Mr. Speaker, we are now discussing Motion No. 11 for Bill C-24. This motion calls for a review of the act after the next general election. That is the purpose of today's discussion. However, we may need to broaden the scope of the debate.
Before going any further, I would like to point out that my colleagues' main argument was that we are asking taxpayers to fund, in part, political parties' operations under the new bill. He said that we would be adding an additional burden to taxpayers, who are already overtaxed. I completely agree with him; people are much too heavily taxed and yes, the government could make efforts to reduce taxes, which would be even better.
However, the argument put forward by my colleague is a false one. In fact, if a corporation or a company contributes $100,000 to a political party, for example, if a big bank contributes $100,000 to the Liberal Party fund—as has occurred in the past and as is still the case today—this bank is not creating this money out of nothing—it will simply take this $100,000 and include it in its public relations expenses or other expenses. This way, it pays less tax on its profits.
Moreover, the company will ask users to foot the bill because companies make money by selling services or products. So, if the $100,000 is part of this company's overhead costs, it is obvious that the company will increase its prices accordingly. Companies do not create money out of nothing; they provide services. That is how it works. It seems to me that this argument is a somewhat spurious one.
As for the other major element of Bill C-24, I would like to draw a comparison with Quebec. Quebec has had legislation on political party financing for quite a while. We should look at how it has worked, and see what good it has done Quebec in terms of cleaning up politics. If we compare this system to the Canadian system, it is clear that there is a very serious problem with party financing in the latter. One need only look at the current leadership race.
Since we have a bill before us, we can ask ourselves, for instance, which candidate will win the leadership race. The answer is simple: the one who raised the most money. But at present, this is hardly clean money; it is money raised in secret. There is therefore a need to make these activities transparent.
We could look at the United States and how the presidency campaigns are run in that country; we would see all the problems they have had in the past.
At present, if we look at the situation in Canada, I mentioned the leadership race, but we could talk about the overall operation of political parties. To say that political parties are not influenced by the large companies or the individuals who contribute the most to their election fund would be a lie. To say that a member would not be influenced by the fact that a company contributed $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 or $25,000 to his or her election campaign, would be to lie to the public.
Naturally, the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of Bill C-24. We had hoped that the measures in this bill would follow Quebec's lead, so as to make it more acceptable to the general public and ensure that our democracy can truly express its will. From the beginning, Quebec's political party financing legislation was recognized throughout North America, Europe and the world as being very forward-looking legislation that cleaned up politics. It is a model for all liberal democracies in North America and Europe. It is a model, but we think too that it needs to be perfected, amended and regularly reviewed, and Motion No. 11 would ensure that Canada's political party financing legislation is subject to regular review.
We want this legislation to be improved. We do not want business to have the right to make contributions. The only way to renew the public's interest in democracy is to allow it to participate and to see that it, not just business, can have a real influence on political parties.
Over the years, this aspect of our democracies got off track. From the moment that businesses had access to political party financing—perhaps right from the start, but it was less obvious before; this has become more evident over the years—they have become increasingly important to political parties and have had more and more influence on our democracy, which has meant that the influence of individuals has decreased.
This must be rectified immediately, since we realize that the public is becoming disillusioned with politics. It thinks that politics are not credible, because it is influenced by interest groups—unions were mentioned—or business.
Another change we should maybe have considered during the examination of this bill on political party financing—and I mentioned this earlier—is the combined influence of interest groups. These days, in our society, it is no longer citizens who dominate. There are even corporations, understandably, that have formed big groups, like all of the chambers of commerce and so on. It is all of these interest groups that constantly influence members to vote one way or another.
This is something that has developed in our democracy over the last 30 years and we have seen it happen. Every citizen with a cause to defend can, if they want, create a lobby group. The more powerful that group is, the greater that person's chances of being heard by governments. Unfortunately, under current legislation, such as the Canada Elections Act and the political party financing legislation, we have also allowed these interest groups to contribute to political parties. That has given them additional influence.
I think this should be prohibited. I think that only citizens should have the right to contribute to political parties, to invest in their democracy and, in this way, ensure its health, on the condition that, as others have mentioned, there be annual reporting and that we know who contributed to the funding of each political party, based on the allowable limit.
In Quebec, if my memory serves well—I would have to check—I think that any contributions over $100 must be declared. There must be a list of people who have contributed to a party. I think the same is true federally, and this is a good idea.
Earlier, there was talk of increasing the burden on taxpayers. I would like to come back to this idea. In fact, I think that it is up to each and every individual to fund political parties, but it is also up to the government to make efforts so that political parties can be viable and, from an economic standpoint, continue to grow and prosper so as to develop our democracy and allow people to participate in it.