Mac HARB

HARB, The Hon. Mac, B.Eng., M.Eng.

Parliamentary Career

November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
LIB
  Ottawa Centre (Ontario)
October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
LIB
  Ottawa Centre (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade (December 6, 1993 - February 22, 1996)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
LIB
  Ottawa Centre (Ontario)
November 27, 2000 - September 8, 2003
LIB
  Ottawa Centre (Ontario)
May 10, 2013 - September 8, 2003
IND
  Ottawa Centre (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 253)


June 10, 2003

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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June 10, 2003

Mr. Mac Harb

Mr. Speaker, some candidates have spent $35 million. I am not sure how we would be serving democracy if we were to open a bank account with unlimited funds in order to get elected. I am not sure what interests would be served other than special interests when it came to spending that kind of money on an election.

After the bill goes to the Senate and is approved, it will be the pride of Canada. Canada is one of the finest democracies in the world and we will be setting an example for the rest to follow. I commend the provinces that have already gone ahead with something like this, in particular the province of Quebec as well as the province of Manitoba.

There will be problems with this legislation. There will be a need to amend the legislation. There will be a need to revisit it. As with other legislation that has gone through the House and the Senate, it has to be reviewed from time to time to make it perfect, to make it even more responsive to the needs of Canadians. Just because we may not like the location of a comma or a period in the legislation, or a paragraph is not in the chapter where we want it, those are not good enough excuses to oppose legislation that at the end of the day will serve the interests of Canada and the interests of Canadians.

There are things I would like to have seen in this legislation, such as making it mandatory for Canadians to vote in an election; in other words, every Canadian must, not can, but must vote with the provision of introducing fines for those who do not vote. I think there will come a time when that suggestion will become law. I hope that it will take place in my lifetime. I hope that we not only ban contributions to political parties but also make voting mandatory so we can better serve democracy and respond to the needs of Canadians even more efficiently.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Elections Act
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June 9, 2003

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, presently if somebody makes a contribution of $100 to a political party, the Government of Canada will reimburse that individual $75. In essence the government has increased the base from $200 to $400, therefore encouraging more contributions by the public at large to political parties.

In this proposed legislation the government will allow each registered political party to receive $1.75 per vote received in an election in recognition of the significant impact that the proposed prohibition on corporate and union donations will have on parties. This allowance will help political parties to run in an election without having the extra burden of having to raise the necessary funds. All they will have to do is ensure that they have a sound policy statement and a sound platform. If they can get the necessary support from the public, they will be able to generate more revenues.

My colleagues on the opposition side should argue that this is extremely positive news for all involved and for all members of all political parties since it will allow them to sell their ideas to the public and they will not have to chase nickels and dimes.

As a transitional measure, parties will receive the 2004 allowance in a lump sum as soon as possible after the coming into force of the bill, instead of quarterly arrangement about which the bill speaks.

Public financing in general, and in particular the public allowance, was probably the issue that drew more attention than any other issue during the public hearings. For the most part, it was a very positive discussion and people in general recognized the value of public financing, although they had different ideas about how the formula for providing the allowance should work. Others had already spoken about the merits of the bill and they had specific recommendations and adjustments to make to the bill. The committee and the government were very receptive to some of those suggestions.

With the remainder of my time, I would like to speak a bit on some of the benefits of Bill C-24.

It is important to recognize public financing in this debate, and how important it is when it comes to the political financing equations. I think we all agree that political parties are critical to the functioning of our democracy. Without strong political parties and party organizations, a healthy democracy would not function. Political parties in general perform a key role in mobilizing the voters, representing the views of all groups in society, as well as formulating policies, policy alternatives and recruiting future leaders.

Parties offer support to the democratic process and democratic government. They provide a key link between state and society. In view of the important role parties play in so many aspects of our democratic system, it seems obvious that they should be supported by the state. Otherwise, we run the risk that parties will be severely limited in undertaking their critical role in our democracy.

Political parties play a key role as structures through which citizens may participate in our political system. Throughout our history, parties have been the key institution through which citizens can express their political opinions and become actively involved in the governing of our society.

If there is a substantial variation in the resources received by parties, we run the risk that a perception will arise that some organizations have undue influence. The result can be that citizens become disaffected and reduce their linkage to parties and our democratic system in general.

By regulating the financial resources that contributors may provide to parties, in combination with public funding as is being proposed in the bill, we can ensure that a level playing field is created for all participants.

Finally, we must recognize the enormous cost of funding a political party in a modern democracy. Everyone in the House is aware that the cost of running an effective party demands the necessary resources in order to support it.

I want to urge my colleagues, in the name of democracy and in the best interest of the public at large, to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Elections Act
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June 9, 2003

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour to speak on this very important piece of legislation, Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act, political financing. I would like to focus my remarks on the public financing measures contained in the bill which have attracted a great deal of attention in the discussion today.

During the discussion of this issue, both in Parliament as well as during the public hearings held by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I believe it has been well established that the measures contained in this bill build on a long tradition in Canada, a tradition of public financing of the electoral system.

This tradition goes back to 1974 with the Election Expenses Act. Among other items, that legislation introduced public financing through post-election reimbursement to qualifying parties and candidates and income tax credit for contributions to registered parties and election candidates. What we are doing is building on what we already started back in 1974. However since that time all parties in the House of Commons have benefited from these measures.

It has also been well established that public funding is not new in Canada. In fact all provinces provide some form of public funding. Three provinces in particular, New Brunswick, Quebec and Prince Edward Island, provide for a public allowance. It is also particularly notable that Quebec has provided a public allowance since 1975 and the system is well received by Quebec residents, a fact which was underlined by the Quebec electoral officer when he appeared before the committee during its hearing on this bill. It is also well known that most democracies provide political participants with some form of public financing.

If we were to look at the public financing measures in Bill C-24, we would see that, as I indicated a little earlier, it builds upon what we already had set up before. However it does change the percentage of contribution by the government from that of 22% to 50%, with a one-time reimbursement at 60% for the next election to assist parties as a transitional measure.

Polling expenses also would be added to the definition of registered election expenses and the ceiling for eligible expenses would be raised accordingly. The threshold for candidates to qualify for reimbursement of part of their election expenses would be lowered from 15% to 10%. I am sure members would agree with me that for at least two political parties in the House, some of their candidates as well as their parties, would be able to qualify under those members.

The rate of reimbursement of candidate election expenses as well would increase from 50% to 60%. An amendment to the Income Tax Act would double the amount of individual political contribution that is eligible for a 75% tax credit from $200 to $400, and all other brackets of the tax credit would be adjusted accordingly. As it is now, every time we give a $100 contribution to a political party, the Government of Canada reimburses $75 of that. Therefore, the--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Elections Act
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June 3, 2003

Mr. Mac Harb

Mr. Speaker, I am not a member of the committee. As well, I do not know the details of those amendments.

Sometimes an amendment dealing with an item comes before a committee and the amendment may have been dealt with through the legislation in one way or another. Other amendments may be redundant.

I do not know the details of the 100 amendments my colleague is talking about. I do know the three main concerns that the employees' reps have raised with me. They deal with the issue of merit. They deal with the issue of taking votes. They deal with the issue of essential services and when and how employees can go on strike and to what limit they can take that issue.

I would say that with all three points that I have raised with the minister, I am totally satisfied that when we go to the next step of implementing the legislation, they will be dealt with.

I would suggest to my colleague that the minister has made a very important point, in that she is willing to meet with the union to provide clarification in order to address some of the concerns that were raised.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Public Service Modernization Act
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