STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
AND HOUSE AFFAIRS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA PROCÉDURE
ET DES AFFAIRES DE LA CHAMBRE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Monday, November 15, 1999
The Chair (Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River,
Lib.)): Seeing a quorum, I'll call the meeting to
Colleagues, we're continuing our review of Bill C-2,
the Canada Elections Act. Tonight we have three
groups of witnesses: the Canadian Labour Congress, the
Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and the National
Welcome to our witnesses, and thank you for attending.
We look forward to your submissions.
The format we've used successfully in the past is to
ask each group to present for approximately ten minutes,
and following all the presentations we'll engage
in kind of a roundtable series of questioning from
all the parties represented here.
If that's acceptable, I'll follow the order that is
shown on the agenda, starting with the Canadian Labour
Congress, then moving to Canadian Taxpayers
Federation, and then National Firearms Association.
From the Canadian Labour Congress we have Nancy Riche
and Pat Kerwin. Would either one of you please
Ms. Nancy Riche (Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian
Labour Congress): I'll start, and I'll certainly
share my time with Pat. As we decided walking up here,
there are certain areas we each feel very passionate
about, as I'm sure do all Canadians who are
So I will try to run through some of the areas
briefly, and then Pat will also speak. Pat is the
national director of the political action department at
I didn't want to start there, but I'm afraid I'm going
to have to: We're very keen to get involved in some
discussion around proportional representation, or even
a fixed election date. However, we do feel that this
committee probably can't deal with it in the time
allowed. I hate to start a brief by saying set
up another committee, but we are suggesting that a
committee of the House be charged with conducting
hearings and studies on important matters such as
proportional representation and the
fixed election date.
I'd also like to see a lot more Canadians involved,
because surely the basis of an election act is to see
democracy played out in its fullest sense, and that
everybody—with a few exceptions—has the right to
vote, to be a candidate, to be involved with a party,
and all the things that we actually do right now. So
we think something as big as a change from first past
the post to proportional representation needs broader
discussion, for sure.
We're concerned about the permanent voters list and
how bad it is. I know Pat will want to add to that,
because he certainly hinted in the most recent Ontario
election that the potential for fraud is unbelievable,
particularly if you take in Ottawa, student housing and group
homes. In fact, one of the places where he did
canvass, 12 voting cards had been delivered to that
place and none of those people were living there any
more. So we think we have to have a look at that, and
we would recommend that Elections Canada undertake
enumeration in all polls where there is significant
turnover residence. In some places I think that will
be very clear—that is, students, group homes—and in
other places it won't be so clear, and we haven't quite
come up with a plan to define significant turnover or
how you would actually find that out.
On the issue of meeting the 15% for rebate, we would
suggest that it be eliminated and that it would be
refunded totally, regardless of the percentage of
We also agree with the Libertarian Party, in that a
$1,000 fee is just too high for candidates. It really
is making a statement that anybody and everybody can
easily find $1,000. For sure and certain, I know that
not to be true. You're certainly saying that people
who are on social assistance or unemployment insurance
can find $1,000 easily or have supporters who can give
them $1,000. We think that should be reduced to about
$200 and the 15% threshold eliminated.
Pat can pick up other parts, but I want to talk a
little bit about the broadcast and how that works.
For a long time I have believed that to be one of the
most unfair aspects of the Elections Act.
The suggestion that
because you got a certain percentage of the vote in
this election allows you to have more broadcast minutes
than the party that didn't have that number is totally
unfair. When the governing party decides to call an
election, they are in fact saying we are all now equal,
we are now going to run, and the best candidates will
get elected, whatever the turnout
is. To suggest that the party in the previous election
that got the highest percentage therefore has the
benefit of more broadcast time is, to me, totally
discriminatory against other parties.
In fact it hasn't worked. In 1993, of course, the
Progressive Conservative Party would have had the
highest number of minutes, and it didn't mean a thing
at the end of the day in the results of the election.
The same thing could be said on the other side for
Reform, who probably had a small number of minutes but
in fact elected far more. I really think that needs to
be looked at.
When the smaller parties talked about it, they said
the broadcast arbitrator always gave
a few more minutes to the smaller parties, so they
have clearly played around with it. So I think that's
On the thing that has been floating around about
getting more women to run, we think there are many ways
to help women enter politics, not the least of which is
an understanding of women's lives and the kind of work
they do. If we did a survey, I'm sure we'd find
that most men who have been elected are generally
professionals—lawyers, doctors, teachers, and so on.
Quite often women are not in that sphere. Generally
speaking, they are lower-paid. So we have already set
up a situation in which the group or the gender in our
society that is the lowest paid, that also has most of
the responsibilities for home, for children, and for
elder care, are probably in the lowest-paid jobs. It
makes it difficult for them to run. Maybe we should be
looking at child care expenses, elder care expenses. If
we go with the full rebate back with less than 15%,
then that will be helpful.
In the New Democratic Party—and you probably know I
have some connection to it—we've actually had a fund
for a long time, and other parties have followed that
example. We have the Agnes MacPhail fund, and I
think the Liberals have another fund, the Judy
LaMarsh fund. So every party has recognized that
there are certain barriers to women running for
election that are not faced by men. I think the
committee should be looking at those kinds of things.
I think you might get into some problems with just
giving back a lot more. Besides that, we have real
problems with the nomination. We could still do all
that, the big machine can come in, in any party, quite
frankly, and we can put the big front on that we're
doing stuff for women and the man wins the nomination,
and even though the party appears to look good and as
if they care, in fact it doesn't happen.
I hope I haven't gone too far. Pat can pick up some
of the other things.
Oh, I should talk about third parties, especially next
to my friend here from the National Firearms Association. Our
recommendation is that there be zero, absolutely zero,
for third-party financing for organizations. We would
support that individuals who had a particular issue or
a certain cause could spend up to $500.
To take us back to the free trade debate, one party in
the 1988 election supported free trade. The other two
parties were opposed to it. When the advertising
blackout came 24 hours before, a third party, called the
Free Trade Alliance for Jobs, or whatever they called
themselves—I remember that Tom d'Aquino and Peter
Lougheed co-chaired it—put full-page ads in every
single newspaper in this country. There was no time
for any other party to rebut. In fact, it was very
thinly veiled that this was big advertising for one
If organizations and groups want to get
involved in an election, we have a thing called parties.
You can get involved with a party; you can form a
party. In fact, the National Citizens' Coalition
could become the National Citizens'
Coalition Party. We have established a procedure in
this country that legitimate parties run for election.
Candidates who belong to those parties, and I guess
some independents, can run. If third parties want to
get involved with the party that supports their
position, they have all sorts of ways of doing
that; there are no limits. I know you're suggesting
$150,000, but with the National Citizens' Coalition...
I don't want to keep using them; I could use the
Association. Every chapter could then spend $150,000
and we could—
A voice: You do have your FACs; you're in the
Ms. Nancy Riche: Let's talk about gun control
before the evening is over.
In fact every chapter
could have $150,000 and we could be talking oodles of
money that really starts to skew the whole
process. So we are strongly recommending that there be
zero amounts on third-party advertising.
Mr. Pat Kerwin (Director of Political Action,
Canadian Labour Congress): There are a couple of other
major points you're looking at.
On the question of political parties, where the
Communist Party took the case to the Supreme Court, our
recommendation is that we would follow the judge in
that. A party could put its name on the ballot if it
had two or more candidates. Actually, I thought the
Communist Party itself was quite reasonable on this,
looking to have a higher threshold. We would support
Mr. White on this one, that if you have 12 people under
a banner, you should be a registered party eligible for
broadcast time, and so on.
So it goes along with our
philosophy, which Nancy outlined, that if you want
to get involved in politics, the way should be open to
you, with not a lot of barriers there, in order
to form your party, and at the same time we tell you
you can't spend money.
The last thing, which I know a number of people have
raised over the hearings, is on who should be able to
contribute. The Quebec model is the way a lot of
the people summarized this. This is something we would
be willing to discuss with a committee set up
by Parliament. We aren't advocating that today. Our
Quebec members feel quite happy with the Quebec law.
Those outside of Quebec have preferred a more direct
involvement, but it is a subject on which I think we would
be willing to engage in discussions. I think
what we were worried about is that we would pass a
law that sounded very good, and then each political party
would immediately try to find the way around that
in order to get the resources to win the campaigns
they wanted. So I know it has been raised a
number of times.
We've put a number of tactical things in here, such as
on by-elections. The stupidity tonight is that
here in Ontario the polls stay open until 9:30
because one other by-election is happening in
Saskatchewan. To me, that seems a bit ludicrous.
We should have 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for
by-elections, no matter where you live.
The Chair: Thank you.
We'll move then to Canadian
Taxpayers Federation, with Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Walter Robinson (Federal Director, Canadian
Taxpayers Federation): Good evening, Mr.
Chairman and members of the committee. As federal
director of the CTF, it is indeed a great pleasure to
appear before your committee this evening.
My presentation this evening will be in English, however, I
will attempt to respond to your questions in the language of your
Later this week we will forward to you a detailed
critique of Bill C-2 that lays out our objections to
various clauses now proposed in the legislation. This
evening I will confine my remarks to the issues of
citizen and citizen advocacy groups spending limits,
certification of political parties, election
reimbursements, and emerging issues not addressed in
Allow me to digress. The term “third party” is
pejorative to me and personally offensive.
Participation in the political process is essential and
is just as important for those who place their names
on a ballot as for those who choose to promote or
oppose parties or candidates through all legal means
possible. Elections that engage the nation in vibrant
and compelling public policy debates are surely a sign
of a healthy democracy. Indeed, such citizen
engagement both inside and outside our parliamentary
system is essential if our democratic traditions are to
be upheld and strengthened. Yet the changes advocated
in this bill with respect to citizen and citizen
advocacy group advertising, clauses 349 to 362, run
contrary to this democratic ethos and serve to weaken
the body politic, not strengthen it.
To recap, citizen and citizen advocacy group spending
limits stem from the 1974 revisions to the Elections
Act, based on the view of members of Parliament of the
day and elections experts that election campaign
participation should be limited to official parties and
In summary, and in disgust, what an offensive,
arrogant, and contentious view of the democratic process.
Twenty-five years later and after repeated court
interventions, this government is once again attempting
to stifle democratic participation in election
campaigns by citizen advocacy groups, labour unions,
chambers of commerce and the like, right down to the
local 4-H club, or local neighbourhood association.
