Mr. Speaker, I am in favour of the subamendment to Bill C-24 moved by my colleague, not only because I seconded it but because it is a very good idea. That subamendment would reduce the amount of money payable from the taxpayer, via the government, to political parties to a fraction of what has been proposed in Bill C-24. If I had my way, I would have amended the amount to zero and save all the bookkeeping.
Bill C-24 is an amazingly stupid bill, and I mean that in the best sense of a description in the English language. The bill makes as much sense as the bag of hammers mentioned by the president of the Liberal Party. It really is nonsensical in that it does not make sense. It is detrimental to the democratic process. It basically entrenches the financing ability of parties in the House to the exclusion of any other party.
Back in 1988, the Reform Party would have found it extremely difficult to have come into being under the rules of this legislation. Perhaps this is the motivation of the Liberal government. Maybe it thought of the guys who came here first as reformers and who tried to get together with like-minded, Conservative-minded people in the country with the formation of the united alternative leading to the Canadian Alliance. Unfortunately our dance partner did not come. We have had amazing input to the process.
Members may remember that before we came here, it was politically incorrect to talk about balancing the budget. The government spent to its heart content and did not worry about whether there was enough money. The Liberals did not want to tax people to death because they would rebel, but they did tax them to the max, just short of that line, and spent the money as a government. Probably our primary message when we came to this place was that it was not right to future generations to put the country into such debt that it would probably face bankruptcy.
The party I have been with for almost 10 years has provided a very important function in this place. Under Bill C-24, the Canadian Alliance probably would not have made it here. This is just another huge hurdle to cross before we can criticize the government.
Centuries ago a law was passed granting freedom of speech to all individuals. The reason for it was to permit citizens to criticize their government without fear of losing their heads. Nowadays that is considered a good move. Democracies flourish when governments are held to account. Democracies flourish when individuals, parties, groups, including lobby groups and associations can mount an objection to something the government does. This government wants to free wheel it and does not want anybody to ever say anything against it. The government knows it cannot put people in jail so it sets up a rule preventing certain parties from getting any money and thereby they cannot exist.
Under Bill C-24, the amount of money a party would get would be based on how many votes it received in the previous election. A new party could receive very few votes. Therefore, not being able to raise money directly and not having access to public funds is not an improvement of democracy but rather a detriment to democracy. It means a new party will not likely ever again come on to the Canadian scene. The Liberals should be ashamed of their name because Liberal is supposed to mean freedom to liberate. It is a Latin word, libere , meaning freedom, to free. What they are doing is saying, “No. Unless we are in control here, it can't be”. What they are doing is controlling, even now with the criticism of their party.
I would like to go another step.There is something in a democracy that is fundamentally offensive when it says that I have to part with some of my money through the avenue of coercive taxation when that money is used for purposes with which I disagree. This bill does exactly that.
I know the people over on the other side and the minister of state particularly, love to get up and say that this is totally democratic, that it is based on the number of votes a party gets, therefore when our tax money goes to fund these political parties to think of it as our money going to our party because it is in proportion to the votes the party got.
I just reference back again. If I am working for a party that is just starting up, will I now be exempt from taxation to that degree? No, I am not. I will still have to pay whether I am supporting a brand new party. For those individuals, it is very offensive.
It just happens right now it is not personally offensive in the sense that we had enough votes last time, so this really is not a bad deal financially for us. However we cannot argue a principle based on whether it feels good for us at the present time. That is a very weak argument.
I remember when I was an instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology many years ago. We were forced members of AUPE, and I used that word forced. It was a condition of employment that we belonged to the union. Later on, when we had an opportunity to break out of that union and to form our own professional association, we did it. As I have told members before, my colleagues honoured me by asking me to be the first president of that association. We did very well as an individual association in comparison to how we did under the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. I am not, by this, saying there is no room for unions. There is indeed. However this union was very coercive in its nature, and I found it very offensive. That is one reason why we broke away from it.
One thing it did was make a huge donation every year to the NDPs, both federally and provincially, and I objected. I wrote a letter to say that I objected to my dues money, which was substantial, being taken to support a political party with which I disagreed. The union said that the decision was taken democratically. It had a convention and somebody put forward a motion that the union support the NDP and it passed democratically. Therefore my money, even though I did not agree with it personally, went to party.
Unions are wrong when they do this. They should poll their members, see what proportion each of them are and then give the money to each party in that proportion. They did not do that and I was offended by it.
By the same token now, each of us will be required to fund political parties and political activities with which we disagree, and that is true for every citizen in the country. Not one of us says that this year we will donate $100 to political parties and therefore we will give $50 to the Liberals, $30 to the Canadian Alliance, $20 to the other parties, and our money is gone. I will not do that. I choose which party best represents my idea of what this country should be, and then all my money goes to that party.
We are wrong when we coerce Canadian taxpayers from coast to coast to support a party other than the one they really do support. That is a wrong assumption, and I would strongly urge members of the House, now that the opportunity will be before us, to reject totally the bill when it comes to final vote.
The amendments that are being put forward are meant to improve the bill in the short term. We cannot improve in the short term that which is wrong fundamentally for the long term. We must be against this legislation on principle, not because it is politically expedient at the present time.