Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this debate on Bill C-29, which is in fact the amended version of Bill C-54 that was debated in the previous session. All parties agreed to pick up the debate where we left off before resuming this new session. As was the case in the previous session, we will support the bill even though, and I will come back to this, we think it is important that a number of the amendments we made to it—I am talking about the opposition parties, but the Bloc Québécois in particular—be maintained despite the government's desire to drop them for reasons that are completely unclear to me.
We were in favour of this bill and we still are. The purpose of the bill is to prevent individuals from bypassing campaign financing rules. The bill now includes a ceiling of $1,100 for individuals. Companies and corporations are no longer able to make donations to political associations. We agree with this principle that has existed in Quebec for 30 years now. This was one of the first accomplishments of the Parti Québécois under the leadership of René Lévesque.
As such, we agree with the idea that once a number of rules are in place governing political party fundraising and the amounts that individual voters can contribute, people should not have opportunities to get around the law by taking out loans, thereby sidestepping the will of Parliament, particularly the House of Commons, to ensure that the rules of the game are more or less the same for all political parties.
I have been watching what is going on with the primaries in the United States and the mind-boggling amounts of money the candidates are spending. This is not even the race for the presidency of the United States. These are just the Democratic and Republican nomination races. It is clear that that much money results in inequality that prevents some people from participating in the races from the very beginning.
Of course, in both Canada and Quebec, fundraising efforts do have to be significant. Everyone in this House knows that and participates in it. Still, the amount of money each of us can use for our election campaigns is within reach, even for individuals who do not have a personal fortune at their disposal or a network of acquaintances to secure the loans or donations they need to launch a campaign. For example, the value of some contributions made to both the Conservative and Liberal leadership races, which took place before Bill C-2 was passed, is still unknown.
It is clear to us that candidates should not be allowed to use loans to sidestep the caps that put an end to corporate backing and limit individual contributions.
The bill also solves another problem with the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2, about which I spoke earlier. When Bill C-2 was being studied—and this was denounced by all opposition parties—the Conservative government was much more interested in quickly passing the bill in order to inform citizens that it had fulfilled its first promise. Unfortunately, this haste resulted in a certain number of deficiencies. I am referring to loans to political entities. The bill fell somewhat short in terms of the ethics promised. We really did have to revisit the shortcomings of Bill C-2. I remind the House that, at the time, the opposition parties, the media, the political observers and organizations such as Democracy Watch pointed out the problem but the government refused to take action.
Once again, as is often the case in this Parliament, each party had to study the advantages and the disadvantages of the deficiencies resulting from the Conservatives' haste. We supported the bill because we were generally in favour of the underlying principle.
Bill C-29 also solves the problem of loans—it is at the heart of the bill—whereby the limits for personal political contributions could be circumvented. Several ethical difficulties were not addressed by Bill C-2. I am thinking, for instance, of poor protection for whistleblowers and the failure to reform the Access to Information Act.
Bill C-29 incorporates the only change proposed by the Bloc Québécois when Bill C-54 was studied in committee. This amendment ensured that the political party would not be responsible for the debts of candidates. The government wants to change that. We do not really understand the government's intentions. It wants to force a political party to guarantee, without prior knowledge, the debts of a candidate who, without making any effort to raise funds, decides to borrow from a bank the maximum amount allowed under the Canada Elections Act.
We therefore proposed an amendment, with which the government seemed to agree, or at least the opposition parties, the Liberals and the NDP, did. Now the government is questioning our amendment. Therefore, we will vote against this government motion.
It is rather irrational and illogical that a political party would be responsible for debts incurred by its candidates without the party knowing. We think the Bloc's amendment should be upheld so that the bill makes sense. I hope the two other opposition parties will still be in favour of it, as they were when Bill C-54 was being examined in committee.
The Bloc Québécois is almost entirely financed by individuals. An candidate could borrow $50,000 from the bank to run his election campaign. If he did not repay the loan, the bank could go after the political party. I think allowing this would be almost immoral. It means that every citizen who donates $5 to our party would also have to support this candidate who might have gotten into debt irresponsibly.
I think that even though we agree with the spirit of the bill and will vote in favour of it, the government should rethink its decision to remove the amendment proposed by the Bloc and adopted by the committee. It should go back to something that makes much more sense and that would be more respectful towards the thousands of small donors who are the financing backbone of the Bloc Québécois, and I imagine this is the case with the other parties.
I will not go on any longer. That was my basic message. We will have to hope that the government comes to its senses and accepts the bill with the amendment proposed by the Bloc and adopted in committee.