Let's be very clear: while a $150,000 spending limit for
citizens and citizen advocacy groups may seem generous,
it works out to a mere $498.34 per riding if applied
across all 301 ridings in this country. In communities
such as Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, even in
Red Deer, a local group can't even buy a single
quarter-page ad in the weekly community newspaper for
this paltry amount. On the other hand, a political
party that maximizes its national spending limit of
62 cents per elector and spends the allowable limit in all
301 constituencies could spend upwards of $25 million,
as compared to the limit of $150,000 for citizens and
citizen advocacy groups. Such a situation is hardly
The main arguments for spending limits on
extra-parliamentary actors is that access to big money
could influence voters. Contrary to the architects of
this proposed law, we do not believe that voters are
stupid, and recent experience shows that excessive
spending does not necessarily influence voting
intentions. During the 1988 election, free trade
supporters outspent those opposing the agreement, yet a
majority of Canadians voted for political parties
opposing the FTA.
In 1992 the yes side for the Charlottetown Accord
outspent the no side by a factor of thirteen to one.
no side still prevailed in a majority of Canadian
provinces and the accord was defeated. In 1993 the
federal PC Party and its candidates spent some $20
million for the great electoral success of two seats.
And earlier this year organized labour and other
groups spent millions of dollars in an effort to oust
the Harris government from office in Ontario. The
result was Mr. Harris and his party were returned to
office with a greater majority vote than their 1995
first victory. No credible academic evidence on the
face of the planet will support the contention that big
money buys elections. Indeed, as shown above, recent
Canadian experience points to the opposite conclusion.
But there's no discounting the fact that advertising
costs money, and the provisions restricting
extra-parliamentary participation in the election
process effectively amount to censorship. If limits
are to be applied, they should be similar to those
applicable to parties and individual candidates.
Alternatively, if you are going to restrict something,
restrict contributions, not spending.
In addition, the reporting and disclosure requirements
in this section of Bill C-2 will ensure that politics
truly becomes the domain of the rich and
given the battery of lawyers and accountants who will
be needed to meet all reporting and filing provisions.
Indeed, this document, Bill C-2, in general can be
viewed as a huge impediment for meaningful
participation by citizens in the electoral process.
In the 1996 B.C. election, our experience shows that
we had to retain a lawyer full-time just to ensure we
were always complying with the provisions of the
province's elections act, many of which have been echoed
in proposed changes in Bill C-2. Ordinary citizens or
smaller and less well-financed groups may not have the
resources at their disposal to engage such professional
help, again proving the point that the act limits
participation instead of encouraging it.
Turning to the issue of qualifying for party status,
clause 370, we believe that the requirement to field 50
candidates entrenches the existing party structure and
stifles participation by other voices in the election
process. It is here that I find myself agreeing with
my colleagues from the CLC. Moreover, it is
inconsistent with the requirements to achieve official
party status here in the House of Commons. We propose
that this number be reduced to 12 to be consistent with
the party provisions that are applicable here in the
While some may argue that lowering the threshold would
lead to a multitude of parties contesting elections and
no doubt lead to fringe parties sometimes promoting
extreme views, it is the right of these parties to be
heard. And, again, we have great faith in the
electorate to discern between the serious and the
frivolous parties and candidates. We need look no
further than New Zealand or Germany, where 35 or more
candidates and parties may be on the ballot at a single
election, yet voters do not complain that the choice is
either burdensome or overwhelming. They make
fundamental democratic choices.
Now let us address the issue of candidate
reimbursements. The tax system already provides
generous provisions for those who wish to contribute to
political parties and/or campaigns. Indeed, it has
always struck us as perplexing that the tax system
allows a 75% tax credit on a political contribution of
$100 while the same amount donated to the United Way or
the local AIDS hospice or the local chapter of the
cancer society merely warrants 17% tax credit
treatment. And now the government wishes to raise this
limit for 75% treatment to $200, in clause 560 of the
I wonder if the irony of this situation resonates with
any of the members here on the committee this evening.
We give more importance to the political system than we
do to philanthropic activities in this country.
On top of this, election reimbursements represent
another barrier to meaningful and new participation in
the electoral process. CTF analysis reveals that after
the 1997 federal election 1,672 candidates filed
reports, and a record number, 801 candidates to be
precise, were eligible to receive campaign
reimbursements. In fact, taxpayers forked over $16.5
million to these 801 candidates, for an average grant of
$20,600. This represents an 11% increase from 1993,
when 714 successful and defeated candidates received
$14.8 million from taxpayers for an average grant of
The argument in defence of these subsidies and
reimbursements is that they are necessary to help out
people who could not otherwise afford to run, leaving
politics, yet again, only for the well-to-do. Again,
the opposite is actually true. In 1993, of the 714
candidates who received reimbursements 710 of them ran
for one of the five major parties—Liberal, Reform,
Bloc, NDP, or PC—and in 1997 only two candidates of the
801 who received reimbursements fell outside those five
This practice also encourages candidates to run
deficits, knowing that taxpayer-funded reimbursements
will put their campaigns back into the black. In the
current Parliament, 123 of your colleagues ran campaign
deficits in 1997. These reimbursements reward fiscal
irresponsibility and also provide huge war chests for
campaigns that run themselves in the black, again
skewing the playing field for the next electoral cycle.
We believe that the practice of candidate and party
reimbursements should cease, given the very generous tax
treatment already available to political actors.
On other matters, clauses 24 and 183, we believe that
the CEO should be given the power to recruit and
appoint returning officers and special ballot officers,
as compared to the current practice, which encourages
patronage within the electoral system.
Furthermore, this committee should give thought to
mechanisms or clauses within this act—again, agreeing
with my colleagues from the CLC—that allow the Chief
Electoral Officer to study the merits of other voting
systems, such as proportional representation, mixed
member proportional, transferable ballots, and the like.
Such research would prove invaluable should
Parliament wish to engage Canadians in a debate about
reforming our archaic first-past-the-post voting
Finally, we are fundamentally disappointed with the
lack of emphasis placed upon empowering the electorate
through the use of new media to facilitate the voting
process or broaden voter participation. While we stand
at the threshold of a new century, we are still wedded
to a system rooted in the voting traditions of the 19th
and 20th centuries. Surely this committee should give
some thought to the use of new technologies in the
Mr. Chairman, we believe there is great room for
improvement to this legislation and we submit our ideas to
you for consideration.
Citizen and citizen advocacy group spending limits as
presently envisaged, and restricting participation of
the widest array of political parties possible, do a
disservice to an electorate already skeptical of
Canada's institutions of government.
Allow me to close with some appropriate words from
famed Russian novelist and dissident Alexander
Solzhenitsyn, who incidentally won the Nobel Prize
for literature in 1970. Thirty years ago today, on
November 15, 1969, Solzhenitsyn penned a letter to the
writers' union in Moscow in which he wrote:
It is time to remember that the first thing we belong
to is humanity. And humanity is separated from the
animal world by thought and speech and they should
naturally be free. If they are fettered, we go back to
Mr. Chairman, let us treat voters as intelligent
humans, not animals. Let us trust their judgment and
capacity to choose and let us wholly understand that
the legitimacy of any government's mandate comes from
Canada's 19 million voters. Let them speak loudly,
freely, and as often as they so choose.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your
The Chair: I want to thank you very much for that
submission. I can't help but point out that you stuck
within the ten minutes and you were very succinct. You
can make a presentation on any committee I sit on any
time you want.
Mr. Walter Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Now we go to Mr. Hinter for his
presentation. Mr. Hinter is a coordinator with the
National Firearms Association. Mr. Hinter.
Mr. Jim Hinter (Coordinator, National Firearms
Association): Good evening, Mr. Chairman and
committee members. Thank you for inviting us here
tonight to speak to this. It's always pleasant to come
to Ottawa, to this cold north wind, when it was 15
degrees and warm in Calgary, where I'm based.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre, Lib.):
It's actually snowing outside right now.
Mr. Jim Hinter: Wonderful.
started, I'll give you a brief sketch of Canada's
National Firearms Association. We're a Canadian
organization, and we have members from coast to coast to
coast. Right now we have over 100,000 paid-up members,
and it continues to grow. So far this year we've grown
by 15% across Canada.
When I looked at Bill C-2 I thought to myself, after
reading some of the information I got, imagine
living in a country where a person can be
convicted of a crime and heavily fined without a trial
just for expressing his opinion. It sounds to
me like one of those third world dictatorships we
occasionally hear about in the news. But that
situation happened here in Canada, specifically in
British Columbia, to an accountant. To me, it
demonstrates very clearly what can happen with
third-party spending regulations as proposed in Bill
C-2—or what's said on the street is a gag law.
The National Firearms Association doesn't believe it's
a government's role to limit the rights of individual
Canadians or groups of Canadians to express their own
opinions or causes. To do so, frankly, will only
increase the growing distrust of big government across
the country. I find it truly sad that some
parliamentarians—although obviously nobody at the
committee here—would feel that citizens in our land
are so devoid of free thought that they would buy into
an advertising campaign from any organization or any
We can hold the Charlottetown Accord up as an example
of people refusing to buy into advertised positions.
The experts in Canada told Canadians on radio, on
television, in their newspaper editorials, and in ads
that our country would not survive unless the yes side
won. The yes side spent thirteen times more than the
no side. Ordinary Canadians studied the issue and
carefully voted no. We're still in Canada; the people
The real issue here, to me and to our organization, is
a choice between government deciding that they, rather
than the people, know better how the people should live
their lives. The people of Canada are the real
stakeholders here. We could let a legislation package
like this pass without comment. We could watch the
people do what they've often done, and throw a
government out. People have done it before and they'll
do it again. But in studying this bill, we see the
provisions that are similar to those already defeated
in Quebec and Alberta, and provisions that are before
the courts in British Columbia as we speak.
The matter is, it appears that governments are more
interested in enacting laws to restrict the freedom of
Canadians to express their opinion publicly in a
substantive manner in an election campaign.
To make my
friend here happy, we will talk very briefly about the
issue of firearms.
The federal government claims the public opinion
surveys demonstrate widespread support for the new
firearms legislation. If that were the case, then
there's nothing for the federal Liberal Party or the
federal government to fear from having that legislation
face challenges in the court of law or in the courts of
The National Firearms Association
would suggest the true test of any legislation is,
number one, will it achieve any goals that Canadian
citizens actually want? Number two, can it achieve
those stated goals within the financial parameters
claimed? Third, is it effective in achieving the
results claimed? We would assert that the new
firearms legislation won't pass any of those tests.
We've offered an alternative, and putting the
government of the day to the test on that issue is not
one that we will limit to a federal election campaign.
The act is flawed. It will fail the tests.
Bill C-2 contains several flaws. I'll point out one
small area, pertaining to third-party spending.
