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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Conservative MP for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply September 16th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I have great agreement with much of what the member opposite has said. To me this struggle is not so much an issue of the definition even of marriage as it is a struggle about the supremacy of Parliament and the life of the charter. If we have a situation where unelected judges can overtake the decisions of Parliament, how can we expect Canadians, particularly new Canadians, to have confidence in Parliament and have confidence in the charter when the charter is used to destroy revered institutions?

Privilege September 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege to cite what I believe to be an affront to the dignity and authority of Parliament and, therefore, a contempt of this House by the courts.

I am going to refer you, Mr. Speaker, to two sentences that were first used by a justice in 1998, repeated in support of a decision in 2001, and then again cited in a decision in 2003. The reason why I could not bring this before the House earlier was that I only became aware of these two sentences when they were cited in the third case in 2003.

I shall read the paragraph, but first, let me impress upon you that the issue that was before the courts is not relevant to the argument that I am making today in the House. The matter needs to be considered by the weight of the words alone. This is what was said by Mr. Justice Iacobucci in Vriend v. Alberta in 1998 and repeated, as I said, several times subsequently:

In my opinion, groups that have historically been the target of discrimination cannot be expected to wait patiently for the protection of their human dignity and equal rights while governments move toward reform one step at a time. If the infringement of the rights and freedoms of these groups is permitted to persist while governments fail to pursue equality diligently, then the guarantees of the Charter will be reduced to little more than empty words.

I will demonstrate a little later that the use of the word government in this citation is meant to mean government as we understand it in this House, where a majority of parliamentarians make decisions with respect to legislation and introduce legislation.

The problem is simply this. Implicit in these words is the suggestion that a government--that is, Parliament--is not capable of moving with alacrity in bringing reforms to society. It implies that some other authority should be charged with bringing the reforms forward that the authority deems appropriate.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that that absolutely erodes the democratic principles of this House. I think most Canadians believe, perhaps not some justices but most Canadians, that this place exists in order to bring change to society, but bring change to society in a democratic forum. In other words, we have to have an eye toward the people who elected us.

To suggest that some other authority should take over from Parliament to bring in reforms because Parliament is not acting as fast as that authority thinks is appropriate--and that authority in this case is the courts--then I think that is an affront to Parliament.

Furthermore, I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to examine these two sentences very carefully because when the justice made these remarks he also stated:

If the infringement of the rights and freedoms of these groups is permitted to persist while governments fail to pursue equality diligently,...

Mr. Speaker, this is a terrible affront to members of Parliament because I do not think there is a single person on either side of this House that does not believe that we should be bringing in equality diligently.

The problem is that we might want to bring in reforms and want to make everything equal for all Canadians, but we have to balance the conflicting interests of other Canadians. That is what a democracy is all about. To suggest that people in this place or the other place are not pursuing equality diligently is an absolute affront to the House. It is very contemptuous of the House.

The impact of these words was profound and that is why I am standing here because this obviously reflects a form of judicial activism that sets the courts above Parliament in formulating laws and it did have an immediate impact. I do not know the details of the case that was being heard by Mr. Justice Iacobucci, although I suspect it was on the same issue that was subsequently heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in the case of Halpern in 2001.

Here is the impact of those two sentences. Mr. Justice LaForme, in the Halpern case, in section 306 if the table officers would like to look it up, begins:

First, I do not accept that some form of legislative response to this issue that goes about implementing the denied rights of the Applicants in some piecemeal form is appropriate. ...I would agree with the comments of Iacobucci J. when he considered a not dissimilar issue in Vriend.

In other words, Mr. Justice LaForme is saying that the courts should not accept the right of Parliament to bring in legislation to address an issue.

I would submit to the House that it is none of the court's business whether that legislation is brought in piecemeal, that is, over one day, another day, one year or another year.

The point is that Mr. Justice LaForme admits, in his comments here, that Parliament is aware of the issue and Parliament is prepared to act. He simply says that if Parliament does not act all at once and in the way that the courts previously have decided should be the way Parliament should act, then what is the point of Parliament?

