Mr. Speaker, one of the advantages of being a Liberal is there is no need to throw away dollars on lottery tickets. As a Liberal, all one does is raise taxes when there are dreams that must be realized.
This legislation is a lottery win for the Liberal Party and its huge debt. We know that debt was a major concern because one of the Prime Minister's aides was reported to have said this legislation would wipe out the party debt within months.
Canadians who have taken time to look at this legislation do not like it. They see it for what it is. It would force all Canadians to participate, no matter what party they support and no matter how deeply or not they want to be involved in politics. It would force every living Canadian to spend money on something that might or might not be a personal priority. We must remember it would eliminate the debt of the Liberal Party of Canada.
The legislation claims that it would open up the nomination process to more candidates. How can that be when the Liberal Party believes that candidates for election should be appointed by the Prime Minister? There cannot be an open nomination process when a dictatorial decision is made by the Prime Minister about filling certain quotas. If we look closely at this bill, it would do just the opposite to what the Liberals are saying about nominations. It would make it more difficult for a new person to walk along and join the process. The Liberals can hire an official agent or someone else, but a lot of people just cannot afford to do that.
It is obvious to anyone watching this place that the governing party looks kindly on the benign dictatorship style of governing. It is certainly obvious to those backbench members who have recently learned that they are no longer able to speak to certain issues that arise in this place. As we understand it, unless members opposite are prepared to stand and cheer for their leader, they will not be allowed to stand in the chamber to address any issue of their own.
We go beyond any benign dictatorship when a government forces citizens to give their hard earned tax dollars to parties they do not support. It should be noted that Canadians are learning with each passing day that any support they gave the Liberals in the past was probably a mistake.
The party to which I belong has long been a proponent of real democratic reform. We have been proposing and promoting democratic reform in Canada since 1987. Because of that, plus many other reasons, we have enjoyed tremendous financial and moral support from thinking Canadians. The Liberals, if they ever were a party of reform, lost the right to claim that decades ago.
Ours is a party where candidates for the leadership would not restrict membership sales in their own party so as to strengthen their grip on the party. Candidates would strangle their own party if that is what it takes to lead it.
I hope Canadians will take note of this legislation and remember it at the next election. If they do not remember, we will be only too happy to remind them. We will tell Canadians that the Liberals, their kissing cousins the Conservatives, their closest kin the New Democrats and yes, those great patriots the Bloc Québécois, all supported this legislation.
The Liberals like it because it fits their philosophy, “make taxpayers cough up for every hare-brained scheme that comes along”. The Progressive Conservative kissing cousins like it because they think it would buy them a little respectability and a few days more of life. The New Democratic Party closest kin like it because they too have debts and believe that hard work and earning one's way is for someone else. The super patriotic Bloc Québécois likes it because it loves the idea of joining hands to pockets with Canadians from coast to coast.
If the Prime Minister thinks this legacy legislation would whitewash the record of his tenure, he has another thing coming. No one will ever forget his cavalier attitude and dismissal of the millions that were stolen in the advertising scandal. No one will ever forget the scandalous firearms registration fiasco or the HRDC billion dollar boondoggle. Nor will anyone ever forget the billion dollar GST fraud scandals as it becomes an increasing part of the public consciousness. As our leader said so succinctly, “The true nature this bill is simply the replacement by the government of its addiction to large business and union donations with an addiction to taxpayer funding”.
Another point should be made. If a governing party falls from favour with the electorate, that party will have no worry about its future. It would not have to worry about individual or corporate contributions shrinking because the party would no longer enjoy the confidence of the country. This legislation would guarantee the survival of the party because by law the taxpayers would be forced to give it life support. It means that no matter how incompetent, despotic, arrogant or undeserving of support, that party would continue to exist because taxpayers would be forced to support it.
Let me put it another way. In 1993 the Progressive Conservatives went into a campaign with a loaded war chest. It did not matter. The people were fed up and threw them out. The war chest was empty at the end of that campaign and it is still empty because Canadians have never forgiven them and probably never will.
The Liberals, knowing their days are numbered and how ragged and down at the heels the Conservative Party is, took precautionary measures. They concocted this scheme to guarantee their survival. No matter how disgusted the voters are, it means that when the ancient mariner takes over he will have all those lovely crisp Canadian taxpayers' dollars to toss around like rose petals.
It could happen that the Prime Minister, who knows a bad idea when he sees one, might withdraw the legislation. If he thinks it would in any way help his successor, he might decide to take a pass on the legislation. Canadians would like to take more than a pass on the legislation. I will leave it to them to make that point to the Liberals when they meet in their constituencies.
Taxpayers should take notice of some facts and figures. They are already subsidizing slightly less than 40% of the funding of the parties in Canada. The legislation would push that direct subsidization to beyond 70%. It would not matter which party they support, where they live or what they believe. They would be paying into a huge pot of money that the Liberals are forcing them to fill. Of course the Liberals would be only too happy to be the first at that pot so they can get rid of their embarrassing debt.
Is this really an advancement for democracy? No, it is not. Our leader nailed it when he called it an autocratic solution to a democratic problem. The Liberals, the governing party which replaced the Conservatives, created the democratic problem. Canadians began to lose faith in politics when the Conservatives governed. It grew into a landslide after they had a few years of Liberal arrogance to watch.
If people thought they saw an angry electorate in 1993, wait till Canadians get wind of the legislation. Right now it has not hit the public consciousness, but when it does, the reaction will hit like a freight train.
It is not democracy when individuals are forced to support parties they do not favour. It takes even more control out of the hands of individual citizens and puts it in the hands of political operatives. Supporters of the Canadian Alliance will be outraged when they learn they are subsidizing the New Democrats or the Bloc Québécois; forget about the Liberals.
The two or three dozen Canadians who support New Democrats will be outraged when they learn that they are being forced to support the Canadian Alliance. A similar number of people who still think Conservatives have credibility will be shocked and appalled, and write letters to the editor expressing their outrage at being forced to subsidize the Liberals.
We must admit that the Canadian Alliance would benefit from the legislation, but we can and will argue that we had no idea that this legislation was coming and no hand whatsoever in its drafting. We can argue that even if corporate donations were banned outright, the Canadian Alliance would survive because our supporters give generously as individuals.
The figures do not lie. In 2001 the Liberals received donations from fewer than 5,000 individuals which accounted for 19% of their total fundraising. That same year nearly 50,000 individuals contributed to the Canadian Alliance and that provided over 61% of our funding. Why is the Prime Minister doing this?
In 2004 the Liberals would haul $8 million out of this forced fund that would nicely dispose of their $6.5 million debt, so the unable and the incompetent would have their debts and mistakes covered by the unwilling. It is the Liberal way. When the Liberals lose $1 billion to boondoggles they call in the taxpayers. When they lose $1 billion to GST fraud they call in the taxpayers. They lost a few million to fees and advertising and gave the minister an ambassadorship knowing that taxpayers would cover the cost.
This is bad and arrogant legislation. It is undemocratic and self-serving. It is disrespectful legislation that, as Canadians become more aware of it, will harden the resolve of Canadians to throw the Liberals out at the next election.
The Alliance will vote against it. If there is some reasoned thought on the other side to withdraw the legislation, we would be happy to offer a suggestion on how it could be improved. The only problem is that the suggestions we would make would not yield a windfall for the debt-ridden Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats, so I am not optimistic that we will be asked for very much advice.
This is bad legislation. Canadians will see it for what it is and they will tell their members when they go home on the spring break. I am sure some common sense will take place and we can look at some proper way to fund election time.