June 10, 2003 (37th Parliament, 2nd Session)

LIB

Mac Harb

Liberal

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to a number of my colleagues argue that this legislation should be delayed so that they can consult with their constituents and their political parties.
Members will probably recall that this is not a new issue that has been brought to the attention of the House or a committee of Parliament. In fact, it has been years since the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Kingsley, called on Parliament to take action on this issue and to introduce legislation that to a large extent reflects what is in this bill.
The government has shown leadership by taking action in response to the Chief Electoral Officer. The Chief Electoral Officer is entrusted by Parliament and the public at large to ensure that elections in Canada are transparent and fair and to ensure that our society is well served by a parliamentary system that has democratic elections. To a large extent this is not a new issue before Parliament.
Another point some of my colleagues have raised has to do with the notion of whether or not we should subsidize political parties. I am sure my colleagues are not suggesting that the government or the House should abolish the subsidy system that is already in place. We subsidize political parties after every election to the tune of about 22.5%. As well there is the 50% rebate that goes to individual candidates if they receive 15% support in their respective constituencies.
I am sure my colleagues are not suggesting that we do away with that. If my colleagues are not suggesting that, then what we are dealing with here is an increase in the percentage of the subsidy from 22% to the level the government is proposing, which is 50%. Where is the problem? The problem is we really do not know how to proceed with some of my colleagues on the opposite side. They were members of the committee that dealt extensively with the issue.
Members will recall that the bill was introduced on January 29, 2003. Today is June 10. The committee dealt with this bill for a number of months. About 14 hours and 50 minutes were spent on second reading alone, on February 11, 12, 17, 18 and 20. Bill C-24 was approved at second reading by the House on March 18, 2003.
The bill then went to committee. The committee held in excess of 11 days of public hearings with in excess of 37 witnesses and it spent four days on clause-by-clause study, for a total of 15 days. Bill C-24 came back on June 6 for the House to deal with it.
It is not a secret that my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance do not want to support the bill. They are on the public record as stating that they do not want this legislation to receive third reading.
All the complaints about time allocation and the fact that the government is attempting to pass a bill before the recess are only excuses. At the end of the day it does not matter how much time is given to my Alliance colleagues. We could give them the whole summer. If their intentions are such that they do not want to support the bill at third reading, it is irrelevant whether or not time allocation is used.
Members know full well that at some point decisions have to be made. This legislation has been before Parliament for close to six months. There has been plenty of time for each and every member of Parliament to consult with his or her constituents, riding association or political party. There has been ample time for them to bring forward their concerns and recommendations to the committee or the House. In my view, any extra time would not be time well spent. It would be a waste of time. That is why it is absolutely imperative for the House to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.
Since the bill came back to the House we have spent in excess of five hours at report stage. As a result, the House leader served notice of time allocation. We have to get on with the program. We have to move forward. We have to get our ducks in line so we can move collectively as a team. Canadians want us to take action. Many of my constituents have told me that they want Parliament to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.
Some of my colleagues have raised the issue of American elections and the difference between somebody running for congress and somebody running for Parliament. We have a spending limit in Canada of close to $70,000 whereas south of the border they can spend millions of dollars to run for political office.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Elections Act
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