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the problem is the courts when they hear charter cases--any case for that matter--look to the decisions that occurred in the past as precedent. Sure enough, this issue again came before the B.C. Court of Appeal in the Barbeau case, and I refer members to paragraph 151, we find Mr. Justice Iacobucci's words being cited yet again.

I do not have the expertise to determine whether this is indeed a breach of privilege and a contempt of Parliament. I defer the matter to the House.

However, should the House find that there is a prima facie case and that this is worth looking into, I would suggest that Parliament call before the bar one of the justices who have used this particular citation of Mr. Justice Iacobucci and have him stand before the House and explain why he thinks that Parliament should not be allowed to go ahead with legislation or change in society in a piecemeal fashion. He should explain why he feels that the MPs in the House do not want to pursue equality diligently. I would like the courts to explain to the higher court their reasoning in this matter.

Parliament of Canada Act September 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, after the remarks of the member opposite who spoke, I felt compelled to rise just to straighten out a point here.

What is before the House right now is an amendment, proposed by another party, one of the minor parties in the House, that would basically ensure that Parliament and the ethics commissioner and ethics officer would not come under the courts. The member who spoke just now indicated, I think fairly strongly, that his party and he himself intend to vote against Bill C-34 for the reasons he outlined. I accept that. Obviously the opposition must oppose and if the opposition feels the bill is inadequate, so be it.

However, I will be very interested to see whether the member who just spoke and his party vote against or for the motion that is before the House because what the motion that is before the House does is put Parliament behind the courts.

We have seen only too vividly in the last few months the impact of judicial activism of the courts overruling Parliament on issues that are near and dear to Canadians. Therefore it strikes me as passing strange that the opposition should now say that it resists the government's very laudable intent to ensure that Parliament remains, as indeed it is, supreme above the courts and not answerable to the courts by having a section in it that would change the Federal Court Act. It states:

For greater certainty, the expression “federal board, commission or other tribunal”, as defined in subsection (1), does not include the Senate, the House of Commons, any committee or member of either House, the Senate Ethics Officer or the Ethics Commissioner.

This is precisely what every member in the House of Commons should want. The whole problem that we are experiencing today in this Parliament is the fact that we pass laws and unelected courts overturn them.

Therefore I am going to look forward to watching very closely how the members opposite vote on this motion. Let them discard at third reading all of Bill C-34, but I do challenge them to vote with the minor party that put forward the motion. They should vote with them and see how the public feels about it when the next day they rise and complain about judicial activism and the fact that Parliament has been sidelined by the courts when they support this type of motion that is before the House.

Supply June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my reaction is simply this. I think the federal government, if it is ever going to see the Trans-Canada Highway repaired in Quebec, it will never be able to rely on the provincial government in Quebec because it will not do it simply because it has a little sign beside the road as one goes on the Trans-Canada Highway from New Brunswick. It is a little maple leaf, Trans-Canada Highway. I submit that if were it not for the fact that the federal government reserves the ability to fund infrastructure in the provinces, to make the decisions, the road would never be fixed.

I would also like to point out to the member who just spoke that in the Charlottetown accord one of the provisions in the accord was to devolve in the provinces labour market training. While the Charlottetown accord never passed, this government did devolve on Quebec labour market training, the exclusive jurisdiction on labour market training. What happened? After a couple of years under the provincial jurisdiction and it was a total mess. The member has to acknowledge that the province failed when it took the responsibility.

Supply June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the gasoline taxes we are talking about are federal taxes, the excise tax and the GST. If the member feels that a province ought to raise the provincial tax it charges on gasoline, it should do it: double it, triple it. It does not matter.

However do not ask the federal government to surrender a federal tax that we need in order to run the country, to guarantee the fuel supply. This argument that gasoline tax should be only used for roads ignores the fact that the money the federal government collects through excise tax is used to fund the military, to guarantee the supply of oil from the Middle East, to guarantee that we have the ability to create trade across the border.

