Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on an amendment to Bill C-24 put forth by the government House leader with which we agree.
However, let us take a look at the nuts and bolts of the bill as it pertains to the amendment and why we would like to see this issue revised and looked at a year from now. We agreed with the objective of Bill C-24. How do we limit public or private influence in public policy? How do we limit the ability of deep pockets to have influence on public policy, something we all agree has to be removed? Does the bill do that?
I would submit that Bill C-24 does not do that at all. The bill wants to ensure that corporations and individuals do not get special favour on public policy, but the government is unable to eliminate that. The fact of the matter is that the big money donations, the $100,000 and $50,000 donations, do not happen above board. Those are the donations that have access to change government policy and enable certain groups to have access to untendered government contracts. Therein lies the problem. The bill does not address that. The bill deals with preventing groups from donating more than $1,000 and individuals from donating more than $5,000. That is not where the big money comes from. That is not was causes the influence.
What creates the influence are those big moneys that are happening under the table. There is also the fact that contracts may or may not be untendered and the awarding of contracts, in fact, violate Treasury Board's own guidelines.
How can we address this? An interesting thing happened in Europe where this issue was addressed. The question that was asked was, how can we ensure that big money cannot influence public policy? One option that was proposed was called: publish what is paid. I would extend that to something about publishing what is received.
I would suggest and submit that the way to prevent private influence of public policy is to ensure that individuals who donate to a political party or to an individual cannot donate more than $5,000, otherwise they must ensure that those moneys will be made public every year. Not only that, the recipient of those moneys, or the party that receives those moneys, will also have to publish the donor and the amount that they received. That would eliminate private influence of public policy.
The second is the issue of government contracts. We saw with the Groupaction scandal millions of dollars of taxpayers' money being wasted on three contracts that were utterly useless. Those contracts were given to a company that was a large donor to the governing party. The problem is, how do we eliminate that? How do we ensure that contracts will be awarded on the basis of merit and that money will not be passed under the table in return for those lucrative government contracts that exist?
Two things must happen. First, Treasury Board guidelines must be followed, and second, contracts above a certain amount of money, say $25,000 or $50,000, must be put out to tender. That, in fact, is the law and should be applied.
There is quite a debate between members of the NDP and our party on the concept of whether the taxpayer should be on the lamb for funding political parties. My party and I would say, absolutely not, not through the taxpayers' purse. If we, as elected individuals, choose to run for elected office, or if we, as a political party, cannot get the moneys from the individuals in the public ourselves, then we should not be running for office and should not be elected. We would ask the public as individuals seeking elected office or as parties seeking to be elected. We would ask the public individually for support, but we should not obligate the taxpayer through the public purse for those moneys.
That is what the bill does. The people who are watching would be shocked to know that for every single vote a political party received in the last election, the taxpayer will be giving us $1.50 every single year. Where could that money be better spent? Could it not be better spent for MRIs, hospital beds or hiring nurses and physicians to ensure that people will get the health care they deserve? Is that not a better use of the taxpayers' money? Or is it better to give those moneys to a political institution?
We would submit that those moneys should be spent on priorities like health care, defence, education and the social programs on which people who are less fortunate rely on. That is a better use of taxpayers' money. Taxpayers should not be giving millions of dollars to political parties every single year. In our view that is not a good use of taxpayers' money.
The amendment by the government House leader is a good one because it proposes that the bill be reviewed in one year. We hope it will be dramatically changed if it is not changed during this period of time. It is completely unfair that a billionaire in Ottawa received millions of dollars from the Canadian taxpayer, from our government, for projects. Viewers out there would be shocked to know where their money is going.
There is something called a technology partnership Canada fund which has handed out close to $2 billion to the private sector. How much of that money has been repaid? A shocking $35 million. This is taxpayers' money. It is not money that somehow appears from the ether in the middle of nowhere. This money comes from hardworking Canadians who made $16,000, $20,000, $40,000 a year and who pay a lot of taxes which are being given to multi-billion dollar Canadian companies and only a fraction of those moneys are repaid. That is absolutely ridiculous.
More shocking is that the people who receive those moneys make donations to the government. We have a multi-billionaire with multi-billion dollar companies receiving taxpayers' money in the form of loans that more often than not are never paid back to the government and by extension, to the people of our country. That is not right. Furthermore, that individual was a prime donor to the governing party.
The bill is deeply flawed. We are thankful in our country that we do not have the situation south of the border where it costs millions of dollars to run for political office. Thankfully we have limits on what we can spend. Let us never change that. Our current system enables people from all socio-economic groups to run for the highest office in the land and that is a good thing.
It is not a good thing that our current system, even with the bill, will enable big money to be used to influence the tendering of government contracts and potentially the implementation of public policy. The government could deal with that by publishing what it pays and what it receives. That would add the element of transparency in a system and improve the objective of the bill, which is a good one, by eliminating deep pockets from having influence in public policy.
On the issue of tendering of government contracts, we must ensure that Treasury Board guidelines are fulfilled, adhered to, and that the tendering of public contracts is indeed a public and transparent process. If we do not do that and the bill does not address that, then we will still have the influence of deep pockets and big money in public policy and in the tendering process. At the end of the day, it is not our money. It is taxpayers' money we are using. It is not the government's money. Above all, we must be respectful of that because it is our duty to use the money as wisely as possible.