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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parties.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think the final debate on and analysis of the election financing bill, Bill C-24, will prove to be an interesting one. Certainly I do not think there is a lot of disagreement among the political parties in the House of Commons on the fact that the election financing system needs to be revised and reformed, but I do think there is a lot of disagreement on exactly how that should occur.

I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, for all the work he has done on the bill. He, rather than I, has really had carriage of Bill C-24 so really I stand today to speak on behalf of the member for Brandon—Souris.

As we know, Bill C-24 was introduced at the beginning of the year as part of the Prime Minister's eight point action plan on ethics. Supposedly the bill was introduced to help address the lack of trust in which Canadians hold not necessarily only this institution but the political system itself. It was supposed to do something to combat the low voter turnout we are seeing in elections and hopefully improve the fairness and transparency of the electoral system.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that the bill does not address the issue of low voter turnout and does the opposite of creating fairness and addressing transparency. However, I think there will be further and more in-depth debate on this issue.

Let us look at the whole point of having an election financing bill and the Prime Minister's seeming insistence on ramming it through the House at late sitting in June. I think Canadians need to ask themselves a few questions. The first question would be this one: Why would a government that has been in power for 10 years bring in an election financing bill now? Also, what advantage does it give to the government that it maybe does not give to other political parties?

Having come to the bill only recently and really just having had the opportunity to look at it in depth, the first question I ask is not the question of whether perhaps there is room in the system for public financing of elections, because I think possibly with the right type of system, with the correct system and a proper analysis of the situation as it exists now, we could have public financing of elections and actually do a pretty good job of it.

However, if we really want to do something to react to low voter turnout and if we want the electorate to have faith and trust in the system, then here is what I would suggest to the government. I made the amendment at committee, which was not accepted. I tried to make it again at this reading of the bill and again it was not accepted. Rather than change the system as the Liberals and the majority on committee did, the bill should come into effect on January 1, 2006, not even January 1, 2005. As the bill exists now, it will come into effect on January 1, 2004.

I do not think there is a breathing and thinking Canadian who does not believe that we will have another election after that date, so really what the Liberal government has done here is get rid of its debt, and it has done that by just putting it over onto the backs of the taxpayers. The taxpayers of Canada will collect the tab for the next election. We have a big majority government. If we do it on the results of the last campaign, it only benefits the parties as they are established in the House of Commons now.

The reason I suggested that the bill should come into effect after January 1, 2006 is that we would be guaranteed that it would be after the next election.

I understand the need to base the election financing on some statistics, on some group of numbers. I would say that from my knowledge the committee worked very hard to be as fair as possible. However, by moving the date forward instead of backward, it showed a serious bias toward the establishment, the government and the numbers as they existed in 2000, not as they may exist after another election.

The bill is all about incumbency. It is all about supporting the government that is there now, supporting the parties that have the majority of the numbers. It is not about fairness. There is very little fairness in the bill.

Supposedly, we are taking away the ability of corporations to donate to political parties. However we have not taken away the ability of wealthy individuals to donate to political parties. In particular, and I think even more galling for me, is the fact members of Parliament would be able to donate to their own campaigns to the tune of $5,000 per year. What a slap in the face to ordinary Canadians who do not have that kind of money to put into a political campaign. However what a big assistance to the incumbent, especially the wealthy incumbent who may not have the public support to run an election campaign but who has the personal and private support to finance his or her own election campaign.

I think it is time Canadians took a look at the bill for exactly what it is. Again, it is all about incumbency. It is all about assisting the wealthy who may happen to be in politics already. It is a long way from transparency and fairness. I think the government has it wrong.

If we examine the fairness issue and look at the public funding of parties based on the number of votes received in the previous election, how can this possibly be viewed as fair? The governing party gets to start an election at least five paces ahead of every other party based on the platform it ran on three, four or five years earlier. The public financing does not address the changing views of Canadians during the term of this government or of any other government.

The government needs to look at a method of core funding for political parties and reasonable and equal limits for corporate and individual donations.

There is no balance to the legislation as it exists. The reporting requirements of the legislation should be a burden carried by cabinet, the Prime Minister's Office and members of Parliament. Instead, it is placed on our volunteer organizations that are already stretched to the max. It will discourage rather than encourage participation in the political process.

The government is beginning a process of micromanaging political parties, including the very structure of political parties, and the management of disclosed funds that are transferred within the party structure.

Due to the Prime Minister's supposed legacy agenda, we have had a very short time to examine the bill. It seems that very little thought and substance has gone into the bill. I will say again that I think the committee has tried to do what it could with the bill. A lot of discussions have taken place and a lot of hard work has gone into the bill but it has not been enough.

When there is a Liberal majority on the committee, at the end of the day the Prime Minister gets exactly what he wants. If what he wants is to put this in place now to pay off the $8 million debt of the Liberals, then that is exactly what Canadians will get.

I think there are some real issues with this particular legislation that have not yet been addressed, and certainly the issue of fairness is one of them.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I assume we are speaking technically against the amendment introduced by the member from the Alliance, that the amount be reduced to $0.01 from $0.4375. I certainly am speaking against that amendment, but I am also speaking against the increase from $0.375 that was originally proposed by the government House leader when he introduced this legislation.

The price of democracy has risen over the course of the weekend. What was to be $1.50 per vote per year to each of the political parties has now, according to the amendments that are in front of us in Group No.1 of this section, risen to $1.75.

I recall well the government House leader, when he was before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and when he introduced this bill, saying that the government officials had looked very closely at the returns over the past several years of all the political parties as to the total global amounts of money they received from trade unions, corporations and other associations by way of donations and that he was quite confident in what he reported to the committee on that occasion, that at $1.50 per vote per year, no political party would suffer financial injury as a result of that.

What has transpired in the last three months that now we come back at report stage and the $1.50 has climbed 25¢ to $1.75?

I have only been around here for six years. I do not recall one occasion when an organization or a request for money has come to the government that the government actually has turned around and given more than was ever requested. I find it passing strange that on this occasion the $1.50 becomes $1.75. I can only assume, as we have heard throughout this, that there has been a lot of in-fighting in the Liberal Party. The president of the party, Mr. LeDrew, has said that this whole idea was as dumb as a bag of hammers. We know, as has been alluded to by other speakers ahead of me today, that the Liberal Party has a significant debt, and so to extract another 25¢ from the taxpayer is no big deal, except that the members opposite ought to be hanging their heads in shame.

