Alistair spoke about Democratic Reform in the House of Commons
October 25th, 2016 - 12:35pm
Mr. Speaker, this evening I am looking for something simple from the parliamentary secretary. I would like a clear yes or no on whether the government will support my bill, Bill C-279, to limit the length of federal elections.
I would like to lay out the reasons for the government to support the bill.
The parliamentary secretary has stated his desire to work with me on undoing many of the changes that happened in the unfair elections act and, specifically, look at the length of elections. Members can look at his question period response to see that.
For each day that a campaign lasts longer than 37 days, a political party can spend more money. This means that a party's national campaign can spend
$675,000 a day for every day an election goes beyond 37 days. Political parties can cynically lengthen campaign periods to outspend their opponents.
I would argue that this is exactly what happened in the 2015 election.
This spending hurts smaller parties, as they do not have the funds to spend that kind of money. In making an election fairer, we cannot help just the richest political parties gain an advantage.
It is not just political parties' spending of the money that is the issue, but the fact that the general taxpayer has to foot an inflated bill. The
2015 campaign cost the public $443 million, $150 million more than the previous 2011 campaign.
No Canadian wants to be bombarded with radio and television ads all day long during a marathon campaign, especially over the 78-day marathon we just had last year. In fact, when I was going door to door on the campaign trail, I certainly heard time and time again that people were sick and tired of such a long election and could not comprehend why there was no limit to it.
It is not just me making these arguments. This idea is also supported by our Chief Electoral Officer, someone whom I think everyone in the House holds in very high regard.
In his recent report to Parliament entitled, "An electoral framework for the 21st Century", he laid out recommendations to make our electoral system fairer. He stated that by not having a cap on the length of an election, the level playing field between parties can be compromised. He has recommended that there be a maximum of between 45 to 50 days. My bill would fit perfectly within that range, with a 46-day cap.
With those reasons in mind, I come back to the first part of my question. I simply ask the parliamentary secretary for a clear answer on this. Will the government support my bill to limit the length of federal elections, yes or no?
October 25th, 6:40 p.m.
Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the parliamentary secretary's willingness to come forward on this. I had the honour of sitting as a member of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform for four days when it was doing its Atlantic Canada tour. Some of the witnesses did identify the length of election periods as an issue.
I still have not heard a yes or no answer. I am glad to see that there is some positive commitment in that regard. However, when we were drafting the bill, we certainly did go through everything we could with legislative services to examine every kind of possible situation that could come up, which is why we gave that 36- to 46-day range. We thought that giving the government that 10-day range would certainly aid in whatever situation came up. I understand that not everything is foreseeable.
I certainly hope that we can get some good news out of the government in the coming months, if he is not prepared to give a yes or no answer now. I certainly look forward to the government's response in the coming months.