Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was money.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Canadian Alliance MP for North Vancouver (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply September 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, before commenting specifically on the New Zealand experience, the member mentioned that in Russia there were something like 47 parties on the ballot, and certainly in New Zealand there are more than 30.

He seemed to be disturbed by that. It does not disturb me a bit because I believe in democracy and I believe in the right of people to get out in the public domain and promote a cause. If they can get enough people to sign up to get on the ballot, let them get on the ballot. What is he afraid of? Does he feel that he is incapable of choosing out of a list of 30 which party he wants to vote for or is he afraid that perhaps some of constituents might choose somebody other than the ones he would approve? That is democracy.

Unfortunately we see on the government side of the House the desire to suppress small parties. For years, since the minister who spoke earlier came here in 1993, as minister he has tried to suppress the smaller parties in Canada with his 50 candidate rule.

We told him over and over from this side of the House it was anti-democratic to try to prevent small parties from running by saying they had to have 50 candidates. The courts at all the lower levels told the government the same thing. However he wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars fighting it all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada only to have the Supreme Court of Canada strike it down the bills he passed to suppress the activities of small parties. Even the Supreme Court of Canada told the minister that in a democratic country there is no place for that type of suppression.

What is wrong with having 40 different parties on the ballot? It is democracy and if they could all get elected to this place, so much the better. However general experience tells us that will not happen. Most of them are special interest groups that attract a few votes but they will not get into the place.

In terms of the New Zealand experience, and the dynamics in the house, actually rather than it being very polarized, I would say that most New Zealanders, certainly for the first term, complained that it was not polarized enough. They went from a very strict party type system to a more homogenous system where there was a lot of cross-voting, and it was quite different from what New Zealanders had experienced in the past. They did not like it in the first term. They seemed to prefer it in the second term, and it looks to me like MMP is there to stay in New Zealand.

Supply September 30th, 2003

Since the Charlottetown accord, another member says. It would have been very healthy for the country to discuss whether there should be a change.

Supply September 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that we have started off with a really good debate. We are hearing a lot about the technical aspects of electoral systems and how other countries have chosen different methods to that which we have here in Canada. I just think it is a shame that good debate will not be moved out of this House into the public arena because that would be very healthy.

Just before I answer another part of the member's question about what I hear in public, I should perhaps mention that if we were to go ahead and have a referendum, if the government would agree with the idea, maybe we should have a second question on that ballot about the Senate, the other place, and whether the people of Canada want to abolish it, as the NDP would promote, or whether they would rather have a democratically elected Senate which also truly represented people by making senators accountable through the ballot box and also by having true representation across the country rather than political appointments to that place.

In terms of what I hear from my constituents, and I think perhaps the member would agree with me, there is not a spontaneous outpouring of feeling about this, but as soon as it is mentioned to somebody there is enthusiasm for a change.

I mentioned earlier that the Canadian Alliance received 25% of the votes in Ontario in the last election and what that would have represented in this place in terms of seats. If the people in Ontario, who voted Canadian Alliance or NDP or PC, had an opportunity to see that transferred into representation in this place, what a much more healthy environment it would be, instead of what we have here, the pretense that the government side somehow represents all of Ontario. It does not. It simply does not have that mandate at all.

The member is right that there is tremendous interest out there. It is not spontaneous yet, but I am really confident that if we had the opportunity to move this into the public arena, to have the debate out there, this would have been one of the most interesting, lively and enthusiastic debates we would have seen in the country in many years.

Supply September 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it was clear from the minister's speech and his answers to the questions that his interpretation of representation for his constituents is actually representation for himself. He asks their permission to come here and then he does what he likes. To some of us that is offensive but I guess that is the way he operates. However to many of us that is not democracy and that is not democratic.

I would like to make further comments on some of the interventions made during the minister's speech when he said, for example, that he believes we already have the best system for this country, so he will not allow the people of Canada to let him know whether or not they agree with his opinion and that because he thinks it is too diverse and there are too many opinions here, he would not allow anybody else to contradict him. That is a very sad attitude.

