Madam Speaker, to be bipartisan, I want to state that I share my colleague's wish that this institution will certainly be worthy of the respect of Canadians. That is why I am very saddened by the fact that we are limited in how much we can debate this very important issue of how we finance political parties in Canada because it is a very crucial issue.
After a very limited period of debate on report stage and third reading, the government has invoked closure on this. It is completely unacceptable. Given the importance of the issue, there is no reason why we could not have a longer debate. The purpose of the institution of Parliament is supposed to be a deliberative assembly. When we shut down debate, we eliminate the whole purpose for the institution in the first place.
I want to speak to this motion and to the bill in general as well, since I have not had an opportunity as yet to go on the record. As the member opposite stated, we do not think this specific motion is necessary. We do not oppose increased calls for transparency or accountability. With respect to my own constituency association, we have a very modest level of funds in our account and we would have no problem opening up the books.
Going through the actual bill itself, and the summary of Bill C-24, we are discussing the whole regime of political financing. The first paragraph describes what the bill actually does: introducing limits on contributions made to Canada's electoral district associations, leadership and nomination contestants. We are not opposed to that.
The second paragraph imposes on registered electoral district associations, leadership contestants and nomination contestants the obligation to report to the chief electoral officer on contributions received and expenses incurred. Again, in terms of the general whole issue of transparency, the Canadian Alliance has been at the forefront calling for this.
Our concern, and one concern I can echo, is for those of us who have been involved in local campaigns. Obviously, for those of us with very active local associations, it is a lot easier to find someone who will do the books, the accounting and reporting. However I know, within my own riding, other parties that did not do so well had a tough time finding volunteers who would do all the reporting and be the official agent for the campaign.
I think we want to look at extending and enhancing the bureaucracy we require upon people to be active in political life. We want to ensure obviously transparency but a balance has to be struck to ensure that there is not too much bureaucracy or too many requirements so we prohibit people from entering and becoming active in political life.
I want to address the bulk of my talk to two other points, mainly with respect to the limits on corporate and union donations. This happens in various amendments in the bill. However the bill stipulates contributions to parties, candidates, electoral district associations, leadership contestants and nomination contestants may be made only by individuals who are subject to limits. A limited exception allows contributions of up to $1,000 to be made by corporations and trade unions or by associations for money given by individuals to registered associations, nomination contestants and candidates.
I want to state quite explicitly that we in the Canadian Alliance are very supportive of allowing for greater contributions by individuals in political campaigns and political parties. We as a party are much more dependant on individuals, our supporters and members than other political parties. We think that is where the bulk of this support ought to come from instead of relying upon corporate or union donations.
We have done a fair amount of work as a party in trying to inculcate that within our membership and our supporters that they should, by contributing, take ownership of the party, its apparatus, the ideas and the policy process.
If we look at the statistics from 1996 until 2001 and compare the corporate and individual donations per party, it is very instructive. The Liberal Party of Canada, through those years, raised over $53 million from corporate donations and $32 million from individual donations. If we compare that to what the Canadian Alliance raised, we see that the Canadian Alliance raised just over $13 million from corporation donations and over $34 million from individual donations. Given the fact that we obviously are not the governing party, I think that is a record for which we can be proud.
I should also point out that the NDP does rely to a greater extent on individual donations. It raised over $27 million through individual donations and $1 million through corporate donations, although a large amount of the NDP contributions come from union contributions. The Conservatives are about equal at about $18 million each, but again a higher proportion of their donations come from corporations.
On this point I would like to be clear and state that the Canadian Alliance is supportive of greater transparency and accountability within the system but it is also supportive of ensuring that the contributions by individual Canadians themselves are the greatest. To address the point made by the member who spoke before, we want to ensure that it is individual Canadians whose voices are heard rather than one or another interest group.
The last issue I want to address has to do with the public subsidy of political parties during election campaigns. There are so many things wrong with this that I want to point out a few of them. Obviously what is of concern at this time, given the fact that the government has invoked closure, is that for weeks and weeks the Prime Minister and the government House leader have stated that $1.50 per voter would be enough to balance off the loss in corporate and union donations. They then came back from committee and the government House leader announces today that it was the committee that recommended this.
The committee chairman, in the news reports today, stated that it was the Prime Minister's compromise, that the committee was simply fulfilling the Prime Minister's wish on it, which, instead of $1.50 per voter, has been pushed up to $1.75 per voter. No explanation has been given for this but one has to assume that there is one.
On our side of the House, because we are in opposition and because we have seen the government operate as it has over the past 10 years, we are a little suspicious. One would think, given the comments of the head of the Liberal Party of Canada about the funding shortfall, that the Liberals bumped up the amount from $1.50 to $1.75 to ensure that the Liberal Party would be in a positive position rather than a negative position.
That would be an unbelievable reason to change public policy if it is to ensure that one political party actually receives as much or more than it did in corporate donations. It violates a fundamental principle, a political principle. I actually think the legislation will be challenged in court because it violates a fundamental principle. It forces voters, Canadians, whether they agree with the party or not, to contribute to that political party. We are forcing people who are members of the NDP to contribute to the Alliance and people who support the Bloc to contribute to the Liberals. We are forcing them to do that through this enforced public subsidy and to me that violates the whole principle of political expression.
Political expression is not only the right to participate but the right not to support a certain political party or a certain political organization, and the right not to participate in certain ways of political life. That is the flip side of this issue as well.
I want to go back and talk about the increase from $1.50 to $1.75. We heard for weeks and weeks that the government, particularly the backbenchers, were having a tough time supporting the legislation and that they likely would delay the bill, kill it outright, vote against it or hope it dies in the Senate. There was sort of a collision course between the Prime Minister and his own caucus on this issue.
In order to come to a compromise, and the Liberal Party has been compromising since Confederation on issues, it was agreed that the $1.75 would please everyone or please no one but that everyone would end up voting for it. We in the Alliance think that is a fundamentally bad way to make public policy.
We not only opposed the increase in public subsidy from $1.50 to $1.75, but we opposed the $1.50 in the first place. The basic rule of involvement in political life should be that one supports the political party of one's choice. We should encourage more Canadians to become more active but we should do that in terms of them actually giving money to the party they support. That is the fundamental principle that should guide us and that is why we in the Canadian Alliance oppose the legislation.