April 27, 2004

CA

Jim Abbott

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jim Abbott

Mr. Speaker, I am rather perplexed with this question from the point of view that I do not have a clue what in the world it has to do with anything. This is ridiculous.

What we are talking about here is the representation of the people of New South Wales or Victoria or Manitoba or British Columbia, or the representation of the people of Canada. We are talking about a democratic process that has been hijacked by the Prime Minister.

I should point out that the upcoming election, it is estimated, is going to cost--and let us count it--$265 million. Apparently this is an increase over the cost of the last two unnecessary elections, elections that were totally unnecessary in terms of their timing.

The federal Liberals went from 1993 to 1997 and unnecessarily called that election and then to 2000 and unnecessarily called that election. Now, because of the Liberal game-playing over the leadership issue for this new Prime Minister of the Liberals, the “all new federal Liberal Party”, I must say, we are into another three year cycle. We have had at least $250 million spent on unnecessary elections in the cycle of the federal Liberal Party, to which I say shame on them.

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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to my good friend from Kootenay and really wonder whether his remarks carry with them a shred of credibility.

Let me put it this way. I am quite sure that my hon. colleague from Kootenay probably has a rather high regard for someone by the name of Ralph Klein in Alberta, the premier, a political soulmate, if I can put it that way. How long has he has been premier? Almost 10 years? Has he brought in fixed election dates in Alberta? Not yet, but he has had 10 years. How about that great premier in Ontario by the name of Mike Harris? He was not in as long as 10 years, but he was there about 6 years. Did he bring in fixed election dates at Queen's Park? No.

I really wonder about these Conservatives. Especially when it comes to election time, they start talking about fixed election dates. They suddenly get warmed up to certain things, but then when they are in power, as they were in Ontario and as they were in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, they do nothing.

I really wonder about your credibility.

Topic:   Government Orders
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CA

Jim Abbott

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jim Abbott

To quote you, Mr. Speaker, I am sure it was not your credibility that he was wondering about.

In taking a look at that question, again I really do not understand what this has to do with anything. The fact of the matter is that it is this government that has created a situation of spending a quarter of a billion dollars unnecessarily during this cycle of its tenure on the government side of the House. It is this Prime Minister who is holding the country up for ransom and it is he who must be held accountable by the official opposition in this chamber. That is where the debate lies.

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CA

Dave Chatters

Canadian Alliance

Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join in this very timely debate that is going on, and a very interesting debate it is.

Certainly I very much support the concept of fixed election dates. It was a fundamental plank of the platform of the Reform Party, which I helped found so many years ago, and it remains a position of this Conservative Party today, I am glad to say.

It has become increasingly obvious over the last number of months that there is a real, genuine need in this country for governments and government members to do what is in the national interest rather than their own interest or that of a political party. Certainly that has become more and more obvious with this whole ad scam.

It has become particularly obvious as we see this endless dithering of the current Prime Minister on when he is going to the polls. It certainly in every way makes the argument for us and for our supply day motion today that we must provide fixed election dates in Canada. I really cannot understand this bugaboo about destroying the British parliamentary tradition and all the rest of it. If we want to talk about credibility, I do not think that has any credibility.

Certainly in Canada, as we have heard a number of times, British Columbia has gone to fixed election dates and the Queen has not taken any action against the Government of British Columbia in terms of abandoning the sovereignty of the Crown. I do not think that is an argument. As a matter of fact, the Government of Ontario, the Liberal government, on April 7, 2004, passed first reading of Bill C-51, a bill proposing fixed election dates in Ontario. So the Ontario Liberals do not think it is a bad idea and the British Columbia Liberals do not think it is a bad idea. Certainly in response to the question from my colleague from across the floor, if Ralph Klein were in the habit of asking any of us for advice, we would give him the advice to implement fixed election dates in Alberta. It only makes sense.

From a personal perspective, I have been in this place for 10 years now, having successfully campaigned in and won three elections during that time. Each one of those three elections gave the Liberal government a five year mandate to govern this country. In other words, it had a mandate to govern for 15 years and we have only been here for 10. Given the cost of each election, that is a complete election cycle that could have been added onto its mandate. In my view, perhaps it should have been, because in the last three elections there has been no pressing need to go to an early election, yet the Prime Minister chose to do that three times simply because the polls favoured his government. There was really no other reason in the world.

