Mr. Speaker, this certainly does not happen to me often, but I have to admit that I agree with all of the latter part of the speech by the government House leader.
Bill C-24 is an important bill that will improve the conditions in which democracy is exercised, despite what some hon. members may say. I must say that I never expected, in this House, to hear the Prime Minister praise the democratic value of the legislation passed in Quebec, at the instigation of René Lévesque, concerning public financing of political parties.
The Prime Minister of Canada has recognized this as a model law and he wants to follow its lead. I hope that, by means of the amendments, he will follow it all the way through to the end, and that the only people able to donate to election campaigns and political parties will be individual citizens, and they alone.
We Quebeckers do not see this as a leap into the unknown, as it appears to be for some other hon. members in this House. This bill, Bill C-24, is not a leap into the unknown for us, because for years, since 1977 in fact, we have been living with a law that forces people who want to work in politics—not just the candidates, but also those who work within a party, in a riding or at the national level—to go out and meet the citizens, and talk to them about what they are doing and what they plan to do, and listen to them, too.
The rewards might be $5, $10, $20, sometimes $100 or $200, but there are a lot of small amounts in party financing. That this should be so is extremely healthy. When a party begins to do this less often and relies more and more on big donors, it seems that its own internal democracy and its ability to be close to the people and represent them well is also called into question.
In view of that, it appears extremely clear that the system that will be in place until the bill is passed and has allowed corporations in general and big corporations in particular to help fund election campaigns, political parties and riding associations is such that political parties, candidates, MPs and organization executives tend not to give the same consideration to someone who makes a $5, $10, $15 or $20 donation as to someone who gives $5,000, $10,000 and sometimes more.
Understandably a candidate who needs a lot of money to run might be extremely sensitive to the arguments of an individual or a corporation able to give $5,000. This is human and the law puts people in that situation, namely not to give the same consideration to all citizens but to be more sensitive to the arguments of those whose money talks and gets them heard.
There is another harmful consequence: when citizens see that their party is financed by corporations, if they are not wealthy, they tend not to contribute. They rationalize this by saying that parties get money from businesses anyway. They know that businesses can in turn deduct it from their taxes one way or another. In people's minds, it is clear that funds do not come from the businesses themselves but from their profits, which in turn come from the public's pockets and from tax credits.
This approach is bad in every respect and has been condemned repeatedly, so much so that today we are happy to see the government finally come up with this bill. It can be improved of course, for instance, by eliminating the provisions that still allow corporations to give $1,000. Why keep this amount? It will be difficult to enforce within provincially and across Canada. Also political parties will find it difficult to deal with. To which riding will the money go or will it only go to the parties?
There is no real advantage but a series of disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that it corrupts the principle slightly. But for what purpose? Again there is no advantage, only disadvantages.
We heard all kinds of things in this House, for example that debating this bill is a waste of time. I am sorry but I am extremely sensitive to the plight of workers who are affected by the softwood lumber issue, and businesses as well, especially small and medium size businesses. It is a very important issue, but it is not something that needs to be debated in the House; it is something that requires action by the government, which we have been calling for constantly.
This bill, like many others, is our responsibility. We must create the proper conditions for democracy so that all Canadians can be heard equally no matter which party they belong to or what member represents them. This seems extremely important to us. In the end, it will make a difference. When the government House leader says that it will be one of the most important bills, I think that he is right because indeed—and that is what he truly feels—it will change the relationship between political parties in this country and their members as well as all Canadians.
We, in the Bloc Quebecois, are pleased because we know that, overall, this bill will improve the way democracy works in this country. Our calls did not fall on deaf ears; Quebec was heard. As my colleague was saying, this bill will help all voters to regain confidence in their representatives, knowing that, to finance their election campaign, they will not have to give in to the demands of those who would offer them thousands of dollars.