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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at the report stage of the bill.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, at the end of the time provided for government orders.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe there is unanimous consent for the recorded division to be further deferred until Tuesday, at the end of government orders.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment, and of the amendment to the amendment.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having an opportunity to speak to Bill C-24 which seeks to improve Canada's federal political financing procedures and to make the system fairer and more transparent.

When I first heard of the bill I questioned why we were going here and what needed to be revised? Certainly I would embrace the opportunity to hear opinions on all sides of this subject.

Canadians are justly proud of our system of democratic government that has been built up with so much care and effort over the years. Canadians value the transparency and the fairness of our electoral system that permits them to select members of Parliament who will represent them as well as express their views on important issues of the day.

I have had a very unique personal experience. I have been in public life since 1988 and that was at the same time that my brother-in-law became part of the American democratic system. There have been marked differences that I have been able to follow on a very up front and personal basis.

Canadians are gratified by the fact that Canada has become a watchword for openness and honesty, which has made it a model for many new democracies around the world. Most of us in the House would agree that our political process, including our electoral system, has in fact served us quite well.

However, as we know, democracy is a work in progress and it must change periodically to keep pace with the developments in our very dynamic society. This means that from time to time we must fine tune some of the elements so that they can continue to do the best job of serving Canadians.

For example, in recent years, some Canadians have expressed concerns about the way we finance electoral campaigns. They have told us that allowing well-to-do individuals, corporations and trade unions to make large donations to federal candidates carries along with it the danger that such a practice could allow some people and some groups to exercise undue influence over the deliberations of government and the political process. I should add that this is a perception and not a reality.

Still, as the members in the House know all too well, perception is important in politics. We must address these concerns, since if left unanswered they could undermine the confidence of Canadians in the fairness of government and in the justness of our political process.

This is precisely what the bill seeks to do. The reforms contained in the bill would go a long way toward strengthening public trust in our electoral system by renewing and improving the way we finance elections and bring greater transparency to the system.

I would like to take few moments to discuss some of the features contained in the bill and how they would achieve these noble goals.

Let us look at disclosure. As the government House leader stated when he first introduced the bill, the government has consulted experts, stakeholders, provincial authorities, and ordinary Canadians as to how they thought the current system was working and what would need to be added to it or changed in order to improve it.

We received a number of extremely valuable suggestions. One thing people told us time and time again was that they needed more information on how the electoral system was funded, where the funds come from, and how the money was used. The bill seeks to address this concern by means of a number of provisions designed to increase the transparency of our electoral financing system.

For example, it proposes to expand disclosure provisions so that Canadians could know exactly who is giving money to candidates and to parties, and how much they are receiving. It is clear that this is badly needed.

Currently only candidates and political parties are required to disclose the sources and the amounts of the contributions they receive to the Chief Electoral Officer. Even a casual observer of our political system would have to conclude that this is not adequate, since it omits some key players in the political process.

We must fill in these gaps with our knowledge by expanding this list to include other important participants.

With this in mind, the bill before us today contains provisions that would strengthen disclosure provisions and extend them to all political participants, including electoral district associations, leadership contestants and nomination contestants.

As part of this, all political participants would in the future be required to report contributions and expenses to the Chief Electoral Officer who would disclose the names and the addresses of those giving more than $200. Upon registration with the Chief Electoral Officer, leadership contestants would be required to disclose the amounts and the sources of contributions received prior to the date of registration.

In each of the four weeks immediately preceding a leadership convention candidates would have to submit information on amounts as well as sources of donations. Six months following the leadership contest they would have to submit information on all contributions received as well as expenses incurred to the Chief Electoral Officer.

Nomination contestants would also have to disclose amounts and sources of contributions as well as expenses incurred four months following the nomination contest, and if an election takes place during that period, four months after the election.

