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House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

The House resumed from May 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to complete my remarks this morning on Bill C-54.

I should also say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the member for Churchill.

Members of Parliament are honest people. Unfortunately, we have been tarred, I think unjustly at times, by the public. Most people in the chamber would agree that everything should be transparent with respect to where we raise our money or what loans we have backing us. I for one believe that anything I do can be posted on a website, I will be accountable for it, and people can hold me accountable for it because they can elect me or not.

It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister has not been forthcoming. In his 2002 leadership campaign he failed to disclose the sources of the people who donated to his leadership bid. I would like to know that and I think many Canadians would like to know who supported the Prime Minister in his leadership bid in 2002. Was it the coalition for guns? Was it Canadian big business? Who was it? Right now we can only speculate and I think the Prime Minister would do himself a service if he came clean.

I should contrast that to the Liberal Party's last leadership campaign and conference in which the leadership candidates went above and beyond everything that was required by Elections Canada.

We need rules and regulations, but I believe that full transparency is a much more powerful tool.

I recall one incident that had to do with the Ethics Commissioner. I was invited to go to the Grey Cup in Ottawa a few years ago by some big company that I knew about. Everyone knew the name. I do not recall having any dealings with it. I told my staff to phone the Ethics Commissioner's office to find out if this was appropriate and get its blessing.

A member of my staff spoke to someone at the Ethics Commissioner's office and the person said that because the Grey Cup was such a big event I would be sitting with corporate people from that company and there would be no time to talk business. The individual thought it was inappropriate. To me it seemed totally counterintuitive. I would have thought the opposite would have been the case. I did not go to the Grey Cup.

That is the problem when one tries to regulate and micromanage things at that level. Let us be accountable and transparent. We have a very good transparent and accountable system in the Parliament of Canada. People vote frequently, sometimes far too frequently as they see it and certainly as many of us see it, but they have a vote. They can kick us out if they see that we took a donation from a company or individual who they feel is inappropriate.

I recall being the treasurer of the riding association of the former member for Etobicoke North who received a large donation, I would say in the thousands of dollars. That conjures up thoughts of $40,000 or $50,000, but it was not even $10,000. I talked to the member at the time. I was the treasurer, a part time volunteer. We discussed it and decided that it was inappropriate to accept a donation of what I will say was $5,000 at the time because there was clearly an agenda, at least in our judgment, by the company making the donation. We sent back a letter, thanked it profusely, and said we felt it was inappropriate.

I have had donations of $200, $250 from corporations and those are basically the size of any corporate donations. I have had some slightly larger over the years. Is a $250 donation going to buy my position in the House of Commons where I am representing the people of Canada? Of course it would not. If that were the case, I would send the cheque back. No amount is going to change my mind about a position I am going to take. I am going to take a position that is, in my judgment, in the best interests of all Canadians. That can be a judgment call and people would agree to disagree.

However, I think we get so hung up with these rules and regulations. I for one voted against our government's bill, Bill C-24, election financing, and tried to work a compromise out with the then Prime Minister to limit corporate donations but not to the extent that they were then or are today.

I do not think the bill accomplishes that much. It sort of reinforces what is already on the books. We cannot use loans to circumvent the donation limits. That is already there and we have to disclose these loans.

Certainly, I support transparency, accountability, and I am going to ask our critic for his best advice once the bill goes to committee, but at this point I am not sure it adds any value.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, some members of Parliament, especially Liberal members, and some former members had trust funds. No one knew who donated to these trust funds and many of those trust funds got transferred to the riding associations.

I heard the Liberal member talk about transparency and accountability. On behalf of his party, will he pledge to bring forward all the names of people who have donated to past trust funds that are now transferred to riding associations, so that even today we can get some clarity as to who are some of these past donors?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am quite aware of the trust fund situation of my former colleague from Trinity—Spadina. In fact, I think those trust funds have all been wound down.

There are different motivations for setting up a trust fund. I have a trust fund. I have a trust fund because when I receive donations, I want to put it on deposit and I want to have it there. It is all receipted through the party, so the party gets its commission or whatever. I put it in a trust fund so that I can put it on deposit, it can earn money, and it is earmarked for an election campaign.

