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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

Canada Elections Act June 11th, 2003

I hear the parliamentary secretary asking how much we will give back, as if that is even relevant to this discussion. How does that justify a raid on the public treasury to pay the day to day operations of a political party? How does that justify it?

However I will answer his question as to whether we will pay it back.

We do not make the rules of the game and we do not control the rules of the game. The government side makes the rules and if it thinks we are so stupid that we will not play by those rules and put ourselves at a disadvantage while it collects $9.5 million and completely cut ourselves off from funding, well, give me a break. The government is just grasping at straws trying to justify the position it has taken.

I hear one of my colleagues talking about the bill being as dumb as a bag of hammers. There is a misconception out there that Stephen LeDrew, the president of the Liberal Party, called the bill dumb as a bag of hammers. However he did not actually say that. What he said was that the concept was as dumb as a bag of hammers. He did not like the idea that there would be no corporate donations. I am pleased to get that on the record. I am sure it has been very hurtful for the Liberal Party to have its president constantly misrepresented that way.

However let me get back to the transfers from the federal treasury. The position of the Canadian Alliance is that we believe that special interest groups and political parties should raise the money that they need for their day to day operations from the people they purport to represent. They should face their membership eyeball to eyeball, explain why they need the money and ask them for the money.

It is not good enough to simply stand in this place, the way the parliamentary secretary did, and say “Well, parties do important work between elections so we should have $9.5 million a year to do that”, without ever explaining what this important work is. I am certain there will be plenty of wining and dining on that $9.5 million. I will bet there will be a lot of bottles of French champagne cracked open for that one. It will not be very good at all.

Canada Elections Act June 11th, 2003

I heard a member from the other side ask what the Alliance will get. I am more than happy to tell him. My own party, the Canadian Alliance, on a percentage basis would be one of the biggest beneficiaries because the entire formula for this bill is based upon corporate donations.

The Liberal Party, which looked at its own corporate donations and realized that it would lose those donations because it was going to ban them, created a formula to replace, in fact more than replace, what it would lose in corporate donations.

However the Canadian Alliance has traditionally relied more on individual donations. In fact, our average contribution from corporations, in the five years to the year 2001, was only 25%, whereas the Liberal Party was well up around 60%. We can see why the formula worked in our favour. On a percentage basis, we benefit a lot from the bill. In fact, the Canadian Alliance will receive about $5.5 million.

However that does not mean we support the bill. In fact, we have vigorously opposed this raid on the public treasury from the moment the Prime Minister introduced the draft.

Canada Elections Act June 11th, 2003

The parliamentary secretary yells out the Fraser Institute, but the Fraser Institute solicits for donations quite extensively for the work that it does, so I am not sure we can compare it directly with academics.

In any case, the academics who came before us claimed to know what was good for taxpayers and supported the idea that political parties should be funded by taxpayers, but I am not sure these academics really know what is good for the average taxpayer because they do not actually pay taxes.

I know many of them would take offence to that by brandishing their paycheques and saying “Look, there are deductions there, I do pay taxes”. However the fact is that professors, publicly paid workers, people like myself, members of Parliament in this place, do not pay taxes because the money we receive in our paycheques comes out of this big pot of taxpayer money. We take some money out and we put some money right back in. That is not paying taxes.

The people who pay taxes are the private sector workers, the people who create the wealth in this country, and it is the deductions from their paycheques, it is the corporate taxes from the private sector that goes into the big pot from which we take our salaries. Those are the ones who are paying taxes.

When these academics come along and say that they pay taxes and they think it is a good idea that taxpayer money should be used to fund political parties, I think they have a conflict of interest.

In fact, I have always thought it would be a good idea if public sector workers did not pay any taxes at all and were only paid the net amount of their paycheques. Therefore professors, members of Parliament and public sector workers would only get the pay that comes in their net paycheque. They would pay no taxes and they would not have to file tax returns.

We can only think how much money the government would save every year if none of the public servants had to file tax returns because we were not playing this silly game of pretending that they pay taxes when they do not.

