That it is expedient to introduce a measure respecting political expenditures, and to make provision for the appointment and the salaries or remuneration of certain officers and employees and the payment of certain expenses in connection with the administraiton of the said measure.
He said: Mr. Speaker, the legislation which is being introduced by this resolution will be known as the Political Expenditures Act. The preamble to the bill reads:
Whereas it is desirable that the source and disposition of sums expended for federal political purposes should be readily traceable and that the amounts expended in promoting the return of members of the House of Commons should be limited.
I believe those words express succinctly the objects of the proposed legislation. The first object is to make traceable and provide a public record of all receipts and expenditures for political purposes. The second object is to limit expenditures which may lawfully be incurred in promoting the election of a member. The bill is comparatively simple. This house acquires jurisdiction in connection therewith through its control over banks and banking and also through the right which the federal government has to constitute corporations for other than provincial purposes. The provision with regard to the limitation of expenditures will operate only during the electoral periods while the other provisions will operate at all times. I may digress here to say that with the provision for the tracing and publication of contributions operating at all times there is a probability that the public will become, accustomed to the other provisions and more readily acquiesce in their operation when the electoral period comes around.
Political expenditures can be incurred only by special corporate bodies constituted by mere request into corporations sole. Political contributions can be made only to such bodies and such contributions must be deposited in a bank with duplicate deposit slips. All payments must be made by cheque. A return of expenditures and contributions will thus automatically be made by the transmission to the officer appointed by this house of the duplicate deposit slips and cheques. This officer, who will be known as the inspector general of elections, will have the duty of setting up corporations on request and making a return to parliament of all receipts and expenditures by those corporations. This return will be along the lines of that made by the auditor general and will be annual.
The limitation of the expenditure in any particular constituency will be achieved
through identifying the corporation or corporations which are charged with the duty of promoting the return of any candidate to parliament. Any one else, a corporation or otherwise, will be forbidden to spend any money for that purpose. The amount of expenditures permissible will be calculated on the number of electors in a given electoral district. There is also a provision in the interests of the public placing a limitation on the amount to be expended on radio broadcasting, which limitation will be based on the number of electors. In as simple language as I can use, these are the chief provisions of the bill.
I have every reason to believe that this bill is sound both in law and constitution. It was drafted by Lieutenant-Colonel Bjggar who for seven or eight years was chief electoral officer of Canada. There are certain features of the bill upon which I should perhaps enlarge. It was thought advisable in connection with the provision for the limitation of expenditures to leave blank the amount to be allowed to be expended in any given constituency. I submit that this amount should be fixed by the committee of this house which will be called upon to deal with the bill. A distinction has been made in the bill as between rural and urban constituencies.
Another difficulty had been solved, perhaps not to the satisfaction of everyone, in connection with the distribution of moneys expended from the central or national campaign funds. It was decided that the bill should provide that these moneys should be distributed equally among all constituencies. It may appear to hon. members that this provision will make the amount expended in any constituency appear to be somewhat large when it is charged with its portion of the national expenditure. It will certainly bring it out of line with the limitation imposed in other countries on expenditures in constituencies. In Great Britain, for example, if my memory serves me aright, the expenditure is five pence per name of elector in the constituency in boroughs, and six pence in counties. It is hoped that this difficulty, which is perhaps not a very real difficulty but one to which certain objections will be taken, can also be ironed out in committee.
The definition of political expenses and political purposes will perhaps not appeal to all those who are intended to be covered by this act. The definition of a political expense is so drawn as to include all outlays designed to affect public opinion or governmental action other than such action as is consequent upon
judicial or semi-judicial procedure. And "political purpose" means:
The purpose of promoting or opposing the selection of candidates or of any person as a candidate for membership in the House of Commons, the return of any such candidate, the enactment or repeal of any legislation either by parliament or affecting its legislative jurisdiction, the adoption of any resolution by either house of parliament or the adoption of any policy or the taking of any action by the governor general in council, and extends to and includes all and any analogous purposes.
This definition will at once appear to the house to be pretty broad. Certain associations and corporations who do not, generally speaking, consider themselves to be of a political character will inevitably when they engage in their normal activities be embraced within this definition. I could say, for instance. that if such an association existed as a civic reform league which wished to engage counsel for the purpose of promoting the passage of this bill, it would itself probably be the first to come under its provisions. But may I point out to the house that it is essential that all who take part in or undertake any political action must come under the provisions of this act. Otherwise there will be loopholes left for individuals and organizations, and it might be that the effectiveness of the legislation would be destroyed. We must, if this bill is to be of any effect whatsoever, take all precautions to prevent any evasion of its provisions.
I agree, and I presume this will be urged during the discussion, that we must not go beyond the lengths to which public opinion would want us to go. This may be perhaps considered as legislation similar to sumptuary legislation or to liquor prohibition legislation. It must have the support of the public, and this particular legislation must have the support of the persons most directly interested, namely, members of parliament. Otherwise it cannot be of any effect. I am quite aware it will be urged that you cannot make people honest by act of parliament. Perhaps you cannot make them honest by act of parliament but you can point out in legislation what their responsibility is with respect to the carrying on of perfectly legitimate actions on their part, and explain to them by that legislation that if they do not follow the prescribed procedure they will be obliged to submit to certain penalties.
I suggest that here is a draft bill which covers the main points of certain objections which have been made to our electoral system. Here in cold print the members of this house may see a means of getting away from the abuses which have been inherent in our 51952-128
system. It is their responsibility to study it, and I suggest that it is worthy of their study and attention.
Two points I think will be brought up during the course of the discussion, and perhaps I had better deal with them now. First, is a central campaign fund necessary and essential? To this question I reply that, although it may not be absolutely necessary or essential, it is undoubtedly of some advantage to the public. We in this house and in our political activities, however important we may believe our policies, our pronouncements, our discussions and debates may be, must realize that there are outside of this house and throughout the country many, many thousands of persons who are far less interested in us and in our activities and in governmental activities than they are in the sports page of the newspaper, or in the radio or the movies. These people, when election time comes along, must be educated. It is true that under our present system this education is partisan; it is carried out by political parties. But I submit that it is some kind of education, and it provides a means by which an informed verdict may be rendered at a general election. But I would also say this, that a large part of the expenditure made is unnecessary and wasteful, and that a great deal of it is made simply to keep up with the Joneses. If one political party sees that another political party has set up a billboard in a conspicuous place, immediately it must set up a billboard of its own. If one political party has a half-page cartoon in a newspaper, immediately the other parties must have a similar cartoon.