Mr. Speaker, I am enjoying the minutia of this debate. Actually, I have a quick solution for this whole problem. Why do we not just lower the upper limit for donations? It is $1,550. Why do we not just drop it to $200? Then we would not have this debate at all. Neither of those sides are really interested in that.
This year, I think I had 1,200 donors through my fundraising efforts through my EDA. My average donation was $50. Most average Canadians are not able to give $1,550 per year to any kind of donation. They will give what they can to support their parties. However, we will not hear those kinds of arguments from either side of the House. For example, in Quebec, the limit is $100. We could end this whole debate if the Liberals would change their bill and lower the limit to be much lower than $1,550. We will not hear that. We will just hear a back and forth about who is more corrupt.
Also, this is a very minor bill. The big changes to electoral finance were really led by the province of Quebec. It brought it in the first limits on spending, then eventually increased transparency until we had some of the best finance laws in the world. Therefore, this is a minor bill in a Parliament of minor bills.
When we read books about the histories of parliaments, we will read about the the Parliament that brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the one where women were allowed to vote. The kinds of bills we are debating in this Parliament are nothing of that scope. I think any Canadian watching this today would say that this is a minor tweak to existing laws, and I would agree. That is what is going on here. This is what parliamentary time is being spent on. There are no grand ideas coming out of this Parliament, and I find that sad.
If students of democracy looked through the history of democracy, they would see these moments where things were done because within the House of Commons members had the imagination on how to improve the way decisions were made and how to govern themselves.
There is need for a change. Two great academics out of Harvard have now shown how democracy is declining around the world. What is most scary is that young people now are losing faith in their democratic processes. It is not only that they are not voting anymore, some would actually prefer authoritarian processes over democratic ones. This is a widespread problem. We know this from the World Values Survey that was recently released. It is quite concerning. However, we cannot get any data on Canada because we do not participate in that survey.
We can be bold about how great our democracy is, but we do not even measure it. We do not even pay attention to what is happening here because we do not participate in international surveys. This is a big problem.
Pardon me for yawning through these debates, but they really will not do anything at all to improve our democratic problems.
One of the problems we have, which I have talked a lot about, is under-representation in the House of Commons. About 28% of the seats in the House are filled with women, who make up over 50% of the population. We have had lots of back and forth about how we need to encourage more women to run for office. That is assuming this is a supply problem, which is ridiculous. It is ridiculous to think there are so few women in the House of Commons because of lack of supply.
We have anywhere between 50,000 or 100,000 each in our political parties. Are we saying that out of those 100,000 members, we cannot find 338 women, or even half of that, 170 women, to run for each party? That is ridiculous. The problem is demand. Parties block women from becoming candidates. Time and again this is what academic studies, published in referee journals, show.
I put forward a private member's bill that would help remedy that by using electoral finance law, something that could have been put into this bill but was not. Instead, after the next election what we will have is a Parliament that will look almost exactly the same as this one with respect to gender representation. Because we have taken no action in this Parliament, I bet we do not get anywhere near the 50% threshold. We will probably have around 30% of the seats in the House filled with women. How do I know that? Because both the major parties have decided to protect their incumbents. That basically means we have a gender freeze in the House, unless there is a massive turnover of seats, where one party, say our party, runs 50% women candidates and we take over all the seats in the House of Commons.
This means that if we stay the same, in terms of the percentage of seats and how they are distributed, we would not add any more women in here. It means that, when you come back next time and sit in that chair, Mr. Speaker—and I think you do a very good job—you will look out over the House and see the same gender distribution, because we failed to take action in the House. That is a terrible thing. With all the rhetoric we hear from the other side about a feminist prime minister and “because it's 2015”, there has been no action on that side, and there have been opportunities to take action, which have been dismissed and sneered at.
That is the side of the House that has to live with the lack of change. The Liberals are the ones who said they would do something, promised it, and did not do it. It is the same with proportional representation. The Prime Minister said 1,800 times that the last election would be the last one with the first past the post system. That change has gone by the wayside as well.
When all the dust clears from the 2019 election and we see what the House looks like in 2020, it is going to look exactly the same. The parties might switch around a little, but in terms of representation, it is going to be exactly the same. Also, we will not have proportional representation.
Let us go to another problem we are having, and that is with the nomination of candidates. We are having all kinds of problems with candidates not being screened correctly or slipping through the cracks in parties when their integrity is in question. We see it in Ontario. We see it all over the place in political parties. These parties are more concerned about electoral success than they often are about the integrity of their candidates. This problem is found all over the world.
The U.S. fixed this problem in the 1920s after the Tammany Hall disaster. There was massive corruption within that institution. What did it do? It let the state do its party nomination process. It had primaries. Why do we never consider that in the House? We have these little details of bills that really do not mean anything to Canadians, but what we could do is clean up our system and have primaries, not party-run primaries, but state-run primaries. Elections Canada would oversee how parties select their candidates. It would make sure that the processes are fair, and that the voting is fair and beyond reproach. There would not be stacked meetings. The nomination processes would be fair. More than that, the citizens could trust in them.
I have given members three ideas of things we could work on. We could work on bills, where we work on gender parity in the House. I have given members the idea of proportional representation, which the NDP has always fought for, and that side has promised but never delivered. I have also given an idea about how we could fix our nomination process by having primaries. This is all about taking democracy where it needs to go. This is not defending a system that has perhaps served us okay in the past and stacked up well against other systems.
As an example, when the Prime Minister took office in 2015, we were 48th in the world in terms of the proportion of women in our House. Since that time, we have dropped to 65th place, which means that there are 64 countries in the world that have more women in their legislatures than we have here in this place. That is the problem with “because it's 2015”. How can the Prime Minister be the world's most feminist prime minister, when we have dropped from 48th to 65th place in terms of the percentage of women, and we are doing nothing about it? I applaud the gender-balanced cabinet. It is a great idea, but it is only a symbol. It is not locked into our institutions. The next prime minister could come in and have no women in the cabinet.
We need to change our laws and our rules to ensure that we set a world example, that we set the tone and timbre for the world to follow, and not lag behind as we are.
I have listened to the minutiae of the debate, and I have heard the rhetoric, but this is a very minor bill, when we have major problems we should be fixing.