There are others. We represent over 100,000
members across the country. If we were to print and
distribute copies of an election voters guide across
the country, just to our members, we would rapidly be
approaching the maximum spending limit proposed in the
If we were to produce that same voters guide in our
regular monthly magazine, it would be editorial
content. Point-blank, from our legal opinions—and
we've had three from various lawyers—our magazine
falls outside the regulations. In fact, any
organization that produces a regular publication would
also fall outside this act.
If the government and Parliament, however, were to
determine that our magazine did not fall outside of the
act, then conceivably each magazine, newspaper, and
broadcaster in Canada could fall under the same
provisions of this act and be restricted to spending
limits of $150,000 or $3,000 per riding. One would
have to figure that their limit would be based on the
cost, in terms of column inches or air time, of similar
Now, some editorial writers and radio talk-show hosts
across the country—and maybe even their readers and
listeners—might find not talking about an election a
welcome change. One doubts that this is the actual
intent of Bill C-2, but if it can apply to one
aspect of the media, it applies to all. Unless
censorship of all Canadian media during an election
campaign is the goal of this legislation, it can't meet
its stated goal.
I'd point out further that despite the sheer
determination of generations of newspaper editorials,
even the best editorials don't affect elections. In
1993, and again in 1997, the Sun Media chain
endorsed the federal Progressive Conservative Party,
but we're not seeing a federal Conservative Party in
Canada. It's probably disappointing to newspaper
editorialists that they're not as powerful as they'd
like to think they are.
A voice: Us too.
Mr. Jim Hinter: Democracy is a system of
government in which trust in the people, the voters,
must be paramount.
As politicians, there may be times when you feel your
decisions will have more insight and more depth of
knowledge behind them, but if you cannot get the people
to support you at the polls, the people are still
Given the choice between trusting the people or
trusting big government, we will trust the people, and
we believe most Canadians will agree with that.
Why does it appear that proponents of the restrictions
on third-party spending in Bill C-2 appear to be
trusting big government rather than the people?
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hinter.
Now we'll go to questions. We'll start, as usual,
with the official opposition, for a five-minute round.
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): Thank you,
My first question is to you, Nancy, because you
mentioned the electronic voters list and problems that
you felt existed with it. In particular, you gave an
example of a students' residence where maybe 12
received cards who didn't live there any more. You
suggested that going back to enumeration might be a
better way to do it.
In terms of enumeration, do you not recognize that
it's possible to have a lot of fraud in that as well?
People don't actually have to produce any
identification at all. They don't even have to prove
that they live at the place they happen to be at when
the enumerator calls. Would you recognize that there's
also a problem with the enumeration as it stands?
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'm giving this one to Pat.
Mr. Pat Kerwin: Yes, there can be problems with
the regular enumeration, but the problems in Ontario
were so extreme. Literally, you couldn't even get
people off the list who were no longer there because
the law said that person had to ask to be left off the
list and that person wasn't around any more.
Other witnesses here have said there are going to be
no problems. We just feel that with the election
period being fairly short, we should get in there and
make sure there are no problems rather than trying to
find out with three weeks to go in the election that
this building here or this group home has a lot of
For the one I went to, there were 12 names on the list
and literally not one of them lived there any more. So
whoever was in charge of that building could easily
have picked up the 12 cards and made sure his or her
friends got them to vote with, because the person at
the election booth would have just used them to vote.
Our view is that we want the lists to work well and I
just am not quite convinced that they do that.
Mr. Ted White: I would urge you, as I've done with
other groups who've come here to give us their concerns
about that electronic voters' list, to get in touch
with Jean-Pierre Kingsley and talk with him about that.
He's aware that there were problems in Ontario. I
think he feels confident that those problems are
addressed. He does have the discretion to target
enumerations where he feels it's necessary, so I would
really urge you to get in touch with him in that
I have a couple of comments in terms of the
For the Canadian Labour Congress, I would urge you to
perhaps take heed of some of the other testimony that's
come in on third-party spending. The way the Reform
Party looks at it, elections are for voters, not for
I know that's a little different from the way the
government looks at it. We actually don't feel there
should be restrictions on third-party advertising.
We're not afraid of the Canadian Labour Congress
spending a lot of money to try to defeat us. We
actually believe that if this place followed the will
of the constituents and MPs voted the way their
constituents told them, you guys would all go out of
business anyway because we'd be doing what the people
wanted and there would be no third-party spending.
I would encourage you to take a look at it from a
slightly different angle. If elections are for voters
rather than for parties, you need to have third-party
spending, because the government has a tremendous
advantage. Not only does it know when the election is
going to be called, but as Mr. Robinson pointed out,
they can spend $20 million easily and they have a
tremendous advantage over the smaller parties and the
individuals who want to run.
That's why you find us in agreement with you on things
like the candidate deposit, which we feel should be
lower, and facilitating smaller parties.
When we look at the 12-candidate rule, for example, or
a 50-candidate rule, it's our opinion that the party
name should be on the ballot for the benefit of the
voters, not for the benefit of the party. I know the
government looks at it as though it's for the benefit
of the party, but we look at it as a benefit for
voters, for voters to be able to see who they're voting
There are many areas that we do agree on, and I think
that maybe with a little more discussion you might
agree with third-party spending.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'm going to be very clear: we
Just because I'm stuck in the middle here between the
Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the National Firearms
Association, with its Point Blank magazine, it
doesn't mean we would change. I absolutely
fundamentally disagree with you.
Elections are for voters. Right.
But the people who run our parties and the firearms
group and the taxpayers group can spend millions
leading up to an election to get people to change their
minds, to decide how they're going to go. Then, come
election time, Reform can carry their banner. You
know, if Reform has the courage of its convictions to
support guns all over the place in this country, then
come out and say it, and then the firearms people have
a party representing them.
We at the CLC do not spend millions of dollars on
third-party advertising. No, we do not. We give our
money to the party we support.
I would encourage the firearms people to probably give
to Reform. Where else? You can give to Reform. Maybe
you'll elect a government, you two guys on both sides
But you give it to the party. Of course parties are
for voters, but every voter is not running. People
have made a decision to be a candidate for a particular
I'm not electing the firearms organization. I'm
voting for a party. I will not vote for the party that
supports what this organization stands for.
Mr. Jim Hinter: I'm soon going to feel real
Ms. Nancy Riche: That's how it works. He's not
going to vote for my party either. This works. It
balances out. We cancel each other's vote.
But I won't agree with you on the third party.
Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.):
I thought the NDP opposed our gun control legislation.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'm not speaking on behalf of the
party. You didn't see my piece in the Ottawa
Citizen at the same time, and I was president of the
Mr. Ted White: Mr. Chairman, do I have any time I
can assign to my colleague here?
The Chair: No, that's it. That was a good quick
five minutes—close to six.
We'll go to Mr. Bergeron for a second round.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): I have
paid close attention to the different presentations, among others
the one by the CLC, as regards electronic voting. You have raised
some new concerns in addition to the ones I already have with
respect to electronic voting.
Moreover, I'm always surprised when different groups in favour
of eliminating third-party spending limits invoke court decisions,
when court decisions recognize the need to impose third-party
spending limits. Some even go so far as to say that the spending
limit should be below what it is for political parties.
In that regard, I'm also quite open to the CLC's
recommendations on third-party spending limits, even more so
because they reflect the spirit of the Quebec Loi sur le
financement populaire des partis politiques, which states that only
individuals are able to invest in election campaigns.
I am somewhat open to the idea of allowing third parties to
participate in a campaign, if very clear and specific spending
limits are in place, but I am very open to the idea of not allowing
third-party expenditures and restricting participation in the
electoral process to individuals, for the same reasons that led
Quebec to adopt its legislation on the financing of political
That leads me to the question I would like to ask you. As part
of the debate on individual contributions for political parties,
you say that on the one hand, you support limits on contributions
to political parties and that on the other hand, you feel that only
individuals should be allowed to contribute to political parties.
You say that the CLC is willing to enter into a public dialogue
about the possibility of moving to a system that has elements of
the Quebec model. You point out that your membership in Quebec is
quite happy with the legislation there. However outside of Quebec
there has been a desire for more direct involvement.
I would like you to tell us more clearly what is meant by more
direct involvement and a system that has elements of the Quebec
model as regards contributions to political parties.
Mr. Pat Kerwin: In terms of more direct
involvement, outside of Quebec, a number of our local
unions actually affiliate directly to a party; they pay
affiliation fees to it, unlike those in Quebec. So
that's the much more direct involvement. They send
delegates to conventions as local unions affiliated to
the party, etc. That model outside of Quebec has been
followed in a number of places. That's the best
example of the more direct involvement.
We want to undertake this discussion very carefully,
because one of the big concerns we have is that the
government, Parliament, could pass a law that sounds
very good on paper, but immediately, in my view, all
political parties would then start to find a way around
the law, if it was too strict and too pure. I've been
working in politics for a long time, and I know parties
are always saying they need to spend money. They go to
the people who are able to raise the money.
So we have to be very careful. That's why we raise in
another part of our brief the possibility for public
support for parties, perhaps on the New Brunswick
model, where they give so much per vote the parties
get. We have to move slowly in this place and think it
through, not just say it's good to have nobody else
contribute but individuals, and then we wake up to you
as politicians particularly saying “I have to get
re-elected. How am I going to do this?” And then,
well, if you just do it on the side, people won't
notice. Well, in Italy they did that, and they're in
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'd like to add to that.
Certainly the CLC contributes a great deal of money to
our political party, the New Democratic Party, all
within the legislation, and supplies people and that
sort of thing. It comes nowhere near the corporate
contributions to the other parties—nowhere near. We
can't come near to competing. At the federal level of
the New Democratic Party, we do not accept corporate
contributions; we only accept contributions from
individuals and from the labour movement. And we save
our money over the election period to actually give to
It really is time to look at strong public support for
elections. I don't think we're anywhere near the
United States, but we could be walking down that road.
If we allowed third-party advertising to have no
limits, as Mr. White and the two gentlemen who are here
appearing tonight have said, then we're walking down a
road where you can buy the votes. That's not where we
want to be. That's not where we've been in Canada.
I can be as extreme on my side as you guys have been
on your side in terms of this third-party advertising,
so don't shake your head. I've heard some incredibly
extreme comments tonight about third-party advertising,
all based on the fact that unfortunately, somehow or
other, we don't trust the candidates or the parties
that are running. Somehow or other, we, the firearms
group or the taxpayers group, have to go out and spend
millions of dollars, because the parties and the
Look, if you want to get in there, run. Form the
national taxpayers' federation party, form the firearms
party, and get in there, as all these people sitting up
here have had the guts and the courage to do.
Voices: Hear, hear!
