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37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Thursday, March 11, 2004




Á 1110
V         The Chair (Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.))
V         Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, CPC)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Chuck Strahl
V         The Chair

Á 1115
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ)
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield (Whitby—Ajax, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Dale Johnston (Wetaskiwin, CPC)
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Stéphane Perrault (Senior Counsel, Political Financing Reform Team, Legal Operations, Privy Council Office)

Á 1120
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Dale Johnston
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond

Á 1125
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Stéphane Perrault
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond

Á 1130
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Sprague (Senior Practitioner and General Counsel, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP)
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Lorne Nystrom

Á 1135
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond

Á 1140
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Dale Johnston
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         Hon. Lorne Nystrom
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         Hon. Lorne Nystrom
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Dale Johnston
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, CPC)
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Chuck Strahl

Á 1145
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Lorne Nystrom
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville)
V         The Chair

Á 1150
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Sprague
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Sprague
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Sprague
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Sprague
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Sprague

Á 1155
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Sprague
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         Mr. James Sprague
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         Mr. James Sprague
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Stéphane Perrault
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield

 1200
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair
V         The Hon. Stéphane Dion
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Judi Longfield
V         The Chair

 1205
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs


NUMBER 009 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, March 11, 2004

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Á  +(1110)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.)): If we could begin, you'll see we have three items of business. Before I get to those, I would like first to thank all the members of this committee and members of all the parties who attended the round table on appointments that we sponsored last evening. And for the members of the committee who weren't there, at our next meeting we will have an official transcript of the round table and a summary of the principal discussion, which will be available for everybody. We also propose to provide the same in hard copy to everybody who attended the meeting, and we will circulate that same material electronically to every member of Parliament.

    So that deals with that one step toward the matter of appointments that we're considering.

    The other thing is, I said at our last meeting that when we came back after the break we would do estimates and we would invite Mr. Kingsley. I discovered that is budget day, and it's impossible, even for us, to get the television room--because we do have some authority over it. In the official opposition's motion--and I think they submitted it to all the committees--they said the estimates should be considered on TV.

    I would suggest we postpone the estimates until the Thursday, when we can be on television, and on the Tuesday we can continue and perhaps complete our consideration of the technical aspects of the democratic action plan. That's webcasting, televising the House, electronic petitions, and so on. Basically it will take the form of somebody from the House of Commons briefing us on where they are with respect to those sorts of high-tech aspects of democracy.

    So are you comfortable with that? Tuesday back, high-tech democracy. Thursday back, on television. Estimates, Mr. Kingsley.

    Now, we'll turn to these two reports I've mentioned, the first order of the day, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(iii), matters relating to private members' business. You have before you a draft report. We would normally consider this in camera. If there is to be discussion, I would simply propose that we postpone it and don't consider it. But the suggestion essentially is that we are operating in private members' business now under draft standing orders, and we suggest those be extended for 60 sitting days into the new Parliament. The steering committee has discussed this.

    If you're all in agreement, I'm going to call the vote. If you're not, I'm simply going to postpone it.

+-

    Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, CPC): Just to be clear, I don't want to debate it. On point 3, which is that it be extended to the earlier of June 23 or the dissolution of the 37th Parliament, what if the election takes place after the 23rd?

+-

    The Chair: Then my understanding is we will continue with the draft standing orders as we are now, and this will continue to the 60th sitting day of the next Parliament.

+-

    Mr. Chuck Strahl: Okay, good.

+-

    The Chair: So the motion is that the draft report before us on private members' business be adopted as the committee's report to the House and that the chair report it to the House.

    (Motion agreed to)

Á  +-(1115)  

+-

    The Chair: Now, the second item--and I remind you, with this one in particular, these are confidential reports--has to do with security on the Hill.

    All members know we've had a number of meetings on this matter. This particular report is complicated by the fact that the Senate is proposing to table the same report in its chamber. We're going to try to have those two things coincide.

    The committee has its views on this report. My understanding is that as far as it goes, we support it. We have ideas of what we want to do next, but we can't do those other things until this has gone through.

    So really, the proposal here is that I be given the authority to table this report in the House of Commons at a time, which I hope will be very soon, that will roughly coincide with a similar activity in the Senate. That's what it means.