The suggestion that our idea is less democratic than the present system does not make any sense either, simply because it takes power away from the Prime Minister and disallows the Prime Minister from playing the games that are now being played in Canada. Quite frankly, it empowers the people of Canada and brings in more democracy, not less. Certainly before this Prime Minister became the prime minister, he talked about distributing some of that power from the PMO. He talked about how that would bring in more democracy and create perhaps more interest in the democratic process in this country, so that maybe more than 40% of the people in this country would participate in the process.

Of all of the democratic reforms that the current Prime Minister has talked about for so long, this particular one would seem to me to be the easiest and quickest and would have the most impact of any of the proposed democratic reforms. However, this one, like so many of the other democratic reforms about restructuring the House of Commons and committees and empowering backbench MPs and all of those things, seems to be very quickly falling by the wayside and is becoming less of a priority than it was leading into the Liberal leadership.

This is a shame, because I think that this particular motion and this particular action we are urging the government to adopt would do more to enhance the credibility of the Prime Minister on the democratic deficit than any of the other things that he could do and certainly should do.

A fixed date general election is also the best thing for the country in terms of the cost of this system and the uncertainty involved in an election. Just last weekend, I called my local Elections Canada returning officer to get the number for the Elections Canada office in my riding should we need to contact the office for information during the election. He informed me that he does not have a telephone number yet and has not booked an office space yet, simply because he does not know when the election is going to be.

So there we are, with the entire machinery of Elections Canada in the riding on hold, waiting for the Prime Minister to make up his mind. There has to be a cost there, and there is certainly an uncertainty there, not to mention, as some of my colleagues said, those of us who are running in the election and who have to rent space, sign contracts and make arrangements for the campaign. We are unable to do so simply because only the Prime Minister knows and he is not sharing that with all of us.

Certainly the media themselves are becoming very impatient with the Prime Minister on the issue of when the election will be. That is not like the media in relation to this Liberal government. In my view, the media have been very patient on all kinds of issues, but even they are becoming less patient, simply because they as well have a huge stake in this. They have to assign individuals to the various campaigns. They have to make arrangements to replace those people in their current positions and they have to provide for the costs of these media people who are following the campaign. As well, of course, the national networks have an obligation to provide free election time to the parties involved. They have a scheduling issue in regard to being able to do that and they as well have no idea of when the election might be.

Overwhelming numbers of arguments can be made in support of fixed election dates. I have not heard a valid one, at least in this morning's debate and to this point, against fixed election dates. The idea that we would need a constitutional amendment is rubbish. The idea that it would somehow destroy years and years of British parliamentary tradition in Canada is also rubbish. Other Commonwealth countries have adopted this system and that has not been the case. They continue to respect and hold the British monarch as their monarch, much as we do. They continue to have a parliamentary system in the British tradition, just as we do.

In my opinion and from every perspective, having fixed election dates is a good idea. If the government would listen to its experts at Elections Canada, I think it would hear that they themselves would favour such a system.

The only argument to be made against it is that it takes power from the Prime Minister and that is not acceptable to the government. I do not think that is a valid reason.

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CA

Ken Epp

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take just a few seconds to make a comment on the motion and ask my colleague to respond to it.

I remember the first time I was elected. I became a candidate in 1992. The election was not called until October, about 16 or 17 months later. During that time I had a job teaching students. I do not know whether members are aware of this, but students fare better if they do not have changes of instructors. From semester to semester, I did not know whether I should take a leave of absence without pay in order to run for election or whether I should keep my job. It caused a whole deal of anxiety to both our administration of the place and myself personally. It was just totally impossible to plan.

One reason I wanted to run for the Reform Party was because even away back then this was one of its policies. It is a very good one. It allows every candidate for every party across the country, which is at least 1,200 or 1,300 candidates, to plan. It allows their workers to plan. It allows all of them to get a handle on where their life is going in the immediate future.

I would like to have my colleague comment on his experiences in this regard and again to confirm and underline the importance of passing this motion today.

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CA

Dave Chatters

Canadian Alliance

Mr. David Chatters

Mr. Speaker, I well remember the 1993 campaign. We are facing that same kind of uncertainty with this election, whether it will turn out to be as long as the uncertainty was then.

In the 1993 campaign, as in this campaign, I remember the uncertainty and the requirement for people to make that kind of commitment to stand and put their name forward as candidates. In more than one case it actually prevented good individuals, strong and well-intended individuals who wanted to run to represent their constituencies, from doing that. The uncertainty made it impossible for them to do that because of job obligations.