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Ms. Riche, I repeat that I fully agree
with you on the issue of limiting third-party contributions. I
feel, a bit like the court decision indicated, that if, for the
good of our system, we must establish a limit on spending for
political parties that are directly involved in the process, as
well as for candidates who are putting their necks on the line, we
should absolutely impose spending limits that are lower than limits
for parties and candidates on those people who have no public
I will remind you of the question I asked. You were saying
that the CLC is prepared to enter into a public dialogue about the
possibility of moving to a system that has elements of the Quebec
model. I would like you to be more specific with respect to what
elements of the Quebec model you would like to incorporate in the
Ms. Nancy Riche: We look at it from our own
perspective. Certainly the Quebec Federation of Labour
continuously tells us we're wrong in tying ourselves to
a particular party, and that during each election, we
should review where each party is.
The other thing is the contributions. There's a limit
on individual contributions. They can only come from
residents of Quebec, and they are individuals, as
opposed to corporations and organizations. Again, some
of our folks would say that because we give as an
organization, that would be taking a lot of money away.
I think it forces the parties to go out and talk to
individuals and get that individual to send it. It's
more engaging of the individual, the voter who votes.
They pay their money and support their party.
I do reiterate what Pat said: it's always fraught with
loopholes. If you say it's an individual $1,000, does
some corporation give every employee $1,000 to
contribute to the party of their choice? I don't know.
I haven't seen that kind of evaluation of the Quebec
model. But I agree with that.
That's not where we're at. I think you may see some
discussions around that in Manitoba in the
not-too-distant future. Certainly the premier has
raised this before.
It moves us to where we should be. The state should
finance elections. I used the word “state” just then
because I knew the Reform would like to hear me say
Voices: Oh, oh!
Ms. Nancy Riche: I really think elections should
be publicly funded. I do.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bergeron.
Ms. Parrish, five minutes.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I would just like to make a comment.
The Chair: I'm sorry; we're at 8 minutes and 28
seconds. I think we have been quite generous.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I would simply like to point out that
in the French version of the CLC brief, reference is made on page
5 to a scrutineer, but I think the word that should be used is
returning officer. I simply wanted to make that clarification, Mr.
The Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: As long as I don't get bumped
completely, I'm giving my spot to Mr. Knutson.
The Chair: We'll recognize you later; that's fine.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Not much later, next.
The Chair: Mr. Knutson for five minutes.
Mr. Gar Knutson: Thanks.
Madame Riche would prefer that all elections be
state-financed. Mr. Robinson, I take it your
preference would be that elections be entirely
privately financed, with no tax rebates of any form and
no tax deductions.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: The rich will inherit the
Mr. Walter Robinson: Apart from Ms. Parrish's
editorial comment, which I'll get to in a second, Mr.
Mr. Gar Knutson: No, it's not part of my time!
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Walter Robinson: There's no doubt that
democracy is a painful and tedious exercise and that
the state has a role in ensuring the infrastructure of
an elections process, but it's a necessary exercise,
given some of the demands we have on our time. There's
no doubt that the state has a role in financing the
infrastructure of an election.
Mr. Gar Knutson: That was just a preliminary
Mr. Walter Robinson: Just let met add to that, if
I may, since I do have the floor.
The issue here is, as we pointed out in our
presentation, the rebates serve to entrench the five
established parties. They don't encourage outside
party participation. The experience of the last two
elections and previous elections clearly shows that.
Mr. Gar Knutson: The point I was getting to is, if
there were no tax rebates, would you propose unlimited
campaign spending? Would you believe in spending
limits at any level?
Mr. Walter Robinson: From a principle point of
view, no, I don't believe in spending limits at any
point, because as we've seen with the amounts spent,
voters are not stupid. Slick campaigns,
multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns, and the fact
that the CLC gives millions, or hundreds of thousands,
to one political party are things we should recount in
here. They are not pristine and pure in this entire
I wish I had the CLC's money to spend on campaigns.
It would be very interesting.
Mr. Gar Knutson: So you believe in no spending
limits at all?
Mr. Walter Robinson: But if you are going to have
limits, apply those limits equally.
Let me provide you an example. In a Toronto riding,
there could be four major party candidates. There's a
military base there. I want to answer your question,
because it's important to illustrate the point. There
could be four candidates there who all support nuclear
weapons on the military base, yet the local
neighbourhood association doesn't want it. This is a
hypothetical example, but it could happen. That local
neighbourhood association, by virtue of the
legislation, is confined to spending $3,000, which may
buy them four quarter-page ads or a good flyer run of
15,000 flyers in a constituency of maybe 100,000
voters, where four political parties, between them,
could have spending limits of upwards of $320,000.
That's not a fair playing field. If you're going to
apply limits to third parties, my proposal to you is to
say okay, Taxpayers Federation,
if you want to play in this constituency,
here's the spending limit to which each of the other
candidates are limited.
Mr. Gar Knutson: My narrow question is, do you or
don't you believe in limits?
Mr. Walter Robinson: In a perfect world, we don't
believe in limits, but we understand that you and the
elections process will probably apply them, so they
should be applied equally.
Mr. Gar Knutson: Right.
There's no doubt, as I said in my presentation, that
in a country such as ours, 19 million voters, covering
the second-largest land mass as a country on the face
of the planet, you need to spend money to communicate
with people just to put your idea out there.
Is there evidence that spending money affects voting
Mr. Walter Robinson: Not at a national-provincial
level. We've just given you some anecdotal evidence.
We've searched the literature to find academic
literature that says this amount of spending, in a free
and open democratic society—and don't get me wrong,
because this bill has some very good provisions in
it—doesn't influence outcome.
Mr. Gar Knutson: When you spent money in one of
the Halifax ridings, for example, saying people
shouldn't vote for Geoff Regan in the last
election, you would do that in anticipation that it's not
going to affect anybody's voting decision.
Mr. Walter Robinson: We did not spend money in the
last election in a Halifax riding. You must be
confusing us with another organization, just for the
Mr. Gar Knutson: It was about the pension. Weren't
you the organization that ran ads—
Mr. Walter Robinson: No, it was not us. We did
not run any ads in the last federal election campaign,
because we were without a federal director.
Ms. Nancy Riche: It was the National Citizens'
Mr. Gar Knutson: I see.
Let me then ask you—
Mr. Walter Robinson: That being said, the ability
to put an issue on the agenda, to communicate a point
of view, is a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of
expression. Until you can show me that exercising that
freedom of expression violates somebody else's freedom
of expression under the charter—hate literature, for
example, or something of that nature—you should not be
Mr. Gar Knutson: It's a valid point.
Let me go back to the spending, if I still have time
for one last question.
If we have no spending limits, and Mrs. Dole in the
United States says she's withdrawing from running for
President of the United States because she doesn't have
enough money to run the campaign—and it's not that she
thinks her ideas aren't good enough or that she doesn't
have anything to offer substantively—then does that
worry you at all, to think that this might creep into
here without some spending limits?
Mr. Walter Robinson: Not whatsoever, because if
that were the case, we wouldn't have the Bloc Québécois
or the Reform Party sitting in Parliament today. They
would say, well, all the established parties have all
the money, so we cannot put our ideas and convince the
people of the merits of our ideas. That argument is
Mr. Gar Knutson: Look, the Reform Party and the
Bloc ran in a system where there was spending limits.
Mr. Walter Robinson: Yes, they did, but they had
no money, no advantages of incumbency, and none of the
free broadcast time Ms. Riche speaks about, which,
again, is fundamentally offensive in the Elections Act.
We believe if you're...
It's about ideas. Election campaigns are about ideas.
People will be convinced of your ideas if you can put
them out there.
There is no doubt, as I said in my presentation, that
in a country such as ours, 19 million voters covering
the second-largest land mass of a country on the face
of the planet, you need to spend money to
communicate with people, just to put your ideas out
there. But again, the evidence suggests... It's
contrary, actually, to the belief that
more money influences the
result. Actually more money, as Mr. Herron laughed
when I pointed out the history of the
Tory party in the 1993 election, didn't buy seats.
People weren't convinced of the ideas. They were
convinced of your party's ideas.
The Chair: Thank you. I don't think
Mr. Herron was really laughing. In any event, we'll
recognize Mr. Herron for five minutes, and then Miss
Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): I'd like to
thank the individuals for their presentations that
we've had today so far.
we're trying to augment a bill, and there are some
particular aspects of the legislation people have
differing opinions of.
One of the things I have seen to a large degree
is around what people will call third-party or outside
contributions. I'm going to go
into the firearms debate, the previous bill known
as Bill C-68, now the Firearms Act itself.
course of a campaign, a lot of people in
the campaign are concerned about different issues.
Some may be concerned about post-secondary
education. Some people may be concerned about the size
of the national debt, as I am. There may be some local
issues in terms of environmental issues, as you see in
Windsor—St. Clair in terms of cross-boundary
So on a particular issue such as the fire registry,
when you look at it, what got lost in a lot of the
debate, particularly here in Ontario, was, well, if
you're against the registry, then you are against gun
control and you don't want to deter the criminal use of
firearms. That's what became the debate, to a large
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that without a
third-party involvement, as in your case, to be able to
say that registering long guns for deer hunters, duck
hunters, and farmers is a totally different game
altogether from having provisions that would deter the
criminal use of firearms—for instance, severe minimum
penalties for the criminal use of a firearm in the
course of a crime or whatever—candidates can be lost,
working on about nine or ten different issues, and one
issue can be put to the side.
My question is, if we limited third-party
contributions, would you think that would actually
prevent you from being able to talk about your
Mr. Jim Hinter: I think it could. You've
expressed the issue very clearly.
To surprise my friend here and probably some of the
other committee members, our organization is actually
proposing a gun legislation package that would be
stronger than Mr. Rock's Bill C-68. We've presented
copies of it to every member of Parliament in the
House. We've presented copies of it to every member of
the Senate and everyone in the media.
I have a copy for you to take home.
Ms. Nancy Riche: And I want one.
Mr. Jim Hinter: Now, getting that issue out,
because it is something that some study has been done
I mean, if we were to take a binding vote right
now and say “Are you in favour of gun control, yes
or no?”, every hand in this room had better go up.
Ms. Nancy Riche: On which one, yes or no?
Mr. Jim Hinter: Yes, that we should have gun
control, because that would make sense. If you're
against gun control, what you're really saying, then,
is that you want a 14-year-old child to go to school,
drunk, with a .38 loaded in his pocket. A tragedy
That's not where we come from at all. Getting that
message out is important, because it is an issue that
is very easily blurred.
Ms. Nancy Riche: Excuse me, but I have to jump in.
Can I jump in? We're the witnesses, after all.