    Now again, the same terms apply. Are you generally in favour of that course of action?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Chair: Okay. Would somebody move this, then?

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): I so move.

    (Motion agreed to)

+-

    The Chair: Thank you all for that. I think it's worth it, with the amount of business we have, to move things along like that.

    We now return to the order of reference of Wednesday, February 18, 2004, Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act.

    I'll draw your attention to the fact that again this time--I should have done it last time--we did give notice that we were going to consider clause-by-clause. There was some discussion at the end of our last meeting about that, and I committed that I would go through these clauses one by one. I'm not going to try to move them along in blocks or anything of that sort. So I would propose to do that.

    We have notice of two amendments, and you should all have them. One is in the name of Lorne Nystrom and it is for clause 5, right, Lorne? One is in the name of Paddy Torsney, who is not here. It is with respect to clause 3.

    Now, when I get to it, because she is not here, it would have to be moved by someone else; it would have to be moved and voted on. So you understand that as Paddy is not here at the moment--she was a member of the committee the last time we discussed it--someone should read it. If someone wants to move it, they can move it when the time comes.

    Do we have notice of any other amendments?

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield (Whitby—Ajax, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, I don't really know. I do have an amendment that I would like to propose. I could give notice now. It deals with--

+-

    The Chair: Judi, I tender the view that the longer the members have to see it, the better. But it is in your hands; you can introduce it whenever you like.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Well, I agree with you. I think members should have it, because it might assist in--

+-

    The Chair: Okay.

    Colleagues, we'll pause for a moment while this other amendment is being circulated and then we can look at it. I think it would be better.

    The copies are coming around. I have mine. It's being amended after line 45 and it's a sunset provision.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Yes. It would be a new clause, clause 26.1, and as you said, it'll be a sunset clause stating that Bill C-3 be amended by adding after line 45 on page 14 the following:

The amendments made by this Act cease to have effect on the day that is two years after the day on which this act comes into force or, if Parliament is not then in session, on the day that is 90 days from the commencement of the next ensuing session.

+-

    The Chair: Dale Johnston.

+-

    Mr. Dale Johnston (Wetaskiwin, CPC): Mr. Chair, Madame said it comes in on the day that is 90 days “from” the commencement, not “after”.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I propose “after”. I'm told that the electronic version was slightly different, but the one that we've circulated now would be “90 days after the commencement of the next ensuing session.”

+-

    The Chair: Let's pause for a moment. We might as well start off on the right foot here.

    On our agenda, you will see that we have with us Stephen Zaluski, senior counsel, legislation and House planning/counsel; and Stéphane Perrault, senior counsel, political financing reform team, legal operations/counsel.

    Stéphane, do you want to say something about this?

+-

    Mr. Stéphane Perrault (Senior Counsel, Political Financing Reform Team, Legal Operations, Privy Council Office): Yes.

    There is an electronic version that was given last night, but there is a new version that I brought on paper this morning with that correction, and I understand it's being circulated now.

Á  +-(1120)  

+-

    The Chair: Judi, will you say very clearly which version we're dealing with?

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I'll read it again.

+-

    The Chair: Yes, please.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I'm dealing with the version that states:

The amendments made by this Act cease to have effect on the day that is two years after the day on which this Act comes into force or, if Parliament is not then in session, on the day that is 90 days after the commencement of the next ensuing session.

+-

    The Chair: Colleagues, you have that.

    Dale, is that okay with you?

+-

    Mr. Dale Johnston: — [Inaudible—Editor]—

+-

    The Chair: Michel Guimond.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Chairman, before beginning, I would like to ask Ms. Longfield if this is the only amendment tabled by the government at this point. Will there be any others?

[English]

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: No.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: I will make one comment. The day before yesterday, on Tuesday, we received a document prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer, who is the one who will have to apply this law. We recognize that he is directly concerned. He submitted a document to us which contained 11 proposed changes. I studied them, and I want to say to you that there are certain changes with which I agree and others with which I disagree. So I would like to know the government's official position concerning this document submitted by Mr. Kingsley.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: I want to say, first of all, that Mr. Kingsley, as I recall, said he could implement any course of action that we were considering.

    He had some preferences—I do accept that—when we asked him for that material, but I would argue now, Michel, that what we're going to do is to go through it clause by clause. We don't have notice of motion in this committee. If members want to make an amendment when we get to a certain clause, they can do so. We'll consider it, we'll debate it, and we'll vote on it.