The other part of this, which I do not think anyone has touched upon so far, is that of course this money will all be, what they call in labour management negotiations, front-end loaded for the first go around. In other words, when the $1.75, on which we will be voting at some point, comes into effect for the purpose of the first go around on the legislation, when the bill comes into effect on January 1, 2004, all the political parties will receive $1.75 in a lump sum payment, as opposed to quarterly payments of 43¢ which would represent $1.75 in four annual instalments. Each of the political parties will receive their full allotment based upon how well, or less well, they performed in the 2000 election campaign. The Liberals already would have received over $8 million, and at $1.50, we can do the math and figure out what that will mean for them. It will certainly mean more money and it will be the termination of the Liberal debt as it heads into an election, which we undoubtedly will have within the next 12 months.

Those are real concerns. I want to make it clear that this party supports Bill C-24, the election financing act, in principle. We believe there are many good features in the bill. We think it could be a lot better. It does not need to be test driven to find out where some of the flaws are going to be.

For example, we believe and have said repeatedly that there should be no opportunity for trade union or corporate financing in this legislation. The only group of people who should be able to donate to politics are those who will be or are eligible to vote. We think that is a good principle.

We fought the notion of allowing any donations from trade unions, corporations and associations. We note that the amounts are relatively small, $1,000 per year, and none of that money can go to a political party. It all has to go to a candidate or a riding association from corporations, trade unions and associations.

However a very unlevel playing field has been allowed to occur. We tried to address it with our motions but they were ruled out of order. We tried it at clause by clause. The issue is the definition of how corporations and trade unions are defined.

As I said, our first preference was to eliminate all of that money. However if we are going to have, admittedly, modest amounts of money, then we believe that trade union locals should be able to donate $1,000 per year. They have their own bylaws and elect their own officers. They have money at their disposal and ought to be part of the electoral process, just like a Tim Hortons franchise or a General Motors franchise could and would be allowed to do.

When we look at the facts and figures, there are about 16,600 union locals in Canada, but when we look at the number of incorporated businesses in Canada, there are more than one million of them. As I said, this is a very unlevel playing field. We have tried without success to have the government see this, to have the government even take the general definition of a trade union under the Canada Labour Code. If it applied that definition to this legislation, then the locals would indeed be able to participate in the electoral process, just the same as a doughnut franchise or a DaimlerChrysler dealership.

However the government has taken a very narrow definition where it lumps all the locals together. This to us is very unfortunate and I think it points out a fundamental flaw. As I say, the bill does not need to be test driven to find out where the flaws are. They stick out like a sore thumb.

Another area for which we feel very strongly is the whole area of trust funds. In the course of clause by clause analysis, clause 71 of Bill C-24 was deleted. This, in effect, would have allowed those members of Parliament who have trust funds now, some of which are very sizeable, to simply launder that money into their riding association over the next six months with no questions asked. Therefore, on January 1, 2004, when the legislation takes effect, none of the sources of this money will have to be disclosed. We find that extremely unfortunate. We believe that clause 71 should have remained intact and that those funds, which have been held by perhaps half a dozen or 10 members of Parliament who have trust funds that we are aware of through public knowledge and public information, should have been in the bill and should have had to have been reported prior to January 1, 2004. That will not happen. It is another shortcoming of the bill.

On the positive side, reducing the amount that an individual can contribute from $10,000 to $5,000, is good on balance, although I would concur with my colleague from the Conservatives where we have allowed wealthier candidates to be able to put in $10,000 if they are running for office.

We will be speaking more about these as we get into report stage further, but those are our initial observations.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on debate in report stage of Bill C-24 to discuss the amendments in Group No. 1.

I want to deal with some of the amendments themselves. For instance, Motion No. 4 amends paragraph 435.1(2) to, first, increase the bases for the allowance from $1.50 to $1.75 and second, to allow for the indexation of the allocation.

The idea of this is the amendments would ultimately ensure that the changes to the political financing rules brought by Bill C-24 would not result in revenue losses for any of the parties. It was discovered, during the committee stage discussion, that the intention of the government was the bill be revenue neutral. It became clear that it was not quite revenue neutral, so this change was made to ensure it was. Also having indexation will ensure that it remains so for the future.

These proposed adjustments result from revisions made to the estimate of losses to parties that would result from the new restrictions of contributions by individuals, corporations and unions. That is the idea behind those amounts.

Regarding Motions Nos. 8 and 9, they amend subsections 464(3) and 465(3) of the Canada Elections Act to increase from 50% to 60% the percentage of election expenses for candidates that will be reimbursed.

The reason is that this premature change to reduce the financial impact felt by candidates would result in new restrictions on contributions by individuals, corporations and unions.

Concerning Motion No. 13, which deals with the early payment of quarterly allowances for 2004, the motion would add a transitory provision to provide that the quarterly allowance to parties for 2004 would exceptionally be paid in a single instalment at the beginning of the year when the act came into force.

The idea here is there is a need for transition because we have a new bill and a new procedure coming in. It was felt this would help with that transition for the political parties. It would also provide the possibility of subsequent adjustments to the allowance during that year, if there were to be an election in 2004, resulting in a change to the amount that a party is normally entitled to receive.

For example, in the case of an increased allowance following an election in 2004, additional instalments to the party would be made on a quarterly basis. On the other hand of course, in the case of where a party received an amount at the beginning of the year that was greater than that to which it would be entitled based upon the results of the votes from that election, let us say it was next year, any amount paid in excess of what it would be entitled to would have to be paid back to the coffers of the government.

For 2005 and subsequent years, the allowance would be paid on a quarterly basis, as provided for in the bill originally. Again, this is a transition measure to help the parties adjust to the new procedure.

Motion No. 14 would allow for reimbursements for election expenses for parties incurred in the first general election following the coming into force of the act to be set at 60% instead of 50%, as a one-time exception.

Subsequently, parties would receive a 50% reimbursement for election expenses, as set out in the bill. Once again, this is a transitional measure to help parties adjust to the new system.

Those are the positions of the government on the various motions, and I look forward to hearing the views of other members of the House.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

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.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on the report stage motions in Group No. 1 on Bill C-24, a bill which has garnered an awful lot of attention, particularly because as a totality, it brings forward to the House the principle that there is a public perception that the business community has an undue influence on those in political life. I believe all members would agree with that sentiment.