Electoral district associations would report contributions and expenses on an annual basis. They would also be allowed to issue tax receipts for contributions in between elections. As we can see, these new provisions would dramatically expand the information available to Canadians on how the system is funded and in doing so would go a long way toward enhancing public confidence in the integrity of our political system.

We looked at limiting where contributions come from. Better disclosure cannot by itself allay all the fears that large political donations may bring and may lead to a perception of undue political influence. That is why the bill would prohibit corporate and union donations, and would limit the amount individuals could contribute.

Only individuals would be able to make financial contributions to registered parties, and to leadership and nomination contestants. Contributions by individuals would be limited to $10,000 each year to registered parties and their electoral district association candidates and nomination contestants.

There is certainly room for debate in this area. Having been in public life since 1988 I can clearly and unequivocally state that nobody, no individual or corporation, has ever given me a $10,000 donation, so I think there is room for debate as to whether that is an appropriate limit for individuals.

During a leadership campaign individual contributions to a contestant of a registered party would be limited to $10,000. One small exception to this would be that corporations, unions and associations would be able to contribute a maximum of $1,000 in total to a party's candidates, nomination contestants and electoral district associations. Heavy penalties such as large fines and possible jail time would be levied to those organizations that try to get around this limit by telling employees to make contributions on their behalf. As we can see, these are fairly strong measures.

Prohibition of corporate and union contributions to political parties is not new. It was done in Quebec in 1977 and more recently it was done in Manitoba. It has been tried successfully in a number of other countries as well.

During the consultative process one of the strongest messages that came through was the need for a level playing field at the nomination level. This was a concern particularly expressed by women candidates. Pursuant to the bill, spending limits should be imposed at the nomination level, which would be the entry level for contestants, and sometimes the toughest fight any candidate will ever wage.

There is a greater need for fair competition among contestants. Taken together these changes would go a long way toward increasing the transparency of our electoral system as well as ensuring that Canadians could have confidence in that system.

However, one issue remains, namely how we maintain adequate levels of funding for a political system. It is clear that the virtual elimination of political contributions by corporations and unions, and the placing of limits on large individual contributions would certainly impact the ability of parties and candidates to fund election campaigns, something none of us would care to do.

To offset such a possible unintended impact the bill proposes to make up for the fall off in private contributions by increasing the currently existing financial assistance by the Government of Canada to parties and to candidates.

Such measures would include: increasing the percentage of election expenses reimbursed to parties from the current 22.5% to 50%, making polling eligible for reimbursement, raising the ceiling for expenses accordingly, lowering the threshold to qualify for reimbursement from 15% to 10% to allow more candidates to have their expenses reimbursed following an election, and providing registered parties with a quarterly allowance based on the percentage of votes gained in the last general election. This would work out annually to $1.50 per vote received in the previous general election.

I would encourage all members of this House to have a fulsome debate and I look forward to debating the bill when it returns from committee.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-24 on the financing of political parties.

From the outset, the Bloc Quebecois indicated to the government that the bill on political party financing was a step in the right direction. I emphasize, one step.

The Quebec political party financing legislation is recognized in virtually all democratic societies throughout the world. It was introduced and enacted by the government of René Lévesque, and has proven its worth. It is “the” law concerning political party financing by the public, as far as respect of democracy is concerned in any democratic country.

The Prime Minister of Canada has made no attempt to conceal the fact that he owes to René Lévesque a good portion of his recommendations in Bill C-24 on political party financing.

Why do we consider this just one step in the right direction? Public financing should exclude any corporate funding, and this bill allows limited corporate contributions.

With all the scandals that have hit this government, it was time to do a proper cleanup, if I may put it that way. Yet funding from companies and labour unions is still allowed, to a maximum of $1,000.

Members will say that this is a dramatic decrease, except that the matter of corporations is so complex that, with parent companies, subsidiaries and associate companies—there are several divisions now—companies could make a financial contribution of much more than $1,000. Major protests will have been avoided once again. Why not simply have abolished financing by business? That would have sent a clear message that the only acceptable source of political party financing in Canada, as in Quebec, is individuals.