Talk about Animal Farm, where some of the animals are more equal than others, that is exactly what we are hearing. The more equal animals, who sit on the front bench there, are making sure the other animals do not have any input at all into the way the government is running.

The minister's entire approach is based on, frankly, suppressing and burying public opinion in order that a program of social engineering can be carried out over there. It is like treating their constituents like mushrooms: keep them in the dark and feed them on that stuff that starts with B and ends with T.

The fact is that the minister's entire attitude is one of arrogance and superiority, where he decides what is best and then to hell, excuse my language, with the consequences. He will just impose his opinion on everyone else.

I think the real reason for his opposition is that a system of proportional representation would dramatically change the representation in the House, which was already mentioned by the sponsor of the motion today. The fact is, for example, in the last election here in Ontario, more than 1.1 million votes were cast for the Canadian Alliance. If there had been a system of proportional representation in place, for that 25% of the votes cast in Ontario, 25% of the seats would have been for the Canadian Alliance. What a difference that would have made. The Liberals would not be able to stand there and say that the Canadian Alliance is a regional party or give the impression that it is when it is not. We had healthy representation in this province and we could have had 25% of the seats here if every one of our votes had been properly represented.

Turning to the motion itself, I would like to start out by reminding the House that we debated a very similar motion to the one now before us during private members' business in May 2000. That motion was also sponsored by the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle. I congratulated him at the time for having pretty much copied Canadian Alliance policy in terms of his suggested approach.

In fact, his party's policy has evolved somewhat over the years with respect to the issue, changing from being one of imposing a top down decision on the people of Canada that there should be proportional representation, to accepting the Canadian Alliance approach that we should give the people of Canada a say in this possible change to the electoral system.

The evolution of the NDP's policy has brought its position much closer to that of the Canadian Alliance model but there are still some small and very important differences when we compare our system with the NDP model.

Our suggested process would involve two referendums rather than one, with the first asking whether or not the people of Canada want a change. In that respect, it is the same as the NDP proposal. However we would then have a one year to eighteen month period of time when Elections Canada would take on the job of educating the people of Canada about the various options that would be available, because proportional representation comes in many different forms. Only by making the people aware of their options would we be able to go into our second referendum at the end of 12 or 18 months to choose the system that would replace this or to reintroduce first past the post. That was the process that was used in New Zealand.

I do not think we should assume automatically that we would have the same outcome here because, if the minister is correct, with a very large and diverse country like this, quite different from New Zealand, when we get into the public discussion, in which he has no confidence, we would probably find that people had some different ideas about how the proportionality should work and we could end up with a totally different choice at the end of that second referendum.

However it must be obvious to any neutral observer that anyone who opposes the right of taxpayers and voters to use referendums to take part in the decision making of government between elections--and I place Liberals in this category--typically argue without providing a scrap of evidence that referendums are divisive, when nothing could be more divisive than having a government with 100% of the power barely holding 40% of the popular vote. What is more divisive than when there is not proper representation in this place for the votes that were cast in the last election?

We only have to compare that to the use of referendums where we get a healthy public debate about an issue. Usually the emotions are very strong because the subjects are often controversial but at the end of the day there is a democratic vote and everybody accepts the outcome. Even the people who lose, generally speaking, will accept that democracy has overruled them for this time. It is a healthy exercise.

Plenty of countries allow that sort of process to occur. Switzerland obviously is the country that uses this tool the most. We do not see any wars or uprisings in Switzerland despite its multicultural and complex nature because referenda actually assist the public to air grievances, to hear other points of view and, in the end, to make the right decision for everybody.

Having a referendum would be a good way to approach this. It would overcome the so-called problems the minister has tried to invent where the diverse nature of this country would prevent us from choosing anything better than first past the post.