To change the rules regarding donations, a number of questions have been raised. I am going to do what I can to explain some of the changes that have been made and are proposed in the bill. In Group No. 1, Motion No. 4 introduces an inflation factor regarding the amounts payable to political parties based on the number of votes that they get.

The inflation factor is understandable, however I must find out whether the last election is reflective of the participation of each of those parties in terms of corporate and union donations. It may be an aberration. I do not know whether or not there has been enough study done to ensure that the last election is within the range of a reasonable breakdown of the corporate and union support.

Motion No. 8 deals with the amount to be subsidized for a candidate's election expenses. It would increase from 50% to 60% as an adjustment to assist candidates in an election. Individual candidates in a riding would not be able to rely on corporate donations other than the limit allowed which, in a large number of cases, would be a substantial reduction in their ability to raise funds. It is certainly going to shift the onus to a greater participation by individuals. I am not sure whether there is more to the 50% to 60% as a transitional provision. It would appear that it is not a transitional provision, but, in fact, a permanent provision and I am not sure whether that was the intent of the original proposal when the bill was first brought to this place.

The last item deals with advancing a full year amount in the first year and has to do with cash flow issues. I think I can understand that and would be supportive with an implementation date of January 1, 2004. Having said that, the fundamental issue goes right back to the principle which is being presented and strongly recommended to the House by the Prime Minister.

We must address the issue concerning the integrity of people in public life. There should be no allusion that a simple change in fundraising issues could deal effectively with the full scope of the problem. It has taken a long time for people in public life to get this reputation. It is going to take a long time before the public at large feels more comfortable vis-à-vis the people or organizations who influence Parliament.

Having said that, I would question the principle that corporate donations should be restricted to $1,000 across the country. That $1,000 actually gives the corporate donor or a union the full maximum tax credit allowed under the Income Tax Act, namely $500 of benefit. It peaks out below $1,000 so that the direct cost to the taxpayer in terms of the tax expenditure or the reduction of taxes otherwise payable is unchanged by the bill.

The fact that we continue to have corporate donations to a certain extent means that the administrative and mechanics of the system of donations for political purposes continues to be fully in place. Although there is a cap now, there will probably be even more work to determine whether or not compliance with the act has been met by companies. I can see a tremendous amount of cost.

I would argue that the total elimination of all corporate and union donations would be a savings to taxpayers because we would not have the administrative costs. It would be a more streamlined process. Having run in four federal elections, I know how complex the returns are for members when they have to audit their election expenses as well as others who administer fundraising activities in off-election years.

I raise these in good faith because I fundamentally believe in the principle underlying the bill. By addressing this issue the integrity of parliamentarians, of people in public office, will be improved in terms of public perception. I will support the bill on that basis. We are now at a point where members are discussing certain changes. I hope, as a consequence of considering some of the mechanics,--and I can only believe that the committee has touched on some of the points that I raised--that I will be satisfied that these changes being proposed in Group No. 1 would improve the bill and enhance the public perception of the credibility of the bill and its intent.

In conclusion, I support the bill at this point on the main principle. I look forward to following the debate and to participate further with other groups to ensure that when we finish, and have our votes, that we have the best bill possible. Should there be other items that could be dealt with, I trust that all those who have that opportunity to further improve the bill will in fact take that opportunity.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on Bill C-24, the new fundraising bill for political expenses that will again be incurred by the taxpayers of the country. We seem to see a common thread here.

The concern from the Canadian Alliance standpoint is that this again misses the target. We see a lot of different bills come to this place that, politically, look like they would be a good thing but when we skin that animal out we realize that it does not go anywhere near what needs to be done.

We have seen a huge problem here. The Prime Minister himself was quoted in the Toronto Star . He said there is a perception that money can unduly influence the political process. He said in the House earlier that there is a perception that corporate and union contributions buy influence.

It is not the donation to a political party that in and of itself is the problem. The problem is when we see things like the sponsorship fiasco that rocked the government a year ago or when donations follow a political package to a friend of someone.

The bill in no way addresses the types of political patronage and the abuse of power by mostly frontbench cabinet members. They have the discretionary funding. We have also seen the Prime Minister being a good little MP and making phone calls to folks who are outside of Treasury Board rules and guidelines. We saw the public works minister and one after another as they fell by the wayside rocked by these scandals. We saw the government struggle to come up with more rules. What is the good of having all these extra rules if nobody follows the darn things anyway? We keep rewriting the rule book, but everybody throws it aside and does their own thing.

Again, we see that in Bill C-24. The relevance of this does not remove the underlying problem of kickbacks, handouts, and donations to the Liberal Party. It is almost proceeds of crime. I am sure that if the RCMP were to dig to the bottom of all of this it would find out the percentage that was required back. It is almost a tithing system the way this was done. Money went to certain parties to perform jobs that were questionable, whether they needed to be done or were done, and then the money was back in Liberal coffers. It is a terrible way to run a government, but that is what is done.

The bill in no way addresses the patronage and kickback problems or even these huge trust funds that certain MPs have developed over the years. It does not address any of those types of situations.

There has been a myriad of articles written on this and I know we stand alone as a political party in saying this is not the right thing to do. We have the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport over there yammering away, but he does not understand what is happening outside the Ottawa bubble. We give these guys a bigger job, a car and driver, and they forget what their folks at home are saying. They will pay the price in the next election. We saw it in the byelection just a short time ago.

Professor Ken Carty is Canada's leading academic analyst to party leadership and electoral process. He said:

Freeing parties from the resources of their members and their supporters will leave them as instruments for professional politicians to mobilize and control voters rather than tools for citizens to direct their public life.

He has some major concerns and I think he hits it right on the head with that statement. This is all about long term political control. These fellows are very good at that as has been demonstrated in the years that they have controlled the country. They have waited for the long term spin to be to their benefit. They are more than happy to take a little short term pain in order to gain some long term control. We have seen that time and time again.

There are a lot of special interest groups out there and a lot of them put pressure on MPs, but mostly cabinet ministers, because they have the resources to change any sort of legislation that comes down here. As backbenchers or opposition members, we do not have a lot of influence in what a final bill will look like. We see that time and again. Members from all sides of the House do great work in committees, and when a report finally gets here, where does it go? It goes into a dustbin. It is gone. Nobody ever picks up some of the amendments and they are good amendments. Some come from this side and some actually come from Liberal backbenchers. These are good, solid, and sound amendments that would make legislation better. However, we see them tossed aside because cabinet ministers have a certain idea where they want to go and they will not deviate from that. They will not rewrite a clause or change a thing in those bills. That is a real frustration.