The federal government has all kinds of obligations that indirectly impinge on where that oil comes from, how it is turned into gasoline and how it fuels the country. To suggest that the federal tax collected on gasoline should only be used for road infrastructure or infrastructure is that we can make the same argument that the provincial tax collected on gasoline should be used to subsidize the military. We need helicopters, we need all this kind of thing. Why is the provincial government not doing that? It is just crazy.

I will not go on any further. With all respect to my colleague, I do not think the answer merits any greater exposition.

Supply June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am not knocking the democratic process whatsoever but the reality is the municipalities look after their very local interests and provinces look after the regional interests. The difficulty is we have to have somebody with the money who will look after the national interests and come to the rescue when provinces or regions are in trouble.

I submit to the member a classic example that the roads are in dreadful shape in Saskatchewan. It is a crisis in Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan government cannot afford to repair them. It is just a desperate situation.

I would submit to the member, if we followed the motion and gave the money to the provinces, on a provincially divided basis, does he think Alberta would come to the rescue of Saskatchewan and its roads? Does he think Ontario would spend in Saskatchewan to save the roads?

It is the same thing down in Nova Scotia. There are severe highway problems in Nova Scotia and recently, in the last few years I have been in the House, federal money went to improve highways in the corridor between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This was federal money. Because these are poorer provinces, they could not afford it.

What it all boils down to is we have a national government that does not only look at the national interests, and I talked about the Trans-Canada Highway, but that also can plunge in there and attend to the very local interests where those regions of the country cannot afford to look after themselves.

I am sorry, but the record of municipal and provincial governments is that there is always an element, and I do not say this disparagingly, of fiscal selfishness. In my own region, my own city of Hamilton looks to getting the cash to look after itself and it is not looking beyond its borders. That is the case.

Others have mentioned the fact that with this motion there would probably be internal civil war between the cities in the various provinces taking this money at the expense of the rural municipalities. As I say, if there is a poor region in the country that cannot afford or does not have enough cash to attend to an essential infrastructure, it would be helpless.

Supply June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, oddly enough this debate, this motion, brings me back to why I ran for Parliament in the first place. It was just such a motion in principle, or a move in principle, that the government of the day, the previous government, the Mulroney government, was attempting to bring in as the Charlottetown accord that prompted me to set aside what was at that time a very interesting career as a writer and on impulse to put my name in for the nomination locally, and after that to become a member of Parliament.

I was very fortunate, Mr. Speaker. I was reacting to the Charlottetown accord negatively. I went in and put my name in for the nomination, in the sort of sense that I wanted to become a politician, and a Liberal politician to make sure that the Liberals never supported something like the Charlottetown accord ever again.

The reason, Mr. Speaker, and why it relates to the motion, is that what the Charlottetown accord did is it transferred all kinds of federal powers to the provinces, and in so doing, also undertook to strike agreements with the provinces in these areas of jurisdiction whereby there would be a transfer of tax points and there would be cash subsidies to the provinces.

If you remember, Mr. Speaker, in the Charlottetown accord it proposed to transfer exclusive jurisdiction to the provinces in mining, in forestry, in housing, and in several other areas, tourism was another, recreation, and municipal and urban affairs. The reason why I was upset by that proposal--and I was one of the many, many Canadians who voted against the Charlottetown accord--is I felt that that proposal, had it passed, would have fatally damaged the ability of the central government, the government here in Ottawa, to maintain a sufficiently significant role in Canadian political life that Canada could stay together. I believe then and I believe now that the Charlottetown accord would have devolved so much power to the provinces that 11 years later we would not have a country.

My problem with this motion is it does precisely the same thing as the Charlottetown accord proposed to do with these various sectors that I mentioned. What it proposes to do is to take federal tax revenue in the form of GST and excise taxes on gasoline, and transfer that revenue, that tax collecting privilege shall we say, to the provinces. So instead of the federal government collecting $4.8 billion in excise taxes plus I think it is $1.1 billion in GST, it would allow tax room for the provinces to collect that same tax and then to spend it, along with the municipalities, on municipal infrastructure.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is not just the thin edge of the wedge. That is giving away the ability of Canada to function, because we have all seen time and time again and have experienced in the last 10 years certainly with very, shall we say, right-wing governments in some key provinces, and rich provinces like Alberta and Ontario, where the governments of the day, in order to exercise an ideology based on tax cuts for personal spending, have taken advantage of the money that was transferred by the Mulroney government, primarily in the form of health care transfers but a lot of money. Instead of investing in health care themselves, they have relied on the federal funding, complained that it is not enough, and used the money that should have been used by the provinces on health care in order to cut personal income taxes. That is precisely the phenomenon that has occurred in Ontario. We get this thing happening all the time, Mr. Speaker.

