Madam Speaker, I think we have had a meaningful debate this afternoon. I know that we will end up agreeing to disagree on a number of points.
I am completely supportive of Bill C-21 and the elements contained therein. In the limited time that I have, I want to point out a few of the reasons, but I also want to use my time to try and refute some of the arguments that I heard from members opposite as to why they seem to disagree. Perhaps I will start there, because we only have about 10 minutes left before the debate has to end.
I have heard from a couple of members opposite that they believe individuals should also have the right to lend money and that moneylending should not be restricted to financial institutions. The bill came into play because of the situation where wealthy individuals could lend money. We have seen many times in the past where supposed loans have been given to political candidates and were never repaid. That is simply unacceptable. The potential and probability for abuse under the current situation without Bill C-21 is extremely high.
The situation, quite frankly, is simply this. As it stands now, any individual could be in a position where he or she knowingly lent money to a political candidate with no expectations of repayment. It is quite conceivable that individuals could have consulted with a candidate and agreed upon a mechanism by which they could circumvent the rules, by lending a certain amount of money with very favourable interest rates, as low as 0%, and basically nudge, nudge, wink, wink, told a candidate not to worry about ever repaying it because it is a loan and the lender will end up writing it off or forgiving it. That is not a loan. That is a contribution. That is a donation.
As a government we need to step in to ensure that the potential for that abuse is completely eliminated. Bill C-21 would do exactly that. It would put provisions in place which would prevent anyone from trying to circumvent the rules again.
We have heard many times before, in committee and in debate this afternoon, some of the problems with the 2006 Liberal leadership campaign. Like my colleague from Hamilton Centre I will try to be as non-partisan as possible, but it was because of the abuse that we saw and still see as a result of unpaid loans from that leadership campaign that our government felt that some bill had to be introduced to prevent that type of situation from occurring again. Bill C-21 would do that.
I also want to point out that despite the protestations of members opposite, borrowing money from financial institutions does not empower those financial institutions. It does not give them a monopoly over political financing. It does not give them any untoward power to influence political parties or candidates. It is simply a commercial transaction that we as Canadians deal with on a daily basis. Whether Canadians secure a mortgage for the purchase of a house, whether they secure a loan to purchase a car or a heavy appliance and so on, they have been using financial institutions to secure loans for generations.
I do not believe that any financial institution, by lending money, whether it be $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 to a political candidate or a political party, would feel that it had some undue influence over that candidate because it entered into a commercial transaction. It is simply not true. In my view it is silly. This is a normal daily activity that most Canadians perform and have performed for the last 200 years, as long as there have been chartered banks in the world. We need to discount the argument completely that suggests financial institutions would have more influence over political candidates and therefore we should allow citizens to make loans.
What we are trying to achieve with Bill C-21 is to ensure that there is accountability and that there can be no circumvention of election financing rules by disguising contributions as political loans. The financial institutions would be obliged, as they are obliged in daily transactions with Canadians, to provide clear terms for both the rate of interest charged on the loan and for its repayment, something that we saw sorely lacking in the 2006 leadership campaign for the Liberal Party. Five years have gone by, and some of those loans still have not been repaid. That is not a loan, in my view, but a contribution, and it should not be allowed.
With Bill C-21 we would not only be putting in clear, transparent rules that would make candidates and political parties accountable; we would also be giving confidence to the Canadian electorate that there will be no funny business or circumvention of rules, and that everything will be done in a transparent, accountable manner acceptable to Canadians.
One of the consequences of Bill C-21 is that if there are unpaid loans, the political parties themselves, whether as riding associations or federal parties, would be responsible for backstopping those loans and repaying the money. We have yet to see any activity by the Liberal Party of Canada in this regard. Has the Liberal Party of Canada stepped up to the plate and said it has a number of unpaid loans from some of its former leadership candidates back in 2006, that it does not think such a situation is acceptable, that it is going to repay them right now and then make its own arrangements with those leadership candidates to reimburse the party? I have seen no evidence and heard no discussion to that effect in this debate.
Members opposite in the Liberal Party have stood in this place this afternoon and said that they want accountability and transparency, but they believe that they can still play fast and loose with the rules. Where is the accountability when the once great Liberal Party that governed this country for many decades now does not even want to speak about repaying loans that some of its leadership candidates incurred?
We are not talking about candidates from a local riding association who might have been defeated in an election; these individuals tried to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the next prime minister of Canada, yet that party refuses to be accountable for the debts incurred by its candidates. Instead Liberal members stand here this afternoon and criticize our government for this bill, which is trying to bring accountability and transparency to the political process.
I do not care what arguments they bring forward at committee. I will be there to ensure that I have a question for them: as a party, what do they plan to do about the unpaid loans? What happens if another five years go by? Will they still be advancing the same arguments as they have this afternoon? It is totally unacceptable.
Had we not seen the rampant abuse by the Liberals, we might not have seen the need for Bill C-21. Nonetheless, it is before us. It is a worthy bill, and one that deserves support from other parties.
I understand and appreciate the comments made by my colleague from Hamilton Centre that he wants to discuss this at committee. I would certainly be more than willing to entertain suggestions. I will certainly not commit that I would accept any of his suggestions; I have heard some of the arguments, I understand what he is going to be advancing at committee, and I think that is worthy of debate, but on its own merits Bill C-21, as it stands, deserves the support of all members in this place.
I know it has the support of all Canadians.