choice in the matter. I know I could have chosen a different profession but it just so happened that I went into the teaching profession. Both at the secondary and post-secondary levels it was a condition of my employment that I belong to that union or association.
I was very annoyed when the union to which I was forced to belong gave donations to a political party, namely the NDP. I strongly disagreed with that but I had no choice. My democratic right, my democratic freedom was beat upon by that principle. They said: "It is democratic. There was a majority vote in our union meeting to send $100,000 to the NDP". I said that did not matter, that in this instance they were engaging in an activity I did not personally agree with and which had nothing to do with representing me to my employer.
We are talking about the same thing here. We are talking about the Liberal government or a Conservative government in the past, maybe even a Reform government in the future. I do not think we want to give any of those governments the right to say: "We are going to allow the taxpayers to put their money into the pot and they will get it back if they meet certain restrictions, but if they do not they are not permitted to". That is a violation of equality. It is a violation of the principle of economic freedom.
Another thing of importance is I have had a lot of representations from my constituents and I share the concern many of them have expressed with respect to the official opposition in this House. I am sure there are a lot of people on the government side who despair of the fact that there are separatist opposition members and Reform opposition members. That is just how democracy works. That has always been my response.
I have had people say to me: "Is there not something in our Constitution that we could use to get those separatists out of here? What right do they have to be here if their goal is to tear the country apart?" I always answer that I do not like it either but the fact is that by some means they won the support of the people in their constituencies. Indeed in the last election 54 of 75 seats in Quebec were won by separatists, by members of the Bloc party and I for one will not be the one who says that those people in those constituencies do not have the right to send to this place whomever they will. That right must be preserved. We must not intrude upon that by giving funding preferentially to one group or the other,
arbitrarily decided by the government of the day. I would not want to be a part of that.
Meanwhile I believe it is a proper role of government to so arrange its affairs that people in this country will not want to leave it. I do believe this is such a wonderful country that I would never want to leave it. I would not want to do anything to cause this country to fall apart.
It often hurts me as a staunch, loyal Canadian with great loyalty to my country when members on the government side falsely accuse that Reformers are here to tear apart the country. That is not true. We are here to keep this country together, to help build it, to become strong, to keep our economic independence from other people in the world, other countries, but also to have economic independence for the citizens of this wonderful country.
It is true we disagree with the governing party of the day on how some of these things must be done. I for one believe it is very healthy for the Reform Party to be here. It is very healthy for us to have the voice that says we should not be spending endless money that our children and grandchildren will have to repay. We have a role to play in holding this government financially accountable.
I will not claim that we have had the total success we wanted to have. It is true that the current government is spending less than the previous government did, but it is still adding to the debt. I have the right on behalf of my constituents to voice that and to express it strongly here.
I also point out that by the rules proposed by this member I would not have been eligible to receive the rebate on my election expenses because, according to him, my party would not have been registered.