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