Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to the bill to continue this government's important work to strengthen Canadian democracy. Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), would foster a new era of openness in Canada's political parties. I would like to thank my hon. colleagues for sharing their thoughts on how we can strengthen our political financing laws here in Canada, and I look forward to moving ahead with this legislation so we can create an unprecedented level of openness and transparency for political fundraising events.
When I look across our country, I am deeply impressed by the millions of Canadians who are contributing to our democracy every day. Their creativity, collaboration, and commitment are a testament to the vibrant civic culture that thrives across our country. In Canada we are very proud of our diversity, and this is equally true when it comes to civic engagement. Canadians engage with their communities, the political system, and the country as a whole in diverse ways. They may be volunteering at their local community centres. They may be teaching a class about how a bill becomes a law. They may be running the local scouts group. They may be volunteering in their municipal, provincial, or federal elections. Whatever the form of civic engagement may be, they are furthering Canada's democracy, and I thank them all for that valuable contribution to our country.
During my own time in this House, I have had the privilege of speaking with and learning from many citizens who are behind these everyday acts of democracy. These many kinds of civic engagement help make our democracy the amazing, lively, and diverse place it is today.
One of the most common ways Canadians can get involved in our democracy is through political parties. Political parties are a key feature of Canada's political landscape. They encourage new people to enter the political arena, they bring important conversations into the political discourse, and they foster a healthy and rigorous dialogue. Whether joining a political party, making a donation, or attending a political fundraiser, people are participating in Canada's democracy. Canadians have the right to volunteer, to speak up, and to choose to financially support a political party. In fact, many Canadians see contributing to a political party or attending a fundraising event as a significant avenue for them to participate in our democracy. Our desire is to enhance openness and transparency in Canada's political fundraising. It is grounded in respect for all Canadians' right to democratic expression.
Political parties work with others in the public sphere to create an important forum for dialogue. One organization that is working to enhance political openness in Canada is openparliament.ca. As many will know, this website makes Canadian politics accessible by publishing votes, speeches, and other communications from the hon. members of this House. When looking at openparliament.ca, I was pleased, but not surprised, to find that my own favourite word to use in the House of Commons is “change”. This government has demonstrated its commitment to positive change in our democratic institutions. It has been an honour for me to work with the Minister of Democratic Institutions, who brings her incredible commitment to democracy to all her work. In my role as parliamentary secretary to the minister, I am proud to assist her in improving, strengthening, and protecting our democratic institutions.
The minister's mandate letter captures the scope and breadth of the positive change this government is bringing to our Parliament. We have transformed the process to appoint senators and judges. We are bringing back measures such as vouching to make our elections more accessible and inclusive. We are moving to better inform Canadians and to protect our democracy from the challenge of cyber-threats. Now it is time to update our political financing laws to create the level of openness and transparency Canadians expect from the political parties that represent them in the House of Commons.
Currently, the Canada Elections Act lays out the legal framework that governs fundraising and campaign financing. This is a framework that applies to all registered federal political parties, no matter what side of the House they may sit on. Under the current regime, donations can only be made by Canadian citizens and permanent residents. A strict upper limit exists for these individual contributions. Every year an individual can donate up to $1,550 to a national political party. In addition, that individual can also donate up to $1,550, in total, to riding associations, candidates, or nomination contestants in a party. In the case of an individual's preferred party having a leadership contest, he or she can donate up to $1,550, combined, to all the leadership contestants in the leadership race. In addition, we have robust rules that prevent corporations, industry associations, and trade unions from funding any political party or politician, period.
The current regime also outlines clear obligations for the recipients of these donations. Political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, and others are required to report their fundraising activities. Through Elections Canada, all Canadians have the opportunity to view these financial reports. What is more, Elections Canada also publishes the identity and postal codes of those individuals who donate more than $200. All that information is available on the Elections Canada website, which is an important facet of the openness and transparency we seek to advance.
In Canada, it is clear that we prioritize the strict scrutiny of political fundraising. That is why, under the Canada Elections Act, there are penalties for any violation of these political financing rules. Penalties can include fines of up to $50,000, up to five years in prison, or both. This is one of the strongest political financing regimes in the world.
Part of the democratic process is looking critically at our own institutions and asking how we can make them even better. How can we make them even more open and transparent to Canadians? In answer to this question, our government has introduced Bill C-50. This bill truly is an opportunity to continue making positive change in our political process.
In Bill C-50, the government has proposed rules that would contribute to the culture of transparency here in Canada. Under these new rules, Canadians would have even more information about political fundraising events. Making this information accessible would enable Canadians to have trust in our system, a foundation of any healthy democracy.
The importance of openness and transparency in governance is widely recognized. Mr. Angel Gurría, long-time Secretary-General of the OECD, explains that “Openness and transparency are key ingredients to build accountability and trust, which are necessary for the functioning of democracies and market economies.”