Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-24, which I could perhaps describe as plagiarizing the provincial legislation in effect in Quebec. I will not, however, since the bill before me today is not a carbon copy of the Quebec electoral law, which has been in effect for 26 years.
All week, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear my colleagues opposite speak highly of the late René Lévesque. To hear people across the way speak of René Lévesque like that warms the heart of a sovereignist, very much so.
Twenty six years ago, René Lévesque had a vision of the democratic political process. He had a vision of how to ensure that political parties are not bought, through contributions. Lévesque had a vision indeed.
The problem I have with this bill we are debating concerns the amount an individual may contribute, namely $10,000. That is a huge amount. I believe it is still a substantial enough amount to enable lobbyists to influence certain decisions.
I will give an example. Take the Minister of National Defence, a former vice-president of the Royal Bank in Toronto. He can very easily call up 20 of his friends and ask them to each write him a cheque for $10,000. Twenty times $10,000 is $200,000 that the Royal Bank would have contributed through the back door, or the side door.
Similarly, the Prime Minister of Canada can very easily pick up the phone and call Paul Desmarais at Power Corporation, asking him for $10,000. His friend Paul and his gang would come up with the $10,000.
The hon. member for LaSalle--Émard can very easily call up his buddies in shipping companies and say he needs $10,000. These are buddies from the shipping industry. Once again, only people in a certain category will be able to afford this kind of contribution. This $10,000 will allow them to continue influencing government decisions.
This is unacceptable. We are proposing that the limit be $3,000, the same as in the Quebec electoral law.
The other problem is also a serious one.
I would like to, if I may, come back on the issue of individual contributions. We in the Bloc Quebecois do not support corporate contributions. However, this is the 21st century, and contributions of $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 as proposed in the bill could be considered acceptable. However, we recommend instead that there be no corporate donations at all.
The other problem I see, and that I am compelled to talk about, is the famous issue of the appointment of returning officers in each riding. The current practice will be continued, namely that the governor in council will appoint all returning officers. Currently, with the Liberal Party in power, it will appoint its Liberal cronies, former MPs, former corporate directors.
As a result, when I have to discuss anything with my riding's returning officer, or if I have a complaint to file, I am dealing with a political opponent.
As is the case in baseball, I am starting out with two strikes against me. The system should be as it is in Quebec. Allow me to explain how things are done in Quebec.
The appointments of returning officers are done in several stages. First, the position is advertised in newspapers. Anyone who reads newspapers in Quebec can learn about the position. Candidates for the job undergo a written and oral exam. Afterward, a selection committee makes a decision. There are no representatives of political parties on the selection committee. As a result, returning officers in Quebec are apolitical. They do not talk about politics, just about how to apply the Act Respecting Electoral Lists during the election. That is what they do.
The Bloc Quebecois supports the bill before us in principle. However, the Bloc Quebecois would like to see the changes I have just mentioned.