We need to understand that when we raise money, it is to run elections. There is a tendency certainly in many associations if we have the money there in an association's bank account to suddenly, if there is a great idea to support people who go to this convention or that convention, have a big picnic, to do this and that which are all good things, but we have to have the money there to fight an election campaign.

Therefore, I have a trust fund. It is all fully disclosed. There are no donations going directing to my trust fund. It all comes from the association. It is all receipted. It is all publicly available. Once it goes through that process, I put it into a trust fund. It is a legal trust fund sanctioned by the party and sanctioned by Elections Canada.

One of the things that some people were annoyed about is when they collected money, it had to go through the party and the party collected a commission. That was fair enough. It has to run the party apparatus as well, but some people were quite upset about that. I do not think it is driven by the need to hide donations, but right now the trust funds are all wrapped up, the way that one was and I am sure that it is appropriate.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure it did not escape your notice that the hon. member did not answer the question he had been asked about what the source was for monies in all these trust funds.

It is interesting that on the one hand that is a question not worth answering in his mind, whereas it is desperately important that the Prime Minister explain where he got funds from for a leadership race that occurred not under the current law, not under the proposed law, but under the current law which was enacted a year ago, and not under the law that Jean Chrétien enacted in 2004, but under a previous law. Therefore, we are going back now to 2002.

The argument I guess he is presenting is that somehow, and I will not say I guess because he essentially made an assertion, extremists and so on must have been at the root of any money that was received at that time. That is just indecorous and inappropriate.

However, I think we can probably guess that the same people who supported the Prime Minister when he ran for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance in 2002 would also have supported him in 2004 when he ran for the leadership of the new Conservative Party in a much better financed campaign.

We all remember that in 2002 the Canadian Alliance was in disarray and the leadership was not quite the prize that the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2004 was. He was not running against a billionaire either who had an infinite amount of money to spend financing her own campaign.

Therefore, if we were to take a look at the 2004 numbers which are public, we would get an idea of the kind of structure we can expect. What we see is very few large donations and we would also see the number one donor in that campaign. Number one was me. I gave the largest donation. I think we have a pretty good idea that we are not talking about vast amounts of money from corporations.

By contrast to that, if we were to look at the numbers for the Liberal leadership campaign, we would see--

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I do have to give the hon. member some time to respond. The hon. member for Etobicoke North.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I think the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington has it wrong because we cannot look at the donations that were made today to the Prime Minister's campaign and then conclude that they must have been the same people back in 2002. That is just not good enough. The member opposite knows that.

There could have been a whole group of different people in 2002, different corporations. It was then the Alliance Party. If I were to stand in the House and say I did not disclose my donations in the election campaign in 1997, but in the election campaign in 2000 we could see the list of people who donated to my campaign and we could infer that it was the same group. It is not good enough. The member opposite should know that.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-54, which focuses on creating further restrictions on the use of loans for political entities.

I understand the bill, if passed, will amend the pre-existing rules of the Canada Elections Act. This is legislation that touches on the national discussion of democratic reform, a discussion that has always been of great interest for all members of this House and, indeed, for many constituents across my riding of Churchill.

As some members in the House may know, the Churchill riding is a very northern riding in Manitoba and it covers more than half of the province of Manitoba. It reflects rural Canada and aboriginal Canadians, including first nations and the Métis nation.

Canadians expect their members of Parliament to be continuously working to find ways to enhance our nation's democracy. As parliamentarians, we must work together to foster a nation that values both civic responsibility and empowerment. These virtues are the centre of any debate on democratic reform.

Bill C-54 purports to establish a uniform and transparent reporting regime for all loans to political entities, including mandatory disclosure of terms and the identity of all lenders and loan guarantors.

Strangely enough, the government's proposed provisions already exist in the current law.

The legislation is also designed to tighten rules of treatment of unpaid loans to ensure candidates cannot walk away from unpaid loans. This does not represent a substantive change to the law as, once again, there are already provisions in place to ensure that loans cannot be written off without consequence. Political riding associations would ultimately be held responsible for unpaid loans taken out by their candidates.

