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?