We have other folks like Errol Mendes, who is a law professor at the University of Ottawa. He is an expert in ethics and human rights. He is troubled by the bill and he is speaking out too.

Professor Mendes has a lot of education along these lines and has sound logic and good thinking. He is saying that there are violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms right here in this piece of legislation. We had the House leader rise and say he does not believe any of that, that it is all hooey and it will end up in the courts and the lawyers will sort it out. There we go again: a piece of legislation that will make a lot of work for lawyers and the courts, and we are already overburdened with courts.

Professor Mendes is the editor-in-chief of Canada's leading constitutional law journal, the National Journal of Constitutional Law . He has written numerous articles about this and has some major concerns, none of which are even close to being addressed by a couple of the amendments that have squeaked through. The problem with those amendments is it makes this package richer, not more accountable. He is saying that this is being ratcheted up.

As a constitutional lawyer, Professor Mendes has some grave concerns. He said that this “subsidy scheme” violates the charter. That is what he calls it, a subsidy scheme, and that is more or less what it is. It is taxpayers' money being subsidized back into political parties which they may or may not support.

Professor Mendes says that under section 15 of the charter, which is designed to protect minorities who have traditionally been blocked out of the system, this goes even further and blocks them some more. The bill does not address the 50 seat rule that we have and so on. Anyone trying to start a political party or maintain a smaller political party will have a terrible time under this bill. Again this is part of the long term benefits the Liberals are looking for. The government House leader writes it all away. Part of his quote was that it may keep a lawyer busy, but it is not going to convince him that it is not good. That is a sad situation and a sad commentary from the House leader, who is more intent on ramming the legislation through as part of the existing Prime Minister's legacy than anything that deals with common sense.

There are a lot of other things that come up in our day to day work here and one I have always questioned is these trade missions, team Canada, led by our all star Prime Minister. In fact, I saw a newspaper headline a while ago, a dated issue that showed the leaders of China and Britain at the time, Bill Clinton from the United States and our illustrious Prime Minister. They are all standing in a row in China. The newspaper article identified the first three, but said when it came to our Prime Minister “man at right unidentified”. That was our Prime Minister, who has been a great friend of China and supports that country every way he can. The paper did not even know who he was and he was there on a trade mission.

There are a lot of questions about that. In fact, when we study it, with the exception of China, for every other country to which we have had a team Canada trade mission, our trade has gone down, not up. And for the one country that we do the majority of our trade with, we did not send trade delegations there and our trade went up. So we have to question the validity of some of these trade delegations.

In the study that was done, the findings were that one-third of the businesses on trade missions donated to the Liberals. The author raises his eyebrows and says it was either a hand picked delegation or they were converted on the road to Damascus and started to make donations to the Liberal Party after they were included in one of these trade delegations. There is some huge lobbying that can go on there and there can be contributions back to a governing party outside of anything this law covers. There are grants and contributions and all sorts of good things that go on. It is a huge double standard.

Another thing that speaks to this is that the government now will review the freebie ticket policy. We had the Ottawa Senators go another step up toward their goal of the Stanley Cup this year. Unfortunately the team did not make it, but they did play well, and lot of folks from this House got free tickets. That does not show up on anyone's list because it is under a certain value and so on, but that is preferential treatment. The Prime Minister can even golf with Tiger Woods and that is supposedly worth $50,000. The Prime Minister's lapdog, the ethics counsellor, said it was just a great thing that the Prime Minister was able to talk to Tiger about American and Canadian relations, but the Prime Minister will not even talk to the president, so I do not think he will get very far through the back door with a golfer like Tiger Woods. In fact, Tiger Woods' comment was that the Prime Minister does some creative accounting when he is keeping his own score.

There are these tickets that slip under the wire and there are these trade missions that slip under the wire, and the Bill C-24 legislation is a terrible way to try to slam the door on this. It does not address the fundamental problem. It is the back door deals we have a concern with, not this.

There is talk from the other side that we on this side will take the money and be hypocrites, but this is called the law of the land. We have no choice once it is in legislation like this, and as much as we detest it we are going to have to live with it. All the extra bookkeeping that is going to be required for our constituency associations and all of that is going to be a terrible workload. A lot of people will throw up their hands. There will less people voting in the next election because they are just walking away from this type of legislation.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to have the opportunity to participate in this debate on Bill C-24.

I listened carefully to the government House leader when he introduced the debate that is now underway. He congratulated members for introducing amendments that would improve the bill and basically urged that we get through report stage reading in a great big hurry so we can go to third reading with haste and get this bill over and done with.

I have to say, “Not quite so fast, Mr. Government House Leader”. It seems to me we have a situation here where a bill that is overwhelmingly supported by Canadians in terms of its stated purpose is failing spectacularly to live up to what that stated purpose is supposed to be. Let me make it very clear that the New Democratic Party from the outset has endorsed the stated intent of the bill, which is to remove big money from undue influence in the political process, to level the playing field as it relates to the financial base of political parties and specifically to rule out the contribution of political party funds and election contributions from corporations and unions. So far so good: It is a principle that I think is endorsed overwhelmingly by Canadians.

The problem I have as a member who supports that principle, one with which my party is struggling, is the shortfall we now see in what the government clearly has decided is the final version of the bill that it wishes to rush through and implement as the law of the land.

Let me use a couple of examples, one referring to a situation in Nova Scotia that perhaps best illustrates the problem we have with some very uneven treatment in this bill as it relates to contributions from corporations versus contributions from unions. My colleague, the member from Saskatoon, who spoke earlier, already has expressed concern about this. My colleague from Winnipeg Centre also has expressed concerns about this. Let me just for the record say that it is surely a contradiction of the fundamental principle that this bill, which the government wishes to pass in this form, reflecting the amendments from government members, is saying absolutely no to contributions from any trade unions of any kind while it basically leaves the door very open to corporations' contributions to election financing.

That is just a statement of fact. That is not a point of argument or a point of disagreement. The reality is that what has been provided in this bill is that corporations are free, admittedly, to donate less money than they did in the past. The reality is that the Liberal Party in particular has been bankrolled overwhelmingly by corporate donations, so I will acknowledge that the restrictions placed on corporate donations mean that the Liberal Party is scrambling to figure out how to make up the shortfall from that massive source of corporate funding of their election campaigns and their political party in the past.