This would allow only financial institutions and other political entities to make loans beyond the annual contribution limit for individuals, and only at commercial rates of interest, although the current law already requires all loans to be made at commercial rates of interest. Under the proposed legislation, unions and corporations would now be unable to make loans and financial institutions could not lend money at rates of interest other than the market norm.

While it seems that the government intended to increase transparency with this bill, the shortcomings of the bill, as it is currently laid out, are such that it would do nothing to increase accountability. Instead, Bill C-54 would build new roadblocks that would restrict the access Canadians have to the democratic process.

If passed as is, the legislation would give financial institutions the full say on who gets to run for political office in Canada rather than Canadians.

In line with the Conservatives' trends of discriminatory policies, the bill would negatively impact many Canadians, especially people in my riding, including first nations, minority candidates and, I believe, women for nomination. Canada is at the point in our history where the government should be continuing the Liberal legacies of encouraging greater participation in the democratic process. The government must celebrate our diversity through political empowerment rather than design laws that would hinder one's ability to run for public office.

The proposed changes would make it very difficult for Canadians, especially those of limited means and those with limited contact to potential wealthy contributors to even seek nomination in Canada because of the challenge of securing loans from banking institutions. I am curious as to whether the members opposite were intentionally doing this or perhaps it is an aspect of the bill that they merely overlooked. Either case, I think it is a question worthy of further exploration.

I also want to add that under Liberal leadership in this country, the government passed legislation that limited the roles of corporations and unions in electoral financing and introduced the most dramatic lowering of contribution limits in Canadian history.

The key difference between limiting the role of corporate and union contributions in political campaigns and limiting loans in the manner that the government has introduced is a matter of equity. I feel that their proposed approach would be regressive. Given this opportunity to advance this debate, we should seize the opportunity to democratize our institutions where available.

For some, the window of opportunity to influence policy may only come once every four year. Since the passing of Bill C-16, the next scheduled time Canadians will have the ability to voice their opinion for policy change will be in October 2009. This is not to say that the federal election will occur on that date but rather that it is theoretically conceivable.

Our democracy is an institution of the people and in order for such an institution to be truly meaningful it must be truly accessible, regardless of gender, race and social status. With this in mind, we need legislation that will address these demands for all Canadians.

I look forward to hearing other members' perspectives on this debate and observing how it unfolds in the near future.

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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments about election financing reform. Of course, her party is opposed to any kind of reform in that area and it is no secret why that is.

If we go back to the Liberal leadership race we can see what the various candidates borrowed from private individuals. For example, for the opposition leader it was almost half a million dollars. For the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore it was $470,000. For Bob Rae it was $845,000 in loans. It goes on and on, $200,000, $300,000 for a total of $3 million that was borrowed from private individuals to run those campaigns.

The problem is that nobody knows the terms of the repayment. Nobody in the public knows what the interest rates were. Are those loans being forgiven? Is this a back door to actually do donations? Nobody knows.

Why does the member not support the demand of taxpayers, voters and Canadians in general that there be accountability in election financing?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin with what Canadians do not know. He is right. They do not know who the funders were for Prime Minister Harper's race in 2002.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I do not know how many times I have to tell members that they are not to refer to the Prime Minister or anybody else by their first or last names.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. As a new member I am sometimes shaky on the rules of the House.

I would like to add that it was the Liberal Party that brought in Bill C-24, the most sweeping changes on electoral reform. In fact, when we talk about this particular bill, Bill C-54, the core of the issue for many Canadians is access and participation in the democratic process.

Many members seem to use Bill C-54 to focus on the Liberal leadership race. I think there is a desperate attempt to make an issue of something that was not an issue. It is about access to the democratic process and we as parliamentarians have a duty to ensure that all Canadians can access this process.

