May 19, 1972

NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. John Burton (Regina East):

Mr. Speaker, welcome as this legislation is, welcome as is any legislation in the field of election expenses, I think we have to enter a large caveat with respect to the specific provisions of the bill and its over-all impact on this matter. My colleagues, the hon. member for Regina-Lake Centre (Mr. Benjamin) and the hon. member for Greenwood (Mr. Brewin), have dealt with a large number of points involved in this bill, the points they accept and the ones they criticize. I do not intend to go over the same ground that they covered.

I would like to discuss this bill taking into account two points. First of all, I think we need to relate the legislation to our society, to the relationship between government and people and to the role that government plays in society. I think there are serious questions we must ask, because whether we like it or not there are a great many people in Canada who are becoming disillusioned with the way in which the system operates. They are becoming disillusioned with democratic processes because all too often they see the sham and the hypocrisy that is involved in certain events, all too often they see what is done for the sake of gaining or retaining power. There is a large-scale reaction among many Canadian people to these phenomena. People are more aware than ever that some of the forces which control the destiny of our country also control the well-being of Canadians.

People are more aware of this now than they were in the past. They do not like what they see. They do not like the performance of the past several weeks culminating in the announcement today by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) that there will not be an election this summer. At least that doubt is removed and we know there will not be an election for some time, although the Prime Minister has been playing cat and mouse with the country for several months. People do not like to see our electoral system being played with; they feel it is not in the best interests of the functioning of democracy and see it as part of the process of breakdown of our democratic institutions. We should be looking for some change in the system of calling elections so that the power will not rest in the hands of one man as it does now under our constitution.

That is one part of the picture, Mr. Speaker. Another part concerns this legislation. I think most people will welcome legislation governing election expenses, but they will be disillusioned because of some of its loopholes. There is no requirement to disclose campaign contributions, nor is there any limitation on expenditures by national political parties, and when people realize this I believe they will reject what otherwise could be a very good piece of legislation. The government should give serious consideration to this question because people are becoming concerned about many aspects of the functioning of our democracy. They see the role that money plays in persuading people and they are aware of the power of advertising in today's society.

I believe more effective provisions are required in respect of the disclosure of campaign contributions. In this party we are prepared to take our chances along with everybody else and have our contributions made known. People like to point out that the trade unions make contributions to our party, but we are prepared to make that

information available provided the same information is made available by the other parties. We want it made known what contributions are made by corporations and the role they are playing behind the scenes in the electoral process.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

What about trade organizers?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Burton:

We are quite prepared to make everything known, but we ask that the other parties do the same. Hon. members opposite should have the courage to do this rather than trying to take refuge behind some form of camouflage. It is a great chance for government members to carry on in the same way if all sources of contributions to the Liberal party are not made known to the people of Canada.

I know of one case where there will be a great deal of concern, Mr. Speaker. The Standing Committee on Regional Development, of which I am a member, has been examining some of the incentive grants made to private industry. There have been about 1,400, some large and some small. As a result of questions asked in committee it has been learned that three large grants have been made to McCain Foods Limited, a food processing firm in the province of New Brunswick. It is well known that in 1968 one of the senior personnel in this firm acted as Liberal campaign manager in New Brunswick. I understand, too, that McCain's financed the leadership campaign of the provincial Liberal leader in New Brunswick and they are presently playing an active role in political affairs in that province. Of course, that is their right as it is that of any other citizen, but they have a lot more power than other people. In committee we learned that $3.2 million in grants had never been reported to parliament as is required by section 15 of the Regional Development Incentives Act.

I hasten to add that as a result of some members, including myself, digging out this information, the minister has now given an undertaking to supply parliament with a supplementary report setting out information on some 90 firms where changes in grants have been made and where the net change has totalled an increase of $7 million. I hope that information will be available within the next few days so that this matter can be examined properly before the end of the month. I found out that the first application for a grant, for a new potato processing facility, was made on December 19, 1969; the date of the offer was November 2, 1970, and the date of acceptance was December 9, 1970. The total amount offered in this grant was $6.1 million and some of that money has already been paid out. Two more offers of grants were made, one for $633,000 and another for $443,000. Grants of some $7.1 million have been offered to this firm which is a leading figure in the New Brunswick Liberal party.

Another interesting fact should be noted. An important official in the department, Mr. George McClure director of operations for the Atlantic region joined it in February, 1969, and left on August 1, 1970, to join the firm of McCain Foods Limited in a high executive position. At the time he left, three applications for grants had been received from McCain Foods Limited, one on December 19, 1969, one on May 22, 1970, and one on June 8, 1970. One of these had been offered on July 22, 1970, prior to his leaving, the

May 19, 1972

other two being offered on August 28, 1970, and November 2, 1970.

Mr. Speaker, in committee I stated that I felt there was a potential conflict of interest here and asked the minister or his department to look into the matter. They reported on the investigation and said it had been found that this man was involved in the operations part of the department's programs in the Atlantic region and that any decisions or evaluations of offers and grants under the Regional Development Incentives Act were made by the incentives division of the department.