When the federal government does not control and stipulate how transfers of federal money are to be spent by the provinces, the provinces usually rely either entirely on the federal transfer and back off and use the money that they should be putting in the program in some other way and what happens is the Ottawa government winds up losing control of how federal tax money will be spent. It ceases to have an effective voice in national programs across the country. We see that very much in the phenomenon that occurred in health care where, because so much was transferred in the ability of the provinces to raise their own money to finance health care, we get situations where the quality of health care in the provinces has deteriorated enormously.

Now on the case of roads and municipal infrastructure, this is entirely a provincial jurisdiction. Under the Constitution the provinces are required to spend themselves on roads and municipal infrastructure. What the Charlottetown accord would have done, however, it would have elaborated on the agreements so that there would have been an increased use of federal taxes to be acquired. The right to collect those federal taxes would have been acquired by the provinces to spend how they would.

A country cannot be run like that. A country the size of Canada cannot be run like that. Mr. Speaker, do you know what would happen if this motion were to go forward and the federal tax collected of $5.6 billion were transferred to the provinces to use how they would on roads and municipal infrastructure? I can tell you what would happen. I can tell you what would happen as it occurs right now in Quebec.

The Trans-Canada Highway is a road that was a national project that involved spending in provincial jurisdiction because the provinces are obligated to spend on the roads. But in order to have a single highway that crossed from one end of the land to the other, the federal government of the day put up the money to enable the provinces to build the Trans-Canada Highway.

Mr. Speaker, if you take the Trans-Canada Highway from New Brunswick to Montreal in Quebec, what you will find is that road is in a permanent state of incredible disrepair. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the reason why it is in a permanent state of disrepair is that the province of Quebec is confident, because it is the Trans-Canada Highway, a federal, national project, that it can count on the federal government to come in and give the province the money to maintain that road.

We hear the Canadian Alliance from time to time in question period, we hear the same theme repeated, where a section of the Trans-Canada Highway in British Columbia--I think it is on the British Columbia side of the border--is narrow and dangerous and a member opposite has repeatedly called upon the federal government to pay for its expansion. The reality is even though it is called the Trans-Canada Highway, it is a provincial road and theoretically the provinces who maintain the care and maintenance of that road should pay for its expansion.

I am not against the federal government investing money in something like the Trans-Canada Highway because it is a national project. It is an important national project because the Trans-Canada Highway not only unites us culturally, it unites us economically. The problem is if the federal government gives away the revenues to the provinces that it would normally spend on the provinces, the $5 billion it has in the kitty as the result of the excise and GST taxes on gasoline, well then the provinces might not invest in a national project like the Trans-Canada Highway. They might consider it more important to pave the streets of Lethbridge or develop country roads.

Those are all important projects but it would be at the sacrifice of a national transportation responsibility that the federal government sees in the interests of all Canadians, because the Trans-Canada Highway crosses borders. It crosses provincial borders and it is one of those things, like the railways, that holds us together.

So I have to reject the motion, Mr. Speaker, because, and this is fundamental with me, I confess to be a Trudeau Liberal in that I believe that the only way we can keep this country together is to have a strong central government. If that strong central government does not have any money because it has passed its tax collecting power off to the provinces, it cannot keep this country together. To me, this motion strikes to the very heart of what we are as a nation.

I have sat here for 10 years in this chamber and I have heard repeatedly the arguments from the Canadian Alliance Party, formerly the Reform Party, and repeatedly from the Bloc Quebecois, who have constantly harped on the idea that more spending power should be directly in the control of the provinces. That is the theme of the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois, and it is not a theme that is conducive to national unity. It goes the other way, Mr. Speaker, and marches in the direction of breaking this country up.