I represent a large riding with a population that is not as large as many small urban ridings but 65% of my riding are aboriginal people. However, because of systemic policies and some of the laws in this country, the aboriginal people have been marginalized. For instance, in one centre in my riding where mining is booming and the price of minerals is going through the roof, the first nations have not had access to resource benefit sharing. There is inequity and it is through the history and the policies of this country that have created inequity. As parliamentarians it is our job to ensure that we have a process in place where we have equal access.

I represent many people in my riding who do not have the ability to access this type of loan from a bank because they do not have the capital. However, that is not due to not wanting it or not working hard enough. People did work hard but we come from a whole different cultural background where our industry was the land. We did not have financial institutions in the same tradition as western Canadians, or western civilization as we might want to call it. We had our own civilization. Our industry and our economy was based on the land. We did not have these types of institutions so we do not have a history of participating in these types of institutions. We did not have a framework where we built up capital and equity.

Therefore, this whole framework, which is at the core of this bill, is actually alien to people, but not out of choice. Many new Canadians who have come here are working hard and paying their bills but they are living cheque to cheque. We all know people who reflect that reality for many Canadians and in fact we know that probably the majority of Canadians live in a lifestyle where they may not have access--

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry but the time for questions and comments has expired. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Drummond.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

It is my pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans). Basically, this bill seeks to prevent individuals from bypassing campaign financing rules. Naturally, the Bloc Québécois will support it.

The bill would also correct another problem with the government accountability act, also known as Bill C-2. Why another problem? Because unfortunately, during the study of Bill C-2, it became clear that the Conservative government was more interested in passing the bill quickly than in really fixing ethical problems, even though it presented the bill as its key piece of legislation to clean up campaign financing and governance. Sadly, the hasty treatment made for a very incomplete key piece of legislation.

At the time, the opposition parties, the media and Democracy Watch pointed the problem out, but the government refused to act. As a result, there were huge gaps in terms of ethics, and now we have to fill those gaps. For example, it provides little protection for whistleblowers and does nothing to improve the Access to Information Act. I will come back to that later on.

Bill C-54 will fix the problem of loans that allowed individuals to bypass political contribution restrictions. When the Conservatives introduced the bill, they pointed out that during the most recent Liberal leadership race, several candidates had taken out big loans to bypass financing restrictions. It may be that several Liberal candidates did this, but let us not forget that the Prime Minister himself has not disclosed all of the contributions he received during the 2002 leadership race.

By way of explanation, I would like to remind the members that Bill C-2, which addresses government accountability, introduced new restrictions on campaign contributions, limiting any individual's annual contribution to a registered party or candidate to $1,100. Furthermore, Bill C-2 reduced the amount a union or business could contribute annually to a registered party or candidate to $0. Basically, contributions from unions and businesses are no longer allowed.

Unfortunately, it was still possible to circumvent these restrictions by taking out personal loans. As I have already mentioned, we saw this when several candidates in the recent Liberal Party of Canada leadership race took out sizeable loans from individuals and financial institutions. La Presse even reported the amounts of the loans, which totalled hundreds of thousands of dollars, obtained by the current leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the current deputy leader of the party, and by Bob Rae and Gerard Kennedy. I would like to remind the House of those amounts. Bob Rae, who was defeated by the current leader of the official opposition, owes $580,000 to John Rae, the vice-president of Power Corporation. The current leader of the opposition borrowed $430,000. The current deputy leader of the Liberal Party borrowed $170,000, and Gerard Kennedy borrowed $201,000.

The subterfuge of using loans gave candidates access to enormous sums of money. This bill would correct such issues. As I was saying earlier, however, the accountability act fails to address a number of ethical problems. For example, the whistleblower protection issue has not been resolved. Several Conservative election promises concerning whistleblower protection did not make their way into the Accountability Act. As we all know, during the January 2006 election, the Conservatives made a number of election promises regarding this issue.

First of all, they wanted to ensure that whistleblowers would have access to adequate legal counsel. However, former Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, imposes a $1,500 limit on legal costs, which is incredibly low. Thus, under the Conservative government, whistleblowers must be able to pay for their own legal counsel if they want to disclose wrongdoing.