But by what possible principle of even-handedness does the government feel that disallowing contributions, for example, from trade union locals, while it gives completely open door treatment to business franchises, is the way to go? By what possible logic or principle of fairness has the government made the decision that this is the way to go?

Let me give an example. I know this was referred to briefly by my colleague who spoke before me. We have in this country today 1,201,383 incorporated businesses. We also have in this country today 886 trade unions. I do not want to suggest that every single incorporated business in the country is going to give to one political party or to one particular political party, but based on the legislation before us, we have the potential for 1,201,383 businesses to donate $1,000 each to candidates in every riding across this country. We have no such openness even to the far fewer numbers of trade union locals in the country. We have 16,601 trade union locals in the country. In fact, that is a ratio of 1,355 to 1 as between business and trade union locals, yet we have in this legislation a total disallowance of any trade union locals from making modest contributions to election candidates.

It makes no sense, not if the stated purpose was in fact the intention of this legislation. It simply falls short of the stated purpose, which is to level the playing field and to remove big corporate and big trade union money from election campaigns. Even in the way in which it has been described, there is a severe distortion. There is a deception in creating the impression that money from trade union donors comes anywhere close to matching the massive bankrolling of the Liberal Party in particular.

This is all a matter of public record. This is not a matter of conjecture. Those facts and figures are known, because the New Democratic Party in the early 1970s as a condition of maintaining a minority Liberal government demanded the full disclosure of sources and amounts of political party contributions. The facts are a matter of public record.

But what we have here is a situation, for example, where every single GM dealership, and I am not picking on GM but simply picking out one car dealership in the country, in fact can donate $1,000 to the campaign of the political candidate of its choice. However, no local representing auto workers anywhere in the country, no matter how many thousands of auto workers there are, is permitted to donate $1,000 out of its own auto workers' pockets and paycheques and deposit it through a check-off system which they sign on to. Where is the even-handedness in that? Where is the level playing field? We have made it clear that we are opposed both to union and to corporate funds, but what we are absolutely not in favour of is that kind of discriminatory treatment, that kind of contradictory situation.

The second concern, which I will have an opportunity to speak about at a later date, is really the complete farce of allowing for trust funds that are already in existence, with who knows how many dollars from what sources, to continue to bankroll political party campaigns.

Let me say in closing, because I know my time is up, that I come from Nova Scotia and millions and millions of dollars were obtained by the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia and deposited in trust funds through extortion, through influence peddling and through bribery, of which Liberal Party officials were convicted in the courts. In fact, there were cases of imprisonment related to that. To this day, the Liberal Party bankrolls its campaigns with those illegal trust funds. The legislation has been permitting it.

We now have a situation where we have no idea what is in those trust funds because there is no requirement to disclose the sources of those trust funds. They will be permitted to continue to finance political party campaigns where they are in existence.

One has to say, at the very least, that the bill falls far short of fairness, of any reasonable level of the playing field and of any full disclosure of the sources and amounts of political party contributions, which surely are three major characteristics that one would look for in the bill before being able to wholeheartedly support it.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith Canadian Alliance South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the bill that is before the House, Bill C-24.

I should say that it does not surprise me, the route that the government is taking on this.

I sit on the public accounts committee and, as members are aware, the Auditor General of Canada, an independent person who reports directly to the House of Commons as opposed to the government, has pointed out some of the travesties that have occurred in government sponsorship programs.

It is constantly being publicized and brought to the public's attention the accountability of how the government has these kinds of offhand situations where companies are directly benefiting from the fact that they donate to the Liberal Party of Canada, or it might even be in the reverse, where people donate to the Liberal Party of Canada and then they benefit, as a company, from government contracts.

The one thing that has made it possible, not only for the Auditor General but for those of us in opposition whose job it is to hold the government to account, has been the ability to connect, through access to information or just the public accounts, those who get government contracts with those who donate to various political parties, namely, the governing party. We have, through that process, been able to make those connections.

Now, as I understand it, with the new legislation the government is trying to give Canadians the impression that all of that questionable behaviour will cease and desist, and that because of the taxpayer funding parties and elections, this kind of thing will not happen.

A person would have to be awfully naive to think that will be the end result. All that will happen is that rather than a corporation, which might receive a government contract, being upfront with its donation, perhaps 10 individuals of that corporation will be donating the money which would be equal or more than what that corporation might have donated in the first place, but the connections will be much harder to put together.

I think it will just create more confusion in trying to make those connections, therefore giving the governing party an opportunity to not be quite so accountable and upfront with who is getting what contracts and who is donating to the Liberal Party of Canada, or it might be some other party at the time.

I think it is also unfair to establish the public subsidization of political parties based on past performance. It was not that many years ago that I was a recipient of a feeling of the people of Canada that they were tired of the government of the day and wanted to replace it.

If this bill had been in place, it would not recognize that turn of support of the Canadian people. Where a party would have had substantial contributions from the public purse, it came to this House with only two people. Somehow there is a disconnect.

I would suggest that the legislation is very dangerous to democracy in Canada because it would fund the party that has perhaps given poor government by the people of Canada when they do not support that party, and that is unfair. It is undemocratic rather than being unfair for a government to insist that taxpayers have to fund political parties that they do not support.

Political parties should be funded by the people who support them, by the people who want to see them elected and elected in enough numbers to replace the government of the day or, simply put, it is the democratic principle of individuals to support the party that represents their viewpoints.

I do not think all taxpayers want to be supporting parties that they do not like, do not believe in and do not believe in what they stand for, and keep them in power, if that be the case. When we look at the number of dollars that the bill would give to political parties, it is astounding.

I think taxpayers are already concerned with the fact that if individuals who run an election receive more than 15% of the votes they will get back half the money they spent. The legislation says that individuals who get 10% of the popular vote would get back half the money they spent.

If taxpayers really stopped to think about it I think they would be horrified to know to what extent they will be funding this electoral process. I am not saying that there should not be a connect between the voter and the process, but I think that should be the decision by the person who is voting and paying the bill, as to how much connected they want to be to the process.

The two things with which I have real difficulty are that it will be less transparent, I believe, and that it will take away the democratic right of voters to support the party of their choice.