    I'm going to begin clause-by-clause consideration.

    (Clause 1 agreed to)

+-

    The Chair: As long as there is no opposition, I will move on.

    Judi, are you okay with this?

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Yes.

    (Clause 2 agreed to)

    (On clause 3)

+-

    The Chair: I have to draw to your attention that we do have Paddy Torsney's amendment here, but she is not here to move it. It's up to you, colleagues.

    We don't need to discuss it unless anyone introduces it.

    Okay, Michel. Is this on clause 3?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: Yes. The Chief Electoral Officer suggests that clause 3(4) of the bill be deleted, as he does not want to have the authority to decide whether the political party is indeed pursuing purposes that are deemed fundamental or necessary. According to me, we should agree with the deletion of clause 3(4) in order not to get into subjective issues. I have no written amendment. Incidentally, all of my comments are not intended to delay the passage of this bill. I do not want you to think that I am doing today what I sometimes do.

+-

    The Chair: Never, Michel.

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: When that is what I am up to, I let you know.

    So we should seriously examine the possibility of deleting clause 3(4).

Á  +-(1125)  

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Okay.

    I should point out that we have James Sprague and Trevor Knight from Mr. Kingsley's office here to advise us, should we need them.

    Judi Longfield.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I want to ask Stéphane to address that, because my understanding is that the issue that Mr. Guimond is talking about actually comes into the next clause, not in clause 3. There's some confusion there.

+-

    The Chair: Stéphane Perrault.

+-

    Mr. Stéphane Perrault: Yes, the requirement that the CEO be satisfied that the information is accurate is in subclause 3(4).

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: In the new clause, reference is made to paragraph (3) j). I would delete certain words from paragraph (3) j) so as to have it read as follows:

j) the leader's declaration, in the prescribed form, that one of the party's fundamental purposes is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election.

    I agree with that but I would delete the words “having considered all of the factors—including those described in subsection 521.1(5)—relevant to determining the party's purposes.” This would give the Chief Electoral Officer a certain leeway that he does not want to have. But I do not want to turn this into a matter of principle. If I manage to convince you, fine, but we have to take into account what the Chief Electoral Officer said to us. Is there someone here from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Yes, there are two people here from his office.

    James and Trevor, I have no objection—and looking at my colleagues, I don't think they do—to your coming to the table. By the way, I don't want to engage you in a debate on behalf of Mr. Kingsley, but it might be more useful....

    Now, colleagues, they are here simply to represent the Chief Electoral Officer, not as witnesses. Our witnesses are the three people at the end of the table.

    Judi or Stéphane, do you want to respond to Michel's point?

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: No. I mean that I wouldn't mind hearing from James.

+-

    The Chair: As long as it's brief, because I think you have to present the government's position.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Speaking on behalf of the government, but also as a member who was sitting over there and wanting—

+-

    The Chair: It's difficult to do both, Judi.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I appreciate that, but I'm still a member of the government.

    I would say in response that the government's view is that the Chief Electoral Officer did say he was concerned that once this was passed, it might remain in force for a long period of time. The government's view is that he would feel a little more comfortable if he knew that there was actually going to be a fuller debate on it. This is one of the reasons why the government has introduced the sunset clause, to say that, yes, this is something that is going to need more fulsome discussion and that we'll have the ability to do that at the time.

    But he and the government also believe it's important that we get this legislation on the table and that we get it passed or through, because if not, there will be this giant hole.

[Translation]

+-

    The Chair: Yes, Michel.

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: I was expecting to hear that type of reply, but why not do things properly right now rather than waiting for the two-year provision? In any case, I find the two-year period too long. I am going to suggest one year. I am telling you what I think in this regard. Unless there is a national emergency...

[English]

+-

    The Chair: We'll get to the sunset clause later; let's keep to clause 3.

    Now, Michel, as I heard it, you didn't move an amendment. I understood that you've made your point, but you didn't move an amendment.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: No, but I would like to hear someone from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer. Is it true that the Chief Electoral Officer does not want to have this power? I am talking about point 3, referring to withdrawing the Chief Electoral Officer's authority in this matter. I did not make this up. Is there someone who can defend this position?

