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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parties.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6:50 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from April 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-343, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I should advise the House that if the hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap speaks now, he will close the debate. We will therefore hear the hon. member for Mississauga South first.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a brief intervention. I know there is some opposition to this private member's bill. I simply wanted to put on the record that I very much support members bringing forward private members' initiatives such as this one which deals with citizenship. It is a very important matter. I think it has raised the level of the debate. I want to congratulate the member for bringing the issue forward and allowing the House the opportunity to discuss the issue.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Okanagan--Shuswap.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I believe the hon. member has spoken in this debate.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member who moved the motion has the right to five minutes at the end of debate. The hon. member for Okanagan-Shuswap.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-343, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, will make it easier for lost Canadians to regain their Canadian citizenship, as they would no longer have to be established as a permanent resident in order to do so.

The bill deals with the resumption of citizenship for people who lost their Canadian citizenship as minors between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977, when the responsible parent ceased to be a Canadian by becoming a citizen of another country.

Let me remind hon. members that we are referring to people who were born in Canada and therefore by birthright are Canadian citizens. Bill C-18, the new citizenship legislation, proposes that the residency requirement be modified to give the applicant flexibility in the time available to meet the requirement, and that the applicant must be physically present in Canada for 365 days out of the two years preceding the application. This is the third attempt by the government to modernize the 1977 act. Changes to the Citizenship Act on February 15, 1977, such as allowing dual citizenship, were not retroactive to the already lost Canadians.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's press release on May 14 of this year stated “normal selection criteria for permanent residence will be waived for these individuals”. The press release went on to say that “an exemption from the medical inadmissibility requirement related to an excessive demand on the health care system be granted to these people”.

The point still remains that a minor child who was born in Canada, who was a Canadian citizen, who moved with the parent to another country between 1947 and 1977, and whose parent became a citizen of that other country, should not have lost his or her citizenship in the first place. It was the responsible parent who became a citizen of another country, not the child.

Lost Canadians still have to pay the same fees as others applying and have to reside in Canada for one year within the two year time frame. Why? They did not ask for, nor did they obtain citizenship in another country. Their parent did.

My Bill C-343 would correct an injustice that should have been resolved when the Citizenship and Immigration Act was replaced in 1977, which allowed dual citizenship. Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, dual citizenship allowed in 1977 was not retroactive. Bill C-343 would amend the existing act to recognize Canadian-born children who left this country between 1946 and 1977 as still being Canadians.

In conclusion, Bill C-343 should be incorporated into Bill C-18, the citizenship of Canada act, to correct historic wrongs and bring the 2003 act up to current morals and standards of what it means to be a Canadian.

Let us please pass this bill and finally welcome home our lost Canadians and allow them to reclaim the birthright they should not have lost as children through no fault of their own.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 11 at the beginning of private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Citizenship ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, my question this evening is on the subject of Bill C-24, the political financing act. Last week I rose in the House to question the government about the proposed amendments to the bill. Now that the amendments have been officially tabled and voted on, this may be somewhat academic, but I want to ask some further questions about these amendments.

First let me outline some of the amendments that were tabled yesterday and have just been voted through. The direct statutory annual allowance paid to parties will go from $1.50 per vote that the party obtained in the last election to $1.75 per vote. Incidentally, this is going to guarantee the Liberals an annual subsidy of over $9 million, year in, year out.

The reimbursement of election expenses to individual candidates who win more than 15% of the vote will be raised from 50% to 60% of their election expenses. Similarly, the reimbursement for election expenses to national parties is being raised from 50% to 60%. This represents a massive grab of taxpayers' money for political parties, particularly of course for the Liberal Party of Canada, which is hoping to lock in its political success from the past election through a formula which ensures that each party will be paid according to the number of votes that it received in the prior election.

Voters often change their minds during a government's mandate. With this new system, a party's chances at the next election are tied to its performance in the previous one, and this is a problem which I can best explain by means of an historical analogy.

In the 1988 election, Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives won a strong mandate and more votes than the other parties. In the 1993 election, the Conservative vote collapsed. The Liberal vote soared, as did the vote of my party, the Reform Party at the time, and the current Prime Minister came to power. Clearly voters had changed their minds during that mandate. However, had the proposed new funding rules been in place during that period, the Progressive Conservatives would have continued to receive $1.75 each year for every single ballot they had received in the 1988 election, even as their popularity plummeted and the popularity of the parties that opposed them rose. Those other parties would have been denied a level of financing that would have been commensurate with the level of support they were receiving from the public, given the fact that many of the voters who had formerly supported the Conservatives had since decided that some other party now best represented their point of view and deserved their support.