However the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle has already discovered that it is highly unlikely that the government today will support his motion. Once the minister has spoken, of course, everyone over there will fall into line and there is probably no hope at all that the vote will be in favour of this motion tonight.

I also would bring to the attention of the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle the fact that I cannot think of a single example anywhere where there has been a major change to the electoral system of a country without some sort of crisis, usually a financial, fiscal or political crisis.

New Zealand is an example the member has used and likes to use. The change to the electoral system only happened after a fiscal crisis, near bankruptcy of the country, which resulted in a huge reorganization of the government. That was what led to the two referenda culminating in the introduction of MMP, mixed member proportional, in New Zealand.

I might add that it was also the catalyst for the rejection of Socialist policies in New Zealand and an aggressive switch to a free market economy. Perhaps still more distressing for the NDP would be that it was a left wing government, the Labour Party in New Zealand, that actually introduced the sweeping changes to the market system in New Zealand. It was also the Labour Party that eliminated compulsory unionism and allowed workers to bargain directly with their employers for their wages in every industry, even those regulated by unions.

Unions in New Zealand now have to advertise for members and convince people that it is worth joining the union. When I was there last Christmas, I heard advertisements on radio from one union advertising a free toaster and free cable TV hook-up to try to entice members to join the union. What a healthy thing to happen. Unions are being put in the same category as any other business venture, charity or special interest. They have to convince the people that they are doing something worthwhile, that there is a value in joining them, instead of just having a compulsory extraction from the wages of a worker passed on to a union with no accountability. In New Zealand now the unions have to pay bold attention to the real needs of the members.

In terms of the topic under discussion, the only thing I can think of in recent times, which here in Canada would have constituted a crisis big enough to cause some sort of change in our electoral system, would be the cliff-hanger Quebec separation vote we had a few years ago. Had that vote succeeded it would have caused such an upheaval in our electoral system that even the Liberals would have had to face the reality that an overhaul of the electoral system was necessary. There would have been a very high probability of change at that time.

Thanks to the efforts of the official opposition pushing the government in directions it did not want to go, I think that crisis has been eliminated, at least for a while. We now have a much better business environment in Canada and even some lower taxes despite increases in fees in other areas. We probably will not have an opportunity for a major change to the electoral system in the near future.

As I said earlier, the motion before us today is similar to the Canadian Alliance policy except that we would allow all stages of the process to be controlled by the public. Instead of a committee of the House or some other committee being set up to determine which would be the best voting system, we would put that task to Elections Canada to educate the people of Canada about their options and then let them decide the system they wanted for their country. After all, it is their country. They are the people who pay our salaries and the salary of the minister over there who thinks he is here to represent himself.

Surely the people of Canada, whether we think they are right or wrong when they make their final decisions, have the right, because they pay the bills, to have a country formed in the image they desire. Surely they have the right to determine how they want their country run. This would be a great opportunity for them to tell us how we should be running this place.

The reason we, in the former Reform Party and now the Canadian Alliance, reached our position on how to approach this whole issue was that at our policy conventions in past years people have always come forward with suggestions that we should promote a specific policy on proportional representation. The problem is that because there are so many different methods, people get very wedded and set on a particular system. It was difficult to have a debate in the convention atmosphere and actually make a decision about the kind of system we should take as policy.

We set about setting up a task force to study the issue within our party. We called all the people with different views before that task force. In the end, we decided that the best process was the one that was used in New Zealand where the people actually wanted the system changed. Maybe the minister is right, maybe people do not want it changed, in which case we finish the exercise, but if the people of Canada were to decide in a referendum that they wanted the system changed, then the next step would be to allow all the people who think they have the best system to promote that system in a widespread public discussion with the assistance of Elections Canada, and then we would see what the people of Canada would choose. Of course, first past the post would still be on the ballot at that time.

I must say that I am a bit troubled by the NDP proposal to have a committee actually decide which system would be more appropriate. What is the motivation for taking away the decision making ability of the public in this respect? Surely true believers in a democracy would trust the people to choose their own system to replace first past the post.