When we talk about financing by individuals, we are talking about contributions that individual men and women can make. In this bill, one contribution is permitted. Normally, the amount of the contribution is limited, but you will agree that $10,000 is not much of a limit. In Quebec, the ceiling on contributions by individuals is $3,000; that is the amount a man or a woman can give to a political party.

This bill would allow an individual to make a contribution of up to $10,000. How many individuals, I wonder, have the means to give $10,000, except company presidents, their families and board members, those who can slip through the back door what they cannot get through the front door.

That is why the higher the ceiling on financial contributions, the bigger the problems we face, because big business can make large contributions and consequently influence the decisions of elected representatives indirectly.

The Bloc Quebecois is recommending that we stick as close as possible to Quebec's ceiling of $3,000. We want Parliament to reduce contributions by individuals so that not only the wealthiest families are financing political parties, as this would cause people to say that, once again, the rich control democracy.

As far as we are concerned, this $10,000 limit should be reviewed and hopefully lowered significantly.

Moreover, this bill is indicative of what is going on on the political scene, especially within the Liberal Party of Canada. This bill will limit corporate and private contributions to leadership campaigns. There is a leadership race in the Liberal Party of Canada. Oddly enough, the bill will not apply to that leadership race.

Once again, the government is trying to redeem itself, by saying, “Look, we are going to become reasonable. In view of the recent scandals, we will try to clean up the legislation on the financing of political parties”. But that will not clean up the race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Again, this is indicative of what is happening in this Parliament, and this is why people are losing confidence in their elected representatives. There are good things in there. I say it again, the Bloc Quebecois honestly believes this bill is a step in the right direction. But why not make it applicable right away to every election that will take place in Canada, including the race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada?

Of course, only the Liberal political strategists will tell you why. This could jeopardize or probably considerably reduce the lead of some candidates. But of course this is an issue the government does not want people to deal with or even discuss, since the bill will only come into force on January 1, 2004, provided it is given speedy approval by the House.

Members will have understood that the Bloc Quebecois will fight for the principles, namely we will try once again to lower voluntary contributions to a level more respectful of every citizen in Quebec and Canada. However, we will not wage a war on principle and we will not systematically oppose the bill.

The House can count on the cooperation of the Bloc Quebecois, which is always proud to participate in cleaning up the practices that have tainted this Parliament for such a long time. I repeat that this political financing legislation is a step in the right direction. The legislation ensures that the government will provide financing to each political party proportionate to the number of votes obtained.

We have no problem with this. We have the same thing in Quebec. We will therefore support this type of government financing, which ensures that all parties who do reasonably well in the election will have adequate funding, without any interference and solicitation by major players, corporations or CEOs.

We often find out that some political parties are financed by big business. Clearly, I repeat, the Bloc Quebecois feels that this bill is a step in the right direction, not to mention that we would like all financing to come from individuals; companies should no longer be allowed to make contributions. We would also like the limit of $10,000 for individuals, men and women who contribute, to be as close as possible to the limit allowed in Quebec.

Again, whatever the naysayers may think, the political financing legislation in Quebec is among the most effective of its type and is even cited as an example by many democratic countries throughout the world. Like Canada, some countries are in the process of revising their political financing legislation.

It is a step in the right direction and we hope the government will accept the improvements that could be made to it.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Liberal Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-24 seeks to make fundamental changes to the way we fund political participants in the country.

I think all of us would agree that Canada's electoral system is one of the best in the world in terms of fairness and honesty. But as we know, democracy is a work in progress, which means we need to revisit our political and government systems from time to time to make sure they are doing the best possible job of serving Canadians.