We cannot support a motion like this and I point out that Canadians cannot support it either, because this was actually put to the test with the Charlottetown accord in October of 1992. The previous government, the Mulroney government in my view fell over itself to try to give as much as it could to the provinces, and had it been in office for another term and had the Charlottetown accord passed, Mr. Speaker, I think the provinces would have been so powerful that the central government here in Ottawa would have been completely meaningless.

We cannot fool the people. We can have all the rhetoric in the world and say all these things about provincial rights, but in the end Canadians in every province know that it is in their interests to have a strong central government. One never knows when there might be a provincial government that is so foolish in its spending habits and its spending practices that it actually drives that province down economically, and that province may have to come to the federal government for rescue. I cite British Columbia, Mr. Speaker, where we had a New Democratic government for a number of years that managed to drive one of the richest provinces in the country onto its economic knees in a few short years, in a period of economic prosperity for the country.

I do not lay that blame with the Canadian Alliance, they are federal politicians, but I think Canadians want and need a federal government that has sufficient financial resources that when required can reach out to whatever province it is and help them in their hour of need. I cite mad cow disease. I cite SARS. I cite the crisis in agriculture that has occurred. I cite the problems in the Maritimes. All these problems have to do with the need of a particular area or region of the country for cash input. They need to be rescued with money. The problem is, Mr. Speaker, that the more a federal government gives away its ability to raise money to the provinces, the less it has the ability to come to the rescue of those regions and provinces that are in need.

Mr. Speaker, I reject this motion absolutely. I do not think it is a motion that is acceptable to Canadians. I do concede that it is a motion that is very much in keeping with Canadian Alliance philosophy, and that is fine, Mr. Speaker, because of course this is a place where we have differences of opinions. The one thing that I have come to know about the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois is that both parties are parties that look more to their provincial responsibilities than their overall federal responsibilities. That, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, is the reason why the Canadian Alliance is in one region of the country, the Bloc Quebecois is in another region of the country, and why in effect we only have three national parties, parties that actually look to the full interests of the country, that look all the way across the country and are concerned about every part of the country.

One of the three parties is the NDP. The NDP especially are very, very aware that we have to have the money in the kitty in the federal government if we are going to bring in social programs that would be the standard across the country.

I would say the Conservatives, sometimes I despair of them because they begin to sound as though they favour provincial rights. There is a disturbing echo of the ideology of both the Bloc Quebecois and the Canadian Alliance in some of the things the Conservatives say, but I still believe they are a national party. However the true national party is this party. The party I represent on this side of the House is the majority, so obviously Canadians feel it is the national party of the land.

In a final note, if I really had my druthers, if I were Prime Minister, which is extremely unlikely and not a possibility at all, and I see there is a certain amount of accord on the opposite side, I would be so tempted to take those tax points back from the provinces, those that were given away under Mulroney, and increase the decision making ability of the federal government, particularly in health care, because it is simply a tragedy, the loss of control that has resulted from giving the tax points that we once had to the provinces.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, then maybe there is no evil.

I was very disappointed to learn that the committee dropped this section from Bill C-24, and I commend the member for Winnipeg Centre for trying to bring it back. What it does is provides an opportunity for the public to see what went on before, in riding associations especially, in terms of funds raised from large donors, particularly possibly corporations or any type of individual donor, and to see indeed inside these riding associations the size of contributions they have received.

This section would apply equally to the Liberals, to the Canadian Alliance, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives. While the vast majority of members in the House, I doubt not for a second, have modest amounts of money in their riding association accounts, they would be prepared not only to have transparency when this bill comes into effect, but to submit to transparency for the last two or three years, going back to the last election.

Why should any one of us in this chamber be afraid to show the public what kind of money we have had in our riding associations since the last election? Could it be that there are some who have large sums of money who would not stand the public scrutiny? The public might be appalled or scandalized to see that they have been receiving donations in the thousands of dollars and perhaps even the tens of thousands of dollars.