It goes without saying that the same situation would occur today if the Liberals were to find their support level declining from the levels they enjoyed in the election of November 27, 2000. The same thing would be true if my party, the Canadian Alliance, or any other party were to see its level of support go up or down. Like flies caught in amber, their annual subsidies would go on reflecting the electoral results of a prior election without any reflection of how voters are thinking.

To avoid this kind of confusion, I strongly recommend to the House the amendment suggested by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent. In a presentation to the House of Commons committee considering this bill, Mr. Broadbent suggested that instead of basing the annual payment to parties on the results of the prior election, citizens should be permitted to direct their proportionate share of the subsidy to the party of their choice each year by means of a question that would be included on their income tax return form. Already it is possible to register for the voters list by doing this.

This solution would be fair. It would be democratic. It would allow people to give money to the party they actually support should they find their support changing, or even to a minor party which has no representation in the House of Commons. This was not considered in any serious way during the debate over the amendments to this bill. My question to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is simply this: Why was it not considered?

Citizenship ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to clarify for the opposition the important role that public funding plays in our political system. Of course, it already plays an important role in our system.

In 1974 Parliament laid the foundation for election financing in Canada by enacting the Election Expenses Act which introduced spending limits for registered political parties and candidates; reporting of party and candidate spending and revenues, and public funding through income tax credits for political contributions; and partial reimbursement of election expenses for parties and candidates. Even back in 1974 we started to introduce public funding for the political process. In fact, as things stand now, even without Bill C-24 approximately 60% of political funding in this country comes from the public purse. It is not a new element in Canadian politics.

All the parties in the House have benefited from these provisions, including the Canadian Alliance. After the 2000 election and in previous elections when there were Reform Party candidates or Canadian Alliance candidates or CRA, it is clear that they received rebates, particularly those candidates who had more than 15% of the vote.

I am looking forward to hearing from the hon. member when he speaks again in a moment because I am interested to know how many of the members of Parliament on his side returned the reimbursement they received if they are so strongly against public funding of the political process. I think we will find that the answer is none, but I will leave it to him to answer the question. Perhaps he can fill us in and enlighten the House on how many members on his side actually returned those rebates.

Canadians have long accepted the importance of providing financial support to political participants. Indeed, this fact was made repeatedly during the discussion on Bill C-24 in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on which I sit. I heard it many times from many of the witnesses we heard from during the meetings we had on this topic.

Canadians recognize the important role played by parties in our system in developing policy and representing the views of Canadians on an ongoing basis. They recognize that parties justifiably require some public resources to carry out those functions. They know that the policy development process is an important one for all of us. They know it is important to have the outreach that parties engage in and that it costs money, but it is important to support that process.

Canadians also know that parties have varying abilities to raise money and to finance themselves. It may not always reflect the number of people in the country who support them, but this process will allow that to happen so that it will reflect the support they receive in an election.

Is there some other ideal way that might be better than this? Maybe someone can come up with one, but of all the various ways that have been examined that might fund political parties and fund the process, this is the best of those that are available.

That is why it is being used now in Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. That is why it is the system that we have adopted. It is the best we have seen. There are others, but I think they have many flaws in them. This system may not be perfect, but it is the best available. I think it is a good system.

Citizenship ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, in making his remarks the hon. parliamentary secretary asked rhetorically if there was a better system because he had not heard of one.

He must have been absent from the parliamentary committee hearings when Ed Broadbent, the former leader of the NDP said that yes, there was a better way. He said to give the money--because there is a valid purpose for public funds for these things--to the parties that people want to support. Let people tick off on their income tax forms which party they would like to support based on their preferences and whether or not that party represents their interests. It might be a party that has parliamentary representation or it might be one of the minor parties that does not have parliamentary representation. That is the fair and democratic thing to do.

That suggestion was made in committee. It was not in any way taken seriously in the committee's report back to the House and certainly not by the government. That was a disappointment. The hon. parliamentary secretary has not answered my question. Why was this democratic proposal not taken seriously?

Citizenship ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, as I said, the committee heard a variety of proposals and a variety of different views. We had good discussions on them. We had a good discussion on the one the member suggested. Mr. Broadbent was, in fact, questioned and there were views opposed to his stating at the time why this would not make sense.

We had another suggestion, for example, that it should follow polling numbers, that there should be a national poll done on a regular basis which would not be dissimilar to this annual process. It was brought forward by witnesses and others in the committee. The problem with that suggestion was that it would lead governments to do things that were popular at that moment immediately before the poll but would not necessarily be good in the long term for the country.

There is a reason why we have a maximum of five year terms for governments in this country. It is so governments can look not just at the immediate issue and the immediate popularity for what they are doing, but try to do things for the long term that are best for the country.

Citizenship ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.09 p.m.)