Second, they wanted to give the public sector integrity commissioner the power to enforce the whistleblower legislation. This was not in the bill.

They wanted to guarantee protection to anyone who reports wrongdoing within the government, not just to public servants. This is not in the Federal Accountability Act.

They wanted to take away the government's ability to exempt crown corporations and other entities from the application of the whistleblower legislation. This is not in the accountability act either.

Another problem that the Federal Accountability Act has not solved is the reform of the Access to Information Act.

On April 5, 2005, the Liberal government released a discussion paper on reforming access to information. This document met with general criticism, even from the Conservatives. In addition to doubling the minimum administrative fees charged to the public, the proposal by the former Liberal Prime Minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, maintained all the exceptions provided for in the legislation.

In fact, in 13 years, the Liberal Party never managed to introduce a valid reform of the Access to Information Act. For its part, the Conservative Party promised during the election campaign to reform the Access to Information Act. To quote the Conservatives' election platform, “A Conservative government will implement the Information Commissioner's recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act”.

We are still waiting for this reform. When will the government decide to carry out this reform, as promised?

The truth is that now that they are in power, the Conservatives, like the Liberals before them, are in less of a hurry to reform this legislation. Moreover, the Information Commissioner recently noted that this is a general trend. He said, “The reason that action, not more study, is required is that governments continue to distrust and resist the Access to Information Act and the oversight of the Information Commissioner”.

Despite the shortcomings of former Bill C-2 on accountability, Bill C-54, which is before us today, proposes four types of changes.

First, the bill establishes a system of uniform, transparent reports on all loans to political entities and provides for mandatory disclosure of the terms of those loans and the identity of the lenders and guarantors.

Second, the bill would prohibit unions and corporations not only from making contributions, in accordance with the Federal Accountability Act, but also from lending money.

Moreover, loans, loan guarantees and contributions from individuals could not exceed the limit set out in the Federal Accountability Act, which is $1,100 for 2007.

Lastly, only financial institutions, at market interest rates, or other political entities would be able to lend money exceeding that amount. The rules for unpaid loans would be tightened so that candidates could not default on their obligations. Riding associations would be held responsible for their candidate's unpaid loan.

Despite this bill, which we are in favour of, in a few short months the Conservative party has built up a track record that shows a lack of political will to obey the rules and put an end to the culture of entitlement.

Denouncing the sponsorship scandal that took place when the Liberal Party was in power, Mr. Justice Gomery said that it was time to do away with the mentality behind the culture of entitlement and the attitude people in government have that they can do anything they want and are accountable to no one. This is not how things should be. This is certainly not what Quebeckers and Canadians want. To avoid this attitude, there must be open and transparent management of public funds and taxpayers' money. The Conservatives have unfortunately not set a good example.

In December 2006, the Conservative Party admitted that it had failed to disclose the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Chief Electoral Officer. The money was registration fees collected from Conservative delegates attending the Conservative Party's May 2005 convention. The report said that in being forced to treat convention registration fees as donations, the Conservative Party discovered that three delegates, including the Prime Minister, had exceeded their annual contribution limits of $5,400. The Conservative Party was forced to reimburse $456 to the Prime Minister and to two other delegates.

Here is another example: a closer look makes it clear that this government is being influenced. The Prime Minister, when in opposition, reprimanded the Liberals for the comings and goings between political offices and lobbying firms. Yet, since taking power he has appointed a former lobbyist as the head of National Defence. This party denounced the lobbyist culture associated with the running of the Liberal Party. At that time we agreed with our Conservative colleagues. You could say that power changes political parties and makes anything possible.

We can see what the appointment of a lobbyist has done to National Defence. We can see that the Prime Minister now has a serious credibility problem with regard to his lobbyist minister. It is true that this appointment has paid off for companies that sell military equipment. We believe that the Minister of National Defence should have considered the taxpayers, who clearly want more humanitarian action than war.