If that happens in our party, I am sure it also happens in the Liberal Party, and that is to Canada's loss. That is not a positive thing. We in Canada have a big job to do in rebuilding the credibility of the political process and getting Canadians to participate in it in a major kind of way. This kind of gerrymandering of the system will do nothing to enhance the credibility in the eyes of Canadians.

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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I just want to pick up on what the hon. member for Elk Island said. I would agree with him to this extent, that yes, there are some uncertainties under the current system that provides for no fixed election dates.

However, I think he would have to agree that if we have a fixed election date, then we run the risk of much longer campaigns. We can be almost sure that if, say, the country knows an election will be held in the month of June, all kinds of campaigns will be fired up perhaps in January or perhaps the fall before. If we think that does not make sense, all we have to do is look at the experience in the United States where there are fixed election dates every four years. Now, particularly in presidential election years, we are looking at campaigns that run nigh on two years. There is no fun in that and it is very expensive.

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CA

Dave Chatters

Canadian Alliance

Mr. David Chatters

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague from Elk Island, responding through you to the member, I do not think it is possible that an election campaign could get longer or more expensive to Canadians than this one. The Prime Minister has been on a tax paid campaign for months. I do not think that is a valid argument or a credible argument.

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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this opposition day motion that calls for general elections to be held on fixed dates, unless the government loses the confidence of the House of Commons. I do not support the motion, for a number of reasons, and I would encourage all members to vote against it.

There are a number of good reasons why our present system serves us well, and has done so since Confederation.

Part of the reason why fixed election dates are not a good idea for Canada becomes clear when we compare our present system with non-parliamentary systems.

First, it is worth noting that most parliamentary systems based on the Westminster system do not prescribe fixed election dates, except insofar that they usually have maximum terms. In the Canadian case, the duration of the House of Commons is set out in section 50 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which states:

Every House of Commons shall continue for Five Years from the Day of the Return of the Writs for choosing the House (subject to be sooner dissolved by the Governor General), and no longer.

This is further reflected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states:

No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members.

Of course an election may be called by the Governor General earlier than the maximum term on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Alternatively, based on constitutional convention, a defeat in the House on a motion of non-confidence usually results in an election being called.

In contrast to most parliamentary systems, legislatures in a number of non-parliamentary systems hold elections at fixed intervals. For example, the United States has fixed election dates. As a rule, these non-parliamentary systems are characterized by a separation of powers. The executive is not chosen by the legislature and cannot be removed by a vote of its members.

I bring forward this comparison because sometimes, in our zeal to copy from other systems, we lose sight of the fact that we have our own unique system of government, for good reason, and it is not always easy or advisable to apply parts of other systems to our own.

In Canada we must assess the idea of fixed election dates through the lens of our system of responsible government. Our system is based on the principle that the Prime Minister and the ministers are responsible to the members of the House of Commons and, through them, to the Canadian electorate. In order to maintain power, the governing party must maintain the confidence of the House or risk being defeated.

An important element that must be considered in this debate is the role of the Governor General of Canada, who has the constitutional prerogative to dissolve Parliament and to sign the formal proclamation that announces the election. This power is an integral part of our parliamentary system and cannot simply be ignored.

In discussing this issue further, it is worth looking back at the work of the 1991 Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing. That royal commission, popularly known as the Lortie commission, studied the issue of fixed election dates in the context of its broader review of the election period and administration of the vote.

The commission concluded that fixed election terms would create several major problems.

First, the commission noted that fixed election terms would raise important constitutional considerations. In this regard it is interesting to note that the commission specifically looked at the model suggested by the motion that we are debating today: a combination of fixed election dates, unless the government loses the confidence of the House.

Specifically the commission had this to say about this proposal. It stated:

It might be possible to adopt fixed dates for federal elections and retain the constitutional principle that defeat on a motion of non-confidence leads to a government's resignation, but the result could well be an unsatisfactory hybrid. If a government fell, an election would have to be held earlier than the fixed date...In addition, a government could take steps to engineer its own defeat in the House of Commons if it judged that the timing of an election would serve its interests.

