Let us talk about our laws, Mr. Speaker.
The commissioner also mentioned something quite interesting regarding our laws here in Canada. She said:
I will conclude by reiterating that, despite any potential for improvement, the act and the members’ code have, in large measure, done their job.
Yes, they are doing their job, because in Canada, contributions made to political entities are governed by the Canada Elections Act. That act provides a framework to ensure that the funding of our political system is done transparently and fairly. The Canada Elections Act limits the amount an individual can donate to $1,525 per registered party per year. Nine jurisdictions in Canada also limit the amount an individual can donate to political entities. The amounts vary from province to province, but the principles of transparency and fairness remain the same.
The federal electoral system governing contributions to political entities serves as a model not only for the provinces and territories, but also for other countries. Canada is a model, an example, for many countries around the world. Not all countries have created regulatory frameworks that are as detailed and rigorous as ours. Once again, our system calls for increased transparency and ensures greater accountability.
In Australia, for example, in the last election, contributions and donations to registered political parties came mostly from large corporations and unions, which, as we know, is not permitted in the Canadian federal system.
Another difference between us and Australia is the upper limit on the amount that can be given to a registered political entity. Australia’s regulatory framework sets no limit on the contributions that can be made by an individual, a union, or a corporation. The ceiling on contributions that are not subject to a disclosure requirement, for example, was set at 13,200 Australian dollars for Australia’s 2016 election.
In Canada, the threshold at which the disclosure requirement kicks in for an individual who contributes to a political party is $200. The individual’s name and address must be provided. That also goes well beyond the upper limit of $1,525 that an individual can give to any registered political entity.
Let’s look at another example, New Zealand. In that country, there is no ceiling on contributions by individuals. The only ceiling set by law is on contributions from other countries, which is 1,500 New Zealand dollars. In Canada, contributions from other countries are not permitted.
In New Zealand, only contributions in excess of 15,000 New Zealand dollars have to be included in the annual reports of political entities. Once again, these are measures that go well beyond what is permitted in Canada.
In the United Kingdom, as in Australia and New Zealand, there are no limits on contributions made by individuals. In fact, under British regulations, any contribution of less than 500 pounds sterling is not considered a donation and may come from individuals, corporations, unions or even, oddly enough, another political party.
Also in the United Kingdom, disclosure of donors’ names is required only for donations that exceed 7,500 pounds sterling in a calendar year. Once again, we see that Canadian limits are well below the limits permitted by the three jurisdictions I have just mentioned today.
Now, we should also look at our neighbours to the south. The United States has a distinctly different approach from ours to regulating its political funding system. The United States Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is a historic ruling, since it puts the United States on an odd path with regard to funding. It allows businesses to participate financially in political campaigns, with no limits.
True, businesses are prohibited from making contributions directly to political campaigns, but they can spend as much as they want independently on promoting the candidates they support, allowing them full freedom of expression, which is the argument used by the court. That is one of the biggest differences between us and our neighbours to the south.
Here in Canada, our approach is to encourage full participation in the voting system in order to encourage full participation in the political dialogue. One of the objectives of our system is to keep the influence of money in check. That being said, I take comfort in knowing that our regulatory framework is robust and reflects Canadians' values.
We can learn a lot from countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each of those countries, as well as the provinces and territories, have their own system and accountability mechanisms in place.
The Canadian federal system is one that evolved over time and now offers Canadians more transparency while allowing for greater accountability.
Canada is a leader in political financing. Our system has, for example, a limit on large financial contributions, and it also imposes more requirements for disclosures by political entities to the public.
I believe that we should be proud of the evolution of our regulatory framework and the financing system for our political parties.
In fact, our government spends a lot of time working with Canadians across the country, meeting with them individually or in groups, as well as listening to consumer groups and small and medium-sized businesses. There is no favouritism. The goal is to have the most open and transparent approach. We are working on keeping our promises to Canadians and I believe they realize that.
We promised to hold an unprecedented number of public consultations to ensure that we respond to the real challenges facing Canadians. That is why we adopted such measures as the 1% tax increase for the wealthy, the middle-class tax cut, and the Canada child benefit. Canadians wanted these measures and we adopted them.
For more than a year now, the opposition has been criticizing the fact that our government is trying to be too involved with Canadians, that our government is too open and accessible, that Canadians are consulted too regularly, and that our government has shown itself to be the most open and accessible government that this country has ever known.
There is no doubt that our democracy is better served when everyone has the same opportunity to be heard. All we are doing is following the rules that were already in place. We promised Canadians that we would be open and transparent, and that is what we are doing.
As members can see, our government continues to work with and serve Canadians in a fair, transparent, and responsible manner, while, of course, respecting the laws as they are written. Our laws are some of the strictest in the world, as I just demonstrated by comparing them to those of New Zealand, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
I think that we can be proud of our system, which ensures that only individuals can contribute to a registered political party and sets a low donation limit. If that system needs to be improved, we, the members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, would be pleased to look into different options.
I look forward to questions from my hon. colleagues.