I do not think the government's side has consulted with real taxpayers, the people who create the wealth in this country, who actually will be paying the cost of Bill C-24.

If the government would have given us this summer to go back to our ridings and talk to the people in our ridings about the cost of this bill, I think there would have been a huge public uprising against it, and by the time we returned here in September the Prime Minister would not have been able to get his pet project through this place because there would have been too much public reaction.

On Tuesday, as I mentioned, less than three hours after we had begun this debate, the government House leader was up on his feet moving an end to the debate.

The fact is that Bill C-24 was the brainchild of the Prime Minister. It was clearly for him the most important piece of legislation on the agenda. That is incredible because we have issues like SARS, mad cow disease, youth crime, the definition of marriage and enormous budgetary overruns with the gun registry, into which we keep finding new amounts of money disappearing but for which the government failed to tell us. We also have the issues of corruption and bribery charges at Citizenship and Immigration, the need to establish a national sex offender registry, which has been dragging on for years and years, and an urgently needed revision of the Indian Act.

All of those things were taken off the table so the Prime Minister's bill, forcing taxpayers to pay for the day to day operations of the political parties, could be rammed through the House.

The bill will soon be in the other place. However, once it receives royal assent, the voters of Canada will have been placed in the position of having to pay to vote in a federal election. This will not be handing over cash to the poll clerk at the polling station. They will not have to pony up with their credit cards or open their wallets and bring out a toonie. It will not be by direct payment at the polling station but it will be via a raid on the public treasury by the government subsequent to election day.

For each and every vote cast, $1.75 will be taken from taxpayers to be shared among the major political parties based upon their percentage of the vote.

What that means, if we use the year 2000 election figures, is that the Liberal Party will receive more than $9.5 million from taxpayers starting in the year 2004 when this bill comes into force.

Canada Elections Act June 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like thank the parliamentary secretary for his acknowledgement of my help during some of the drafting of the bill. I would not want that to be interpreted as support for the bill because, in fact, we do not support the bill.

It is a shame that we are not on questions and comments. I would have liked to ask the parliamentary secretary, when he mentioned the important work that parties do between elections that needs to be funded, what exactly is this important work that his Liberal Party does between elections that warrants the transfer of $9.5 million a year to his party's structure, not to the parliamentary wing but just to the administrative arm of his party?

I would have wanted to ask him that question because frankly I would have difficulty identifying anything that the Liberal Party administrative wing does for anybody in Canada between elections. Frankly, it is going to use the $9.5 million simply to run its offices and keep people on the payroll who are not actually contributing much to the running of the country at all.

I am not sure that this public funding can be justified on the basis of the important work. That is very self serving and it is certainly a judgment of the party itself. I would suspect that if we went out onto the street outside of this place and ask Canadians if they could identify some of the important work that parties do for them between elections, I bet they would not be able to identify a single thing. We may think it is very important, but I am not sure that the average taxpayer would think so.

If I had been able to ask him questions, I would have asked, what is the unholy rush to push this bill through the House? We barely had this bill back in the House from committee for less than three hours of debate and the government House leader was standing in his place moving time allocation on this bill and closing down the debate. What could possibly be the emergency that would require the closing down of debate in less than three hours? That averages out at less than half a minute of speaking time for every member of this place. Is that reasonable, Mr. Speaker? I think not and I can see you are almost nodding your head, so you probably do agree with me. It is unreasonable to be moving time allocation on a bill with less than three hours of debate in this place.

The fact is the bill would not be in force until January 1, 2004. There is a lot of time for further consultation and I will talk about the quality of the consultation of the government side a little later in my speech. There is plenty of time for consultation over the summer break while we are back in our ridings. We can talk with average Canadians instead of academics and interested parties or special interests. We could speak with our own constituents over the summer and we could come back here in September with the true message for the government. That is when we should be continuing the debate and passage of this bill. It should not be rammed through as it will be tonight. We are adding barely two hours this afternoon. Frankly, it is a disgrace, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you feel as embarrassed about it as I do.