Look, this discussion somehow centres around the fact
that the only opportunity these organizations have to
get their message across is during an election
campaign, but there is absolutely, totally, no
restriction. You can spend billions. Nobody in this
country will deny your freedom of speech from now until
the next election.
We do. We have not stopped for one minute our
campaign on unemployment insurance and what the Liberal
government has done to it. We will not stop on that
campaign. We're not waiting for the next election to
be called to give a whole bunch of money to the NDP or
to run ads around UI.
People have the opportunity. Somehow or other you're
suggesting this is tying your hands because you can't
spend millions of dollars during an election campaign.
That is totally wrong.
Mr. John Herron: I guess the second example I
would like to use, Mr. Chair, if I may, is that in the
1988 election, that was utilized a fair amount. A lot
of people believed that election could be translated
into two words—free trade.
To a large degree, that's actually true. Perhaps you
can remember the debates. The Prime Minister of the
day lost the debate on the free trade issue. What
happened was that people started looking at it, saying,
okay, who is this Turner guy? Who's his finance
minister going to be, or his health minister?
Eventually, at the end of the day, they didn't think
the Liberals were ready to govern as well.
In terms of an issue, I can look very clearly at 1999
right now and be able to say that we now have annually
about $260 billion in trade with the Americans.
Prior to 1988, our trade with
was around $80 billion on an annual basis.
Ms. Nancy Riche: Is this support for
Mr. John Herron: The point is that I believe that
maybe the third-party advertising that took place in
that election campaign started getting people more
focused on the actual trade debate itself. Canada is
an export-driven, energy-intensive country. If we had
lost that debate as a country, if we had voted against
free trade at that point in time—
Ms. Nancy Riche: The Liberals supported it after
they got elected.
Mr. John Herron: Exactly.
Ms. Nancy Riche: It makes no difference. Both
parties supported it.
Mr. John Herron: But tying it to the Americans
would have had very negative implications on our
I actually give a lot of faith to Canadians in terms
of being able to actually form their voting decisions.
The fact is that I think being exposed to third-party
intervention at that time was actually largely
responsible for the buoyancy that we have in our
economy right now. If free trade had died, I believe
we would not be participating in the record period of
growth that we have today.
I guess my question is to the Canadian Taxpayers
Would you actually consider that
a very distinct example of where a very positive role
has been played with third-party intervention?
Ms. Nancy Riche: No, not according to your brief.
Mr. Walter Robinson: No, I wouldn't say it's
positive or negative. People presented a position, and
Canadians made a decision at the end of the day. Again
I point out that, yes, the government
may have been re-elected, but a majority of Canadians
voted for two parties
that opposed the accord. The point is that the third party
did not influence the voting decision.
Allow me to clarify for Mr. Bergeron that by adopting the
Quebec model and reducing the role of groups like ours or the
National Firearms Association, we are accomplishing exactly the
same thing as at the union level. A taxpayer should be entitled to
give money to a political party or to a group that has a very well-
defined role in an area that is the subject of a public debate.
When you say to people that they can only give money
to political parties, you are saying to citizens that
they must support a political party, that they must
give money, that it's the only way they can act in the
democratic process. That is wrong, because people will
support groups that do not support political parties,
like ours. I'm not a member of any political party, nor
is my colleague or any of our board of directors.
People do wish to support or go against issues. That
is their right to do so.
If I can take umbrage at one thing that's been
repeated here by Ms. Riche, it's this whole thing of
“Well, if you feel so passionate about the issue, put
your name on a ballot.” That's utter crap. Since
when does this place have sole dominion? Since when do
the 301 elected members and the 108 or so non-elected
members in this place have sole domain over the
providence and wisdom of the public debate of this
I would dare any MP here to turn and say that if a
constituent disagrees with you, he should put his name
on the ballot and run against you. You would never
dare say that, and you should never dare say that to
somebody who comes to you with a contravening opinion.
It is their right to hold it. You can debate it
passionately. You can agree to disagree. But to turn
and say “Well, if you don't like it, put your name on
a ballot”... People have the right to remain outside
the parliamentary system should they so choose, and to
exercise their franchise as guaranteed under the
Constitution. That is an offensive thing to say, and I
wouldn't want to see that in a transcript of anybody's
householder in any riding in this country. Your voters
would definitely turn against you. It's offensive.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'm sorry you're so offended.
Excuse me, but third-party advertising during an
election campaign is involving yourself in the
parliamentary system. You're not outside, so don't
pretend here that you're standing outside somewhere.
That's bullshit, and you know it.
The Chair: Okay, the level of invective is
I'd like to go to Ms. Wasylycia-Leis, but
I'm going to give Mr. Hinter the last word for a short
intervention before we go to the next question.
Mr. Jim Hinter: It seems to me that one point
that is being missed here is that of the millions of
dollars we're having attributed to us to spend, and
given all the power that the National Firearms
Association has, I respect how much you respect
us. Thank you. But the reality is that our money that
we use is something that's missed here. It's after-tax
dollars donated by ordinary Canadians choosing what
As an example, we just did a membership survey. Of
the members of our organization who took part in the
survey, 52% are already members of a federal political
party, and 53% of them joined our organization for
public education and political action.
their after-tax dollars, while the political parties
are using our tax dollars effectively, because the
donation gets made and the rebate gets made.
of having a political party formed has been done in
Australia by the firearms association down there. It's
called the Australian Shooters' Party, and it is
starting to make an impact.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I thought they were drinks.
Mr. Jim Hinter: That's shooters in
your party perhaps, but I don't know.
The bottom line
is that if Canadians are spending after-tax
dollars and are not asking for anything from
government—we don't ask for a dime, nor do we get it—
Ms. Nancy Riche: We don't either.
Mr. Jim Hinter: —that issue right there says that
it's a freedom issue in terms of Canadian people
spending their money as they see fit.
The Chair: Okay, thank you.
We'll go to Ms. Wasylycia-Leis for a five-minute
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre,
NDP): Thank you.
I'd like to stay on this issue of third-party
advertising, because I still don't quite get the
position of both the Firearms Association and the
Taxpayers Association. It seems to me that both of
you have used words to the effect that you oppose
limits on third-party advertising because voters
aren't stupid—I think I heard those words—and big
dollars don't influence voters. Based on that logic,
it seems to me that you would then surely support
absolutely no third-party advertising. Why would you
need this kind of latitude to spend what you need,
what you want, in order to make your point of view?
By that logic, surely there would be support from
these associations for complete restrictions and
limitations on third-party advertising. That's the
My other question is on the same topic, and it's to
Nancy of the CLC, who I think has put the position very
well in terms of what this means for democracy, what
this does in terms of creating a level playing field so
that all Canadians can participate, so that voters are
at the heart of the process, and so that our system is
truly mindful of our party system and seeks to enhance
that system, not destroy it.
The bill now only puts limits on third-party
advertising. It doesn't do what you are calling for,
which is to eliminate all third-party advertising. So
my question, Nancy, is if we could live with this. Is
it workable, or is it tantamount to creating enormous
problems down the road as it now is worded?
Mr. Walter Robinson: Ms. Wasylycia-Leis,
thank you for your question.
If I'm to follow your logic through to its ultimate
conclusion—and this is likely a first-year,
slippery-slope logic issue in university—then nobody
should advertise and we should just hold the election
tomorrow. Nobody should advertise because it doesn't
influence the outcome.
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: You're the one who said
you don't need to advertise because you're not trying
to influence any voters, so you explain that logic.
Mr. Walter Robinson: Then allow me to finish.
If you're going to follow that logic through, then
parties shouldn't participate in the process either.
What we are saying is that—
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: We're talking about
political parties as the heart of the electoral system.
Mr. Walter Robinson: I have a fundamental
difference of opinion. Voters are the heart of the
electoral system. That is where we fundamentally
A voice: Hear, hear.
Mr. Walter Robinson: I will get to your question
to Nancy, because what you've asked Nancy is an
extremely important question as well. But the issue
here is that it's a first-year, slippery-slope logic
argument to ask why I am opposed to the limits if
I've told you advertising doesn't influence things.
I'm opposed to the limits, because to put your message
out there, to make information available so that voters
can say they will choose between such and such, is like
going to the supermarket. You just don't have one box
of cereal, you have a variety of cereals. The package
really doesn't influence your outcome, but that choice
is yours in a free and open democratic society. It's
guaranteed to you under the Constitution.
To turn to this issue that you've asked of
Nancy—because it's extremely important—Mr. Boudria
commented that this is “fair, accessible and
transparent”, when he tabled this law last June before
the House prorogued. I have his comments here.
How is it fair that a political party can spend 62
cents per elector—with 19.6 million electors, it can spend
$12 million at a national level—and can in turn spend,
on average, another $62,000 per riding, based on an
average of 65,000 electors per riding if you take the
19 million divided by 301? You
get $2.07 for your first 15,000 electors, $1.04 for
your next 10,000 electors, and an extra 52 cents for each
successive elector after that. How can that political
party turn and say that in that context, that
neighbourhood of $25 million that each political party
could spend, it works out to about 96 cents per vote, or
something of that nature, and then you turn to the
third-party spending limit and tell a single constituent
they can only spend five cents an
elector? It is effectively censorship.
I can't buy a newspaper ad of a quarter page in
Red Deer... I'm not talking about Toronto or Vancouver or
Montreal. Red Deer is a typical small urban and rural
constituency that dots the landscape in this
country, dots very many of the constituencies down
east. To say you're effectively shut out is
censorship, and that is wrong.
Mr. Jim Hinter: I'd like to address that a little
One of the areas here, which has been covered under
some of the previous groups that have appeared before
you, would be an election date. The only people in
Canada who know potentially when an election will be
held are the prime minister and the government of the
day. Organizations under third-party spending... The
media will guess on it, and the opposition parties will
do research and hope on it. We do research on when we
think an election will be held. But the reality is that
you could be doing something, an election could be
called, and wham, you're outside the limits, even if
you didn't intend to be. It's quite simple. I mean,
you could be doing an education campaign on something
that would be deemed to be covered under this.
So without having some format, even if you wanted to
consider spending limits during a campaign, you would
also then have to say set election dates. I don't
think... That's an issue that should perhaps be
looked at, because I think it's an important part of
the democratic process.
We had a situation with elections—for example, the
one in Manitoba, with the flood affecting that part of
the riding. I do a lot of travel in small places in
western Canada that you probably can't find on a map,
in fact most of them aren't—little places like Senlak,
Saskatchewan, which lies about its population so it
can have a school, or Morse—places that have
a very, very small population. I've travelled all
through rural Saskatchewan, and when I got to Ottawa,
people were asking me if this farm crisis is real.
Obviously that message isn't making it out.
