Madam Speaker, it was interesting to listen to my colleague across. I was going to start my speech off by talking about foreign financing, but when we are talking about voter identification we recognize there are 39 pieces of identification that were approved under the Fair Elections Act. We have to talk about that, because we just got through a municipal election in Ontario a few days ago where we heard about voter cards being left in the lobbies of apartment buildings rather than being secured in people's mailboxes. Of course, that was a bit of a threat as well, because there were issues with the fact they had a PIN that could be used online. We recognize that most Canadians are not going to do things that are fraudulent. However, there are those who, at times when they are so passionate, may choose to do something that sometimes is illegal to basically better their cause or do something they think is really important.
It was great to hear my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton question what we are going to do about voter identification cards. Can voters could go in with voter ID cards they received in the mail and show their Costco card to prove they are Canadian? For many years I worked as a campaign manager and worked in an office talking to different people about what they needed. Also, I worked in a constituency office where I was working with Canadians who were applying for the Canada child benefit, Canadian citizenship and all these things. It is peculiar how our departments need some sort of identification to prove who people are and where they live to receive a variety of different benefits through the Ontario disability support program or Ontario Works. However, the biggest thing a Canadian citizen can do is vote, yet somehow we do not say that they need those documents. Therefore, after listening to my friend from Edmonton, I am really concerned that the Liberals think that proving Canadian citizenship is going to be that easy by saying people can come in with their driver's licence and voter card. This is a reminder. Permanent residents can drive too. I see them drive all the time. I think that is one thing we have to really look at.
However, I want to focus more on foreign financing. That is where I want to go with this, because we saw a number of third party campaigns in the 2015 election. I saw that not only with respect to the provincial election and the federal election, but also with the recent municipal election as well. On TV I cannot see that the campaign was authorized by the campaign manager for x, as a lot of the time it is authorized by a third party campaign.
For many people like myself, contributions to run a personal campaign come from individuals. There were I believe approximately 241 individuals who donated to the EDA during the window of the 2015 election. Those were all individuals. We did not have any third parties working around us. We were on the ground working. However, some of my colleagues who were in ridings such as London North Centre know that there were huge campaigns going on that were really focusing on anything but Harper. That is the concern I have, because this was not money going to the Liberal Party, the NDP or the Green Party, it was money that was being used for people to go out and campaign on. Therefore, I started looking at my returns for the 2015 election to see how much money I had fundraised compared to my colleagues. I am talking about a $40,000 to $50,000 difference in fundraising, yet they ran very strong campaigns as well. Where did they get their money from? Where did they get their advertising from? They did not necessarily have to go out there and do that. They did not actually have to pay for it from their campaigns, because we know how many third parties were out there doing that.
This is where it goes into the next step. Where is that money coming from, that is going to these campaigns, these third parties? I would like to continue that conversation by the member for Thornhill. We talk about things like the Tides Foundation, located in San Francisco and New York. The Tides Foundation funnelled money through Canadian groups and charitable organizations, which then put that money into Canadian elections. It is really that simple. It is so easy to look at the fact that money from the United States was filtered into Canadian campaigns through a third party. We have to recognize what some of those restrictions and regulations are.
What is great is that, within the Senate, Senator Frum was talking about some of these contributions. There was a lot of discussion about contributions coming from third parties and how people can donate to a party. We have to look at this hypothetically, because this entire conversation is really hypothetical: what if, what if? That is what we really need to do here. When we are talking about the Government of Canada, it should be black and white when it comes to the rights of people to vote and give to a party.
What happens if somebody donates $10,000 to a foundation, a not-for-profit, six months prior, and then that money goes into a campaign? It does not matter. Bill C-76 would increase the amount they can spend.
It is not as if I am saying that Conservatives are the only group beaten up on. I recognize that all of us have third parties that support us, and that is fine. However, “101 reasons to vote against Harper” and “Voters Against Harper” are two organizations and I can tell members the money that was funnelled through those parties was not supporting Conservative candidates but instead there was now a new war chest for the NDP, Green, Liberal or Bloc candidate. We have to recognize that we are now, and not just as individuals, fighting another source. We are not fighting among political parties. We have actives out there doing this. Therefore, foreign funding is a critical piece.
The organization that TIDES is involved with, the Dogwood Initiative, is an interesting case. The Dogwood Initiative is a Canadian not-for-profit public interest group based in Victoria, B.C., and I will read a little about it.
The organization works to increase the power of British Columbians over government decision-making. They were instrumental in the fight against Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, introducing a tanker moratorium on B.C.'s north coast and the province's campaign finance reform. The organization currently works to stop Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tanker and pipeline expansion in B.C., ban U.S. thermal coal exports through B.C. ports and restore accountability and transparency to the province's democracy by calling for a Corruption Inquiry.
Researchers and pundits have come back and criticized it, because Dogwood has been funded from outside Canada, and so there is foreign investment coming in. The U.S.-based funders provided money through the TIDES Foundation to Dogwood.
Now, we have these groups working as a third party. Therefore, if I am allowed to spend $78,000 on my campaign, and my colleagues are allowed to spend $78,000 on their campaigns but they actually have a third party, we are now talking about spending $156,000 on their campaign if they invest properly in some of these things. It is not just about one group. We have to recognize that in the last federal election there were 115 organizations that were third party.
This is all hypothetical, but that is why we need to have this debate. If we get one group or one person who decides that they do not like what a party is doing, they could set up 100 different organizations and put $10,000 into each of them, and then that money could be filtered. Yes, there is a cap on how much money can be spent within a certain constituency, but at the same time, if that is done 100 times over, it is unfair, and this is where, when I look at this, that it is absolutely not the right thing to do. We have to be very cautious on foreign investment coming into Canada that is focused on the policies of Canadian politicians.
We hear about fake news all the time, and I do not want to talk about what is happening in the United States, but I do not think we should kid ourselves. There are people here in Canada who also have an agenda and are speaking to our government officials. This week, we have talked a lot about Vice-Admiral Norman and the lobbyists that were working for Irving and how the Davie shipyard lost something. There are all of these things, and so please, let us not kid ourselves, lobbyists and third party groups are very important in Canadian government. Now, when they are part of our elections as well, we have to have caution on that. Therefore, it is a really big concern.
I will go back to an editorial written by our former colleague, the Hon. Joe Oliver, who was a fantastic minister of finance and continued the great job that Jim Flaherty did. This is something I think most Canadians need to understand, and we have to bring this back to the dining table so that everybody can understand it.
Canadians can only donate $1,550 to political parties and candidates. Union and corporate donations have been banned completely, and yet in the Senate hearing, Commissioner Côté said that as long as foreign money is donated to a third party six months prior to the election writ being dropped, the amount that can be donated is endless.
These are things that we have to be aware of. I thank everybody for listening. Let us have this conversation and really talk about what is happening in Canadian elections.