I am surprised that almost all of the members on the government side appear to feel no guilt whatsoever for the fact that they are making a blatant grab of taxpayers' money from the treasury to transfer it to the coffers of political parties. I cannot believe for a moment that average taxpayers would think that was a good thing to do. They would be shocked. I suspect many Canadians do not even realize what is happening with this bill. They are being asked to pay to vote because when they go to the polling station and cast that ballot, it is as if the poll clerk was asking them to open their wallet, slap down the credit card so that they could put $1.75 on that credit card. That is the effect this bill would have. It would make voters pay for the transfer of money to political parties.

I suppose that taxpayers could protest this bill by not turning out to the polls because if no one turned out none of the political parties would get any money. In actual fact, this bill could have the opposite effect to the one that the government claims. It claims that it would reduce taxpayer or voter cynicism and encourage more people into the political process, and get them involved in the voting process. There is a potential for taxpayers to perhaps give us the Pierre Trudeau salute and not turn out at the polls. Thus they can deprive us of that $1.75 that is going to be transferred.

If there was another question I could have asked the parliamentary secretary when he was up, it would have been about the nomination contestant rules. He mentioned the reporting requirements that would be required now for nomination races. The fact is they are very complicated. It would often require an auditor or a special agent. Records must be kept of all the types of donations, by category and class of donor. Reports must be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer. A special bank account must be opened to administer the files, records must be kept, and bank statements sent to the Chief Electoral Officer. This is an extremely complicated process. In fact, even for those of us who are used to working within a bureaucratic environment, it is quite a daunting piece of legislation when we look at what we would have to go through for our nomination meetings next time around.

When the parliamentary secretary claims that it would make it easier for women or any traditionally disadvantaged people to get involved in the race because they have restricted the amount of money people can spend, he completely fails to mention that the increased bureaucracy would turn off a lot of people. It would actually discourage them. In fact, I took a section of this bill home with me last weekend to north Vancouver and I showed a few lay people that section of the bill. I asked them if they would be interested in running for office if they had to do this. Every single one of the people said that it would be a discouragement to run for office because of the amount of paperwork that would be required.

Certainly those who do not have a business background would be further discouraged. Someone who is used to working as a receptionist and might like to run for office or give it a try would take a look at this and say that what is being proposed in Bill C-24 is an administrative jungle. It may be too complicated for people to bother. We may be eliminating a number of people from the possibility of running for office who have the sorts of skills that would be useful here, but will not run because they do not have the skills that would enable them to run these complicated bureaucratic reporting rules.

I would like to talk about the consultation process because the parliamentary secretary mentioned that the key elements of this bill are a result of a great deal of consultation. The fact is there was virtually no consultation with taxpayers. I sat on the committee. In fact, I have been the Canadian Alliance critic for this bill ever since it was at second reading in this place. I sat on the committee with the other members, so I saw all of the witnesses who came forward. I even put forward a list of people to invite. The fact is the academics and special interest groups who came before the committee were not necessarily representative of average Canadians.

Last weekend while I was back in my riding I asked a few average taxpayers, friends, and relatives how much they knew about Bill C-24 and whether or not they felt comfortable with the notion of taxpayers' money being transferred to political party coffers. Again, people rejected this notion that it was a good idea to take taxpayers' money and transfer it to political parties.

When the government side says there has been consultation, it was very selective in who it consulted. It brought in a bunch of academics. With all due respect to academics, the fact is academics rely on taxpayers for their salaries and many of them have spent their entire lives being paid by the public purse.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

I hear members saying, “shame”. It is a shame when we cannot even have three hours of debate before the minister jumps to his feet and moves time allocation. It is as if he is addicted to closing down debate in this place. He has become so addicted to this closing down that he hardly has enough time to go from one fix to the next. I am beginning to wonder whether he will move time allocation as new bills are introduced to the House. A new bill will come into the House tomorrow to do with fisheries. I suppose the minister will stand and move time allocation as soon as it is tabled. It is starting to get ridiculous.

I want to ask the minister, what is the rush? What is the emergency?