On balance, we can probably support the motion because if there is openness at that committee, we could probably convince it to create a situation where it could put its decisions out to the people in a second referendum. The opportunity is still available even with the type of motion before us today.

While I have time I should mention an interesting spinoff effect of what happened in New Zealand. The voters in New Zealand chose a mixed member proportional system where the House is divided in two. Half the members are elected using a first past the post system and the other half are selected from a list based on the proportion of the vote received by each party. The parties have to get 5% of the vote in order to get any members in the house. In the last two elections in New Zealand there were 30 or more parties on the ballot but only four or five managed to get 5% of the vote and actually become members in the house.

The interesting sidebar spinoff that I was going to mention is that with mixed member proportional representation some of the members of that house do not actually represent ridings because they are selected from a list provided by the party. As a result, the standing orders in the house in New Zealand had to be changed to refer to members by their names rather than their ridings.

It really begs the question why we have to refer to one another by our ridings, as I did earlier with the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle. There was no good reason to retain that rule in New Zealand, so it was scrapped. Everybody there calls other members directly by their names. I often have wondered why we need to persist with the archaic rule here.

Let me give a brief description of some of the options that New Zealanders had on the ballot.

Straight proportional is where everyone is elected based on a proportional percentage of the vote.

Then there is the supplementary member system, which is quite complex, under which most of the members, perhaps about four-fifths, are still elected on the first past the post and one-fifth, maybe one-quarter, of the total would be elected based on a proportion of the overall share of the votes.

It can be a very complicated system in terms of allocating the votes to the parties because how do they decide who will get on the list of members and who will be on the proportional list or who will have to go before the electorate to be voted in first past the post. It could be a party list selected by party leaders. It could be a party list selected by the members of the party. It could be some sort of public selection process. There are numerous ways of doing that and it really becomes very complicated indeed.

Under the supplementary member system, usually there is a very small representation from smaller parties, so they still tend to get larger, dominant party structures in those types of governments.

Then there is preferential voting, which is not truly proportional but ensures that winning candidates get more than 50% of the vote.

The minister talked about the high percentage that he got and how he felt he was equal to somebody who maybe got 38% and won the seat in a first past the post.

Preferential voting would allow the voter to mark a first choice, second choice and third choice on the ballot. When all the votes are counted, if the first choice on the ballot does not get more than 50%, all the second choice ballots are counted and added to the totals of the candidates. Then, if somebody got 50% of the vote, that candidate wins.

I guess that gives some sort of certainty for voters that if they do not get their first choice, at least they get their second choice, in most cases, because usually by the second counting of the ballot someone has more than 50% of the vote.

Another system that is pretty complicated is the single transferable vote system. It is similar to preferential voting but it involves having numbers of members representing one riding. It could be anything form three to seven members in one riding. Therefore the ridings are much larger but they often give a representation of different parties in the one riding. For those constituents who feel a little uncomfortable perhaps dealing with a member from one party or the other, they have the option within the same riding to go to some other member. That system is used in Tasmania.

Then there is mixed member proportional which, I mentioned, was finally chosen in New Zealand. Under that system, it is actually the party brass who have chosen who will be on the list of members.

I guess there is a good argument for having a party chosen list for that group because the party obviously wants the opportunity to ensure that it has skilled people able to come to parliament. I will give an example. My colleague who was here in the first Parliament after 1993, Herb Grubel who was the member for West Vancouver, was an internationally recognized and very accomplished economist. He might for example be put on a party list so that the party would be certain that type of skill would come to the House after an election.

I guess the bottom line here though is whether I would recommend to my colleagues that they support the motion presently before us. I pointed out that one flaw perhaps is the decision on the type of system would be given to a committee. We would prefer the final decision to be made by the people of Canada rather than by a committee.

However, in reading the motion carefully, I get the impression that there might be flexibility for the committee to actually decide that there should be a second referendum and that the people should make the final decision.

