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.