The minister claimed he could not get all party agreement to move the bill through promptly. It does not come into effect until January 1, 2004. We could have spent the summer, having an opportunity to talk with our riding associations and parties about the impact of the bill, and there would have been nothing wrong with continuing the debate in the fall.

There is no excuse for having moved time allocation on the bill. It is inexcusable and it is ridiculous that it was moved after only three hours of debate.

I think the real reason is to gag the opposition because the Canadian public is starting to notice that the money to pay for this is coming out of its pockets. The minister has a huge shovel into the trough over at the treasury, shovelling money out of the treasury and into Liberal coffers.

Before I move to the detail of the NDP's amendment, I would like to mention what I think is a bit of hypocrisy which comes from the NDP about political donations. NDP members are constantly railing against corporate donations to political parties and the terrible influence that corporations have on the political process because of the size of the corporate donations. They wanted it to be zero because they were so worried about it.

It is almost as if the NDP has its own private trust funds in the unions of the country. I bet it is not widely and publicly known that, for example, in the year 2000 the NDP received: from the Canadian Labour Congress, $683,947; from the CAW, $452,177; from the USWA, $254,416; and from UFCW, $196,670.

Every single one of those donations was bigger than what any corporation gave to any political party in the country. How hypocritical of the NDP members to stand in this place and criticize corporations when they are beholden to groups like that to the tune of $683,000.

Do we honestly think the Canadian Labour Congress does not expect anything for that size of a donation to the NDP? How can that party make logical and reasonable decisions about legislation in this place when it is so reliant on that influx of money from unions?

I suspect we will not see NDP members talk any more about those numbers, and I bet the unions will not lower their union dues to their members to make up for the savings they will have from the passage of the bill. I think the real reason the NDP members want to see this bill go through is so these millions of dollars, which they are receiving from the unions, can be kept in union coffers while the taxpayers top up the NDP coffers.

Normally it is my job to attack the government. I am sorry for that sideways movement for a moment, but I thought it was important to get that stuff on the record.

In terms of the amendment that the NDP has proposed in Group No. 3, the key word in the amendment is that electoral district associations “may” report the information contained in that amendment. That is the key word that they “may”. For that reason we feel the amendment is unnecessary because there is nothing to stop riding associations from voluntarily doing these reports in any event. Therefore what is the point or putting a clause in a bill which says that the riding associations can do what they already do?

Our position on the amendment is that it is unnecessary. We understand the reason why the NDP brought it to the floor, and it is good that we have a chance to discuss it. However it is not an amendment that we can support.

For those who are not familiar with the bill, I should run through some of the things electoral district associations will have to report under Bill C-24.

Proposed Bill C-24 will require riding associations, or electoral districts as we call them now, to provide Elections Canada with a permanent operating address, the names and addresses of executive officers, the auditor and the financial agent for the registered electoral district. The auditor and financial agent will need to sign their consent to act in those positions and, if signed, approval by the leader of the party for registration of the electoral district association will also have to be submitted to the chief electoral officer.

As riding associations have typically relied on volunteers to fill executive positions and to administer the affairs of the electoral district association, it is our opinion that these onerous new requirements will make it impossible for some riding associations to attract enough volunteers to do the work that will be required. That is a major flaw in this bill.

The minister has argued vociferously that there is no difference between the requirements in this bill and the requirements in Ontario under the provincial legislation. Frankly, there is a big difference between administering this type of thing across the entire country as opposed to the much smaller riding associations in a place like Ontario.

In addition to registering and providing all the information I have mentioned, there will be annual financial reporting and disclosure by electoral district associations. Within six months after registration, they will have to file a statement with Elections Canada listing assets and liabilities, including a surplus of deficit. In addition, a report will have to be made by the auditor stating whether or not the statement is fair in its representation of the riding's financial position.

Finally, a declaration will have to be made by the financial agent that the statement is complete and accurate.

As I mentioned, the bill is presently set to come into effect on January 1, 2004, and electoral district associations will have to provide Elections Canada with a list of their assets and liabilities as of that date. The basis for the amendment brought by the NDP is to have the details of where the money came from prior to January 1, 2004 revealed at that time if a riding association so wishes.