What if a riding association, which exists currently on any side of the House, has hundreds of thousands of dollars in its bank account? With this clause as it existed in Bill C-24, the public would have had a chance to see that. Now it is gone. If this motion fails, as indeed it is likely to fail because I do not believe it has the government's support, we will be unable to look into the past.

Some may argue that is a good thing and perhaps it is a good thing. Perhaps we would like to begin with a clean slate in which all MPs begin anew to make sure their riding associations' bank accounts and the moneys that flow in from any source whatever can stand the scrutiny of the public. I think it would have been a more proper thing to test us all, to put us all under the microscope today, not to give us an opportunity to bury the past and not divulge those of us who may be flirting with the rules, although not flirting with the rules so much as amassing money in a way in which the public would not agree and would find fault with.

I heard the comments of the member opposite, from the Canadian Alliance, and I was really surprised that he took the position he did. One would have thought the opposition of all parties ought to want the type of disclosure as was proposed in this motion, and as was proposed in the amendment that was deleted from Bill C-24. However, Mr. Speaker, I do submit to you that the Canadian Alliance is structured in such a way that most of the central party funds come from its riding associations.

Consequently, looking in the past, the Canadian Alliance is the party that is the most opaque. At least on the Liberal side a lot of the money flows directly into the registered party rather than simply into the riding association, although, we on this side have the same problem. Until this bill passes, the public will be unable to see into our riding association financial affairs and they should. People should be able to see. If people go to my website, they can see what is in the riding association bank account of John Bryden.

I regret it is necessary to pass legislation to ensure that all members of the House have the same level of transparency. I also regret we do not have an opportunity to look into the past. Maybe it is just as well.

The reason we need Bill C-24 is it is absolutely essential that we assure the public that the democracy we practise here is not fueled by money and that when individual MPs make their decisions here in the House or in committee or wherever they are, those decisions are based on conscience or listening to their constituents, but not listening to those constituents who have the most money to put into their riding associations or into their pockets as individual candidates.

Unfortunately, this motion and the original clause that was deleted do not address the question of separate trusts that MPs may have acquired, which is a whole other issue. I regret very much that when Bill C-24 passes, as far as I can see or determine, those MPs who have acquired trust accounts will be able to keep that money personally.

I think the only benefit that will come to the general public is that the people who have secret trust accounts, personal trust accounts, will have to collapse them and take them into their personal incomes. The small benefit of that is at least the taxpayer will have a chance to charge them taxes. The fact they will be able to acquire that money and that we will never be able to know they had these trust accounts, I do not think is good enough.

Again, I come back to the point that I think the member for Winnipeg Centre was very right to bring this motion back. I would hope it would pass because it is not such a bad thing to show the confidence of this House in the integrity of the political process is high enough that we are prepared to show the immediate past and to compare the immediate past with what we want to see happen in the future. Well we are not going to see the immediate past, and I think that is too bad. However at least we know that when we go ahead, those few MPs who have been tempted by the amassing of large sums of money either in their riding associations or in trust accounts are in the minority.

After the legislation passes and is implemented on January 1, 2004, as fast as possible, I think then we will begin a new era in this country, an era in which the transparency and the accountability of these members of Parliament, and of the political process federally in the country, will be of the highest order possible. Therefore, I sincerely hope the public will put the trust in this institution of the House of Commons, which I believe the majority of us deserve, although I really regret we have to pass legislation like this to guarantee that trust.

Canada Elections Act June 9th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise in this debate. I certainly would begin by saying that I support Motion No. 11, the motion we are apparently considering. What it does basically is it calls upon a committee to examine the impact and effect of the political financing changes that are contained in Bill C-24 after the next general election to see if there are any negative impacts that were not anticipated in the bill, and, obviously, that is a very positive thing to do. I do not doubt that this particular motion will have the support of the full House.

However this does give me an opportunity to express my support for Bill C-24, my almost unqualified support, because I think it is excellent legislation. It is certainly something that all parties of the House, everyone in the chamber I think, should want to support. There are some minor glitches here and there that perhaps we do not all agree with but one thing we should all agree with, including members on the opposite side, are the transparency provisions.

