Mr. Speaker, Bill C-13 contains a number of intolerable elements. For one, the Conservative government wishes to use this bill to end public funding for political parties. What a shameful proposal. Public funding for political parties is a key element to maintaining democracy in Canada.
The political party financing system offers equal access for all political parties and gives political parties that cannot afford it an opportunity to have their voices heard. Obviously, the Conservative Party would prefer to have a system that favours rich political parties to the detriment of smaller parties. No one is surprised by the fact that the Conservative government is proposing such a measure. It is yet another tactic to solidify their power and muzzle those who have a different vision for Canada.
Public funding for political parties was implemented to put an end to corruption in politics and meddling by rich entrepreneurs. If the state does not subsidize political parties, the funding must come exclusively from private sources. Without public funding, the government would not be much different from a business. Perhaps the government's next proposal will be that political parties be put on the stock market, I do not know.
I will tell hon. members a little tale. About a year ago I was a student and my wife was a student as well. We are both educated people. I have a master's degree. She was a lawyer in Turkey. All the same, we had a hard time making ends meet through these difficult economic times.
An organizer saw me in the summer of 2010 and asked me if I was interested in becoming a candidate for the NDP. Here I was, struggling to keep my business running, studying and taking care of my family. The party thought I might make a good candidate, so it approached me. I accepted, knowing that the campaign financing through the per vote subsidy would support me rather than having to raise my own money, which would have been an impossibility at that time, since I was working, studying and taking care of my family.
I clearly did not have the time to raise money while I was studying and doing all these things, so the elimination of the per vote subsidy might eliminate guys like me as candidates. Instead, they will prefer the professional politicians who have well-polished political machines and this will leave the grassroots voiceless and further alienate the people from the political process.
Voting and elections are part of the common good, so I do not understand why the Conservatives continue to deride the electoral process and thus show their contempt for the electoral process.
However, with that said, we will be in good shape to raise our own money as a party, living without the subsidy, but my fear is that it will discourage certain candidates, those who cannot get involved in the political process because they do not have the money.
There is nothing worse when one is broke to get hit up by a political party for money. I know this from experience. That is when an individual is earning $25,000 a year and a political party says it needs help and asks if he or she has $500 to give. Most Canadians do not have that money and they resent being asked for it.
That is why the subsidy is in place, so the costs of political activity are borne by the greater public for the greater good. Everyone pays, but those who do not have any money will not get dinged for this $2 per vote. It will be borne by the more well off in the taxation system. That is what happens. Those who do not make enough money during the year do not have to pay for this. Those who are well off would end up paying this money through their taxes.
This is the way of the government. The Conservatives believe more in the prosperity of the few rather than the prosperity of all Canadians. They believe that the electoral and democratic system, through the per vote subsidy of our country, is not worth investing in.
I will leave this subject briefly and say that the government is also scattershot on the economy. The Conservatives continue to applaud their Minister of Finance, who was chosen by Euromoney magazine as the best finance minister in the world two years ago.
The current best finance minister in the world is Wayne Swan, a Labour brother from Australia. Why? Because he not only acted quickly on this year's economic downturn, but the one in 2008 as well.
Both times, Canada's Minister of Finance was asleep at the wheel. While he was reading Forbes, with his feet up on the desk in his fine tailored suit in the warmth of his leather and wood office, perhaps he could not hear the voices of our most poor from his Ottawa bubble. He waited too long before acting and it shows, because these measures in this bill are scattershot. They lack coherency.
That is why the government rests upon its platitudes. It says that it is leader of the G7, while ignoring that the top four countries in the World Economic Forum competitiveness report are not from the G7 at all. Why ignore these countries? Because countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore, Finland invest in public transit. They have coherent plans. They have state-of-the-art infrastructure. Their governance models are orderly and transparent.
The solution of the government has been like the kid in class who neglects to study. He sits next to the smart kid and when he can peek at what the smart kid is doing, he cribs the smart kid's notes.
The small business tax credit was our idea, except our proposition is in a half measure.
The government's tax credit for small business will not be effective in helping small businesses. We proposed the $4,500 tax credit for small businesses and a reduction in small business tax from 11% to 9%. Perhaps the government did not see that part when it was peeking over our shoulder.
Regarding Montreal's infrastructure, we said that the Champlain Bridge needed to be built. We talked about the economic significance of the bridge and its contribution to productivity. Six months later I listened to the minister repeat my exact words to a room full of journalists. He also said it would not cost the taxpayers anything. I guess he missed part of our notes. We have done our homework on the way PPPs work and they often cost more than a regular procurement. There is no such thing as off-the-book accounting and the government should be transparent about that.
However, I guess when the Conservatives cribbed from our notes, they missed the substance of our argument. They prefer the comfort of their own ideology.
Let me remind the hon. members of the 12 pillars of the World Economic Forum's competitiveness index. I will open the answer book to give them a peek so perhaps they can create the jobs necessary to build this economy. We will give them the answers so we know they do not have to copy off of us.
The basic requirements of the 12 pillars are: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, and health and primary education. These are the keys for factor-driven economies.
Efficiency enhancers are: higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, and market size. These are keys for efficiency-driven economies.
Innovation and sophistication factors are: business sophistication and innovation. These are key for innovation-driven economies, of which Canada is one.
The Conference Board of Canada identified weaknesses in these last two areas, business sophistication and innovation. That is why since 2009 Canada has slipped from sixth place to ninth place and in September of this year to twelfth place.
The member for Calgary Centre can cherry-pick the facts and figures in this report, but the fact remains that the stability of our financial system was not due to his government but the foundations built by Canadian governments of the past. That is a fact I will acknowledge to the third party in this House even though its last Prime Minister wished to change that system. We are glad he decided not to. Members can take credit where credit is due, but they must realize that it is a misleading practice to claim credit for something someone else has done.
Let us return to the weaknesses identified in the report, that being innovation and business sophistication. The report states:
--greater R and D spending and producing goods and services higher on the value chain, would enhance Canada’s competitiveness and productive potential going into the future.
What is the government's answer to this criticism on competitiveness? It is to focus on export of raw materials like bitumen from the oil sands. To make it a priority to invest in basic--