November 23, 2007
DEMOCRATIC REFORM: Strengthening Accountability
For example, we have instituted fixed election dates; banned corporate and union contributions to federal political candidates; implemented a five-year ban on lobbying for ministers and others; protected whistleblowers; and enhanced the ability of the Auditor General to follow the money to more effectively scrutinize spending.
The Prime Minister has also followed through on our promise to include Canadians in the discussion of how best to reform our democracy, and announced public consultations earlier this year.
REPRESENTATION BY POPULATION
This Conservative government is also delivering on an election commitment to restore the principle of representation by population in the faster growing provinces such as Alberta and BC while protecting the seat counts of provinces with slower growing populations.
For example, a Member of Parliament (MP) from Alberta or British Columbia represents an average of 10,000 more people than an MP in another province. Under the new legislation, Alberta would receive four extra seats and British Columbia would receive five extra seats. At the same time, no province would lose seats.
Although our two-paragraph bill which would replace lifetime Senate appointments with eight-year terms was held up by the Liberal-dominated Senate for almost 21 months, the Prime Minister has retabled the legislation. The Constitution Act, 2007 (Senate Tenure), will limit the terms of new Senators to eight years. Included in that bill is the provision that senators who are forced to leave the Senate because they have reached the age of 75, can be replaced by an elected Senator.
The Senate Appointment Consultations Act creates a popular consultation process to allow Canadians to have a direct say in who represents them in the Senate.
These bills will create a modern, accountable Senate that is consistent with 21st century democratic values and principles. Under our legislation, accountability – the basis of democracy – will finally come to the Senate. The Senate will finally be accountable for the decisions it makes, the work it does, and the money it spends. However, if the Senate refuses to reform, then we believe that it should be abolished.
EXPANDED VOTING OPPORTUNITIES
Our Government has introduced legislation that will make it easier for Canadians to vote. The bill will create two new advance polling days: on Sunday, a week before Election Day; and on Sunday, the day right before the election.
The Government is moving forward on its commitment to eliminate the influence of big money in the political process with tough new regulations on political loans. This Conservative government fought the last federal campaign on a commitment to eliminate the influence of rich, wealthy individuals from the political process. In fact, our first piece of legislation after the election established strict limits on donations to address just that issue. However, the Liberals found a way around that law and, during the Liberal leadership race last fall, candidates accepted over $3 million in loans. Stéphane Dion himself was lent almost half a million dollars from a handful of wealthy individuals with no guarantee that they needed to be repaid. Therefore, our recent Act on Loan Accountability will:
- mandate the public disclosure of all loans to political parties, riding associations, candidates, and leadership contestants. Information such as interest rates and the identity of lenders and loan guarantors would also be accessible;
- dictate that larger loans can only be made by financial institutions (at commercial rates of interest) and other political entities;
- hold riding associations responsible for unpaid loans taken out by their candidates – ensuring candidates cannot walk away from unpaid loans;
- ban unions and corporations from making loans to political parties, in line with the contribution rules contained in the FAA; and
- restrict personal loans to the annual donation limit established by the FAA ($1,100 in 2007).
The measures outlined above are just the latest in a long list of changes this Conservative government has made to the political process, making it more accountable, open and democratic. Leon and his colleagues will also table legislation to:
- place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction; and
- strengthen the integrity of our federal voting system