One area requiring a second look, of course, involves the rules governing political financing. Let us look at requirements for financial disclosure. At present, the Canada Elections Act requires only registered parties and candidates to disclose contributions and expenditures to the Chief Electoral Officer. This effectively exempts other important players in the political process, such as electoral district associations and leadership and nomination contestants, from having to reveal where their money came from and how they spend it. In turn, this has reduced the transparency of the system and public confidence in it and has created what the Chief Electoral Officer refers to as the “black hole” of political financing.

We need to open up the system and give the public more and better information on what is going on behind the scenes. For example, we must address leadership contests. There are many going on in the House of Commons right now, all over the place. This is an area of great interest to Canadians. Little is known about how they are financed, which is strange given how important they are to the political landscape in this country. We need to know more about leadership contestants and who their supporters are. After all, one of them will eventually become the Prime Minister, the leader of the country, but of course that would be on this side.

The bill would make this possible by extending disclosure requirements for leadership campaigns as well as a number of other important activities. For example, once a party launches its campaign officially, leadership contestants would be required to register with Elections Canada. At that time, they would have to disclose all contributions received from their campaign up to that point.

They would also have to disclose contributions to their campaigns in each of the last four weeks prior to the date of the leadership convention. This responds to the criticism that filing a report six months after the contest is too late to be effective. Of course, contestants would still be required, six months after the end of the campaign, to disclose all contributions received and expenses incurred.

Once in place, these new measures would make important new information available to Canadians and open up this area to full public scrutiny, which would go a long way toward enhancing public confidence in the honesty and fairness of leadership campaigns.

Greater disclosure cannot by itself buttress public confidence and reassure Canadians that our approach to funding leadership campaigns is fair and above board, so the bill would ensure that only individuals would be able to make financial contributions to registered parties and leadership and nomination contestants. This is important since a recent Environics poll found that many Canadians feel that wealthy Canadians, large corporations and unions have too much influence on governments. In the same poll, almost two-thirds of respondents felt the government should stop campaign contributions from having too much influence on the government and two-thirds supported the idea of allowing just individuals to contribute to political participants.

The bill responds to this call for action by proposing a ban on corporate and union contributions except at the local level. Limits would be placed on individual contributions to remove any suggestion that well-to-do individuals could use large contributions to hijack government deliberations later on once the election is over. An annual ceiling of $10,000 would be placed on individual contributions to a registered party, its local associations, candidates and nomination contestants. Individuals would be allowed to contribute no more than $10,000 in total to the leadership contestants of a particular party.

These measures are tough, but they are not unusual nor do they represent a break with established Canadian practice, for such a prohibition has been in place since 1977 in Quebec and was recently implemented in Manitoba. They are in force in other countries around the world as well.

I want to reassure members that these measures would in no way interfere with leadership contests already under way. The bill would not apply to those contests that start prior to its coming into force, which would be either January 2004 or six months after the bill is passed by Parliament, whichever is later. This should provide enough time to put the necessary system in place while at the same time ensuring that both parties and contestants are able to adjust to the new measures.

Canadians have told us they want new approaches to funding our political system which would remove once and for all concerns that large donations by corporations, unions and well-off individuals give them undue influence over government. They want regulations to cover not only election campaigns, as is currently the case, but also nomination and leadership campaigns, which they see as equally important.

That is what the bill before us does today. It would provide greater disclosure and extend it to the new areas such as leadership campaigns. It would ban corporate and union contributions in a number of areas, including leadership campaigns, and limit what well-to-do individuals can contribute. This goes a long way to enhancing public confidence in the way we fund political activity in this country and that is why I support the bill.

As a former returning officer for a party and having filed audited papers in the city of Toronto for the Haliburton—Victoria—Brock area for a candidate who had won, when I took our audited statement in and was quite confident that it was well done, comprehensive and accurate, I was told by the person at the desk that it would be audited because it looked too good to be true. That person wanted to make sure that they would look at it in this light and go through every bit of it. I asked the person at the desk why they would audit one that they could read. The person turned around, showing me a bunch of shoeboxes full of returns that other people, losing candidates, had brought in and tied up with old shoelaces and said, “We're not going to audit those”. So I know that proper financial contributions listed in a such a manner that they are legible and which the Canadian public can read are the ones that hold the most weight.