As I mentioned, they can do that anyway so this amendment is kind of redundant. However we understand what the NDP is trying to get at, and that is the trust funds held by, we believe, some of the members in this place. I am not sure I would call it money laundering. Perhaps to a degree we agree with the government that it is an opportunity to have this money come out of the closet and be put into riding associations where from this point on we will be able to see it and monitor it.

There are a fair amount of complex rules in terms of what riding associations have to do after the bill comes into effect. Whilst the chief electoral officer did not feel that it would cost a tremendous amount of money to get this up and running and that training would be provided across the country, I have the feeling this will be one of those situations, a little like the gun registry. We will have an initial estimate of how much it will cost to get it up and running and then we will see it double, or triple or quadruple in cost, as Elections Canada increases the size of its bureaucracy and starts rolling this program out across the country. I think we are in for a big surprise about how much this whole thing will cost us. It is will not be just $1.75 per voter. We will find this rolling along up to $3 and $4 and so on.

I am almost out of time on this segment so I would like to close by saying this. If a survey were held across this country about Canadians' attitudes to having to pay for this bill, the $1.75 per vote cast, I suggest we would find that 95% or 96% or more of Canadians would object strongly to the government taking money out of their pockets to fund the day to day operations of political parties. What it basically amounts to is a tax on voting. For every person who goes out to vote, that individual will know that it just cost $1.75 for the privilege of doing so. What an outrageous situation we have created where it will cost people a $1.75 to vote. What is more, they do not have control of where the money goes.

It is a dreadful bill and I sincerely hope members would vote against it. Certainly the Canadian Alliance will.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to the NDP amendment to Bill C-24. Just before I do that, it is incumbent upon me to mention that the government has moved time allocation, which is the 84th or 85th time that it has done that to us.

The unusual situation in this case was that we had not even had three hours of debate in the House and the minister was on his feet moving time allocation on this bill.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, for the minister to say that the scandals and corruption in the Liberal Party are only in my mind is to deny the obvious at the very least.

During committee hearings on Bill C-24 the only witnesses who said that $1.50 per vote was not enough were witnesses from the Liberal Party of Canada. Every other witness thought that $1.50 was plenty of money. In fact a number of witnesses said that taxpayers should not give any money to political parties at all. It was only his trained seals who voted in committee to put that recommendation in the report that it should be raised to $1.75.

I want to ask the minister why it was raised from $1.50 to $1.75. Was it solely because the Liberal Party president, Stephen LeDrew, said that the Liberal Party would be bankrupt if it did not get more money? Now Mr. LeDrew did not share any financial information with us, so where is the justification for this increase in the subsidy from taxpayers to support the day to day operations of the Liberal Party?

How can the minister claim that this bill is about fairness and transparency when it is obvious to everyone that it is simply about using taxpayer money to fund the Liberal Party of Canada?

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, shame on the minister for introducing time allocation yet again.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that Bill C-24 is about ending corruption in the Liberal Party. Heaven knows there are plenty of examples we can use. There is the ongoing Shawinigate investigation, secret contracts given to relatives of Mr. Gagliano, millions wasted on non-existent reports and untendered advertising contracts, and all sorts of corporate welfare to companies like Bombardier.

I would like to know from the minister exactly how Bill C-24 will stop all of these scandals and the corruption in the Liberal Party of Canada. How will the snatching of $10 million a year from taxpayers to fund the day to day operations of the Liberal Party of Canada prevent the Prime Minister from giving lucrative contracts to his friends and relatives? How will Bill C-24 prevent ministers from awarding lucrative contracts to their sons, daughters, uncles and friends?

Is the bill actually not about hiding the corruption and scandals in the Liberal Party? How exactly will Bill C-24 clean up the corruption and scandals in that party over there?

Canada Elections Act June 9th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this is one part of Bill C-24 that the Canadian Alliance can support because it does not use a whole bunch of taxpayer money to fund the activities of a political party. It is designed simply to review the effects of Bill C-24 after the next election and for us to have a look to see whether it worked.