I would like to repeat what the Lortie commission said “a government could take steps to engineer its own defeat in the House of Commons if it judged that the timing of an election would serve its interests”. It is very important to keep that in mind. It serves to illustrate the dangers of trying to impose an electoral constraint on our present system without thought for the reasons why our system functions the way it currently does, and indeed the advantages of our present system.

More important, the commission concluded the following about the constitutional constraints:

To implement a system of fixed terms with no exceptions, a constitutional restructuring of our federal legislative and executive institutions would be required. Even if agreement on the necessary amendments could be achieved, it is not at all certain that this would lead to more responsive government.

The commission was bang-on with regard to its overall assessment of fixed election dates.

What at first glance may seem like an innocuous measure which is very easy to implement, in fact it could have far reaching consequences for our Constitution and our system of government without even addressing the question of whether it makes sense.

Another difficulty mentioned by the Lortie commission relates to the issue of the length and nature of election campaigns. In the United States, for example, because the date of the next election is always known, campaigns effectively last much longer that in Canada. I mentioned that earlier and I think it is worth repeating.

The commission noted that presidential campaigns are often launched 18 months or more before election day and that many members of the House of Representatives never really stop campaigning. We have heard stories that some members of the House of Representatives in the United States, where they face elections every two years, spend half their time campaigning, perhaps even more, and half their time raising money for their campaigns. If the voters were asked, one really wonders whether the voters really want their representatives campaigning and raising money for their campaigns or whether they would like to have their representatives working for them, the voters.

The Lortie commission postulated that a similar scenario could well appear in Canada if fixed election dates were adopted, which could lead to the undermining of objectives of spending limits if candidates began to campaign and spend prior to the election period. Lortie has noted that the longer and more expensive election campaigns that could be created by fixed election dates are anathema to the desire of Canadians. Needless to say, in the end the Lortie commission did not recommend that we change our system to adopt fixed election dates.

Again, we have heard about some of the horrendous costs involved in the campaigns in the United States leading up to fixed elections. For example, in the year 2000, in the Senate race in the state of New York, the republican and democratic candidates allegedly spent about $100 million. Imagine, two candidates in one Senate election spending $100 million.

So far I have attempted to show that there are many disadvantages to changing our system by adopting fixed election dates. No less of an authority than the Lortie commission made it quite clear that such a change would not be easy, nor would it be necessarily effective.

Beyond this, what are the benefits of our current system? In one word, I can sum them up: flexibility. Flexibility is the beauty of our system. For example, from time to time an issue of such tremendous national importance arises that it is advisable for the Prime Minister to have the power to call an election in a timely fashion.

In those kinds of scenarios we would not want to restrict the Prime Minister from taking action that would ultimately be in the best interests of all Canadians. Fixing election dates would handcuff the Prime Minister as he would have to wait for a particular date.

Under another scenario, our present system allows a new prime minister to seek a new mandate from the electorate when there has been a change of leader for the governing party. If it appears that seeking a new mandate is warranted, again it would be wrong to restrict the prime minister's ability to do so.

The ongoing examination of our institutions of government is an important priority that the government takes very seriously. We have demonstrated our commitment to renewal through our actions, in particular, with the democratic reform action plan.

On the issue before us today, however, I do not believe a convincing argument has been made that fixed election dates are a good idea. The merits of the motion have not been demonstrated and there are many good reasons to oppose it. I would therefore encourage all members of the House to vote against the motion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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CA

Ken Epp

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is becoming evident that the Liberals have been given instructions to speak against the motion, because every one of them has nothing but reasons against the motion and very few are conceding anything that is positive about it. The message is that they will be voting against it.

I really wonder about the correction of the democratic deficit on the other side when even in this debate we are not able to have an open debate, looking at all of the factors involved.

I compare this election call thing given to the Prime Minister as being a hockey tournament where the coach of one team has the right to drop the puck whenever the game is to start. He will wait to drop the puck until the other team members, who, after waiting for 12 or 13 hours for the game to start, go to the dressing room or go down and have a steak while they are waiting.

This is all about giving the Prime Minister and the government in power the edge on starting the contest. They wait until they have the best winning conditions. That is not democracy. That is just simply saying that the government in power will do everything it can to win. Next time it will be us. I hope that we have it changed by then so that people know there is true accountability on the side of the government.

I would sure like to hear the member's comment on the fact that this is very unfair, based on the fact that only one side gets to know when the election will be called while the other side does not.