I accept the word of the minister and his deputy in this regard, Mr. Speaker, but surely the various divisions of the department have contact with each other. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. It was made quite clear that this man had been involved in discussions with McCain Foods Limited about their expansion plans, yet he went directly from the federal government service into the employ of McCain Foods Limited.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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LIB

Jack Sydney George (Bud) Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Mr. Cullen:

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Order, please. The hon. member for Sarnia (Mr. Cullen) rises on a point of order.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
LIB

Jack Sydney George (Bud) Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Mr. Cullen:

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the hon. member is going to speak on the subject matter of the bill, or is he to be allowed to continue the smear comments that he has been making for the last five minutes?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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NDP

John Leroy Skoberg

New Democratic Party

Mr. Skoberg:

You can't take it.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Burton:

Mr. Speaker, the matters to which I have related in the last several minutes are matters of fact which have been stated in the committee by the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion (Mr. Marchand) and his deputy.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
NDP

John Leroy Skoberg

New Democratic Party

Mr. Skoberg:

Disclosure, my boy; that is what's wanted.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Burton:

Here is a case in point, and I use it as an example to show that possible conflicts of interest may be involved. Of course, it may not be possible to answer some pertinent questions at this time, although it is well known that the firm in question has dipped into the public treasury to the tune of $7.1 million. It is a well known beneficiary of and an active participant in the affairs of the Liberal party of New Brunswick. That is a matter of record and hon. members opposite cannot quarrel with it; it is a fact. Furthermore, these facts are known to the public. Mr. Speaker, the people know that some of these things are going on, even if the specific facts are not available. It is this process by which one political party is able to maintain itself in power that is leading to growing disillusionment in the democratic process.

Until we deal with the problem of identifying contributions, no matter by whom they are made, to political campaigns and political parties I suggest that we will not obtain effective legislation in the field of election expenses. Thus, I urge the President of the Privy Council

Election Expenses Bill

(Mr. MacEachen) who introduced this bill to look seriously at that particular part of it. I suggest that unless this area is considered, the people of this country will know that this bill is a sham.

I know the minister made the point that the bill follows the recommendations of the committee. I concede that point. I suggest, nevertheless, that some members of the committee disagreed with that recommendation. They wanted to make progress in that field. They came forward with their report because they wanted progress to be made. I suggest that we could go beyond that point. The time to do that is now, while this legislation is before the House. This is the occasion for dealing adequately with the matter. When the bill goes to committee let us give it further consideration and make sure that adequate provisions are included concerning the disclosure of campaign contributions.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Woolliams:

That would be an interesting exercise.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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PC

Paul Yewchuk

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Paul Yewchuk (Athabasca):

Mr. Speaker, legislation concerning election expenses and various regulations governing general elections in this country have come forward from time to time during the past 105 years. The legislation and regulations have been amended from time to time since then, but never to the extent that this bill proposes. Some of the legislation that was passed was designed to curb or control corrupt practices. The idea behind this bill is somewhat different. On the surface, it sounds like a democratic measure. Apparently it is aimed at giving people with moderate incomes the same chance to enter politics as is available to those with much higher incomes. It is difficult to argue against that principle if taken by itself. All the same, one must consider many factors about this bill before coming to some kind of logical and reasonable conclusion about it.

In 1873, I think it was, the first example of corrupt practices came to public view. That stimulated the introduction of legislation dealing with this matter which was introduced in the following year, 1874. Then legislation in this field was passed in 1908 but there was nothing further until 1920 when amendments were proposed by the prime minister of the day, Arthur Meighen. Those amendments were to the Dominion Elections Act and were designed to clarify a number of points in the existing legislation, such as exceptions to the rule that all payments must be made through the official agent. There was also a clarification of personal expenses and the amendment changed the penalty for default in publishing a statement of expenses.

The 1920 legislation expanded the scope of publicity by requiring that candidates disclose contributors and amounts contributed. Although this was an improvement, much of the usefulness of the new provision was made ineffective by two continuing failures, those being the nonrecognition of political parties and the lack of enforcement provisions for dealing with infringements of the act. Since 1920 no new laws of any significance have been brought down, although many pleas for reform from the media and the public have been expressed from time to time since then.

There is only one documented case of a member being unseated under the old regulations for corrupt practices; otherwise the law was not enforced. Some of the reasons

May 19, 1972

Election Expenses Bill

for that lack of enforcement are, first, that the established parties have been unwilling under the old legislation to initiate action against each other; second, that the trouble and cost of contesting an election suit about election expenses is prohibitive to the private citizen; third, that no organized, non-political agency has felt itself responsible or has been made responsible for prosecuting candidates violating this law on election expenses and, finally, that no governmental agency has felt itself responsible or has been made responsible for prosecuting candidates violating the law on election expenses.

The two main weaknesses of the legislation first enacted in 1874 and subsequently amended were, first, the failure to recognize political parties as essential units of political finance and, second, the failure to provide effective machinery for enforcing the law.