Á  +-(1130)  

[English]

+-

    The Chair: James, I want to stress that if you feel that is a political answer that only Mr. Kingsley should reply to, you should just say you don't express an opinion. If you feel comfortable with a technical reply, that's fine with us.

    It is in Mr. Kingsley's document. That's the point Michel is making.

+-

    Mr. James Sprague (Senior Practitioner and General Counsel, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer): Mr. Kingsley's statement yesterday was that he found the bill, as it was presented, acceptable. He wanted to bring to the attention of the committee the manner in which you could operate. He said there was some considerable merit to the second legislative amendment. That was his position.

    If you'd like something clarified on that point, I would have to go back to the CEO and seek--

+-

    The Chair: Yes, we understand that.

    Michel Guimond.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: The bill is acceptable but can always be improved. Mr. Kingsley submitted a document to us in which he discusses 11 possible improvements that could be made to the bill, in his opinion. Incidentally, I do not agree with all of these points. I do not agree with everything that is being suggested here.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Judi may reply, and then I'm going to call the clause.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: We've agreed to the definition and passed it. It seems rather strange that having agreed to a definition in the legislation, we wouldn't have some mechanism to make it meaningful.

    A lot of these were consequential to whether we maintained the definition. We have agreed to maintain the definition, so I think now it's only prudent for us to make certain we have some way to make it meaningful. Otherwise we should have eliminated the definition, if that's how we were going to go. We've already determined that we're going to leave the definition there.

    (Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to)

    (On clause 5)

+-

    The Chair: We have Lorne Nystrom's amendment.

+-

    Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Should I read it, Mr. Chair?

+-

    The Chair: NDP-1.

+-

    Hon. Lorne Nystrom: I will read the amendment. It is moved that Bill C-3 in clause 5 be amended by replacing lines 14 to 20 on page 3 with the following:

An eligible party becomes a registered party if it has at least twelve candidates whose nominations have been confirmed for an election and its application to become registered was made at least 60 days before the issue of the writ or writs for that election and has not been withdrawn.

    Now, Mr. Chair, I'll leave Ms. Longfield a moment to get to the court decision on this. I suggest, Mr. Chair, as a fallback, that the sunset clause might be a way of dealing with it on a temporary basis, so I certainly support the sunset clause. I do want to put on record and test the committee as to whether or not we should be suggesting another limit. This changes the number “one” to “twelve”.

    Right now, because of the court decision, they're suggesting, and legislation having been drafted, that to be a registered party you have to run one candidate, have four officers, a leader, a secretary and a treasurer, and 250 members who will agree to have that party registered. A concern that I and a number of other people have had, Ms. Longfield--I think you heard my arguments the other day--is that 50 is too high, but I think one is too low. It would allow a very small group of people to become a registered party.

    What does “registered party” mean? It means, Mr. Dion, you can use the tax credit for four years in fundraising. We have in the House of Commons, for example, Mr. Pankiw--I'll mention it one more time--who has views that are rather extreme for most of us. He may, if we were to pass this law as it is, decide he wants to register himself as a party, the Citizens for Freedom, or whatever he wants to call it. He needs 250 members. He needs three officers other than himself. He has to run the election campaign. He can then use the tax credit for four years, and with a website and a fundraising list, raise tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. That could be done by all kinds of other people.

    I think the threshold of one is too low and the threshold of 50 is too high. I'm suggesting 12. Why am I suggesting 12? We already have a bit of a precedence for that. Before your party name is on the ballot, you have to run 12 candidates, be it Liberal or Rhinoceros Party or NDP or whatever. I think there's a bit of a precedence for it.

    I want to read into the record--and it won't take long, Mr. Chair--something that was said in the Figueroa decision. Mr. Justice Iacobucci, for the majority, seems to suggest that there are no threshold requirements except under section 3 of the charter. With all due respect to the Supreme Court of Canada, let me venture to suggest that this is one decision in which they might just be wrong. The case is not about minority rights, about discrimination, or about fundamental freedoms of religion or expression. It's about the political process and the practical, pragmatic reality of how that process functions.

    Once again, according all due respect to our Supreme Court, this is an area in which parliamentarians, having experienced the process first hand, are eminently more qualified to make decisions.