Overall there are so many advantages to having this type of exercise, to having this type of discussion, that I am recommending support of this motion.

Supply September 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the minister has made his own opinion abundantly clear to the House, but why is he so opposed to letting his constituents air their views?

Is it because he thinks that he is more intelligent and he is wiser than they are and there is no way they can think for themselves about such an important subject? Is it because he thinks they would actually disagree with him and that he has to prevent that from happening at any cost, even if it means suppressing their right to a public debate about this issue?

Does he doubt his own ability in an open public forum to convince his constituents that he is correct? If he does not, why will he not agree with the idea of letting them speak? Why will he not give the rest of us, who he has just said are equal to him, an opportunity also to have that public debate and try to convince our constituents to agree with us?

I would like the minister to stand up and look into one of the cameras here and tell his constituents exactly what he thinks of them and why he will not allow them to have their say on this issue.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act September 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the minister in his opening remarks on this bill mentioned that the next election should be held under an environment of the most accurate information available to provide representation by population. He also mentioned that we were presently working with information that was more than 12 years old.

Although it is difficult to criticize this bill because it does speed up the process of redistribution as it is now constituted, there really is a problem when we recognize that this 12 year old information means, in effect, that although British Columbia would get two new seats and Alberta would get two new seats, we really are still way behind in terms of accurate representation by population. If we were to use the actual populations today, we should have two more seats in British Columbia right now. It should be four that we are voting for, not two.

While it is difficult to criticize a bill which provides additional representation for western Canada in this place, the one criticism would be that it is 12 years out of date. I will take the minister up on his challenge to provide some suggestions of ways that we could modernize this redistribution act. I will get to that in just a few minutes.

What I would like to mention upfront though is another thing that was just touched on by the minister. There has been widespread dissatisfaction among members about the actual redistribution process and the way that the various commissions handled the process in each province. As critic for that area for my party, I watched the procedure right at the beginning. It was clear that each commission took its own independent way of doing things, so there was dissatisfaction in every province.

For example, in Ontario there were Liberals MPs who lost their ridings completely and I know out west there were Canadian Alliance MPs who lost their ridings because of the redistribution. Out west they assumed it was because there was political interference in the process. I personally do not think there was, although we always have those suspicions, because in Liberal country in Ontario the same sorts of things were happening.

The commissions also were approaching the job in a different way. In the Edmonton area, for example, they tried to change the formula for whether the riding should be arranged in a concentric order or in the spoke system. There was a lot of debate about that sort of thing. In British Columbia there was a lot of argument about whether a riding in the central part of B.C. should be eliminated altogether.

The bill really does not deal with that dissatisfaction, but I think if we were to modernize the entire redistribution act, we could really improve the situation in a very effective way. If the government were serious about trying to address the under-representation in western Canada, it would find a way of speeding up the redistribution process.

For example, thanks to those modern databases which the minister alluded to at Elections Canada, it really is not necessary to have a delay of several years between the time that we take a census and fully implement the redistribution process. It is not really even necessary to use a census. If we really think about it, why do we have to use the census as a starting point for redistribution. The whole process is rather arbitrary after all. Even though we start with the census, we already see that the redistribution commissions can pick and choose where boundaries go. They make massive variations to those boundaries.

For example, in my own riding the first strike was to split North Vancouver into two pieces, because the riding is way too big in terms of the quotient for population. The riding was split and a portion of it was joined on to north Burnaby. I did not object to that because I felt we needed an additional riding in the area, because of the number of people who live in north Vancouver. Eventually after several re-works, I ended up back with the same riding boundaries with which I started.

Here I am back again with exactly the same riding boundaries that will continue on now for at least another five, or seven or ten years before we get a redistribution. Yet the population in the riding is running 17% to 18% above the maximum that is prescribed in the redistribution act. There is something wrong with a process like that. It is arbitrary and it is not tried critically to the census.