In looking at the fine print I am also very concerned with the reporting mechanisms for smaller amounts of money. I do not how other people operate but my constituency organization has all volunteers. They are good people who give of their time to their country in the way they have chosen to by helping the electoral process, but they are not CGAs. They are not people who can go through an accounting process that, quite frankly, is done at election time, and rightly so, but I cannot see where it will be of benefit to Elections Canada to have all this paperwork flowing in. It will not be to the benefit of the constituency organizations that will have to put out money to hire accountants and auditors to audit the books for, at some times, minimal amounts of money.

When large sums of money are raised it is generally at election time which is when the reporting mechanisms have to be very stringent. I am not saying that there should not be any reporting mechanisms but the way it is outlined in the book it will be almost impossible for smaller volunteer organizations like our constituency associations to meet the requirements. I think it is an inappropriate way of handling this.

The other area that causes me great concern is the way the bill does not even deal with one of the greatest concerns that the Chief Electoral Officer has, and that is the patronage postings of returning officers. The comments from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada is that he would not take our Canadian system and push it in third world countries where they are trying to establish democratic election processes. It is a sad state of affairs when he cannot even use our process as an example of how he would do things. The biggest concern he has is with this business of the Prime Minister of Canada appointing returning officers.

When are we going to have a truly neutral election process? As long as the Prime Minister is in a position of picking and choosing political hacks who support his policy and his party's position, how will we ever get neutral people running elections?

It goes further than the returning officers. It goes down into the people who they pick. There is no way, in a democracy like Canada, that our election process should be tainted by patronage appointments. It is a sad day when the major overhaul of our elections act does not remedy that failure.

As I said, when the Chief Electoral Officer promotes democratic elections around the world to developing and emerging democracies but cannot use our own example, something is wrong with that. The bill fails to address some of those very serious issues.

I will end by saying that I had great hopes that this would have allowed more transparent election spending or contributions but it does not. I had hoped that it would have made the process more democratic but it does not. The bill has failed to address some of the serious concerns that taxpayers, voters, Canadians have with our electoral process.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario

Liberal

Paul Devillers LiberalSecretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we have heard various speakers this morning say that there is broad support for the principles behind the legislation but then they seem to drift off into tangents of quite partisan attacks on the motivation of the government, et cetera.

However I think there is broad support, not only from parties in the House but from Canadians generally. When I discussed the issue in my riding, it received broad support. Canadians are concerned with the appearance of influence that is obtained when larger corporations make larger donations to political parties. They are concerned when the labour movement makes contributions to political parties and the influence that could have.

In my riding I see broad support for the principles. Sometimes the devils are in the details, which is what we are in the process of discussing and debating. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the committee, ably chaired by the member for Peterborough, for the work it did in reviewing the bill and coming up with some of the amendments that are before the House at the present time.

The important part to bear in mind is that we need to come up with legislation that is true to the principles and the intent, and that is to have greater transparency and greater openness so Canadians can feel that our electoral system is indeed free and independent. That it is somewhat taxpayer subsidized now cannot be denied. Currently, when corporations make their contributions to political parties they do obtain quite significant tax credits or tax deductions, so there is a considerable amount of taxpayer money being invested in our system now.

We are trying to avoid a system similar to other countries where it takes tremendous amounts of money to become elected. It takes it outside the ability of many ordinary citizens to become elected to the houses of representation in their respective countries. A very strong plus for our electoral system is that we currently have spending limits and that the legislation will be an improvement on that system.

We have heard comments here this morning to the effect that it is a denial of democracy. Some of the amendments or provisions are for taxpayer funds to be reimbursed directly to political parties dependent upon the result of elections. There is nothing that prevents individual Canadians from making direct contributions. They would still receive tax credits for the contributions to the parties of their choice. We are not making an exclusive change that would prohibit that.

I think some of the comments may have been a little bit overstated to the effect that we will be denying democracy here by putting in changes that will provide for taxpayer funds to be reimbursed directly to parties, because that is done indirectly now through the tax credits. Also, we currently have rebates to individual campaigns. I believe Motions Nos. 8 and 9, combined, would have the effect of increasing that from a 50% rebate to a 60% rebate for individual campaigns.

One has to bear that in mind. It is a very onerous task, that each individual candidate for election to the House of Commons continually, term after term, has to go through a process of amassing enough funds in his or her individual riding association coffers to finance those campaigns. This is an amendment, the effect of which will be to increase that rebate by 10%. I am sorry if I missed the point but that does not appear to be an attack on democracy from my perspective. It is just something that will assist all campaigns to amass the funds they require prepare for the next election.

We were talking about the amendments in Group No. 1. They are all reasonable amendments that could be supported by members of the House.

Motion No. 4 is an increase for the quarterly allowance from $1.50 per vote to $1.75. Again, I do not think there is anything contained in the amendment that would warrant some of the very strong language that we have heard in this debate.

Motions Nos. 13 and 14 are temporary. They are transitional provisions that will be necessary because we will be switching from one system to another. It will require a cultural change provided the legislation comes into effect somewhat in the present state it is in now. There will need to be a transitional period where all parties will need time to adjust to the new culture. Those two provisions are self-explanatory and certainly warrant it.

With that I will conclude and suggest that these are amendments that warrant the support of the House.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-24. This is the second time I have spoken to the bill and it is because of my great concern about it.

I was quite surprised to hear the previous speaker from the government side say that there was wide support for Bill C-24. I have not received a single phone call in my riding of Calgary East in favour of the bill. I have received numerous phone calls opposed to it.

My constituents want to know why taxpayers should finance political parties, a simple question. Hard earned taxpayer dollars will be used to finance political parties. Taxpayers work hard for their money. The government is supposed to tax them for services that improve their quality of life, not send it down. The government is not supposed to play politics with their lives. As I said already, taxpayers cannot understand why they should have to pay for political parties. I cannot answer them.

This government calls itself the natural governing party of Canada. Those Liberal are the ones who have benefited the most out of this whole political financial system. They are the ones who have created it over the years. There are some flaws and there does need to be improvements, but why transfer this burden to taxpayers?

A phenomenon is occurring quite often these days. Somebody needs more money so the government transfers it to them, and this is called user fees. Canadians will tell us that user fees have taken off and there is no accountability. Any organization can charge a user fee and there is no stopping that. My colleague on the other side has a bill before the House, which I am supporting. It tries to bring some accountability to user fees. Bill C-24 is like a user fee.