I think we can enhance our electoral system. My riding is the second largest riding in southern Ontario. In my riding and the one next to it, we have one-third of the land in southern Ontario. We take up a large area. Contrary to what my friends in the Alliance would say, we do have the same Toronto influence on us. I do not cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as I am more of a Montreal Canadiens fan, but when one lives 80 miles north of Toronto in a totally rural municipality--

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Ask about the gun registry.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Liberal Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, ON

My friend from Wild Rose is heckling me. He came to the Lindsay fair this year and pretty near cleaned out all the hotdog stands. He had a great time and I welcome him to come back any time. He certainly helped the economy of our area by his presence. I think one of the butchers said that he was up by a cow a week. We thank him for helping our economy.

The member behind him is formerly from Oshawa. We get these true westerners. When I look around I see people from Oshawa. There are a couple of true westerners, but actually one is an American and one is from Oshawa and has land in my riding. I have to be good to him. He pays taxes in my riding. Somehow when one leaves Ontario one goes out west and becomes a Reformer, which is all right. We need western based dissident parties. I think they do a great job here. They sometimes make me look good, which is pretty hard to do sometimes.

Yes, I am a gun owner. I have seen the odd groundhog. I think I had a good meeting this morning in our committee, where we met some concerned firearms people. I registered my guns in November online. It took 10 minutes and cost nothing, so what is the matter with the system? I am one of the people who wants to see Bill C-10A debated here. It has to be debated here. There has to be transparency and there has to be accountability. We have to know where that money is being spent, that it is being spent to save lives in Canada and that it helps the police and helps legitimate gun owners abide by the law. I think that is a good part of it.

However, I do tend to cheer for the Canadiens. It has nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Speaker's son plays for them, nothing to do with that at all.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Enough of that. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Dartmouth.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure speak today to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act regarding political financing.

The NDP has long been calling for the removal of big money from politics and supports this legislation in principle. However, the devil is in the details in every piece of legislation and we will be combing over the details of the bill to make sure that it is really moving us toward fairness and a more democratic system of political financing.

I would like to review in brief some of the contents of Bill C-24 and talk about the concerns we have with it, which we will continue to raise. First is the issue of individual donations. The legislation allows individuals to donate $10,000 a year to any party, candidate or riding association. All contributions will be indexed for inflation. Individuals can donate in multiples of $10,000, for example, to the Liberals, to the Alliance, et cetera.

Our concern about this is that the amount is too high. We believe that this kind of money can still buy influence and the whole idea of this bill is to eliminate buying influence in our political system. The level should be set much lower. We would suggest something like $3,000, as it is in Quebec and Manitoba. The Canadian Labour Congress, the CLC, calls for $5,000. In addition, we would seek this amount as a limit for individual donations to a maximum amount for all parties, not to each party.

On the issue of corporate and union donations, the bill prohibits contributions to political parties from corporations, unions or other associations. As an exception, it does allow those organizations to contribute $1,000 annually to the aggregate of candidates, local associations and nomination contestants of a registered party. All contributions are combined under the limit of $1,000.

Again the NDP has a concern with this. Unions like the CAW, for example, would be considered as one unit no matter how many locals there are, but franchises of corporations, let us say Ford car dealerships, may be considered to be separate entities, each able to make a $1,000 donation. This is an inequity that we do not believe is fair. We must argue that all contributions be banned or that unions be given equal treatment.

On the issue of public funding for elections and between elections, the bill provides for an annual public subsidy to parties of $1.50 for every vote they received in the previous election. Based on the 2000 general election, the Liberals would receive $7.8 million annually, the Alliance $4.9 million annually, the PCs $2.4 million, the Bloc $2.1 million and the NDP $1.6 million. Had the $1.50 per vote been in place for the 1997 and 2000 elections, the NDP would have received more money than it received from union contributions, including the federal and provincial share of affiliation fees lost.