A long time after that the Coldwell commission studied this whole problem and made seven main recommendations which were not, so far as I know, ever included in the legislation. Those seven recommendations were as follows: first, that political parties should be legally recognized and, through the doctrine of agency, made legally responsible for their actions in raising and spending funds. Second, a degree of financial equality should be established among candidates and among political parties by the extension of certain services and subsidies to all who qualify. Third, an effort should be made to increase public participation in politics by broadening the base of political contributions through tax concessions to donors.

Fourth, costs of election campaigns should be reduced by shortening the campaign period, by placing limitations on expenditures on mass media by candidates and parties and by prohibiting the payment of poll workers on election day. Fifth, public confidence in political financing should be strengthened by requiring candidates and parties to disclose their incomes and expenditures. Sixth, a registry under the supervision of a registrar should be established to audit and publish the financial reports required and to enforce the provisions of the proposed election and political finances act; and, seventh, miscellaneous amendments to broadcasting legislation should be enacted to improve the political communications field.

I think it is fair to say that the art of democratic politics and the evolution of the communications media have always been closely linked. The increased use of mass media as a form of political propagandizing has become an accepted and necessary element of present political campaigns. The forbiddingly high cost of media advertising has become one of the main problems facing prospective and nominated candidates for public office. Hence, the principle behind this bill is, as I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, that it will bring greater equality between individuals in terms of their eligibility for public office.

First-and I think this is the main reservation that should be considered-is the fact that in general terms the amount of campaign funds that a political party can collect can be considered as a fairly accurate reflection of the amount of popular support that party has in the country. Because of that it is quite easy to see why my

friends to the left are constantly suggesting that election expenses be limited. It appears they have difficulty collecting any significant amount of funds except by compulsory means in keeping with their compulsory philosophy. Not having very much public popular support and not being able to collect very large amounts of funds for campaign purposes, they are taking the alternative which is to limit the amount the other parties can spend. This has the same effect as increasing their own funds.

I was slightly baffled by the pious self-righteousness of the hon. member who spoke before me when he talked about conflict of interest between parties and their potential donors. I think it is quite well known that the party to my left depends largely on compulsory contributions from unions, some of them foreign-dominated and some of them not. It seems to me that it is no different from the point of view of conflict of interest when a union boss tells a member of that party what to say, when to say it and how high to jump, then it would be for someone from a corporation to tell other parties or try to get them to say what they want said. If you examine the structure, that kind of self-righteousness is not justifiable.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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NDP

John Stratford Burton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Burton:

We will lay the cards on the table.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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PC

Paul Yewchuk

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Yewchuk:

Naturally that party will lay its cards on the table because the contributions are compulsory; they are deducted from the cheques in the same manner as income tax. There is absolutely no way they can get away with hiding this as a voluntary contribution. I recognize that workers have the right of opting out of this, but they do not usually do so if they want to survive. When we consider the remarks of the leader of that party and the decision made a day or two ago by the Canadian Labour Congress that they are going to throw their open support behind that party, we see that that party does not really reflect representation of the general population of this country when that might be considered as a conflict of interest.

We in our party have been subject to some criticism by the party to our left. They have criticized us for being puppets of big business-paid for, owned and operated by big business. This is a myth which I am sure any intelligent individual can recognize immediately. Evidence of this is the kind of constituencies we represent in this House. Just look at where the members of my party come from. Almost to the last man we represent fairly poor, economically speaking, constituencies such as rural ridings and ridings where-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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LIB

Murray Arndell McBride

Liberal

Mr. McBride:

You even have poor members.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
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PC

Paul Yewchuk

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Yewchuk:

That is right. I will not reflect upon who they are, but I am looking at one right now. The point I am trying to make is that this party is by no means controlled, owned or operated by big business. As a matter of fact, it is controlled and operated by the average man in this country; the average wage earner, fisherman, farmer as well as the average businessman and occasional physician and lawyer. Unfortunately, we do not have any wealthy lawyers in our party, but I am sure that if we work at it we will be able to attract some of them.

We have a good deal of support from the rank and file of unions. I am sure this will be seen if we examine the

May 19, 1972

election results in certain areas where rank and file union people reside. They do not necessarily vote the way their union bosses tell them. While we are accused of being responsible only to big business, examination of the situation reveals that this is simply not the case.

Second, I want to comment on the idea of disclosure of sources of financial assistance for campaign purposes. I can only speak for myself; other members can speak for themselves. I do not know where the money comes from which finances my campaign. I have absolutely no knowledge of any individual, corporation or other interested group that may make donations. All I know is that we receive an allocation of funds from our central finance committee.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
NDP

John Leroy Skoberg

New Democratic Party

Mr. Skoberg:

Now we know.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
PC

Paul Yewchuk

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Yewchuk:

Under these circumstances, I think a member of parliament is much more able to function as a free agent and to speak about what he thinks is right for the country without being subject to any kind of pressure from whoever the donor may have been. The party to my left is proposing that we know who gave us our campaign funds because that is the position in which they find themselves; they realize how uncomfortable it is to be subject to pressure from a particular pressure group.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ELECTION EXPENSES BILL
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO CANADA ELECTIONS ACT AND INCOME TAX ACT
Permalink

May 19, 1972