    I should also add that if you read the Figueroa decision, Mr. Justice Iacobucci seems to imply, in part, that the government's case was simply poorly argued, rather than being without merit. This is evidenced by the following quotation in reference to the amendment to the Canada Elections Act that reduced the threshold of listing a party affiliation on the ballot from 50 to 12, and I want to just quote this for the record. This is what he said:

Obviously, the constitutionality of the amended provision is not currently before the Court. It may well be that the government will be able to advance other objectives that justify a 12-candidate threshold. But suffice it to say, the objectives advanced do not justify a threshold requirement of any sort, let alone a 50-candidate threshold.

    That's in paragraph 92.

    I close by saying, Mr. Chair, that the Supreme Court has made a decision. They have suggested the threshold should be one, but they were looking at the threshold of 50 when they made that decision. I would submit that if we were to amend this legislation and say 12 is a reasonable threshold, the Supreme Court might come back and say that is reasonable.

    I have a pretty good understanding of the charter. For 10 years I was our party's constitutional spokesperson, and I know that if something is reasonable in section 1 of the charter, that has a great impact on how the judges rule. I submit to you that if we were to amend the bill in this way and have a threshold of 12 instead of 50, it might just be charter-proof. It might just pass through the Supreme Court. If the argument is made that we have reason to say 12, it just may pass.

Á  +-(1135)  

    I'm just concerned, Mr. Chair, about some people abusing the system, because you were talking about taxpayers' money. If you have a party that's set up, you can fund an office, you can fund travel, you can fund a small staff, and you can spread a point of view that, even though we do have freedom of expression in this country, might not be one the taxpayers in general want funded from the tax base.

    I'd like to throw that out. I think people know the argument. There's no need to go on any longer, and I'd like to get some feedback on it and then put it to a vote, Mr. Chair.

    All that being said, I do support the sunset clause as my fallback, but we'll discuss that later on. I'd like to try this one first.

+-

    The Chair: I have Michel Guimond and then Dale Johnston.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I want to inform Mr. Nystrom of my intention to vote against his amendment. To my way of thinking, it is not in keeping with the Figueroa judgment. Mr. Figueroa, who appealed the practice demanding that 50 candidates be necessary to form a recognized party, could take up exactly the same legal battle concerning the 12 candidate requirement, and would obtain exactly the same result, in my opinion.

    In any case, the 12-candidate rule—I have already said this and I repeat it—derives more from the number of members required to be recognized as a party in this House. We have to differentiate between the candidates standing for election and... I know that after the year 2000 election, when the appeal court decision was the only one that had been handed down in the Figueroa judgment—so, this was before the Supreme Court ruling—it had been decided that with 12 candidates, one could indicate the party's affiliation on the ballot. Your amendment confirms that procedure.

    The fact remains that the 12-candidate rule is based first and foremost on the number of members required to be recognized as a party in the House. I make a distinction between the candidates standing for election and the number of members needed to be recognized as an official party in the House. For those reasons, I think that this formula would not pass the test and could easily be appealed.

    For these reasons, I will be voting against Mr. Nystrom's amendment.

Á  +-(1140)  

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Dale Johnston, then Judi Longfield.

+-

    Mr. Dale Johnston: Mr. Chair, I tend to agree with Mr. Nystrom that one is too few and that 12 is a reasonable number. I'm concerned that with the government's track record, quite frankly, on defending these sorts of things in court.... It seems to me that if we've won one of these ever, it's escaped my notice. What are the chances of us putting something in place here that's just simply going to be shot down again by the courts? In Mr. Nystrom's case, if he's right in saying we didn't lose that case because of the constitutional rights but simply because it was poorly argued, what are the chances of that happening again?

    Just while you're thinking about an answer to that, I would like, actually, to have Mr. Nystrom read his amendment again because I think he actually changed a word or two. It's not consistent with what I have here on the paper.

+-

    The Chair: That's fine with me, or I could read it.

    NDP-1 is that Bill C-3 in clause 5 be amended by replacing lines 14 to 20 on page 3 with the following:

“370. (1) An eligible party becomes a registered party if it has at least twelve candidates whose nominations have been confirmed for an election and its application to become registered was made at least 60 days before the issue of the writ or writs for that election and has not been withdrawn.”

    Judi Longfield.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Thank you.

