Mr. Speaker, I would like thank the parliamentary secretary for his acknowledgement of my help during some of the drafting of the bill. I would not want that to be interpreted as support for the bill because, in fact, we do not support the bill.
It is a shame that we are not on questions and comments. I would have liked to ask the parliamentary secretary, when he mentioned the important work that parties do between elections that needs to be funded, what exactly is this important work that his Liberal Party does between elections that warrants the transfer of $9.5 million a year to his party's structure, not to the parliamentary wing but just to the administrative arm of his party?
I would have wanted to ask him that question because frankly I would have difficulty identifying anything that the Liberal Party administrative wing does for anybody in Canada between elections. Frankly, it is going to use the $9.5 million simply to run its offices and keep people on the payroll who are not actually contributing much to the running of the country at all.
I am not sure that this public funding can be justified on the basis of the important work. That is very self serving and it is certainly a judgment of the party itself. I would suspect that if we went out onto the street outside of this place and ask Canadians if they could identify some of the important work that parties do for them between elections, I bet they would not be able to identify a single thing. We may think it is very important, but I am not sure that the average taxpayer would think so.
If I had been able to ask him questions, I would have asked, what is the unholy rush to push this bill through the House? We barely had this bill back in the House from committee for less than three hours of debate and the government House leader was standing in his place moving time allocation on this bill and closing down the debate. What could possibly be the emergency that would require the closing down of debate in less than three hours? That averages out at less than half a minute of speaking time for every member of this place. Is that reasonable, Mr. Speaker? I think not and I can see you are almost nodding your head, so you probably do agree with me. It is unreasonable to be moving time allocation on a bill with less than three hours of debate in this place.
The fact is the bill would not be in force until January 1, 2004. There is a lot of time for further consultation and I will talk about the quality of the consultation of the government side a little later in my speech. There is plenty of time for consultation over the summer break while we are back in our ridings. We can talk with average Canadians instead of academics and interested parties or special interests. We could speak with our own constituents over the summer and we could come back here in September with the true message for the government. That is when we should be continuing the debate and passage of this bill. It should not be rammed through as it will be tonight. We are adding barely two hours this afternoon. Frankly, it is a disgrace, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you feel as embarrassed about it as I do.
I am surprised that almost all of the members on the government side appear to feel no guilt whatsoever for the fact that they are making a blatant grab of taxpayers' money from the treasury to transfer it to the coffers of political parties. I cannot believe for a moment that average taxpayers would think that was a good thing to do. They would be shocked. I suspect many Canadians do not even realize what is happening with this bill. They are being asked to pay to vote because when they go to the polling station and cast that ballot, it is as if the poll clerk was asking them to open their wallet, slap down the credit card so that they could put $1.75 on that credit card. That is the effect this bill would have. It would make voters pay for the transfer of money to political parties.
I suppose that taxpayers could protest this bill by not turning out to the polls because if no one turned out none of the political parties would get any money. In actual fact, this bill could have the opposite effect to the one that the government claims. It claims that it would reduce taxpayer or voter cynicism and encourage more people into the political process, and get them involved in the voting process. There is a potential for taxpayers to perhaps give us the Pierre Trudeau salute and not turn out at the polls. Thus they can deprive us of that $1.75 that is going to be transferred.
If there was another question I could have asked the parliamentary secretary when he was up, it would have been about the nomination contestant rules. He mentioned the reporting requirements that would be required now for nomination races. The fact is they are very complicated. It would often require an auditor or a special agent. Records must be kept of all the types of donations, by category and class of donor. Reports must be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer. A special bank account must be opened to administer the files, records must be kept, and bank statements sent to the Chief Electoral Officer. This is an extremely complicated process. In fact, even for those of us who are used to working within a bureaucratic environment, it is quite a daunting piece of legislation when we look at what we would have to go through for our nomination meetings next time around.
When the parliamentary secretary claims that it would make it easier for women or any traditionally disadvantaged people to get involved in the race because they have restricted the amount of money people can spend, he completely fails to mention that the increased bureaucracy would turn off a lot of people. It would actually discourage them. In fact, I took a section of this bill home with me last weekend to north Vancouver and I showed a few lay people that section of the bill. I asked them if they would be interested in running for office if they had to do this. Every single one of the people said that it would be a discouragement to run for office because of the amount of paperwork that would be required.
Certainly those who do not have a business background would be further discouraged. Someone who is used to working as a receptionist and might like to run for office or give it a try would take a look at this and say that what is being proposed in Bill C-24 is an administrative jungle. It may be too complicated for people to bother. We may be eliminating a number of people from the possibility of running for office who have the sorts of skills that would be useful here, but will not run because they do not have the skills that would enable them to run these complicated bureaucratic reporting rules.
I would like to talk about the consultation process because the parliamentary secretary mentioned that the key elements of this bill are a result of a great deal of consultation. The fact is there was virtually no consultation with taxpayers. I sat on the committee. In fact, I have been the Canadian Alliance critic for this bill ever since it was at second reading in this place. I sat on the committee with the other members, so I saw all of the witnesses who came forward. I even put forward a list of people to invite. The fact is the academics and special interest groups who came before the committee were not necessarily representative of average Canadians.
Last weekend while I was back in my riding I asked a few average taxpayers, friends, and relatives how much they knew about Bill C-24 and whether or not they felt comfortable with the notion of taxpayers' money being transferred to political party coffers. Again, people rejected this notion that it was a good idea to take taxpayers' money and transfer it to political parties.
When the government side says there has been consultation, it was very selective in who it consulted. It brought in a bunch of academics. With all due respect to academics, the fact is academics rely on taxpayers for their salaries and many of them have spent their entire lives being paid by the public purse.