I have always been of the view that when it comes to public perception of the political process and how money might influence that political process, the problem is not so much that people think that the registered political parties are the ones that are easily influenced by money so much as people who might be worried that their local politicians might be influenced by large amounts of money that might be flowing around them.

Consequently, it is very important to have a transparency provision, which we have not had up until now, where we can see how much money has come into a riding association at any given time and we can see how much money is going to a particular candidate. The reason it is so important is the voters.

The voters might take a different attitude toward a candidate for re-election, shall we say, an incumbent MP, who might be discovered to have many hundreds of thousands of dollars in his riding association account when he has no need for such large sums of money. At the very most that an individual would need to run an election in this country because of the way the Chief Electoral Officer reimburses election spending, which is a 50:50 scheme, would be about $35,000. So there would be some genuine questions from the public if they were to perceive riding associations with several hundred thousand dollars.

Indeed, myself, I feel that it would be perfectly reasonable to see some limited corporate financing go to the registered political parties directly. I actually proposed an amendment at committee that would have seen corporate financing restored only to the registered parties, that is head office, to a cap of $25,000. That is not a do or die principle with me. I am content with the choice that was made by the government, and that is to provide primary subsidies through this arrangement of a certain amount of money per vote from the previous election. However I do believe that a certain amount of limited corporate financing going directly to the party would have been okay.

What I did not like was the provision in the previous version of the bill that allowed donations of $10,000 from individuals to go to riding associations and individual politicians and candidates. That is way too high. What that means, in my particular instance, in the last election I only spent $28,000, and in the previous election, I only spent $30,000, and in the one before that, I only spent $32,000. So if there was an individual who was able to donate to my riding association $10,000 per year for three or four years and then $10,000 to my campaign, I would not need any other fundraising but that and I would show a profit after the election. That I think is completely wrong.

I think the principle should be that each and every one of us should be prepared to demonstrate that we have support from grassroots people, from ordinary Canadians in our community, by having to go out and raise small amounts of money through local fundraising, like spaghetti suppers or auction sales, or from the small donations from the people in our community who we know have trust in us.

I proposed at committee stage that the $10,000 individual donation cap be lowered to $1,225. That would have been the limit for a tax receipt. The committee, in its wisdom, did not take that suggestion. It did lower the permissible individual donation from $10,000 to $5,000. I still feel that is too high, but it is a significant improvement.

In the final analysis, if we are to regain or maintain the confidence of the public--and we must not assume that people have lost confidence in their political process--we must demonstrate that we are politicians who have our roots in the community and not in big unions, large corporations or individuals in our ridings who are well heeled and can give large sums of money.

Some members of Parliament have suggested that even if they were to get a donation of $2,000, $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, $6,000 or $10,000, they would not be influenced in their judgment and how they would behave once they were elected.

I suggest that is not the issue. The issue is always perception. We must demonstrate through transparency that we are not beholden to anyone because they have given us large sums of money. In the first instance, this is addressed by the transparency provisions in the bill.

One of the other issues that has come up has been the implementation date. There has been some suggestion that the implementation date should be after the next general election. I am one who absolutely rejects that. I do not feel that members of Parliament can bring in a significant reform to the political financing process and not be prepared to live by it.

I have no difficulty with going into the next election under this legislation. I have in my riding association bank account about $10,000, give or take a little. I would suggest that were the election called tomorrow, between that $10,000 and what money I can raise during the election campaign itself, I am sure I would reach the ceiling of $15,000, which, with the rebate, would enable me to spend $30,000, which is as much as I have ever spent on an election anyway. I think $32,000 was the maximum.

So, Mr. Speaker, you do not have to have lots of money in order to be re-elected in this country as a politician. I am in a contested riding. My riding was traditionally Conservative before I won it in 1993. I am not speaking as one who is in a safe riding. The reality is that all an individual needs to do in an election is to get out there, get his or her name out there, get on the podium with other candidates, and convince the people. A lot of money is not needed to do that.