    Well, Mr. Nystrom knows that in the ruling the court also said that the manner in which Parliament determined its political parties to have official status in the House was not something that was a subject of the appeal. While 12 is appropriate for the House--

+-

    Hon. Lorne Nystrom: I didn't refer to that in my argument. I'm talking about the--

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: When you chose 12, you indicated that 12 was a number we were accepting for status in the House.

+-

    Hon. Lorne Nystrom: No, I didn't say that. Quite the contrary. I said you need to run 12 candidates to have your party affiliation listed on the ballot.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: All right. My apologies.

+-

    The Chair: Dale Johnston.

+-

    Mr. Dale Johnston: I think Madam Longfield was attempting to reply to my question about the possibility of us losing yet again in a court case.

+-

    The Chair: Judi Longfield.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Thank you.

    The government is of the view that the court felt that any number other than one was just not appropriate at this time and that we're committed to saying it's one. Again, on further review two years hence, we may be able to have fuller discussion on this and it may be time to look at it again. I think for the time being, one is where we are going to stay.

+-

    The Chair: Loyola Hearn, on amendment NDP-1.

+-

    Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, CPC): Mr. Chair, I agree with Mr. Nystrom here. I believe the number one makes a farce of the whole political system. You could have everybody running off forming political parties.

    Again, I don't believe the court has prejudiced itself, and this oath has to be one, and one only. I believe it should be tested and I believe a reasonable number should be put forth at least to make this whole process have some semblance of reality. The number one, I think, would be laughed at all over the place.

+-

    The Chair: Judi Longfield.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Again, I'd like to go back to say the court indicated, and I quote, “The thrust of the reasons is that no threshold requirement is acceptable.”

+-

    The Chair: Okay. I'm going to call amendment NDP-1, but it's up to you, Chuck.

    Chuck Strahl, and then Lorne Nystrom, NDP-1.

+-

    Mr. Chuck Strahl: I hate it when you say “NDP won”; I always like “NDP lost”.

    I'm also interested in that idea of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that's another story.

    It seems to me that although I agree with Loyola's political analysis, the reality of the Supreme Court's ruling is that you have to stick with the one for now, and we put the sunset clause in later and fix it later. I agree, though, with the arguments. It does seem low and arbitrary. To take on the Supreme Court on this, I don't think we could argue a case other than that and win it.

Á  +-(1145)  

+-

    The Chair: Lorne Nystrom.

+-

    Hon. Lorne Nystrom: Mr. Chair, I understand the argument.

    Also in the ruling, Ms. Longfield, the justice does say, and I quote again, “Itmay well be that the government will be able to advance other objectives that justify a 12-candidate threshold.” There seems to be an opening there in the court decision.

    I understand that you may not want to take the chance now, but if we did pass this, if it is challenged, it takes a long time to work its way through the courts. There is, I think, an opening there, and it is important that we note this in the committee and that we signal that we're looking at it.

+-

    The Chair: Shall amendment NDP-1 carry?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: No.

    The Chair: Okay, we'll do it again.

    Shall amendment NDP-1 carry?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: No.

    The Chair: We had better do a show of hands in this case.

    Those in favour of amendment NDP-1, please show. Those against amendment NDP-1?

+-

    The Chair: We are going to have to do it again, colleagues.

[Translation]

+-

    The Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville): Is there a link between the point raised by Mr. Nystrom and the one raised through Mr. Guimond by the Chief Electoral Officer, concerning the fact that in the bill the definition of a political party is sometimes very subjective?

    If that is the case, that is one more reason to have a threshold. In that way, we would limit the number of times when it will be necessary to determine whether or not we are dealing with a political party. It seems to me that we should be able to make courts understand that argument. There is no reason to be subjective as to the definition of a political party. Having a threshold will allow people to avoid being subjective when the time comes to assess whether the purposes meet the requirements, and so on. A court could evaluate those matters.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: I don't want to really get into it, but I want to say, because we do have some new members here, in the briefing as I listened to it the point was made that perhaps Parliament at some point can make other arguments as to defining what a political party is, what it must be, and use those criteria instead of simply a number. There was a lot of discussion about that kind of thing, Stéphane.

    The other one is that we're caught with this date; the court has said something must be done by June 27. It's a very pragmatic situation we're in. We're not talking about the ideal bill; I don't see any members here talking about the ideal situation. We're trying to deal with what the court has directed us to do.