Elections Canada already maintains an electronic database of voters and it maintains that database by postal code. Anyone can go to the Elections Canada website and key in a postal code and find out who the MP is for that area.

There really is no reason why we cannot start with something like the voter database from Elections Canada and make these redistributions on a more frequent basis. If the commissions are rather arbitrary anyway, we do not need that degree of accuracy. It probably would end up being more accurate if it was being done on the basis of the voters list. We could do this redistributions more often and we truly could have real representation by population.

Rumour has it that the Bloc Quebecois wants to hold up this legislation. We in the official opposition will be interested to hear why because frankly the message out west in terms of holding up this legislation is not a good one. I can already hear people out west saying that if the Bloc is going to try to hold this up, here is another case of the Quebec tail trying to wag the federal dog.

Maybe the Bloc members do not care about the relationships with the west but they need to think very carefully about their position in terms of this legislation and the additional representation the west will get into this House once the bill is passed.

We want to see this legislation passed so we can begin the very complicated process of nominations and redistribution of the assets of electoral district associations. Then all this will be coupled with the new political finance bill which in itself is complicated and begins on January 1, wherein electoral district associations have to become registered with Elections Canada.

Here we have this very complex, bureaucratic process of registering electoral district associations in January under the present boundaries and then on April 1 we are going to completely turn everything topsy-turvy, establish new boundaries and all those electoral district associations will have to be re-registered, all the assets accounted for and Elections Canada at the same time will be preparing for the likelihood of an election, perhaps within one month of that occurring.

This is a very complex process. I agree with the minister and so does the official opposition that we need certainty in this. We need this legislation passed quickly so we can begin the planning process and the consultations with Elections Canada to ensure that all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted so that hopefully there will not be any problems. It is difficult to imagine that there will not be any problems when dealing with two pieces of legislation at the same time and it is a very new process for riding associations and for candidates.

We hope that Elections Canada is preparing well and that it can cope with unexpected consequences, and there will be unexpected consequences of the boundary changes occurring in consequence with this political financing act.

That having been said, we will not hold this bill up. I think we have a few speakers from the official opposition who will be expressing support for the concept of improved representation by population, probably introducing a few complaints about the redistribution process itself and perhaps providing some other suggesting for the minister on ways in which we could modernize this whole procedure.

I urge other members of the House to support this legislation and the Bloc perhaps to think carefully about its strategy. Let us see this bill go through quickly so that we have certainty for the next election.

Petitions June 13th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of John and Barbara Stuart and 92 others in which they draw the attention of the House to the following.

The addition of sexual orientation as an explicitly protected category under section 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada could lead to individuals being unable to exercise their religious freedom as protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to express their moral and religious doctrines regarding homosexuality without fear of criminal prosecution.

The current provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada can be effective in preventing true threats against individuals or groups without changes to section 318 and 319 of the code.

Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to protect the rights of Canadians to be free to share their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution.

Canada Elections Act June 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my very next sentence was leading up to what all this really illustrates. There are problems on the government side and that is what Bill C-24 is really about. The Prime Minister is trying to deflect these problems by claiming that there is a perception of problems and that he has introduced this bill to take care of all those problems, but in fact it definitely will not take care of them.

Because it will not take care of the problems, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-24, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing) be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for the purposes of reconsidering clause 40 with a view to investigating ways in which all taxpayer subsidies for political parties could be completely eliminated”.

Canada Elections Act June 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I will go back to talk about the raising of money. As I said earlier in my speech, we just simply do not believe that political parties should take money from taxpayers. They should be required to raise the money from the people who they claim to represent.

The Prime Minister said that we needed the legislation to remove the perception that the Liberal Party was giving lucrative contracts, grants and loans to political supporters, and he is right. Bill C-24 would remove the perception that these things are not happening because there will not be any corporate donor trails for the Canadian Alliance to follow to reveal the corruption. However Bill C-24 would not change the reality of political patronage and untendered contracts being awarded to supporters of the Liberal Party.