I fully expect that it will not have worked because this bill is so complicated. During committee stage, the government introduced amendment after amendment, technical correction after technical correction to fix all the problems that it did not find while it was writing the bill. I am absolutely certain, and I know this concern was shared by many of the other members on the committee with me, that we will find there are all manners of problems in the bill, all sorts of difficulties that we will not know about until the bill comes into force.

That was certainly one of the reasons why we proposed during committee that the bill not come into effect until January of 2005. That way we would have had the opportunity to go back and discuss in more detail with our electoral district associations, as they are now called, or riding associations as they used to be, and our party hierarchy how this bill would affect the way they would operate. If we had the chance to do that, we might discover all sorts of hidden problems that had not been anticipated. We would then have had the chance to deal with them before the bill came into effect.

However the government is determined to steam full ahead and get this bill through by tomorrow night. I am certain that will happen. I am fully expecting that the minister will stand in the House later today and move some sort of motion to limit the debate here so that he gets his way, or the Liberals can take a message to Mr. Stephen LeDrew, the president of their party, to let him know how much money they will get in their coffers.

I have done a little calculation based on the change being proposed by the government to raise the subsidy from $1.50 to $1.75 for each year for each vote that the government receives. The Liberal Party of Canada would receive $9,206,679.78. That is a huge amount of money and that will come to Liberal Party in a nice, big fat cheque compliments of the taxpayers, like it or not, by the end of January 2004. I am sure the minister is over there already with a big, new shovel, gold plated of course. He is right at the treasury trough ready to start shovelling that money out and into the Liberal coffers. They will be receiving $9,206,000 give or take.

We also are in favour of review of this bill after the next election, because I think, and my opinion is shared by a number of the witnesses who came to committee, that this bill is wide open to charter challenges. Unfortunately, the minister has a history of introducing to this place legislation which is problematic. Everything he has ever introduced here has cost the taxpayers an absolute fortune and/or a second fortune in legal challenges and the cost of court cases.

One of the most well known is the third party advertising challenge, commonly known by members of the public as the gag law. Three times governments over there have introduced this gag law to try to prevent ordinary Canadians from spending their own money to raise issues during election campaigns.

It is a well known fact, which the government throws at us all the time as if we would be embarrassed, that our leader was instrumental during his time with the National Citizens' Coalition in moving that case along to ensure that Canadians had the right to spend their own money to fight issues during election campaigns. I am proud of him and what he did in that role at the NCC, and we are looking forward to the ruling from the Supreme Court confirming that these gag laws are not to be permitted.

The government is unfortunately relying on a Quebec ruling to give it confidence that somehow this third party advertising will be struck down. The minister constantly quotes the Quebec court ruling in terms of referendum legislation where the Quebec court ruled that the yes side and the no side should be subject to restrictions during referendums so that we could not have these third parties on the outside also spending money on a yes or no side.

The flaw in the minister's argument is to try to compare a referendum to an election. They are nothing like one another. In a referendum we have a question which has a yes or a no answer. Therefore obviously there is some logic behind setting up rules on the amount that can be spent by each side.

When we talk about an election, there are an absolute multitude of issues that come forward and it is not necessarily true that the issue the government wants on the stage or, frankly, the issue the opposition wants on the stage is the issue that the taxpayers and voters want on the stage.

The members of the Canadian Alliance found ourselves in astonishing agreement with the Quebec representatives of unions in Quebec during the committee work. They came forward and said as part of their testimony to our committee that they supported the third party advertising. They found themselves in a situation during the recent Quebec election where one of the parties said what this union representative group felt were derogatory remarks about unionism in Quebec. They wanted to be able to advertise in the newspapers and send out letters contradicting what was said by the party. They were not allowed to because of the third party restrictions in Quebec.

They hope, as we do, that these third party rules will be struck down permanently because they realize, coming from the left, just as we do from a free enterprise side, that it is important to have the right to freedom on expression, especially during an election campaign.