    Let's start again. Those who want NDP-1 to pass, when the names are called....

    (Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 6)

    (Clauses 5 to 22 inclusive agreed to)

    (On clause 23)

Á  +-(1150)  

+-

    The Chair: Michel Guimond.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: Incidentally, I am not the parrot of the Chief Electoral Officer. If he wants to pay me professional fees as a consultant, it will be my pleasure. It would not be any worse than Senator Lapointe continuing to give performances although he is supposed to have a full-time job, nor any worse than Viola Léger, who continues to give performances, whereas a parliamentarian's work should occupy someone full-time. For my part, I can no longer practice law.

    So, my comments are based on the document which was submitted to us by the Chief Electoral Officer, who would like to see the disappearance of all of the provisions that authorize the Commissioner of Canada Elections to apply the fundamental purpose requirement . He would prefer that these powers not be given to the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: If you read that item in the officer's brief, James, it does even to me, as a simple chair, sound like a fairly overwhelming statement. It says, “This will remove provisions authorizing the Commissioner of Canada Elections to enforce the fundamental purpose of the requirement.”

    James?

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: Yes. Sorry, what is the question?

+-

    The Chair: Michel has raised this item that Jean-Pierre Kingsley has in his brief, and the point is that it's.... As I read that, he says he cannot enforce the fundamental purpose of the requirement. What does that mean?

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: This is the summary document that had technical amendments?

+-

    The Chair: Yes.

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: The paragraph to which you were referring is not a statement of preference. That document is a supporting document that shows if the committee chose to excise the various provisions that dealt with the definition of a political party and the related powers of the CEO and the commissioner, which provisions would naturally flow with it.

    The explanation that's in that paragraph in the box is simply an explanation that says if you take out the definition, then these provisions would apply.

+-

    The Chair: But because we're not, it doesn't matter.

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: Yes. If you were--

+-

    The Chair: No, I'm asking technically now.

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: Yes, that's right. If the committee is not moving to excise the definition of political party and the related powers of the CEO and the commissioner, then that document is irrelevant.

    That was simply a technical explanation as to which provisions would be affected if the committee moved in that direction.

Á  +-(1155)  

+-

    The Chair: I think I understand that.

    Michel, ça va?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: In the document I have, reference is made to provisions that can be withdrawn. We see that the Chief Electoral Officer would prefer that the Commissioner of Canada Elections not be given the power of examining all of the exclusion procedures should a party be deemed not to respect the purposes, for the reasons stated earlier when we were studying clause 3. I said at that time that I would not be making a big issue out of this.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: I appreciate that, Michel.

    Marcel Proulx, and then Judi Longfield.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.): Allow me to put a technical question to Mr. Kingsley's representatives. If clause 23 is deleted, to whom will these responsibilities be entrusted?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: James Sprague.

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: The way the bill is structured is that when it comes to weighing whether or not a party is participating in public affairs, the CEO has that initial jurisdiction on registration. Once the CEO determines on the application for registration that a party does meet the criteria for participating in public affairs, then the party is registered.

    Thereafter the CEO's powers are restricted to the more administrative aspects of the bill, ensuring that the party has 250 members, ensuring that its fiscal statements are filed, ensuring that the registry is updated.

    If there is a concern that the party ceases to be participating in public affairs, then the authority falls to the Commissioner of Canada Elections and at that point someone would make an application to the commissioner or the commissioner could move on his own motion. The commissioner would look into the matter and decide whether he is satisfied that a party is participating adequately in public affairs, and if he feels it is not, then he would move to the court.

    So the structure of the bill is that the CEO makes the initial evaluation with respect to what we'll call the subjective element here, the degree to which you are participating in public affairs. Once you are registered, thereafter the decision is made by the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

    If you excise clause 23 from the bill, then that determination will really be made at only one point, on registration, and once made, then that element, participating in public affairs, would cease to be in the bill, period. It would be restricted to the administrative aspects, having the 250 members, etc.

+-

    The Chair: Marcel.

+-

    Mr. Marcel Proulx: If it doesn't go to the commissioner, the role would not go back to the CEO?

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: Not unless you amended it.

