Mr. Speaker, the legislation I have just introduced forms part of the eight point action plan on ethics, announced on June 11, 2002, by the Prime Minister of Canada, to improve the fairness and transparency of Canada's electoral system. These changes also build on an overhaul of our electoral legislation, which I introduced in the last Parliament through Bill C-2, to modernize many aspects of the Canada Elections Act.
There has long been a perception, whether founded or not, that certain groups in society--corporations, unions and the wealthy--may exercise undue influence in our political system through the financial contributions they make to political parties and candidates. This legislation addresses this perception and enhances the fairness and transparency of our political system by ensuring that full disclosure of contributions and financial controls would apply to all political participants.
While parties and candidates are already subject to disclosure requirements, other important participants in the political process are not.
According the bill, party riding associations, leadership candidates and nomination contestants would now be required to disclose contributions received as well as expenses incurred to the Chief Electoral Officer.
Furthermore, nomination contestants would be subject to a spending limit equivalent to 50% of the candidates' spending limit in the same riding in the previous election.
A further key element to the bill is a prohibition on contributions from corporations, unions and other associations. As a minor exception to this prohibition, corporations, union and associations would be allowed to contribute a maximum of $1,000 annually to the aggregate of candidates, local associations, and nomination contestants of a registered political party.
The bill would limit the amount that individuals could contribute: the aggregate of a $10,000 annual donation to a registered party, all of its local associations, candidates and nomination contestants combined. Individuals would be allowed to contribute $10,000 to the leadership contestants in a particular leadership campaign.
Together, these reforms would increase confidence of Canadians in our electoral system.
Of course, the virtual elimination of political contributions from corporations and unions, and the new limits on individual contributions, would have a significant financial impact on political parties and, to a lesser extent, on candidates.
For that reason, the bill would also increase the financial assistance already provided to political parties and candidates.
Thus, the percentage of election expenses that can be reimbursed to parties would be increased from 22.5% to 50%—as is already the case for candidates—and the definition of reimbursable election expenses would be broadened to include polling. The ceiling for expenses eligible for reimbursement would be increased correspondingly.
The qualification threshold for reimbursement of candidate expenses would be lowered from 15% to 10% of the number of valid votes cast in the riding.
This will allow more candidates—unsuccessful candidates in this case—to receive reimbursement after elections.
As is already done in three provinces, registered parties will receive an allowance. It will be paid quarterly on the basis of the percentage of votes they obtained in the previous general election.
The measures in the bill reflect consultations that I have had with a wide range of experts and stakeholders, as well as provincial authorities across the country. They also draw on political financing measures that are already in place in several Canadian provinces, and indeed other countries as well.
I look forward to working with all members of this House on these changes to strengthen the connection between Canadians and their political representatives, and to increase public confidence in the integrity of our electoral system, a system that is already recognized as one of the finest in the world.