The Prime Minister did not stop there with his partisan appointments. He also appointed Sandra Buckler as his director of communications. We should remember that the Conservative government decided to maintain the contract with Royal Lepage relocation services, in spite of a devastating report by the Auditor General. In 2005, this company hired Ms. Buckler to meet with the members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which had serious doubts about the spending of public money by Royal LePage and which was examining the possibility of referring this matter to the Auditor General. It is likely that Ms. Buckler was not paid by Royal LePage to convince the members to refer the matter to the Auditor General. In this case, whose interests came first, Ms. Buckler's or the taxpayers'? To compensate her, the Prime Minister appointed her director of communications of his cabinet.

In April 2006, the Prime Minister tried to appoint Gwyn Morgan, a Conservative Party fundraiser, to the position of chairman of the new public appointments commission. This appointment was blocked by a parliamentary committee dominated by opposition members.

I have another example of how this government is maintaining the culture of entitlement. It awards contracts to Conservative friends. This government awarded a communications contract to Marie-Josée Lapointe, a former member of the Prime Minister's transition team. This contract goes against the spirit of the accountability act, former Bill C-2, since political staff are not allowed to receive contracts from the government in place for 12 months after they have left. The contract was cancelled half way through.

This government also uses public funds for partisan purposes.

In March 2006, the Conservative government awarded an $85,000 contract to gauge public support for the Conservative Party's five electoral priorities. In July 2006, the Conservative Party awarded a contract to Strategic Counsel in order to poll public opinion on various political issues. The very partisan report identified the environment as a very important issue for the government's re-election. It should be noted that Strategic Counsel is run by Allan Gregg, who was the Conservative Party's official pollster under Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell.

What is more, the Prime Minister has made dozens of partisan appointments within the machinery of government. When the Conservatives were in opposition they denounced such practices. Now that they are in power, why are they doing the exact same thing? Do they believe it is their turn to do whatever they want? The Conservative Party should be accountable to the public for its actions.

In closing, I want to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-54, but it finds it regrettable that the other problems I have just mentioned have not been resolved by the Conservative government.

Taxpayers deserve to have a government that is above reproach. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have lived up to these expectations. That is why most people in Quebec vote for the Bloc Québécois. Our party is the only one that is not negatively influenced by power. Our only goal is to defend the interests of Quebeckers and they realize that. They can be assured of our full commitment to that goal.

When all the parties represented in this House understand the importance of integrity and transparency, our democracy will only get better. Quebec and Canadian taxpayers deserve that; let us govern accordingly.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I thank the hon. member for her comments, she unfortunately spent 90% of her time talking about unrelated issues and only 10% on Bill C-54.

However, in the time she did spend on Bill C-54, election financing reform, I was glad that she referred to the Liberal leadership convention and the fact that horrific amounts of money were borrowed from private individuals. In fact, among the 11 candidates for the Liberal leadership, a whopping total of $3 million was borrowed from private individuals. None of us know what the interest rates were, what the repayment plan was, or whether there was any repayment plan.

Canadians then have a right to ask this question: what are these wealthy lenders getting in return? Is it love and affection? I think not. Canadians are not that naive. What else are they getting in return? In Bob Rae's case, he was a Liberal leadership contender and borrowed $500,000 from his brother. What does he get in return? Influence? We do not know.

I would ask the member to comment on whether she knows if all of these loans given to the Liberal leadership contenders are going to be repaid? Does she know?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I talked about Bill C-54. I said that the Bloc was in favour of this bill, which is designed to correct the problem of loans.

As for the Conservative member's question—it is always the same question, written in advance—I cannot answer. But I can give a few examples of partisan appointments. In accusing the Liberals of not being transparent, the Conservatives seem to be taking a “My dad is stronger than your dad” stance.