It's an educational process that has to happen to help
make an informed choice. If you're worried about
having... If we're wrong, totally wrong, and if
Walter is wrong, or any other third-party group, let us
go beat our heads against the wall. We'll feel good for
a while, maybe. But if we're right, shouldn't that
right opinion be out there in democracy?
And finally, what you have to look at with the process
is that when you start a limit... Unfortunately, with
governments it seems when you have one little limit,
when you start breaking one right down, all other
rights can fall after it.
Right now we have a number of such areas in our
country, and this is one of them. If you don't have
the right satellite dish company, you can have it
seized by the RCMP. You can get a fine of
$5,000 if your signal isn't coming from the right
company. That's an issue that ties very closely to
this. But you'd need set election dates, because
otherwise you could have something happening, and then
what happens is you've exceeded it.
Ms. Nancy Riche: Your question was whether or not
we could live with $150,000. I want us to be really
careful here when we talk about rights—what are rights
and what are not rights. Regarding the limit of
$150,000, it's not clear that it's $150,000 for each
company, or anything that's defined as an organization
throughout the country, for every chapter of the
Canadian Taxpayers Federation, as defined as an
organization. And we're not talking $150,000. So
we're very concerned about it, because it's not clear.
We're then talking millions.
I'm really concerned when somehow or other the ability
to spend millions of dollars on an election campaign
becomes a human right, when in fact human rights in
this country are far greater than that. The right of
someone to go to bed with a full stomach is far more
than what we're talking about here. So let's not get
carried away that what we're talking about here is...
I didn't read one thing in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights that said there should be third-party
However, it's really important to state that there is no
violation of freedom of speech here, that every single
day up to the election campaign you can spend $150,000.
My guess is that you guys have spent a pretty penny in
all those tiny communities in rural Canada on support
for your position on guns. And that's absolutely fine
with me. You absolutely have that right.
Then we call an election, and it's a different ball
game. Support the party that supported you. Give them
the contributions. There are limits on that. And that
makes sense. It becomes fair.
Mr. Jim Hinter: Nancy, would the CLC be willing to
take a limit of $150,000 to contribute to a political
Ms. Nancy Riche: We're not talking contributions
to a political party. We have our limits on
contributions to political parties. It's there in the
law, and we are within the limits. That's not what
you're talking about. We're talking about you doing
third-party advertising with absolutely no spending
limits. We're talking about an electoral system that
elects people who belong to parties to form the
Parliament. Now, we support that system. Maybe you
guys don't. I have no idea, because I haven't heard
much support of government, political parties, or
anything here tonight. All I hear is about support for
you to get your thing out, and spend countless millions
of dollars on it. I'm ready to support the candidate
who's running for a party. That's what it's all about.
The Chair: Okay—
Ms. Nancy Riche: Sorry.
The Chair: There are lots of good answers. Just to
clarify, the limits in the statute apply to spending,
not to speaking—for what that's worth.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I never heard there's a limit on
The Chair: Also, there was a reference earlier by
Mr. Robinson that a third party wouldn't be able to
afford or place a quarter-page ad in Red Deer. That
must be an awfully expensive place. The limit per
riding proposed in this bill is $3,000. What Mr.
Robinson has done for the sake of discussion, of
course, is divide the $150,000 national limit by the
number of ridings to come up with $491. Even with
$490, I could buy a fairly decent ad in my local paper
in Scarborough. But we take his point, and his
Mr. Walter Robinson: For the background of the
committee, we will submit research to you tomorrow
that shows that is factually inaccurate in your
The Chair: What is inaccurate?
Mr. Walter Robinson: That you can buy a
quarter-page ad in a weekly newspaper in Scarborough.
We will submit that information to you tomorrow. We
have it in our office.
The Chair: Yes, I can buy a quarter-page ad for
$491. You don't think I can?
Mr. Walter Robinson: According to our research,
you can't, and we called publishing groups across
The Chair: Then inflation's the monster here.
Mr. Walter Robinson: It's $15,000 for a full-page
The Chair: I'm going to go to Mr. Anders for a
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Mr. Chairman,
on a point of procedure,
we've had two opposition sets of questions.
The Chair: Now you're dealing with the chairman's
math. Mr. Anders for five, and then Ms. Parrish for
Mr. Anders, please.
Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, Ref.): Thank you
very much, Mr. Chairman.
I have a question for my friends with the Canadian
Labour Congress. Would you advocate
to Jehovah's Witnesses, Hutterites, or Mennonites that
they should run people for political office if they
don't agree with the government's position?
Mr. Nancy Riche: Be careful now, don't put words
in my mouth, as you like to do, Rob.
What I said was that if you want to get involved in
the political process—and if those religions allow
people to get involved with the political process, if
it's not against their religion—then in fact you can
select the candidate or the party that you choose. When
I was responding to Mr. Robinson, I was talking not of
a religious body, but of the Canadian Taxpayers
Federation. That's slightly different. None of
these religious groups that you name are in here
calling for unlimited amounts of money for third-party
advertising, so don't mix it up; don't play with this.
Mr. Rob Anders: Mrs. Riche, I would put forward to
Ms. Nancy Riche: That's Ms.
Mr. Rob Anders: Ms. Riche, I would put it to you
that Jehovah's Witnesses, Hutterites, or Mennonites
would not want to run, nor would they think that this
place has the sole dominion on debate in this country
or that they should be forced to be part of it.
As well, I know Jehovah's Witnesses who are affronted
by the fact that they have to fund, through their
taxpayer dollars, any of us in this place, and I think
they have every right to be able to be free and exempt
from taxpayer funding for any of this business. That's
their choice, and I think it should be their choice;
they shouldn't be forced into funding it as they
currently are. Some would wish they funded it even
more than is currently going on, and I think that is a
violation of human rights.
In terms of supporting a party that supports you, Ms.
Riche, during the election campaign in Ontario where
Bob Rae faced off against Mike Harris, there were
labour unions that chose to take umbrage at the New
Democratic Party and chose to fund campaigns opposed
to the New Democratic Party because they did not
believe Bob Rae was representing them.
Now, in that circumstance, do you know how much
labour unions in Ontario spent collectively, opposed
to the New Democratic Party in Bob Rae's re-election?
Ms. Nancy Riche: No.
Mr. Rob Anders: Okay. Would it be
safe to assume that labour unions in
Ontario and collectively across the country spent more
than $150,000 against Bob Rae in that election?
Ms. Nancy Riche: I don't know.
Mr. Rob Anders: I think you probably—
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'm not involved in provincial
election campaigns; I honestly don't know.
Mr. Rob Anders: Mr. Kerwin, would you know?
Mr. Pat Kerwin: The question is grouped, though,
over the whole spectrum probably in terms of
candidates. That might be a fair thing to say in terms
of everything that was done, yes.
Mr. Rob Anders: I think it would be fair to say
that probably labour unions in Ontario collectively
spent more than $150,000—
Ms. Nancy Riche: So what's your point—that
therefore we should have a different view here tonight?
Mr. Rob Anders: No, what I'm saying is there
are going to be times when even labour unions that I
know have a long history of affiliation with the New
Democratic Party are going to take umbrage with a party
in this place.
Ms. Nancy Riche: Absolutely.
Mr. Rob Anders: And as a result, whether it be a
labour union, whether it be any third-party advocate
that I can think of that is not a political party, if
there are going to be times even when the Canadian
Labour Congress or some Ontario union or collection of
Ontario unions decide they don't like a New
Democratic government or the New Democratic Party, and
they want to spend money, I think to limit yourself in
the way this legislation will, so the Canadian
Labour Congress or some other affiliation of unions
or unions individually have to fund their money
through the NDP, is a real mistake.
There are going to be times when you're going to have
a New Democratic Party government that you're not going
to agree with and see eye to eye with on all issues.
And there are going to be times when those labour
unions either collectively or individually are going to
want to spend more than $150,000. I don't know why you
would want to link yourself directly with the NDP,
lock, stock, and barrel, for the rest of the life of
labour unions in this country, as the way to get your
point across to voters.
Mr. Nancy Riche: It's not the only... You can
think that. You can be upset about that. We may get
upset with a New Democratic Party in government,
absolutely, and then we would do what I've been talking
about all night. We would either select another party
that we wanted to support—now, I'm not speaking for
Ontario unions, I'm speaking for me, so the question is
of me and the CLC—or we'd sit on our hands in
that election. Or we'd form a new party.
And if you think that wasn't thoroughly discussed in
Ontario, is still being discussed in Ontario, because we
didn't feel any other party was... Certainly in the
House, I'm not sure...
There are some parties in the House that clearly,
the labour movement as a whole, as a collective body
making a decision in a board, would never, ever
support...you know of what I speak.
But we have talked about forming a
new party. We talked about forming the
Exactly consistent with what I've said
tonight, no, I do not agree with the third-party
advertising. Our recommendation is zero. To frame it
in such a way that at some time we'd like to do it and
what I find abhorrent then will be okay, because I want to
do it, is really quite offensive to our position on
this. We're opposed to it for anybody, including
The Chair: I can't let you put another question
because it's six
and a half minutes. In fairness to other colleagues,
we'll keep going.
Ms. Parrish for five minutes.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: I'm going to try to be as
quick as I can.
First of all, before we even get started, I want to
get it on the record that I believe in lower limits for
everyone. Last election I spent $16,000 and had
signs up for seven days, and I got 68% of the vote. We
have a mayor in my city who has never campaigned in her
life, from her first election 25 years ago. She has 91%
of the vote, has never put out a pamphlet, never made a
comment, never knocked on a door.
So I agree with you, Nancy. I hope you don't mind my
calling you Nancy. All other parties have 365 days and
three or four years between elections. They can dump
billions of dollars into advertising if they choose to.
I would like to go one step further. The spending
limits we're talking about are strictly on advertising.
Those groups can send out armies of people knocking
on doors. They can go and do whatever they want. This
is strictly an advertising limit.
Our limits are much more stringent. If I buy hot dogs
for people who are delivering flyers for me, that has
to go into my campaign limits. So let's talk about
this for a second. I don't have unlimited spending
limits. I don't have anywhere near the limits a lot
of people would like on actual advertising.
So this law is not bad as far as I'm concerned. I'd
like to see all the limits lowered, and I'll go on
record with that. I put my money where my mouth is.
The other thing is, in a former life I was chairman of
a school board. What happened there was third-party
groups, we're calling them, or single-interest
I know you guys are worried about taxes, but
that's your interest.
You're worried about guns.