I do not feel that we need to wait a year. We can hopefully pass this legislation this week and make it effective January 1, 2004, and there will be no problem whatsoever.

The other point I wished to address was raised by the member for Vancouver Island North. He was worried that there is an increased charge on the taxpayer because instead of corporate donations we will have to get more money from taxpayers to finance an election.

I would suggest to him that a few million dollars extra to guarantee the integrity of the election process in this country is money well spent. We do not want to have the experience of other nations, notably the United States, where money is so absolutely necessary for anyone to move any distance in the political process whatsoever.

I think this is excellent legislation. It is legislation that I for one will be very proud of as an MP and of the government that brought it into effect.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals) June 6th, 2003

I see one of the members of the Canadian Alliance immediately interjected, but I can assure you, Madam Speaker, that I was not thinking about them in any context. But returning, because it is an important point.

If a creature does not have a brain and it does not have a sense of presence, it does not have the ability to suffer.

The justice department officials, in their arguments in defence of the broad definition, suggested that science was still examining whether creatures had the capacity to feel pain. It is a complete misreading of the science on the issue. The science on the issue is really about what creatures have the capacity to suffer, because every creature has the capacity to feel pain if it reacts to hot and cold, to things that cause it discomfort, to things that injure it.

It was, as the member for Scarborough Southwest said, a very, very difficult journey for those of us who objected to that definition and could see the very negative consequences that must flow from it.

I even went to the extent to do access to information requests on where this definition came from, where was the policy developed in the Department of Justice. You would be interested to know, Madam Speaker, that in getting answers to those questions, what I discovered was that the majority of organizations and other people who were consulted on this animal cruelty legislation and on what definition would be appropriate said that it should be applied only to animals that could be defined as vertebrates, other than human beings.

It was only the radical animal rights organizations that suggested the definition should be extended to all creatures that have the capacity to feel pain, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, for example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Animal Alliance. These are organizations that are at the extreme end of the debate on what constitutes cruelty to animals.

I was disappointed to see that the justice department officials, the policy makers, chose to take this very, very broad definition instead of the definition of the more respected organizations. I could never explain it. I still do not understand why this happened.

One of the difficulties in the legislation now is the Access to Information Act does not permit members of Parliament and people in the public, ordinary Canadians, to ask the Department of Justice officials to explain the rationale because they claim solicitor-client privilege in their advice to ministers. I would very dearly love to have seen what it was, what the actual advice was to the minister on the definition of animal. We will not see that.

The important thing to bear in mind is, however, that in the end, I think the correction has been made. It has been done by the Senate instead of by the government in the process of the bill through the House of Commons.

I think it gives great credit to the Senate. It does show that the other place has an important role to play in our parliamentary life. Because it is true that sometimes no matter how hard we work on this side of the House, both on the government benches and the opposition benches, when we try to raise red flags about aspects of legislation that may have vast, unintended consequences, often, I regret to say, we are not heard here. This is a fine instance of where the Senate has intervened and has done, in my view, the right thing.

I would add one final point, that this is the second time this week that I have spoken in praise of the Senate because it has amended legislation that it has received from the House.

Ironically, the legislation that the Senate amended that we debated was an amendment to the Lobbyists Registration Act, Bill C-15. Again the Senate did an improvement that was not originally on the government agenda.

I refer you to the point, Madam Speaker, that I had mentioned earlier in my speeches, that there is evidence, or there is the suggestion at least that policy on the definition of animal may have been unduly influenced, in my view, by the tremendous lobbying that was done by very powerful animal rights organizations using professional lobbyists.

Unfortunately, in my research using the Access to Information Act and the Lobbyists Registration Act, I was never able to make the connection between the organizations that were lobbying for this huge, broad definition of animal and who they were lobbying. It will remain unknown, I think now forever and it is gone now, who it was in the bureaucracy that paid such heed to those who sought the broadest possible definition of animal and turned a deaf ear to those very, very fine organizations, very credible organizations, that suggested the definition of animal should be simply a vertebrate other than a human being, which is the definition that the Senate has given us and that the government has now, at this late date, finally accepted.