The bill extends the candidate rebates to those receiving 10% of the vote rather than the old 15% limit. It also increases the national rebate to 50% of allowable expenses for political parties from 22.5% and includes the cost of public opinion polling for the first time. Our concern is that the provision is not indexed and so will decrease in value over time. Contributions from individuals, corporations and unions are indexed. We must push for further indexing.

In terms of trust funds, several Liberal MPs, and perhaps others, have amassed large trust funds and we are not sure how the new legislation will treat trust funds. One interpretation is that they will continue to exist but could not be used for political purposes beyond the $1,000 annually that an association can donate to the candidates or riding associations. The NDP remains concerned that there will be an enormous temptation for some MPs to find ways to slip trust fund money into their political work and campaigns.

On the issue of third parties, if the government truly wants to remove the perception that big money rules politics, then it is even more imperative to limit the amount of money that third parties can spend during elections and on politics generally.

The amendments do not deal with third party expenditures. The existing elections act does limit expenditures of third parties but the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the National Citizens' Coalition challenge. The federal government is appealing that ruling.

Our concern is that the intent to get big money out of politics is severely undercut if third parties are free to spend what they want. Once the political parties have restricted themselves to accept only individual donations, it would follow that judges would find it harder to rule against legislation limiting the involvement of third parties.

In conclusion, the NDP offers its support in principle to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. We will be working to make sure that it in fact is meeting the spirit of its intent. We will be working for specific amendments that will bring this legislation into line to benefit all Canadians.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

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.

AgricultureStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, Canada's agricultural sector is a robust industry that contributes to the economy and quality of life of all Canadians. As the third largest employer, agriculture and agri-food accounts for 8.3% of Canada's gross domestic product. While farming is one of our oldest industries, it has also become one of the most innovative industries in the country.

Budget 2003 builds upon the $5.2 billion agricultural policy framework with the following initiatives. There is $220 million for the crop reinsurance fund; $100 million for food safety; $113 million for Canada's four veterinary colleges, one of which is located in my riding of Hillsborough; $20 million for venture capital and innovation through the Farm Credit Corporation; and $30 million for the Canadian Grain Commission.

Canada's farmers are a high priority for the Liberal government. Budget 2003 maintains and acts upon this commitment.

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, the shine on the former finance minister is starting to fade as Canadian families begin to wake up to his tax and spend shell games. Let us take a closer look at some of the former minister's compulsive tax and spend tricks.

The member for LaSalle—Émard's EI fund was meant to pay for employment insurance, yet there is said to be a $45 billion EI surplus. Where has the money gone? Well, ask the former minister.

The member for LaSalle—Émard promised to scrap the GST, yet Canadian families are still paying it. Why? Well, ask the heir apparent.

The member for LaSalle—Émard's excise tax on fuel was meant to pay off the deficit. The deficit is gone, yet this tax remains. Why? Well, ask the want to be prime minister.

By contrast, the Alliance would immediately eliminate taxes originally brought in to reduce the deficit and it would make taxation more transparent, fair and honest.

Roméo LeBlancStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Georges Farrah Liberal Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, the official portrait of the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc was unveiled.

Mr. LeBlanc was the 25th Governor General of Canada and the first holder of this office to come from the Atlantic provinces.

The causes he holds dear influenced his actions as Governor General. These causes are volunteerism, the history of Canada, aboriginals, and peace-keeping by the Canadian Armed Forces.

During his mandate, he created the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award and the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Painter Christian Nicholson did a wonderful job in paying tribute to one of the greatest Governor Generals that Canada has ever known, the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate our government on its recent commitment to renewable energy and alternative fuels.

Part of the $3 billion that the budget will provide for the environment will be used to support wind power, fuel cells and ethanol. The bio-diesel industry will also benefit from the removal of the excise tax.