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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard

Mr. Speaker, I think my good friend from Elk Island is crying crocodile tears. He would like us to believe that those people over there know nothing about politics, that they do not know how the system is played, that they do not know how the game is played, that they cannot read political signs and that they cannot judge what the governing party might do, whether it is a week from now or a month from now. I will give them more credit than that.

I did not come down the river on a bale of hay and I do not think that the hon. member for Elk Island did either. If the election is in June, in October or, say, in September, will it really make much difference to his political fortunes? Will he come back to me and say “Gee Whiz, if you had just had the election in June, I would have won. You held it off until September and you defeated me”.

Can anyone imagine the hon. member for Elk Island going to his voters after he has lost the election and saying “Do you know what, members of my constituency, the only reason I lost is that the election should have been held three months earlier?” I do not think that would hold much water.

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CA

Roy H. Bailey

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, now that we are drawing analogies, I would like to draw one for the hon. member. In this particular case, the goal tender is indeed the Prime Minister. I refereed hockey long enough to know that one does not give the whistle to the goal tender which is exactly what the government is. It has the whistle and it can stop the shots but only it can blow the whistle.

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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard

Mr. Speaker, I did not grow up with the Prime Minister but I sure wish I could have seen him play hockey. I am sure he would have been a good hockey player and, if had been playing goal, I think he would have been a very good goaltender with our without any whistle.

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CA

Lynne Yelich

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, does the member not think that it is a bit costly to have big billboards across western Canada of our ministers? I think the taxpayers would rather have an election than have big billboards. I am pricing them out myself right now and they cost $1,400 a month. I would think that is fairly expensive when we do not know when there will be an election. I would like to ask the member whether he thinks that is perhaps costly when he says that campaigning ahead of time is very costly but not for this--

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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Please try to keep the debate relevant to what we are debating today.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how relevant that comment is but what I will say is that ministers or anyone can erect signs before an election, before a writ is dropped. Presumably the money used was raised legally according to the rules of the land. The rules that we have pertain to the Conservative Party as much as they pertain to the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. Therefore I would think that everything is quite in order.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

So much for relevance again.

Other questions or comments? The hon. member for Elk Island.

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CA

Ken Epp

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Ken Epp

Mr. Speaker, I love math and I always have. I did a little calculation here. The average time between elections under the Liberal regime is about 1,293 days. If the Prime Minister calls the election for June 7, which is a possibility, it will be 1,288 days, so he is a little under the average.

The four year cycle is 1,463 days, which means that if we were to budget that on a daily basis, an election under the Liberals would cost $193,349 per day, whereas if we were to have one every four years it would be $170,882 per day, a difference of some $23,000 a day. In my view, calling an election every three and a half years is just another way of the Liberals showing contempt for the taxpayer dollars.

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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard

Mr. Speaker, I would say, with all humility, that the gentleman from Elk Island has left one very important matter out of that equation, and that is the opinion of the voters.

In those three elections to which he alluded, the Liberals won all three elections with majorities, thank you very much. Yes, they perhaps were shorter in duration than the terms of Parliament that he would like, but obviously Canadians did not see it his way.

I would remind him of one other thing. The last time we had a Conservative government headed by one Brian Mulroney, that particular government ran almost five years, and what did the Canadian voters say? Nix.

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CA

Gurmant Grewal

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Surrey Central, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the member who spoke before me stated that the previous government was turfed. I think the Liberal government will face the same fate as soon as the election is called.

I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in today's debate on the Conservative supply day motion calling upon the government to establish fixed dates for federal general elections. The motions reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, there being a serious democratic deficit in Canada, particularly in the domination of the executive over the House of Commons by providing to the Prime Minister the sole political prerogative to determine when Parliament should be dissolved for the purpose of a general election;

That, unless the government loses the confidence of the House, general elections should be held on fixed dates; and

That the government should bring in measures to establish fixed election dates to be held on the third Monday of the month that is four years after the month in which the polling day for the most recently held general election fell.

That is the motion we are debating today and the status quo has gone on for far too long. In the last few months, constituents have been asking me when the election will take place. I have been telling them that my guess is as good as theirs. No one in this country knows.

Before I move further, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Blackstrap. She has significant issues to contribute to this campaign and we would like to listen to her as well.

The Liberals have been calling the election depending on their chances of winning that election. The status quo as to when to call the election is very opportunistic politically at present.