There will still be untendered contracts awarded to friends and relatives. There will still be payments for reports that do not exist. There will still be ministerial interference in the approval of loans and grants by government agencies, and it will be almost impossible for us to trace those connections.

The Prime Minister will still be free to make phone calls to the Business Development Bank of Canada and order them to give loans to his friends. It will not change any of that at all. The bill is a fraud. It is an excuse to take taxpayer money and give it to political parties, and it will not make the slightest bit of difference to the awarding of untendered contracts and improper practices that are occurring daily on that side of the House.

While all this is going on, it will be taxpayers who will be watching the Liberal government shovelling money out of the treasury and into the coffers of political parties.

As I said, the Liberals claim they introduced Bill C-24 to deal with the perception that there were problems over there, but there are problems over there. Many of those problems are presently with the RCMP for investigation. The problems were revealed for the main part in response to attacks by opposition parties, particularly the Canadian Alliance, over what appeared to be links between the donations made by corporations and individuals to the Liberal Party of Canada and the subsequent awarding of contracts, grants, loans and special deals.

Let me give an example. The industry minister recently announced a $60 million handout to two private companies in Ottawa headed by an Ottawa billionaire. He should be embarrassed to even ask for the $60 million. A billionaire asked the government over there, the Minister of Industry, to give him $60 million. He is Terence Matthews, an identified Liberal donor. He donated $25,000 recently to the Deputy Prime Minister's leadership campaign.

The minister has claimed that the $60 million awarded to the two companies of Terence Matthews is not a gift, that he expects every nickel to be repaid. How many times have we heard that. Unfortunately, the Technology Partnership Canada program, under which the $60 million was awarded, has a less than satisfactory history of success. It has handed out close to $2 billion but has only been repaid $35 million.

It is hard for the average Canadian taxpayer to imagine how the government could have the gall to give $60 million to a billionaire to fund something that he should have funded himself.

As if the handout was not bad enough just in itself, in return for the generosity, the minister and Technology Partnership Canada have agreed to accept share warrants for a pre-determined number of shares in Mr. Matthew's companies. Now we are in the share market business with taxpayer money. The problem is those shares do not trade on any stock exchange because they are shares in private companies. Their value will be decided at some point in the future by financial institutions and the government. It is unbelievable that we give $60 million to a billionaire, then we take shares and we do not even know what they are worth. It is an absolutely incredible thing.

I figure that if and when Mr. Matthews takes his companies public, which he might do, either we will make some money on these shares or we will lose our shirt. Either way, we really have no business being in this part of the business.

Are you indicating my time is running out or to keep focused, Mr. Speaker?

Canada Elections Act June 11th, 2003

I hear the parliamentary secretary interrupting again and crying out and asking how many bottles of champagne there are at Stornoway. Obviously I do not have an intimate knowledge of the wine cellar at Stornoway, but I would expect the Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, just as I would expect the Prime Minister, to have an appropriate amount of appropriate liquors, wines and foods for the times when he entertains heads of state and important people from around the country.

The leader of my party has an important job to do as Leader of the Official Opposition and it is entirely appropriate that he have the correct tools to do his job. Part of that toolbox involves the wine cellar at Stornoway for the sorts of events that he might hold. He has to interact with the movers and shakers of the business community of the country, with international heads of state and with important people who are interested in the political process and who may want to make representations to him about the way the government is handling the portfolio.

Frankly, if the minister over there or in fact any of the members on that side think they can rattle me by throwing these things at me, they are completely wrong because I feel perfectly comfortable with the positions we take on bills.

I want to get back to fundraising. Raising money eyeball to eyeball from individuals is the way the Canadian Alliance has always done it. We have been very comfortable with that and we would have been happy to continue to work under those rules. Even the 25% average that we have collected from corporations over the past five years, most of it was from small corporations giving $1,000 or less, which is the amount allowed in the bill anyway. When we look at those small contributions, the $1,000 to $1,100 amounts, they are often from mom and pop-type businesses that give a corporate cheque because their accountant only decides at the end of the year whether the money will go under their individual incomes or under corporate spending.