The reason I have mentioned all this is it is extremely likely, I would say 99% certain, that the Supreme Court will agree with the courts in Alberta and will make it impossible for the government to have a gag law. It will open it up for third party spending, in which case there will be a tremendous impact on this bill. If and when third party advertising is opened up wide, then most of the provisions in this bill, which put restrictions on everyone from candidates to parties in terms of the spending, will be irrelevant and it will require a major overhaul virtually before the ink is dry after passage.

It is very important that we do have that review, and we are very pleased to support that motion when it comes forward for the vote, probably later today I would think the way things are moving at the moment.

I will just briefly mention that because the bill is set to come into effect on January 1, 2004 there is very little time for riding associations, candidates and so on, to learn all the new rules in the bill. It really is an extremely complex bill.

During committee I tried, on behalf of the official opposition, to amend the bill to simplify the reporting requirements for riding associations, electoral districts as they are now called, because of the amount of administration that would be required by this new bill. Unfortunately, the government saw fit to defeat my suggestions, which is unfortunate.

I think many of us will have difficulty finding volunteers to carry out the extent of administration that will be required by this bill. Once a year riding associations will have to put in very extensive reports about their source of revenues and the number of donors they had. They will have to keep pretty comprehensive records about who has donated when and where.

I will give the government credit for accepting one amendment on behalf of the Canadian Alliance which makes it a little easier for riding associations to pass the hat at an AGM. The way the government had this bill set up, if anyone put in more than $10, they would need a receipt and we would have to keep track of how many dollars they contributed over the year.

The government did agree to accept an amendment I put forward which raises that to $25. At least it makes it a little more simple now for electoral district associations at an AGM to pass the hat without having to worry about keeping track of every little $10 bill that goes into that hat.

The government would not agree to make that a non-reporting activity. It still will be necessary for the electoral district association to report the type of event that it was, the number of people who attended, how much money was collected and approximately the number of people who were there. It is still a bit complicated but better than it was.

I will say that I could speak all day on the bill. I have 49 pages of notes. It is extremely complex. In wrapping up on this round, I will confirm that we do support this motion, which would allow for a revision of the bill immediately after the next election.

Canada Elections Act June 9th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am not surprised that the minister only took a couple of minutes. I guess he wants to minimize the exposure to criticism about this bill because it is a huge invasion on the public treasury. He said, also, that he wants to adopt this stage rapidly so we can move on to third reading and get this thing pushed through the House, presumably so he can go home on Friday. However we can just tell by his demeanour that he cannot wait to get his shovel into the public treasury and start loading the cash into the Liberal coffers so the Liberals can pay for their day to day operations.

It is outrageous that the bill is all about paying for the day to day operations of the Liberal Party of Canada, using other people's money. That is what it comes down to. It is so easy to spend other people's money in this place and that is exactly what is happening here. It is a rape and pillage of the public treasury to provide hundreds of millions of dollars a year to political parties that should be raising the money they need from the people they claim to support or to represent. That is what should be happening; not a big shovel into the public treasury to load other people's money into our treasury.

This bill does not even fix the problems it was supposedly produced to address. Even the president of the Liberal Party, Stephen LeDrew, said that this bill would increase cynicism. At committee hearings, when we had witnesses before the committee on the bill, he said that it would increase the cynicism among voters.

The party on this side of the House, the Canadian Alliance, agrees with that interpretation.

My colleague from South Surrey—White Rock—Langley did a survey in her riding and I have a done a casual survey in mine, hers was more formal, asking people what they thought of the idea of taxpayer money being used to subsidize the day to day operations of political parties. The results were 95% to 96% of the people are opposed. They would rather have that $1 or $2, or whatever it is, in their pockets to help support their families and to spend wisely on the economy of the country rather than giving it to the Liberal Party of Canada, the Canadian Alliance, the PCs and the NDP.

My party, the Canadian Alliance, has done a good job of raising the money we need from individual supporters over all the years, and we would have been happy to stay with the status quo.