In my opinion, the Conservatives have not proven that they are as pure as the driven snow, as they claim to be. On April 12, 2006, it was announced that a friend of the government, former Conservative member Jim Gouk, had been named to the board of NAV CANADA. The government controls three seats on that board. On April 21, 2006, Gwyn Morgan, a Conservative backer, was appointed chair of the new Public Appointments Commission. The appointment was blocked by a parliamentary committee dominated by the opposition. On June 27, 2006, Kevin Gaudet, a Conservative organizer who had worked on the Prime Minister's leadership bid in 2004, was appointed to a part-time job at the Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal that would have paid him $250 per sitting day. The Conservative government eventually backed down on this. On June 27, 2006, Brian Richard Bell, a Conservative organizer from New Brunswick, was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench of New Brunswick. On September 18, 2006, Jacques Léger, interim president of the Progressive Conservative Party, was given a judgeship in the Superior Court of Quebec for the district of Montreal. On October 31, 2006, Raminder Gill, a former Conservative candidate who was defeated in Mississauga, was appointed as a citizenship judge. He was a former Progressive Conservative Party member in Ontario. His appointment made room for the floor crosser, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. On November 1, 2006, Howard Bruce, the Conservative candidate in Portneuf in 2004 and—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please.

I am sorry, but we need time for other questions and comments.

The hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member who just spoke.

I heard the hon. member for Abbotsford make a few statements on certain candidates who ran in our party's leadership race.

Perhaps I could ask the hon. member if she would want to ask, in regard to the 2005 convention which the Conservative Party refused to declare, or in regard to the leadership supporters of the Prime Minister, whether or not she believes this bill should be expanded and indeed made retroactive. We would then catch what happened with the Conservative Party when it in fact used $2 million that should have been declared and should have been considered an election expense.

Does the hon. member believe that? In terms of making this a situation that the member for Abbotsford would like as a trap for the Liberal Party, maybe she would want to ask for full disclosure from the governing party for who in fact contributed to them and, more importantly, whether or not the 2005 convention should in fact be part of that retroactive net that we want to put in place.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the question by the hon. member from the Liberal Party, I would say I agree that this should be made retroactive. I have denounced the fact that the governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, try to be squeaky clean during the election campaign, but once in power the same thing always happens.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-54 because it will put an end to certain practices, which will allow greater transparency. What I have denounced are the flaws in the accountability act, Bill C-2. There are major shortcomings that need to be corrected.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to give a few opinions on and discuss further some of the implications with respect to the legislation.

I will preface my comments. Coming from York South—Weston, I come from a riding that is very working class. It is an immigrants' turnstile type of riding. According to usual indicators, it is one of the less wealthy ridings in Ontario. In fact, it is second last in terms of those indicators. Most of the housing stock was built before 1950. Most of the people, about 60%, live in multiple occupancy high-rise buildings. There are a lot of issues that come along with this in terms of people coming here with hopes of being part of the mainstream of life in Canada.

One of those hopes is to be a fully empowered member of Canadian society, with the right to vote equally and equitably. I think this House stands for those values and works toward that objective so that we do not let down past, present and future generations with respect to their ability to become part of the mainstream of Canadian life, which is what they come to this country for.

Against that background, when I am looking at equity I think that we should not place one class of citizens aside and stereotype them with respect to having less rights. It always bothers me when I see a preamble to legislation couched in these kinds of terms: we will create “an airtight system of political financing that will eliminate, once and for all, the influence of rich, wealthy individuals from the political process”.

I never knew that one of the standard values of this country was that we should stereotype wealthy people and make them scapegoats for other inequities that may exist in society. In fact, our Income Tax Act makes it very clear that in order to be equitable we will take that wealth from those wealthy people and redistribute it to those who are less fortunate. We hope there will be many wealthy people and we will take that wealth and redistribute it. That is the objective of our Income Tax Act.

Nobody has ever said that this is a very tenuous and unclear objective or mechanism. It is like what we say about equalization in this country, which is that we disagree in terms of how we go about it and we disagree from time to time about those who are being advantaged or not, but we stand for equity. We stand for redistribution wealth on a federal level also.

When we come to an Elections Act, I hope that we are driven by that same objective, which is to be fair and even-handed with respect to making the Elections Act accountable. Accountability is the key. If this legislation does that, then there will not be and should not be one person in the House who would oppose it.

