Mr. Speaker, in listening to this last round of speeches, I have been thinking that there is something fundamentally at the root of this problem we have, especially hearing from those people from the different parties who support the government on this, including Bloc.
It is a curiosity to me that those people who promote themselves so rigorously as being democratic, and I do not question their sincerity in doing so, do not recognize that this bill is very antithetical to true democracy. Instead of giving people the freedom individually to work for and to promote the party of their choice that represents their values, we will simply with this bill pass into law that the parties can exist whether they have the support.
I know people on the other side will say that is not true because if the parties do not represent the people, they will not get the votes and then they will get less money. That also is anti-democratic.
I wish they would stop to think about this. If their vote count goes down, how will they ever fight back? How will they once again come to a place where they can offer a true alternative to some other government that has come into place?
Let us say, for hypothetical reasons, that the Canadian Alliance forms the government next time and the Liberals are reduced to two seats. Now that is not entirely without its historical precedence in this place, that a majority government has disappeared down to two seats. It happened in 1993. It could happen again where the electors will just simply say that they have enough of that crew, that they waste money on boondoggle after boondoggle, that they have no program to solve problems in the justice system and that they keep wasting taxpayer money on a very ill-conceived gun registration system. It goes on and on, and they will be defeated.
Let us say the Canadian Alliance forms the government and the Liberals are down to two votes, having had their electoral balanced in total, because this bill apportions money based on the number of votes collected in the previous election. Let us say that the electoral share of the Liberals went down to one-half of what it is now. That is a possibility. I wonder whether they would be singing this song today if they stopped to think that is a possibility.
I do not think it would be good for Canada. I do not think it would be healthy if, from now on, there would be a totally dominant Canadian Alliance Party running the country without a viable opposition. I would like to see a Canadian Alliance government. I know we could do much better than that crew over on the other side. I still think, for the purposes of democracy, that Canadians are well-served if there is a strong opposition, and we have tried to be that.
In fact just as a little aside, I have had people tell me that since we came here in the last 10 years, it is the first time Canada has ever seen a real opposition. Until now the two parties have just changed sides and, because basically they are the same, there is not really much difference. It did not matter which one was on which side of the House. However we came here with some truly new ideas, some really creative ways of working within our economic systems and reducing taxes. We actually made it politically correct to talk about balancing the budgets, reducing taxes and reducing government interference in our lives.
Now that party is saying that from now on it wants whichever party has had the dominance in the last election to thrive and any new party which comes along will really have a difficult time raising money. This bill prevents the party from raising large amounts of money from individuals and from businesses, and makes it dependent directly on the taxpayers based on how many votes it has received in the previous election.
The amendment we are debating in this group talks about reviewing this. I favour the amendment. It is important for us to review the legislation after it has been in effect for a while, particularly after the next election. However I am really fearful because the party in power, the party that has had the majority of votes in the last election, will continue to have the most amount of money and the other parties will be disproportionately and negatively affected by it. I think that is wrong.
I think the Canadian people say that here is a party they support. It represents better than any other party on the horizon right now the true values they have, the true aspirations they have for their country. Surely in a government, in a democracy like Canada's they should be free to support that party to their heart's content and not have the money squeezed out of them to support the party that received the most votes in the previous election.
We are talking about the next election now; where will we go from here, not where have we been. It is like driving a truck gazing only into the rear view mirror. One cannot keep the thing going straight by doing that. One must look out of the windshield and judge where one is going. One can use the rear view mirror when backing up. I guess maybe these Liberals are taking our country into distant places in the past, where we have been instead of where we want to go.
I am very concerned about one aspect of the bill and I am sure we will want to revisit it. That is the reporting requirements.
Every time there is a general election, we have a very busy bureaucracy in Elections Canada and in our taxation department. Even now it is required that every candidate file returns. If they get more than 15% of the votes, then they are eligible for a rebate of 50% of eligible expenditures in running the campaign. That is an awful lot of book work.
Think of 301 members of Parliament presently, soon to go up, and 300 returns. However the fact of the matter is that very few ridings have fewer than four candidates. Many of them have six, eight, some up to ten, and even more I guess. How many returns are we processing in an election? If it is an average of five, and there are 300 ridings, that is 1,500 returns that have to be processed and expenses determined and evaluated.
The bill proposes to expand that to nomination candidates. It is feasible that each of the parties could have four contenders for the nomination for each of the parties. If five parties are contending in a riding and four people for each party, there are now 20 individuals per riding. With 300 ridings that means 6,000 returns to mull through, just as a result of getting the candidates, prior to the election even being held. We would have 6,000 returns from candidates and another 1,500 when the election is called. That is absurd. All we are doing is saying to people to go out and support the candidate of their choice, give him or her a cheque for $100, $200, $500 or whatever they wish. It is no big deal.
The other thing is the fundamental question of integrity here. We have these limitations, but I am saying that a person of integrity cannot be bought for $500 nor can he be bought for $5 million. It is just a matter of degree.
I remember one time when I made a very blatant statement in our staff room. I said I would not smoke a cigarette for $100. It took a matter of seconds and one of my colleagues said he was putting down $10 and another guy said he was putting down $10. It took less than a minute, there was $100 sitting on the table and then one of my smoking colleagues offered me a cigarette. There is the money, he said. I said, “Oh no, you guys are missing something”. Obviously smoking one cigarette was not going to harm me if I never smoked another one after that. This was back in the days when we made $400 a month and $100 was a lot of money. But I told them they had made a mistake, that it was no longer about whether or not I would take the $100 to smoke a cigarette. It was about my integrity and I told them they could not buy that for any price.
That is why the whole basis of the bill is flawed. What we are trying to do by putting arbitrary limits on how much one can be bought for is to say that somehow that will produce integrity. Very frankly, if one does not have it in the first place, one does not have it all. I do not think this bill is going to solve that problem. People who are going to be subject to being influenced by people who donate money to their cause are going to do it anyway.
I think this bill is as directionless as the registration of long guns is in trying to reduce crime. I am going to support this amendment because the bill needs to be looked at again. I wish it would be defeated right now, but it looks like the Liberals will push it through. They have closure. They are saying no more debate on this thing and they are going to push it through, so then we had better look at it afterwards.