Alternative energy technologies hold the promise of clean renewable energy with little or no environmental damage. These sources of energy will reduce Canada's dependence on fossil fuels.

In fact, the president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association praised this part of the budget saying “It is a very positive step for the ethanol industry. It means new jobs, economic growth, rural opportunities and cleaner air for us all”.

We will be able to breathe the breath of fresher air as a result of the government's action on renewable energy.

Street RacingStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Peschisolido Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, next Thursday, February 27 there will be a forum in my riding of Richmond to increase public knowledge and awareness to the hazards of road racing.

In the last two years alone street racing has claimed the lives of five people in Richmond. It is a crime that continues nightly on area streets and has escalated into a major concern for area citizens and police alike.

I am proud to say that Richmond residents are united in their efforts to stop this dangerous activity. We have held discussion groups, awareness campaigns and public education activities to inform residents of the dangers associated with high speed road racing. In addition Richmond RCMP has introduced measures on area streets to target and deter young drivers from this violent activity.

I invite all concerned citizens to this forum to discuss means to curb this violent and reckless practice.

DNA DatabaseStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, August 2, 2003 will mark 10 years since 14 year old Lindsey Nicholls went missing without a trace while hitchhiking to Courtenay to visit friends.

DNA is a critical tool in solving cases like Lindsey's. Despite this, the government has not created a missing persons DNA database.

There are over 6,000 unidentified DNA samples taken from crime scenes and 125 unidentified bodies in British Columbia morgues alone. Right now there is no way to link these samples to missing persons.

It is said that the average murder investigation costs $750,000. Collecting a DNA sample would cost $100.

I am currently drafting legislation to address these key gaps. In the coming weeks I will be asking each member for his or her support.

This is not about privacy for criminals. This is not about money. This is about justice, justice for Lindsey Nicholls, her family and every other missing person in this country.

IraqStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I am speaking on behalf of the 6,200 residents of the Beauharnois—Salaberry riding who have presented me with a petition stating their refusal to accept war as a solution to the crisis in Iraq.

I will deliver to the Prime Minister the signatures of these men, women and children who are stating their clear opposition to a war in Iraq.

I am still convinced that this is still the only way to avoid the worst: the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives; the starvation of a population ruled by a tyrant and dictator; and, finally, other ills that may befall a people that has suffered far too long.

Gasoline PricesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, since yesterday, the Coalition to protect Fuel Consumers in my region has been calling on everyone to boycott all the gas stations on Talbot Boulevard, between Royaume Boulevard and Jacques-Cartier Street, except for the Shell station on the corner of Saint-Thomas Street in Saguenay.

The reason is simple. These gas stations are corporate owned, in other words, they belong to the oil companies. But there is more. By asking the public not to buy gas from corporate owned stations, fuel consumers will send a clear message that they are fed up with the games that the oil companies are playing at their expense when they artificially increase gas prices. No one is fooled when all the oil companies increase their prices at the same time. There is the appearance of collusion and consumers are the victims of this blatant lack of competition.

I encourage other cities to do likewise.

Badger FloodStatements By Members

February 20th, 2003 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

R. John Efford Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

Mr. Speaker, the flooding over the weekend of the town of Badger, Newfoundland and Labrador has left many residents homeless but not hopeless.

After having to flee so suddenly, many families were left with only what they were wearing and millions of dollars worth of damage. However they are discovering a flood of another kind now, the flood of kindness.

Donations of food, clothing and cash have been pouring in for the more than 1,000 residents who have been displaced. Clothing has been given by the Wal-Mart chain. The Canadian Tire Foundation for Families has made donations for families. McDonald's has donated bottled water. Several local companies have donated beds, TVs and furniture.

It is kindness and generosity like this that will make all the difference to the residents of this troubled town. The people of Badger are now asking the Minister of National Defence, who is responsible for emergency measures, to visit the town of Badger and give them some level of comfort as to what the government's response will be.