The discretion to call an election, however, remains a powerful weapon in the armoury of the Prime Minister to use for partisan advantage, as shown by the last leader of the Liberal Party. Jean Chrétien fuelled a lot of cynicism about the electoral process during his 10 years in office by calling elections whenever it suited his political agenda or when the polls indicated it was appropriate for him to call an election, gauging his political opportunities.

Despite comfortable majorities in the House and no burning issues requiring a mandate, Mr. Chrétien went to the Canadian public twice in seven years. As my colleague has indicated from a mathematical aspect, we know that elections are called simply because the government knows that the voters will return it to office irrespective of the cost to the taxpayers.

Our current Prime Minister appears anxious to follow in his predecessor's footsteps by calling an election just three and a half years into a mandate, and this despite the promise he made to do things differently and address the democratic deficit.

The way the ruling party can control election dates makes up a huge portion of the democratic deficit that has destroyed the faith of many Canadians in their own government.

With careful polling and strategic spending and policies designed to win over key segments of voters, the ruling party gains a huge advantage. On the other hand, the whole country is left in limbo. One just has to imagine 308 candidates multiplied by at least four parties, plus independent candidates. This is compounded by various campaign managers and campaign teams of all the candidates.

One just has to look at the Elections Canada staff. How much staff is in limbo? What about all the other organizations and individuals associated with the election, such as the sign companies, the telephone companies, the people who print the brochures and other literature, the leasing companies for vehicles and other items, even the office equipment, office supplies and office space?

This is contributing to uncertainty. The candidates cannot make any long term commitments to any events or anything of that sort because they do not know when the election will be called

Look at the inefficiency this whole mechanism has created in terms of dollars, time, commitment and so on. We cannot have an agenda in the House of Commons. I have a private member's bill ready to be introduced, but I cannot introduce it because I do not know how long we are going to sit here. If I were to introduce it, then I would have to come back again and reintroduce it, if I am re-elected. It depends on so many things.

So much inefficiency is created by this uncertain and opportunistic process by the government. No wonder voter apathy is mounting against the government and no wonder we have a low turnout in elections from time to time. We cannot be innovative in reforming the electoral process in general because of all these uncertainties surrounding this issue.

How about proportional representation? What a wonderful idea and concept, but it cannot be introduced because so many things have to be done within electoral reform.

Despite the promise, Canadians are still saddled with an elected dictatorship in the country. The power is concentrated in the PMO and the companies supporting the Prime Minister at this time. The Prime Minister is using his control over his members of Parliament in his caucus, whether it is voting in the House, driving the agenda, and so on.

Now that the Prime Minister has all the power, he is just as reluctant as his predecessor to let go of any of it. The Prime Minister's record shows clearly that he has no interest in addressing any democratic deficit issues and they have been mounting ever since.

I am proud to stand up and say to the House that this party, the official opposition of Canada, has been lobbying for the elimination of the democratic deficit for many years.

Further, the Liberals failed to appoint an independent ethics commissioner and still continue to have the lapdog of the Prime Minister. It is despite the fact that it was promised in the red book in 1993 that an independent ethics commissioner would be appointed who would report to Parliament. However, it did not happen that way.

Similarly, it has been promised, and the Prime Minister said he would address the issue of free votes in the House of Commons. We still see the caucus members of the Liberal Party clapping like trained seals.

It is similar with Senate reform. The Liberal cronies, the defeated candidates, are appointed to the Senate, whereas the democratically elected candidates are not appointed to the Senate. The representation in the Senate from Canada's western provinces, where I come from, remains unaddressed.

Our electoral system allows less than 40% of the vote to translate into a majority government in this country. The Liberal government abdicates Parliament's responsibility as the law-making body of Canada to the courts. How big is the democratic deficit there? The definition of marriage is to be decided by the courts.

All these issues concerning citizen initiatives and that all MPs should be treated equally in the House did not happen. Another factor within electoral reform is the nomination process. For 14 years, non-Canadian instant members have been pre-selecting candidates to be finally selected by the general Canadian population to be elected and sent as their representative to Parliament. Discretion is okay, but there is a big flaw in the process. All these issues need to be addressed.

If the Prime Minister were serious about amending the democratic deficit, he would have to agree with established fixed election dates. If he opposes this motion, it will reveal that he is not serious about dealing with the democratic deficit, but is simply engaged in typical window dressing and half-baked measures.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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April 27, 2004