What is stopping the government from raising the bar and having taxpayers paying money to political parties? There was a revolt in the Liberal Party, and what did the Prime Minister do to pacify those members? He raised the limit. Where does it stop? It will just keep going on and on. It is like giving a blank cheque to the government. With the government's record and when it suits it politically, it will do anything to keep an interest in that file. To Hell with ethics an to Hell with political acumen.This has been the government's record.

Does the government talk about patronage? With regard to Elections Canada, has the government brought in any reform in reference to returning officers? No, it has not. I bet most Canadians do not know that returning officers can only be appointed by the ruling party and nobody else. The government does not want to clean that up.

The government does not want to remove the 50 candidate rule because it benefits the most and it does not want any competition. It does not want to talk about secret trust funds. It also does not want to talk about third party responsibility. If Canadians came to know about that, they would demand change and more accountability. Who does it benefit? It benefits that government over there.

I was amazed to hear the last speaker say that we on this side of the House were attacking the government and that we were being partisan. We are being partisan? Look at the bill and the essence and the intent of it. What does the Prime Minister say about this bill? That it will be influenced by corporations and trade unions.

What does the bill do? There will be a $5,000 limit for individuals and a $1,000 limit for corporations. I am an elected member of Parliament. I go out and solicit campaign funds. Generally Canadians will give $20, $25, $100 or $150. The average Canadian does not give $5,000 to political parties. Only rich Canadians and corporations can afford to give $5,000. Because they give $5,000, why would they not have undue influence? The Prime Minister says that he wants to eliminate that by this bill? It is the same thing. They have just twisted it around so their rich buddies can give them $5,000. It has not changed, it will just be taken away from the corporations.

The essence of not having an influence on this is a counterproductive argument. That is why Canadians ask this simple question. Why should they pay? Why should taxpayers pay for political parties?

This bill also would create an expensive bureaucracy, as my colleague from Surrey just said. Riding associations will require a tremendous amount of reporting to fulfill their bureaucratic requirements. We will be creating a huge bureaucracy with huge reporting requirements.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member will have three minutes remaining in his intervention when we get back to Bill C-24 at report stage.

We will now proceed to statements by members.

Jeux d'été du QuébecStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, from August 1 to 9, the Asbestos region will host the 39th finals of the Jeux du Québec–été 2003. At this event, 4,273 athletes from all over Quebec will take part in a multitude of sporting activities.

On June 2, on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources Development, I had the pleasure of announcing $21,431 in financial support for the organizing committee. This funding comes from the summer career placements program and will make it possible to create summer jobs for seven students.

Whether they work in preparing for the games, or ensuring later that they run smoothly, having a summer job helps these young people develop new skills and abilities, identify career objectives and save money to pay for their education. This initiative, which will benefit the employer as much as the young people, is a fine example of the creative synergy between enthusiasm and experience; we can be very proud of this kind of program.

This summer, we invite you all to visit this beautiful region and take part in our summer games.

World Indoor Lacrosse ChampionshipsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the Canadian national team for its gold medal performance at the indoor lacrosse championships held several weekends ago in Hamilton.

Team Canada defeated the Iroquois Nationals for the gold by a score of 21 to 4. The city of Hamilton was host to teams from the United States, Scotland, Czech Republic and Australia. In total Canada outscored the opposition 148 to 42 through seven games.

The tournament was organized to promote Canadian culture to other countries. Team Canada's victory is a remarkable demonstration of why lacrosse is our summer national sport.

We are proud of all of our athletes. Please join me in congratulating the athletes of Team Canada for their victory at the 2003 world indoor lacrosse championships.

Date Rape DrugsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, in recent years new and dangerous weapons have been used to sexually assault women at parties, on campuses and at nightclubs. The weapons are date rape drugs. Virtually undetectable, date rape drugs are tasteless, odourless and colourless. They are stealthily slipped into drinks and food and act rapidly, rendering the victim unconscious and unresponsive with little or no memory of what happens while the drug is active in the victim's system. Victims are often unaware that they have been sexually assaulted or raped, with little memory of their attacker. Worse, all traces of the drug can leave the body within 72 hours of ingestion and are not found in any routine toxicology screening or blood test.

Not long ago, a husband and wife predator team in Prince George used date rape drugs to drug children for child pornography. Last month a 32 year old woman died in Quebec after drinking beverages laced with the date rape drug.

For too long, nothing has been done to combat date rape drugs. This is why I am tabling in the House my private member's Motion No.458, which calls on the government to list identified date rape drugs as weapons in the Criminal Code and to create a national initiative to educate women on the dangers of date rape drugs.

Court Challenges ProgramStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on June 1, I was pleased to attend a gathering hosted by the Court Challenges Program of Canada headed in Winnipeg.

The Manitoba division of the program was hosting Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and human rights commissioner for the United Nations.

I share this information with colleagues in the House to highlight the very important and quite singular work being undertaken by the court challenges program.

The court challenges program is a non-profit organization set up by the federal government to provide support for court cases across Canada that address language and equality rights that are guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution. The program is administered by a board of directors made up of experienced people in the areas of human rights and language rights.

I applaud the work of this organization. I urge all members to support the Court Challenges Program at every opportunity. It is a program that is distinctly Canadian and truly a model for jurisdictions worldwide.

Prime Minister's Award for Teaching ExcellenceStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Pascale Baillargeon from Kimmirut, Nunavut for receiving the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence on May 15. The Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence was given to 16 educators from across Canada.

Pascale teaches grades 10 to 12 in fine arts, social studies, math, science, northern studies, outdoor education, computer technology, shop, life skills modules, career and life management, career planning and preparation. More important, she is a friend of the people of Kimmirut.

Pascale is originally from Quebec City and has lived in Kimmirut for the past 10 years and has become a member of the community.

On behalf of my constituents of Nunavut, let me say that we wish her well.

Amateur SportStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services announced last December that there would be no more sponsorship money for professional sports teams, but lately he and his colleague the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport inked a deal with the CFL for close to $1 million to put Canadian flags on the league's helmets.

Last year Revenue Canada singled out Saskatchewan, claiming that teenage hockey players on volunteer-run teams must pay taxes. The Secretary of State for Amateur Sport cannot explain why stipends to young men living away from home are income, while handouts to Olympic athletes are not.

The public works minister cannot explain why a professional football league populated by American players requires taxpayers' money, while his province of Saskatchewan is being penalized for trying to develop future Canadian hockey stars.