I know there is not an elected member in this House who would deny how very exhaustive the processes under the Elections Act are, to the extent that it is very difficult to even find lay people in our ridings who are up to the tremendous pressure and up to participating to the extent to which they want, to be agents and to be involved in our campaigns at the financial level. The checks and balances on accountability are now so weighted that it is getting to the point where one has to be a professional, such as an auditor or an accountant or whatever, to be able to carry on that role.

In my riding, if I did not have someone like my friend, Gunter Kujat, who has been loyal to being partisan, I do not know what I would do. I trust him. I have faith in him. I am sure there are similar examples in ridings throughout our country .

When legislation is layered on top of existing legislation and it has some inherent inequities in terms of treatment, it behooves us to understand whether what we are doing is counterproductive to the objective of bringing more people into the elections process. I am going to speak about three parts of this legislation that do that. The first that I believe is overly heavy-handed beyond the terms of the Canada Elections Act--

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry, but the hon. member will have to make those three points later on because we have come to the time for statements by members. The member will have 13 minutes and 45 seconds left in his time.

Spokeman TourStatements By Members

May 11th, 2007 / 10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to a young man from my riding by the name of Tim Harriman.

Tim is a 19-year-old cancer survivor. His goal is to cycle across Canada to raise awareness for childhood cancer and to increase donations toward finding a cure that will put an end to this disease. Tim will work to raise this money by cycling through all 10 provinces visiting many of the 17 children's hospitals and cancer treatment centres along the way.

Tim's cycle will begin on June 4 in Victoria, B.C. and will end in mid-August in St. John's, Newfoundland. The trip will take approximately 81 days, will cover 7,738 kilometres and will take an estimated 412 hours of riding.

In order to watch Tim on his journey or make a donation, please visit his website at www.spokemantour.com. Tim vowed that as soon as he finished his cancer treatments, his next challenge would be to cross this country spreading the word on behalf of kids who are fighting cancer. I know with his determination he will fulfill his dream and beat his goal of raising $100,000.

Best wishes to Tim Harriman.

Canada Winter GamesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, for the first time in Canada Winter Games history Nunavut won a medal. Our very own Nunavutian, Eugene Dederick, age 15 became the first athlete to win a medal as a judo competitor and therefore made history.

It was very fitting and very northern as the Canada Winter Games were held in the north for the first time when Whitehorse, Yukon hosted the games and did a fabulous job.

I congratulate Eugene and his coach for their hard work and dedication along with the rest of their team and Sport Nunavut . I also acknowledge Eugene's family who have supported him along the way.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the other participants, the artists, the athletes and the volunteers who made these games so special.

Not only did Eugene win a bronze medal, he is the very first to participate in judo at the Canada Winter Games from my territory. He has made all of Nunavut very proud.

Le Monde Community NewspaperStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 18, the Quebec community newspaper association presented three awards to Le Monde, a community newspaper in the riding of Papineau, which I represent.

The first award presented by the nine-member panel was in the best report category for an article by Guillaume Dandurand in February 2006, on the problem of pawnbrokers.

The second award was for best feature story for Luigi Spadari's article on the integration of visible minorities in Quebec society, which appeared in the March 2006 issue.

The third award, in the best opinion piece category, went to Pierre Brassard for an editorial in April 2006, on the impact of globalization on the clothing industry.

Allow me to offer my sincere congratulations to Le Monde and its journalists, who are so good at portraying life in our riding.

B.C. Flood MitigationStatements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, B.C. residents who live near the Fraser River are facing a potential crisis. Our snow pack is 50% higher than normal and just a few days of heavy melting could cause massive flooding throughout the Fraser basin, overflowing dykes and creating a disaster.

Since 1995 the federal government has not funded maintenance of flood controls on the Fraser. This has been left to local municipalities which have been unable to cope with the huge capital costs.

The federal government has been more than willing to ensure significant assistance to other parts of the country to help with flood controls but not for B.C.

The Conservative government recently offset only half of what the B.C. government had already allocated. This is too little, too late for a disaster that could be only weeks away.

The Fraser River Basin Council has said that direct flood costs could add up to $6 billion. This does not take into account the human suffering. A massive flood on the Fraser this spring could destroy farmers' fields, submerge the Trans-Canada Highway and--