Mr. Speaker, I would say right from the get-go that the Liberal Party is having a free vote on the member's bill. There is quite a difference in opinions and thoughts, as I am sure the member can anticipate, even within our own caucus. At the very least, he has provoked a good, healthy debate.
I come to the table with some experience in the sense that I have been a parliamentarian for a couple of decades now, and I have also sat on election readiness committees. He just made reference to the nomination process. There has been a lot of interest in how we can improve the system.
If we were to canvass most parliamentarians, we would find that they all have some thoughts they would like to share. The member who spoke before me made reference to the financing of elections, for example.
I am very familiar with nominations. I have had nominations when I have been acclaimed. I have had to run against other individuals. There is something to be said about acclamations, but contested nominations are also of high interest for local communities.
There seems to be a natural evolution toward what I believe is a healthier democratic process. I would cite, for example, leadership, from oppositions to prime ministers. As we all know, at one point, caucuses were responsible for the selection of their own leaders. If a party happened to be the one with the most seats, the leader of that party became the prime minister.
It then moved off in many different forms. It was not that long ago, for example, that the Liberal Party elected leaders through delegates. We had 300 constituencies scattered across Canada. Each constituency would have a number of selected delegates, a large convention would occur, and those elected delegates would then determine who the next leader, in my case, of the Liberal Party of Canada, would be. In our most recent leadership convention, we literally had hundreds of thousands of Canadians engaged directly in that process, from every region of this country. In my short political time, I have witnessed an evolution that ultimately saw the grassroots get engaged in selecting a leader.
Here we talk about how to get rid of a leader. There are mechanisms in political parties, such as leadership reviews. In Manitoba, a small group of four or five NDP members of the legislative assembly chose to go offside of the elected premier, Mr. Selinger. Because of those five NDP MLAs, there is now a leadership convention taking place. Again, delegates and union members will determine who the next leader of the New Democratic Party, and therefore the premier of Manitoba, is going to be.
Different parties are at different stages. From what I have witnessed over my short tenure, there is reason for us to be encouraged. I think of nomination meetings. The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, upon being elected as the leader of the party, indicated that all nominations are open nominations. We have heard stories or a nomination candidate is upset because he or she did not get a green light or something of that nature.
At the end of the day, I truly believe that all 338 constituency nominations are, in fact, open. We have seen that in terms of just expressions of interest. We have had literally hundreds of people, again from every region of the country, putting in papers, requesting and wanting to get engaged in the Liberal Party, and who want to be candidates.
It is no easy feat having to get the memberships and go through a process that I would argue is very democratic. I am not trying to say that we have the best system in the world. There is always room for improvement.
When I look at the member's bill and some of the things that he is suggesting, for example, the selection or election of caucus chairs, that is something the Liberal caucus currently does. We recognize the important role that our caucus chair plays. I have had the opportunity to participate directly in that. We do sit down as a group of members of Parliament to select who is going to be the chair of our association.
I have seen other areas where we have made significant improvement. Just over a year ago, it was the issue of the Senate, and the leader of the Liberal Party likely did more for Senate reform than anything that has happened in the last 15 or 20 years, by making it truly more independent.
There are many things that we can actually do without having to pass legislation to ensure that we do get some of the reforms that I believe Canadians as a whole want to see.
There are other types of reforms that are necessary for us to have in terms of legislation. We see that in the Elections Act and financing. These are areas that I, personally, have a deep interest in seeing take place. For example, during a campaign period, there is a fixed amount of money that anyone can actually spend pre-election. In the months leading up to an election, what someone could actually spend is endless. That is something that needs to be looked at.
I brought forward a bill which would have ensured more accountability for advertising, where leaders of a political party or executive officers of non-profits or other organizations, third parties, would have to take responsibility for the advertising that takes place, and doing what takes place in the United States and other jurisdictions. It is called “stand by my ad”. For example, an ad would have to be followed by leaders stating that they approve of that particular ad.
There are many different types of reforms where I would like to see legislation required. With respect to this particular piece of legislation, the member brought it forward and it went to PROC. There was a substantial change made to the original proposal. It talked about each party voting after an election on whether to adopt some of the specific provisions.
That was a substantial concession that the member had actually taken into consideration, in essence allowing for the individual caucuses to determine whether or not they would like to proceed on some of the initiatives that the member actually put into this private member's bill.
When I look at the bill overall, there is a great deal of merit to it. I am not 100% sure, in terms of having been someone who supported the bill to go to committee, wanting to see what would take place at committee. I was hoping to see a couple of different things and maybe a little more debate occurring.
All in all, with this particular amendment, the member has made it that much easier for members on all sides to support his bill. I suspect the bill will ultimately pass. I do applaud him for taking what I believe is not an easy path, trying to reform the institution or system in a proactive fashion. I do give him credit for having the courage and the tenacity to continue to push some very important issues that I am sure Canadians will agree with.