The secretary of state has a soiree tonight in honour of amateur sport. Maybe he will announce that Canadian youth should play under the flag of Barbados to take advantage of tax breaks like millionaire shipowners can.

To avoid the mindless greed of the Liberal government, what else can Saskatchewan hockey players do but put the flag of Barbados on their helmets?

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to the officials of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency's access to information directorate. Over the last few years these dedicated employees have shown continuous improvement in their compliance with the statutory time requirements of the Access to Information Act. This year the CCRA achieved a grade A, denoting ideal compliance.

In his 2002-03 annual report, the information commissioner remarked:

These results are extremely encouraging. Few departments have achieved ideal compliance with the time requirements.... The measures taken by the CCRA over the years to make improvements could be adapted by other departments seeking similar improvements.

The diligent and dedicated CCRA staff completed 96.54% of access requests within the legislated timeframe for the period April 1, 2002 to November 30, 2002. It is an excellent record indeed.

Aung San Suu KyiStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 30, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist in the fight for democracy and human rights in Burma, was arrested by the country's military authorities and placed in so-called preventive detention. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent a number of years under house arrest, had—thanks to international pressure—finally been authorized to resume her political activities and travel around the country.

Now, the Burmese military have used clashes—provoked by the military, no doubt—between demonstrators and the militants of Aung San Suu Kyi's National Democracy League, as a pretext to jail her and shut down all of her political party's offices. The daughter of Aung San, a hero of Burmese independence who was assassinated in 1947, Aung San Suu Kyi has been struggling ceaselessly for 15 years to put an end to the military regime and institute democracy and respect for human rights in her country.

The international community must mobilize in order to force the Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi immediately. Canada must develop a firmer stand vis-à-vis the military rulers of Burma, and speak out in all international forums to put an end to this intolerable situation.

Dairy MonthStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the dairy caucus I am very pleased to announce that June is Dairy Month in Canada.

The dairy industry is one of the largest agricultural sectors within Canada. In 2002 alone, over 7.6 billion litres of milk were produced, generating $4.4 billion in cash receipts and $9.8 billion in processor level sales. Clearly the dairy industry is one of the most vital to Canadian agriculture.

The dairy farmers also proudly sponsor our Olympic hopefuls and athletes. In fact, on June 25 in Calgary, 20 athletes will be awarded a bursary of $10,000 as part of the Dairy Farmers of Canada's pure determination fund.

The industry continually distributes information about the nutritional aspects and healthy effects that milk products have on Canadians' daily lives. With the nation's increasing love of cheese, cream and yogourt, it is important to realize the important contributions the dairy industry has made to Canada.

In short, Canadian cheese, gotta love it.

Portuguese CanadiansStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, on May 13, 1953 the first officially recognized Portuguese immigrants arrived in Halifax on pier 21. This means that 2003 marks the 50th anniversary of official immigration from Portugal to Canada. I rise today to offer congratulations to the approximately 360,000 Canadians of Portuguese origin on Portugal's national day and to commemorate this historic occasion.

Portuguese Canadians have sewn a beautiful thread through the multicultural tapestry of Canadian society. Whether it is listening to the music of famous Portuguese Canadian Nelly Furtado or witnessing the achievements of the Portuguese Canadian Coalition for Better Education, it is clear the Portuguese Canadian community is thriving. On this historic day, I am honoured and pleased to congratulate the Portuguese community for 50 years of flourishing in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to represent my party and our leader at the luncheon you held today for the Prime Minister of Portugal. I say to other colleagues further down to my left that they should look at his political record and his willingness to lead a centre right coalition to form the government of Portugal.

Nature-Action QuébecStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I wish to pay tribute to Nature-Action Québec, an organization located in the riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert involved in improving the quality of life of its people and those living in neighbouring communities.

The mission of Nature-Action Québec is to act as a concrete influence on society by promoting new ways of doing things that are more harmonious with a healthy and sustainable environment, both now and in the future.

Recently, the Government of Canada awarded the organization $149,877 to finish the shoring up of the banks of the Lamarre ditch, thus preventing flooding caused by poor irrigation practices on Chambly farmland, as well as to construct a noise barrier in a park.

Initiatives such as these have a positive impact on the environment. That is why my colleagues join with me in congratulating the Nature-Action Québec team and encouraging them to keep up the good work.

Montreal Holocaust Memorial MuseumStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Montreal, I and a number of my colleagues had the privilege of attending the opening of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Museum.

This museum, the first one of international scope in Canada, was opened in the presence of men and women from a variety of backgrounds and political affiliations.

Montreal is known throughout the world for the size of its Jewish community. Moreover, it is home to the third-largest number of Holocaust survivors in the world. Needless to say, the choice of Montreal as the site of such an institution is particularly appropriate. Its Jewish community is lively, extremely dynamic and closely involved in the development of Montreal and Quebec as a whole.

The museum will help teach Quebeckers, particularly our youth, as well as other visitors to Montreal about the great horrors of the Shoah, not only for the Jews, but for humanity as a whole.

The opening of the museum to the general public will provide an opportunity to harmonize the national motto of Quebec, Je me souviens with the lesson that must be learned from the Holocaust, “Never again”.

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre MuseumStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to the attention of all my colleagues the inauguration of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre Museum. I had the privilege to attend this solemn, yet hopeful, ceremony last night.

The Holocaust is perhaps the darkest and most horrific moment of humanity's long history. Millions of Jews were mercilessly sent to concentration camps to be brutally murdered for the sole crime of being Jewish. The museum will show the Holocaust through the eyes of those who have lived and experienced it.

If I consider this event to be a source of hope, it is because the Holocaust museum will remind future generations of the terrible cost of intolerance and hate toward others.

Here in Canada, the sad lessons of the Holocaust will not be soon forgotten. I want to congratulate all the organizers of this event and wish them the best of success for the future.

The EconomyStatements By Members

June 9th, 2003 / 2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been flitting around the world bragging about our great economy. The minister of culture and the two ministers of finance have been chasing each other around the country basically expressing the same views. We can talk about cops and robbers.

If we are so well off, why is it that the beef industry in the west must be begging for assistance? Why is it that the government of Ontario and the city of Toronto have to beg for help? Why is it that the east coast fishermen have been offered a paltry $325 a week?

Does the government want Canadians to be like Oliver Twist and ask “Please sir, could we have some more?” Remember that very soon the government will be going begging to them.