Mr. Speaker, I am not surprised that the minister only took a couple of minutes. I guess he wants to minimize the exposure to criticism about this bill because it is a huge invasion on the public treasury. He said, also, that he wants to adopt this stage rapidly so we can move on to third reading and get this thing pushed through the House, presumably so he can go home on Friday. However we can just tell by his demeanour that he cannot wait to get his shovel into the public treasury and start loading the cash into the Liberal coffers so the Liberals can pay for their day to day operations.
It is outrageous that the bill is all about paying for the day to day operations of the Liberal Party of Canada, using other people's money. That is what it comes down to. It is so easy to spend other people's money in this place and that is exactly what is happening here. It is a rape and pillage of the public treasury to provide hundreds of millions of dollars a year to political parties that should be raising the money they need from the people they claim to support or to represent. That is what should be happening; not a big shovel into the public treasury to load other people's money into our treasury.
This bill does not even fix the problems it was supposedly produced to address. Even the president of the Liberal Party, Stephen LeDrew, said that this bill would increase cynicism. At committee hearings, when we had witnesses before the committee on the bill, he said that it would increase the cynicism among voters.
The party on this side of the House, the Canadian Alliance, agrees with that interpretation.
My colleague from South Surrey—White Rock—Langley did a survey in her riding and I have a done a casual survey in mine, hers was more formal, asking people what they thought of the idea of taxpayer money being used to subsidize the day to day operations of political parties. The results were 95% to 96% of the people are opposed. They would rather have that $1 or $2, or whatever it is, in their pockets to help support their families and to spend wisely on the economy of the country rather than giving it to the Liberal Party of Canada, the Canadian Alliance, the PCs and the NDP.
My party, the Canadian Alliance, has done a good job of raising the money we need from individual supporters over all the years, and we would have been happy to stay with the status quo.
It is not too late for the government to abandon this exercise of attack on the public treasury. It could abandon it at this point. I certainly hope the Liberals see the light.
Also, I would like to mention that the number of amendments which have come through on the bill illustrate how badly it has been put together. It is full of extremely complicated wording. We found many errors during the committee hearings that the government was constantly introducing technical amendments to fix problems it had discovered. I identified two problems for the minister, not because I supported the intent of the bill but because if there were to be a bill passed in this place, it may as well be correct. They continue to find problems. One of the motions before us for debate, I am not sure if it is in this first group, again is to fix a technical problem.
The government has not done due diligence on this bill. It was rushed into this place because the Prime Minister wanted it, before there had been proper research.
During the weekend, I noticed a CP Newswire item that said the Prime Minister won the dubious honour of being the stupidest person in Canada. Members might ask “What does that have to do with this bill?” I actually disagree with the voters who made that decision during the weekend because I do not think that the Prime Minister is stupid, but I think he is very crafty. I think he introduced this bill to diffuse a big problem that was in this place, and that was the problem that we were finding the huge donations from supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada, and those donors subsequently were rewarded with money from the public treasury in the form of very lucrative contracts.
I know that when my colleagues get up to speak on this bill, some of them will be using examples of those types of huge contracts that were awarded to people who had been generous donors to the Liberal Party. I will give them the chance to do that because I would like to move on to some of the other things that the bill fails to do and fails to do even in this latest batch of motions we are debating right now.
First, Bill C-24 fails to fix the underlying problem of the awarding of government grants, government contracts and loans, most of which end up being forgivable to supporters of the party in power. If anything, Bill C-24 will make it more difficult to uncover such behaviour because now huge corporations, like Bombardier, which have traditionally supported the Liberal Party to get contracts, will not even have to front up with any money. They will still get the contracts, they will still get the favours and we will not have any way of tracking it down unless we go through a very complex reporting procedure investigating whether individuals have used their ability to donate individually to try to influence the government.
Bill C-24 also fails to correct the 50 candidate rule. That 50 candidate rule, which was struck down, was put in place by this government. It required small or emerging parties to run 50 candidates in an election to be recognized as a party and have tax receipt status. We felt it was wrong. We have tried for years to get the government to agree to make it 12 candidates, which is the same as the number required for party recognition in the House. All the small parties out there in the other world agree with 12 being a reasonable number. The courts have struck down 50 as unreasonable. In fact in the court case in Ontario, which struck down the 50 candidate rule, the judge said that two people were a party.
That minister has a history of bringing bills to this place that end up costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in legal fees because of charter challenges. When I get the opportunity to speak at third reading, I will highlight some weaknesses in the bill that will open it to court challenges. However that minister has a history of introducing such bills. It is very problematic.
Here again, we have a problem that the Liberals could have fixed. It is being court challenged. Because of his failure to change the 50 candidate rule to 12, when he had the opportunity while we were amending the Elections Act, I believe the courts will prevail and we will be forced to accept two as the number. It was very foolish of the minister. He should have dealt with it while we were dealing with Bill C-24.
The bill fails to end patronage appointments to positions in Elections Canada. Since I first came here in 1993, and when I joined the Reform Party back in 1988, it has been a policy of this party to try to get the government to allow Elections Canada to select its own returning officers in a non-partisan way based on skill. Instead, the government insists on a system of political patronage appointments to Elections Canada. Returning officers are selected by the Prime Minister, and when they do not do their job, the Chief Elections Officer cannot get rid of them. In fact he mentioned during committee hearings that he presently had 11 returning officers who were not doing their job. He cannot fire them because he has to get the Prime Minister to agree.
The Bloc introduced an amendment in committee which was defeated, so unfortunately, I cannot do it here in the House at this stage. The amendment was to get the government to move to a system of proper appointments of these people, and not being political patronage appointments.
I realize I do not have much time. What I need to do now is express my frustration in a very meaningful manner, by moving an amendment. I move:
That Motion No. 4 be amended by replacing the amount $0.4375 with the amount $0.01.