[Editor's Note: Inaudible]
Ms. Nancy Riche: —
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Yes, I know. I think you're a
riot. I'm almost ready to convert to the NDP, so keep
an eye on me here.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Anyway, the thing that
fascinates me about single-interest groups is this. We
have to put together a platform—all parties do—and we
put a platform together that covers a broad spectrum of
issues. Then single-interest groups can come in and
just aim, if you'll pardon the pun, at one item on that
platform. You can have 60 interest groups taking aim
at 60 positions, each spending a pile of money on it,
and we're all running in circles.
A voice: So what?
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Well, yes, so what? I
would suggest they spend the 365 days and three years
between elections doing exactly that.
Mr. Hinter said he doesn't think it pays to advertise
anyway. I quoted him.
You talked about the no vote. I think it was a little
unsophisticated. I think people were telling Mr.
Mulroney to get lost. I think that's why they voted no
in that referendum.
My concern too is that truth is often a victim in
advertising here. There are no regulations that say
what you print has to be the truth. With a little
exaggeration, you can take 81% approval for gun control
and flip that right down to 67%, with the right sorts
I did have a question here. I know you say you have
100,000 members in Canada. I also happen to know that
with the hunters and anglers association and many
of the other groups that are semi-loosely affiliated
with you, there's a strong American influence. I
happen to know someone who works for one of the anglers
associations, and a lot of their directives, their
budgets, and the money they spend actually comes from
the States, which is a much bigger army of people down
So if the limits weren't set at around $3,000, what
would stop large American influences from coming in
through these organizations and taking a good whack at
a little, tiny country like Canada, with 30 million
people—300 million taking a really good shot at us?
Mr. Jim Hinter: I'm glad you raised that.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: I knew you would be.
Mr. Jim Hinter: The other day we were doing a
little bit of membership surveying. Of our 100,000
members across Canada, guess how many are Americans?
Take a shot.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: No, no, no. Let's talk about
gun associations for North America.
Mr. Jim Hinter: In our organization, which I can
speak for, we have 28 American members. None of them
are businesses. We receive no funding from any
American organization, period. In fact in the United
States, the National Rifle Association, by their
constitution, is forbidden to do work outside of the
continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: All right, let me interrupt,
because the hunters and anglers association is
loosely affiliated with American and Canadian. They
have the same objectives as you, to a certain extent.
What would stop them from taking hunting and angling
money from the States and importing it into our
Mr. Jim Hinter: First of all, it would be the
constitution of the NRA in the States. I'm an NRA
member. I get it because they make a hell of a good
magazine. I can't vote in anything the NRA does. I
can't vote in an NRA election.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Can you send money to the
Mr. Jim Hinter: I could if I were so inclined.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: And the money you pay for
your magazines, does that not go into a general pool
fund down there?
Mr. Jim Hinter: It comes to $35 a year Canadian,
for which they have to ship a magazine across the
country, and based on publishing costs, I doubt there
are more than a couple of dollars left.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: But you're talking about your
specific organization. I'm asking you to go beyond
that. Do you believe there's a possibility for
like-minded people, American and Canadian, in several
like-minded organizations to have a shady line between
where the money is going and who's—
Mr. Jim Hinter: There could well be, and it's
happened on other sides. Look back at the Pearson era,
when a number of advisers were coming across from the
United States to consult, work, and help elect Liberal
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: So you say it's possible.
Mr. Jim Hinter: Anything is possible. Absolutely
anything is possible.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: No, Walter, don't get
excited. I haven't asked you a question, and I don't
want your response.
Mr. Jim Hinter: Poor Walter.
Mr. Walter Robinson: I've signified to the chair
that I'd like to make an intervention.
Mr. Jim Hinter: Intervener status, I guess.
That's an interesting point, but the reality is most
of the American organizations... For example, Ted
Nugent in the United States has a huge boycott of
Canada going on right now. He refuses to spend so much
as a dollar in Canada. He won't tour. He's an old
rock-and-roller, and he has a group called Ted Nugent's
United Sportsmen of America, I believe.
Ms. Nancy Riche: And he's boycotting Canada?
Mr. Jim Hinter: He's boycotting Canada.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Boy, we're feeling the pain.
Ms. Nancy Riche: Oh, my gosh!
Mr. Jim Hinter: Well, quite frankly, an awful lot
of outfitters across Canada are not getting the
American tourist dollar coming across, because of the
program he's done. So it can hurt. In many cases
perhaps it's gone into the negative side more than
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to
close out my remarks by saying I am, from a previous
life, very concerned about single-interest groups being
given the money and the power to focus on a
hundred-point platform and just take shots at one piece
So I believe this legislation is good. I would like
to see all the spending limits dropped, and I could
function quite nicely in a much smaller spending limit.
This is a start. It's a good piece of legislation. I
have a few little problems with it, but not in this
But I must tell you, this has been a very stimulating
evening. You guys and lady have done a great job. I
really enjoyed this.
The Chair: Okay. There are undoubtedly some more
questions here. I just wanted to ask Mr. Robinson a
In advocating no spending limits or limits for third
parties equivalent to those limits that are imposed on
candidates, would your view prevail in the following
scenario? This is a hypothetical. Let's assume that I
as a person were to run again in my riding. Let's say
there were five or six well-off individuals who over
the years had come to dislike me intensely.
Mr. Rob Anders: I can see that.
The Chair: It could easily happen, as Mr. Anders
Say I run in the next election as a Liberal, and each
of them separately decides they're going to knock me
off, to use the jargon of the street, and each of them
invests $50,000 to defeat me, and they invest it in
advertising: “Don't vote for Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee is an
idiot; we can prove it”, etc. If I take the six
people times $50,000, and if they're putting up signs
and buying billboards and radio time and all kinds of
things, that's $300,000 being bet in a horse race
I as a candidate can spend my $50,000, and the other
parties who have candidates will be able to spend their
$50,000, but don't you think that's a little unfair to
me, as one candidate? This could happen to any
candidate. Individual single-interest groups, or
third parties, as we call them, can simply spend in
concert—or in this case it's not in concert—either
for or against a candidacy, whereas each individual
candidate and party has their own specific spending
limits. Don't you think that's a little unfair?
Mr. Walter Robinson: That's a very valid question,
Mr. Chairman, and I thank you for questioning me,
because I'll be able to deal with some of Ms. Parrish's
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Walter Robinson: To get to your issue,
if I look at the election
expenses returned last time around, you ended up with
the election reimbursement of a surplus. According to
Elections Canada, you're starting at ground zero with
at least $29,000 in the riding association's bank
account. You've indicated to me that you have wind now
that these five, well-heeled individuals dislike
you—and in my experience this evening, Mr. Lee, I
don't dislike you—and want to run you off the
This is a contest of ideas and issues, and
you're going to stand on your voting record and on your
service to the constituents. You've also had the
benefit over the last four years of taxpayer-paid
To address one of Ms. Parrish's points,
there's nothing to stop untruthfulness in advertising
in a householder. Indeed, in a householder you're
going to be communicating to your constituents, which
is your right and responsibility as a member of
Parliament, the good things you believe your government
has been doing—I could question whether or not
that's truthful—and as well your voting record on
issues. You're also communicating that in a very
non-partisan manner because the rules of this place say
you can't put the Liberal logo out there. You can't
say Jean Chrétien is the best prime minister since
sliced bread, and I hate Preston Manning. You can't do
So you've already put your best foot forward.
So I would contend, Mr. Lee, that you already
have a great advantage over your opponents
who may be running well-heeled campaigns against
It's a matter of we don't believe voters are
stupid. The free trade election and the Charlottetown
referendum proved that.
It's precisely the scenario you pointed out with
regard to the Ontario election where the unions wanted
to knock off one cabinet minister. They knocked off by
that much Mr. Johnson, the former Minister of
Education, from the provincial riding of Don Valley
east or west, which is the same for the federal riding.
That was more in anger. As Tory
people will tell you, they lost the vote on the ground,
not due to advertising.
At the end of the day you know that it's getting out
your vote. So I disagree with the hypothetical
situation in terms of you will stand on your record,
and you will stand on the fact that you already have these
taxpayer-funded advantages of incumbency, which most
political science experts, such as Mr. Stanbury at UBC,
and others say give you anywhere from a 3% to 6%
incumbency advantage. So I disagree with the
The Chair: Let me just say, then, that if you've
gone that far, your logic obviously wouldn't apply to a
non-incumbent, for example, my NDP opposition in my
riding, which wasn't an incumbent and which wouldn't have
had all the advantages you've listed. So your logic—
Mr. Walter Robinson: That speaks precisely to the
fact of getting rid of taxpayer reimbursements.
The Chair: But your logic that there are all
these advantages for incumbents would not apply to
non-incumbents. The NDP candidate would stand out
there cold and alone with the $50,000 limit, if they
can raise it, and would have to face $300,000 of ugly,
negative advertising from six people who happen to have
a few bucks. Do you have any comment on that scenario?
Mr. Walter Robinson: The NDP candidate will
stand on his or her merits and on the platform of his or
her party and will take their lumps as they may.
If I may add, Ms. Riche and Ms. Parrish talked about
it in terms of our group can spend millions before an
election. So can governments—and they do. They do
offensively and arrogantly. If that influenced the
outcome, then Mike Harris would have been running at
95% before the last provincial election, and Glen
Clark, before he resigned, would have had a
public approval rating of about 110%, because in the
province of British Columbia, as Mr. White well knows,
the chief electoral officer might as well be a minister
of the cabinet.
The issue is stand on your merits. Campaigns are
about ideas. You want to communicate those ideas to
people, but people will make their own judgments. We
fundamentally believe voters can discern. They've
shown that in other jurisdictions throughout the world.
We would just wish that this government and this
committee would look at the experience in other
jurisdictions throughout the world, for example,
Zealand, to see that when there are 35 parties on the
the distinction between who is frivolous and who is
not. When people run advocacy campaigns for or against
a candidate, the candidate still stands on his or her
The Chair: Okay. Thank you.
Ms. Nancy Riche: This guy makes a really good
argument against third-party advertising, I must say.
He's very good.
The Chair: Your chairman has a little difficulty.
Usually the chairman doesn't involve himself in too
much questioning before members have exhausted their
curiosity. I know Mr. Hinter indicated he wanted to
say something. If you do, I'd ask you to keep it very
short, because I do want to recognize members for more
Mr. Jim Hinter: From the standpoint of our
organization, where we've had what could be considered
a massive negative campaign with regard to the Firearms
Act, you guys have done us a favour. You've united us.
The Chair: What do you mean by “you guys”?
Mr. Jim Hinter: The government of the day.
The Chair: Okay.
Mr. Jim Hinter: If I were running in an election
and six big groups decided to spend $50,000 apiece and
come after me, to be honest, I'd kind of enjoy being
the underdog. Look at the situation in the United
States, where they're finding that attack ads don't
work. They actually have the opposite effect to what
they're intended to do.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I don't know if Dukakis
Mr. Jim Hinter: He's not here to agree.