It is not too late for the government to abandon this exercise of attack on the public treasury. It could abandon it at this point. I certainly hope the Liberals see the light.

Also, I would like to mention that the number of amendments which have come through on the bill illustrate how badly it has been put together. It is full of extremely complicated wording. We found many errors during the committee hearings that the government was constantly introducing technical amendments to fix problems it had discovered. I identified two problems for the minister, not because I supported the intent of the bill but because if there were to be a bill passed in this place, it may as well be correct. They continue to find problems. One of the motions before us for debate, I am not sure if it is in this first group, again is to fix a technical problem.

The government has not done due diligence on this bill. It was rushed into this place because the Prime Minister wanted it, before there had been proper research.

During the weekend, I noticed a CP Newswire item that said the Prime Minister won the dubious honour of being the stupidest person in Canada. Members might ask “What does that have to do with this bill?” I actually disagree with the voters who made that decision during the weekend because I do not think that the Prime Minister is stupid, but I think he is very crafty. I think he introduced this bill to diffuse a big problem that was in this place, and that was the problem that we were finding the huge donations from supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada, and those donors subsequently were rewarded with money from the public treasury in the form of very lucrative contracts.

I know that when my colleagues get up to speak on this bill, some of them will be using examples of those types of huge contracts that were awarded to people who had been generous donors to the Liberal Party. I will give them the chance to do that because I would like to move on to some of the other things that the bill fails to do and fails to do even in this latest batch of motions we are debating right now.

First, Bill C-24 fails to fix the underlying problem of the awarding of government grants, government contracts and loans, most of which end up being forgivable to supporters of the party in power. If anything, Bill C-24 will make it more difficult to uncover such behaviour because now huge corporations, like Bombardier, which have traditionally supported the Liberal Party to get contracts, will not even have to front up with any money. They will still get the contracts, they will still get the favours and we will not have any way of tracking it down unless we go through a very complex reporting procedure investigating whether individuals have used their ability to donate individually to try to influence the government.

Bill C-24 also fails to correct the 50 candidate rule. That 50 candidate rule, which was struck down, was put in place by this government. It required small or emerging parties to run 50 candidates in an election to be recognized as a party and have tax receipt status. We felt it was wrong. We have tried for years to get the government to agree to make it 12 candidates, which is the same as the number required for party recognition in the House. All the small parties out there in the other world agree with 12 being a reasonable number. The courts have struck down 50 as unreasonable. In fact in the court case in Ontario, which struck down the 50 candidate rule, the judge said that two people were a party.

That minister has a history of bringing bills to this place that end up costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in legal fees because of charter challenges. When I get the opportunity to speak at third reading, I will highlight some weaknesses in the bill that will open it to court challenges. However that minister has a history of introducing such bills. It is very problematic.

Here again, we have a problem that the Liberals could have fixed. It is being court challenged. Because of his failure to change the 50 candidate rule to 12, when he had the opportunity while we were amending the Elections Act, I believe the courts will prevail and we will be forced to accept two as the number. It was very foolish of the minister. He should have dealt with it while we were dealing with Bill C-24.

The bill fails to end patronage appointments to positions in Elections Canada. Since I first came here in 1993, and when I joined the Reform Party back in 1988, it has been a policy of this party to try to get the government to allow Elections Canada to select its own returning officers in a non-partisan way based on skill. Instead, the government insists on a system of political patronage appointments to Elections Canada. Returning officers are selected by the Prime Minister, and when they do not do their job, the Chief Elections Officer cannot get rid of them. In fact he mentioned during committee hearings that he presently had 11 returning officers who were not doing their job. He cannot fire them because he has to get the Prime Minister to agree.

The Bloc introduced an amendment in committee which was defeated, so unfortunately, I cannot do it here in the House at this stage. The amendment was to get the government to move to a system of proper appointments of these people, and not being political patronage appointments.

I realize I do not have much time. What I need to do now is express my frustration in a very meaningful manner, by moving an amendment. I move:

That Motion No. 4 be amended by replacing the amount $0.4375 with the amount $0.01.