That was one reason that our party supported the $1,000 figure for corporate donations, even though, on principle, we were not opposed to the idea of no political donations. We felt it facilitated individual donations to have that small limit there. I am not sure if it will necessarily stand up to a charter challenge but, nevertheless, the concept is not particularly offensive to us.

As I mentioned, the Canadian Alliance has always raised its money directly from its supporters. When I joined the Reform Party back in 1987 it was very small party and it did not have the benefit of tax deduction status. We had to start from nothing with nothing and within 10 years we became the official opposition in the Government of Canada. That was a big achievement because a party needs a lot of passion from supporters behind it to raise the money to achieve that.

I am actually very disappointed in the bill that the government did not accept some of the recommendations that I made to make it easier for small parties to get started. One of those recommendations was the 50 candidate rule.

The government has consistently tried to prevent parties from having registered status, tax receipt status, by requiring them to run 50 candidates in ridings in a general election. The fact is that when the Reform Party first started we could not do that. This is unfair. It penalizes small parties. The fact is that a party needs 12 members for recognition as a party in this place,

During the hearings on Bill C-2, which was the overhaul of the elections act in 1999 and 2000, the committee, on which I was a member, had representations from most of the small parties operating in this country, the Green Party, the Communist Party, a whole list of them, and I had discussions with them.

There actually was a court case in Ontario that ruled that a party was actually two persons and that running two candidates was sufficient. Even the small parties agreed that was going to the other extreme from the 50 candidates.

Our committee reached an agreement that it should be 12 candidates. I went to the minister with that and said that in order to avoid any more tax challenges, which have already cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars fighting a ridiculous fight, why do we not make it 12 candidates. I told the minister that all the small parties had agreed to that number, that we could be put it into Bill C-2 and the issue would be finished. There would be no more court cases. The minister was absolutely bullheaded and would not do it. This fight has continued on and will go all the way to the Supreme Court and cost us an absolute fortune.

Bill C-24 gave us the opportunity to revisit the issue. I tried in vain to get the minister to go back to this and change it to 12 members but he would not do it. I cannot help but feel that he has not properly assessed the risk here and that he just does not care about taxpayer money. He seems oblivious to the fact that he is wasting millions of dollars fighting these battles which he cannot win.

One of the other battles in which he is currently involved and one which he cannot win is the one having to do with third party advertising. This is the right, in a free and democratic country, for third parties, that is people outside the political process, to bring up issues and spend money on supporting candidates or issues during election campaigns completely outside the electoral process.

The government has fought that for at least 15 years. First it was the Tory Party and now it is the Liberals. This has been ongoing. The minister has spent tens of millions of dollars fighting against this third party advertising which the courts keep striking down. His argument is that because of a ruling in Quebec, which had to do with the Quebec referendum and that there should be spending limits on the yes and no side in a referendum and no third party interference, that this is justification for applying the same rules to an election.

The fact is that is faulty logic. A referendum has a yes and a no question on the ballot. A person either votes yes or no. There is no other issue.

If a person gives some money to a yes side and some money to a no side to fight the battle leading up to voting day, I think most people, and perhaps all people, would agree it is entirely fair to then exclude third parties from that. Then it becomes unfair. If we want a fair fight, then we allow the yes side and the no side to fight fairly with limitations.

When this is applied to an election, an unlimited number of issues will come to the fore during an election. Political parties will not bring up the things they do not want to talk about. Therefore, it is only fair that third parties be allowed to intervene and spend some money on themselves.

Before I go on, Mr. Speaker, might I ask for unanimous consent of the House to split my time with the member for Surrey Central. If there is unanimous consent for that, I will split my time; otherwise I will not.