+-

    Mr. Marcel Proulx: It would disappear into thin air.

+-

    Mr. James Sprague: There would be no provision for continuing on.

+-

    The Chair: It's better not to take it out, right?

    Stéphane Perrault.

+-

    Mr. Stéphane Perrault: The reason for this provision, and it's a cornerstone of this bill, is that once a party is in--and with a single-candidate requirement, it's relatively easy to come in--you need some mechanism to pull out a fraudulent party, if it happens that the party is not running candidates in any meaningful way and is milking the system, so to speak.

    This clause is the only one we have to pull the plug on that part and say you can't do that any more. Without that, the party would be indefinitely able to defraud the system without any mechanism for intervention.

+-

    The Chair: All right.

    (Clause 23 agreed to)

    (On clause 24)

+-

    The Chair: Judi Longfield.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I'd ask that we defer clause 24 until such time as we've dealt with the amendment under clause 26.

  +-(1200)  

+-

    The Chair: Is that agreeable, colleagues?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Clause 24 allowed to stand)

    (Clause 25 agreed to)

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: — [Editor's Note: Inaudible]— because reference is again made to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, for the same reasons.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: I'm being advised here.

    I call clause 26. Then for your amendment, I call the new clause 26.1. Okay?

    (Clause 26 agreed to)

+-

    The Chair: I'll now call new clause 26.1. Shall clause 26.1 carry?

    You have it before you. It's the government amendment.

    Judi, do you want to speak to this in this case?

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I think we put our case forward at the beginning. It's important that there be a time and date to review this.

+-

    The Chair: Absolutely.

    Michel Guimond.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: I would like Ms. Longfield to explain why a period of two years was included. I think that one year would have been quite sufficient. Why two years?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Judi Longfield.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: Give me one moment.

+-

    The Chair: Take your time.

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: The minister has already asked this committee to review the implications of the report and to report back within a year. If we have a year to make the initial report, then it gives us an opportunity to take that into consideration before we actually look at the bill per se.

    It's logistical. If the committee is being asked to report back in a year and at the same time this is a sunset, there is not the opportunity to do this. We'll be back in the same kind of situation we are in now, where our time is so compressed that we are not able to give the bill the fullest review that we possibly can.

    I would think it's in the members' best interests to be able to do this.

+-

    The Chair: Stéphane Dion.

[Translation]

+-

    The Hon. Stéphane Dion: Moreover, I suppose that for the law to be correctly assessed, there will have to be an election, and we are not sure that there will be an election within a year.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Michel Guimond.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: I thought that you were going to answer me that in theory the 37th Parliament could go on until November 27, 2005 and even a month beyond that. So technically, the end of this Parliament would be November 27, 2005, and an election could be held after that.

    You have managed to convince me. I am going to have to vote in favour of this.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Shall clause 26.1 carry?

    (Amendment agreed to—[See Minutes of Proceedings])

    (Clause 27 agreed to)

+-

    The Chair: I have to go back to clause 24. Shall clause 24 carry?

+-

    Mrs. Judi Longfield: I would suggest strongly that we defeat clause 24, having passed 26. That is my point.

+-

    The Chair: That's reasonable.

    Do you understand that, colleagues? I'm asking again, shall clause 24 carry?

    (Clause 24 negatived)

  -(1205)  

-

    The Chair: I now go to the title.

    Shall the title carry?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Chair: Shall the bill as amended carry?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: On division.

    The Chair: It is carried on division.

    Shall I report the bill as amended to the House?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Chair: We don't need the last item there, colleagues.

    I'd like to thank you all for that. I'd like to say as chair, though, if I might—because I bite my tongue sometimes on these occasions—that I absolutely understand why we have done what we have just done. I think we are a very pragmatic committee, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. With the whips and so on, it's our job to keep the system moving. But I sense concern about this bill on all sides.

    For the record, and it certainly may not be me, I would strongly urge that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs or even a special committee take a good deal of time to deal with this matter. I understand what Mr. Figueroa told us, and I admire what he's done, in a certain sense, but there are concerns here in this room about this legislation. I'd like to say that.

    Let me now say also, colleagues, that when we return on the Tuesday we will be dealing with the technical aspects of democratic reform and on the Thursday, on television, we'll be dealing with the estimates.

    The meeting is adjourned until after the break.