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.