Ms. Nancy Riche: He's not here, but he got
Mr. Jim Hinter: You raised the issue about
The Chair: Are you willing to give a written
guarantee on that?
Mr. Jim Hinter: On what?
The Chair: That negative advertising doesn't
have any effect.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I hate negative advertising.
The Chair: Anyway, thank you.
Mr. Jim Hinter: But Canadians do.
Ms. Nancy Riche: No, they don't.
The Chair: We'll go to Mr. Kerwin for 20 seconds.
Mr. Pat Kerwin: I think Mr. Casey was right on
when he said that if you don't limit third-party
advertising, then individual candidates as well will
not have to have limits.
We see the results in the United States with these
huge campaigns. In fact, the Canadian political
situation turns over a lot more rapidly in terms of
MPs. I like that. But compared with the United
States—and the Lortie commission did this—where the
incumbents have this huge advantage and raise
all kinds of money, the system becomes such that people
just drop out. They don't vote.
The Chair: I'd be willing to take
only one question from any of the members
who had a question.
Ms. Nancy Riche: Does this committee still go on
if all the Liberals leave?
A voice: I was just asking the same question.
Mr. Walter Robinson: The House functions that way.
The Chair: I'll recognize Mr. White for one
Mr. Ted White: Thank you.
I have a question for Walter.
With regard to the government's position that the
Libman decision is justification for this, I
disagree with them. I think basing a decision like
that on a referendum-oriented case in Quebec is not a
good way to go. I'm quite confident that this law will
be struck down again after it passes.
I think the government has gone about it the wrong
way. It would have been better to try to get some
agreement with groups such as yourselves on where we
could position ourselves. I just want to explore that.
I believe we are inevitably headed down the road where
there will not be spending limits on candidates.
Without passing judgment on whether or not that's a
good idea, I think that's eventually where we're going
to end up. Gradually, those things will be knocked
down, and we'll end up with no spending limits. I would
have preferred to have approached people such as
yourself and to have said how can we work this so that
everybody feels it's manageable?
I'd like to pursue your idea of spending within one
riding, that each candidate can spend say $60,000, and
there are five candidates there, so that's $300,000.
Would you advocate that every special interest group
that comes along can spend $300,000, or are you
saying that whichever interest
group gets in there first can spend the $300,000?
Can it be spread out? It's a really complicated situation.
How would you sort that out?
Mr. Walter Robinson: I did not advocate saying
that if there are four candidates in Scarborough—Rouge
River, for example, and they each have a limit of
$65,000, working out to $260,000, they should be
able to spend $260,000. I said treat us like
candidates if you are going to impose those limits.
Keep in mind that our courts have said that maybe
limits are justifiable to a certain degree. There is
that bias in the courts. That's
why I said treat us like candidates and say you only
have $65,000 in this riding
Mr. Ted White: Do you mean any number of
candidates with $65,000, or would it be limited? That's
my point. If there are five candidates there already,
and you come along and get your $60,000, Jim comes
along and gets his $60,000, and the CLC decides
they're going to get into the act so they get their
$60,000, can that—
Mr. Walter Robinson: They're allowed to spend
that. Are you asking if that can go on ad infinitum?
Mr. Ted White: —only go to the limit equivalent to the
other five candidates, or could there be an infinite
number of special interest groups spending
Mr. Walter Robinson: It could be an infinite
number of special interest groups or
common interest groups.
Mr. Ted White: Okay.
The Chair: Ms. Wasylycia-Leis.
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: Just on that note, I say
God help us if we ever evolve toward a society where we
have no spending limits on candidates, on political
parties, and on third-party advertising.
I think the point that has to be addressed tonight is
how we create a level playing field so that we can
encourage more people representing the diversity of
this country into politics and into Parliament, where we
clearly have an imbalance.
I would like to ask a question of Nancy, who
raised this from the outset.
How can we, through this act or any subsequent measures
around reforms to the Election Act, ensure that more
women get into politics, that Parliament reflects the
diversity of this land, and that we avoid exactly what
Mr. White is talking about?
Ms. Nancy Riche: On women, we state in our brief
that we have to try if we believe—and I do
believe—that there are certain barriers to women
running. We may disagree, but if you look at the
facts, it is easier for a man to run, because currently
in our society women still have the responsibility for
child care, for elder care, and for maintaining a home.
A number of married men here in Ottawa are living in
bed-sitting rooms while their wives are back home in
the riding looking after the home front, looking after
I'm not suggesting that any man in this room is saying
that is the way it should be. But if we appreciate
that there are certain barriers to women running, then
we identify them and we remove them. If one is the
$1,000 deposit—and you can easily do the work to find
out if that's a barrier—let's remove it. If we find
that child care is a barrier, let's find a way to pay
for the child care.
Of course—since everyone else got in their little
pieces tonight—if the government would bring in the
national child care program, we wouldn't have to worry
about child care.
It's also elder care, as we know the statistics are
showing, for which women are more and more still
So we remove the barriers. Part of the problem when
we talk about women running and wanting women to run
and making up the balance is that there's a whole lot
of women who want absolutely nothing to do with you
guys. Right? There are women out there who are
saying, why would I want to get into that?
Perhaps we have to look at a different kind of
Parliament. Maybe we could start with campaigns being
totally publicly funded. That doesn't pit you up
against the guy who has hundreds of thousands of
dollars for a campaign. Everybody would be running on
the same amount; the government would provide the same
amount of money for every single person and there would
be no third-party advertising. Then, I think, we would
be talking about equality.
If the parties made an absolute commitment to it,
because it starts, after all, with...I think a lot of
parties have put some stuff into place in terms of
money, but I'm not sure that any party but the New
Democratic Party has actually put affirmative action
policies in place. Having been part of that, I have to
tell you that affirmative action policies are not easy.
It's not easy to be able to do that kind of nomination;
we do this at the nominations level. If each party got
committed to that, I think we would see some sort of
But it has to be open too. Right now, I don't think
Judy can speak to it better than I.
I don't think this place is open to women. I've been
to enough press gallery dinners.
The Chair: Mr. Anders.
Mr. Rob Anders: There has been some debate tonight
about money spent during the writ period and money
spent pre-writ or in non-writ time. For those unions
that ran campaigns counter to the NDP in Ontario in
that provincial election about which I asked questions
previously, did they choose to spend the majority of
their money during the writ time?
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'm here to speak about the
federal jurisdiction. I honest to God don't know. I
was not involved. Pat might know.
Mr. Rob Anders: Mr. Kerwin, do you know?
Ms. Nancy Riche: I'm not sure there was that much
Mr. Pat Kerwin: When I answered your question and
said yes last time, I was talking about third-party
advertising. I was talking about people who actually
went out and got people to work for a candidate other
than the New Democrat. They actually went out and
supported other parties' candidates. They worked in
the party system, but not for the New Democrats. So
for the money, I said last time...the $150,000, I
agreed that was probably what was spent. I didn't mean
that was spent as a third party. Some of it probably
was. Obviously the point you want to make is that
people want to advertise closer to the point.
Mr. Rob Anders: But you—
Ms. Nancy Riche: Listen, Rob...Mr. Anders. Even
if I said yes, that they spent millions and that they
did this, what's your point?
Mr. Rob Anders: My point—
Ms. Nancy Riche: We presented our position in this
brief. Because some unions may have done something in
a provincial election, that's not going to get me
around to agreeing with your position on third-party
Mr. Rob Anders: My point, Ms. Riche, is that
labour unions, third parties, political parties, all of
us involved in this election process choose to spend
money at times when we are closest to the voters making
a decision, at E minus whatever it happens to be, maybe
E minus seven days—the election minus seven
days—maybe E minus two days, maybe E minus two weeks.
But we all know that people are paying attention
during a writ period and that the most crucial period
of time is that few weeks heading up to an election,
when the voters are tuned in, when they want to hear
about the issues and are paying particularly close
attention to the issues, and when the swing vote, those
people who aren't committed, like you and I are, to who
they're going to vote for in the upcoming election, is
going to be tuning in and figuring out who they're
going to cast their ballot for.
Ms. Nancy Riche: I hope they listen to the
parties, not the Taxpayers Federation.
Mr. Rob Anders: I think you'd recognize, Ms.
Riche, that even unions think that is a very valuable
time period, that it is when freedom of speech is most
precious and when having your say and getting your
communication out to voters is most important. To
restrict it at that period of time is to do the
greatest damage and censorship to freedom of speech for
the purpose of elections.
Ms. Nancy Riche: There's no one
stifling anybody's freedom of speech. There's no one
stifling anybody's democratic right to vote. Unlike
Mr. Robinson over there, we do not think democracy is
painful and tedious; we actually think it's not bad.
All of our 2.4 million members vote as they wish. A
lot of them don't vote for the party we would like
them to vote for, so we live with that.
We do not do third-party advertising during an
election campaign. We don't do it. Take our money
that we've saved over the period... And it's a
substantial amount, not as much as it used to be, but
it's substantial, and it could be... Just so you
know, we collect two cents per month for every single
member in the CLC, to be used for the New Democratic
Party in this country. It's two cents per member per
month: you can figure it out. We have 2.3 million
When the writ's dropped, we give the party the money,
because we've made a decision, which is what I'm
suggesting others do. We believe in the system. If we
didn't support any party, we could spend those millions
on third-party advertising. For what? We support a
party and we think people should... We also
contribute to the party by releases, by people who go
to work like you have people who go to work on your
campaigns—all within the spending limits as laid down
by the law.
Yes, I believe in E minus seven. That's certainly
crucial. That's when I want to hear from my party and
that's when I want to hear from Reform. I don't want
to hear the Taxpayers Federation telling me
to vote Reform; I want to hear Preston Manning telling
me why I should vote Reform. I want to hear Jean
Chrétien or the candidate in my riding telling me why I
should vote Liberal. It sure is crucial, and that's
when I want to hear from the parties, not the firearms
group, thank you very much. I want to hear from the
I'm not going to vote for him. He has no
accountability. He has nothing. I'm voting for a
candidate running for a political party. At E minus
seven, I had better bloody well start to know where the
party stands on the issues of concern to me. I'm not
going to get them from these third parties; I'm going
to get it from the parties.
The Chair: Okay.
Ms. Nancy Riche: It makes no difference to me what
you say, Rob. I'm still going to vote NDP.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: The process of conversion continues.
Your chair is prepared to wrap up now, seeing no other
questions at this time.
I want to thank our three groups of witnesses and the
people who have accompanied them. It's been a very
interesting evening. We've covered a lot of issues and
we thank you very much for your input.
We'll adjourn now.