Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise once again in debate on Bill C-24 at report stage, specifically to the amendments in Group No. 2 that have been permitted by the Speaker, although in fact we are talking about a group consisting of only one amendment so it is a bit of a misnomer.
In a way, the amendment before us is a no-brainer. It just makes perfectly good sense that after Bill C-24 comes into effect, and after we have been through a federal election in which its new political financing provisions have actually been implemented, we would then have a thorough review of the impact of the provisions of the bill. As my colleague the member for Palliser pointed out, many amendments were brought forward in committee. A number of proposed amendments, some of them proposed by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, for example, were not supported or have been disallowed for technical reasons, I think it would be fair to say, by the Speaker.
This does not mean that some of the very concerns raised in debate as the bill has proceeded through the stages of discussion do not have every bit as much merit today as they did when they were put forward. Perhaps following the next election, when we have had experience under the act, it may become clear to some members that some of those amendments ought to have been supported in the first place and, upon review, there will be an opportunity for reconsideration of some of them. It is just good sense and obviously a parliamentary practice that should be built into this and every piece of legislation. I and my colleagues of course will be supporting this provision.
Having said that, it seems to me that this is an appropriate occasion on which to say once again how regrettable and lamentable it is that some of the obvious flaws in the bill are now not going to be dealt with and resolved.
I go right back to the first principle, a principle that the New Democratic Party supports and one that I personally and absolutely support, and that is to eliminate big money and undue influence from politics.
Also a very important point, and one that I think the previous Alliance speaker absolutely misses, is that it is absolutely necessary to be concerned about integrity in politics and to be concerned about eliminating undue influence from whatever sources and for whatever purposes, but it is also critically important to deal with the perception of possible undue influence and the perception of practices that are simply not supportable. For that reason, it is extremely regrettable, it seems to me, that when we are dealing with a bill for which the purpose is straightforward, sound and very supportable, there are a couple of violations of the fundamental principle that go to the heart of the bill.
Frankly, we have been very frustrated and Canadians will not be the least impressed that on the one hand we have the government bringing forward legislation, and it is now obvious that it intends to invoke closure and push ahead and vote time allocation because it is hell-bent to get this legislation on the books, but on the other hand the bill actually does not do what the government said its purpose was in the first instance, and that is to level the playing field, to eliminate contributions both from corporations and from unions. In fact, it does no such thing.
Not only does it not fully exclude donations from corporations, it gives an absolute advantage to corporations: discriminatory treatment to the potentially hundreds of thousands of corporations that can in fact avail themselves of the provisions of the bill to donate to individual political candidates. Is the same treatment accorded to trade unions? No, it is not. We have in the one instance the potential for every single Tim Hortons franchisee in this country, for example, to donate to the political candidate of his or her choice, but absolutely no comparable provision that would allow a union local to contribute to a candidate of its choice. That seems to be profoundly discriminatory and, as I say, a complete contradiction and contravention of the stated purpose of the bill.
Let me make it really clear. I am not taking aim at Tim Hortons. I am actually a bit of a Tim Hortons addict and I admit freely to that, but I cannot for the life of me understand this. Let me take Charlottetown as an example. There are seven Tim Hortons franchises in Charlottetown alone, seven in one riding. It is possible that all seven could be owned by separate franchisees. What that would mean if all seven of those Tim Hortons franchises in Charlottetown were owned by seven different franchisees is that $7,000 could be donated just by Tim Hortons franchisees to one candidate.