Canada Elections Act
CONCERN ABOUT EFFECT ON CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
Hon. Erik Nielsen (Yukon): Mr. Speaker, I should to ask the Prime Minister if he is giving consideration to the public policy, since mounting concerns appear to be expressed with respect to the provisions of Clause 72 and its effect on the Charter of Rights and freedom of speech.
An Hon. Member: Is it cut and run, Erik?
Right Hon. P.E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Mr. Speaker, if the Hon. Member is referring to the amendment to the election expenses legislation, the answer is that the legislation, which originated with this Government in the early 70s, was written for a specific purpose, which was to destroy the inequality which arose from the power of money. We think it was a very progressive piece of legislation, putting every citizen and every candidate in this country on an equal footing in so far as election expenses are concerned.
I am sure the Hon. Member is asking a rhetorical question because his Party certainly supports my answer, since it supported the amendment brought in last Fall. It is an amendment to ensure that the Citizen’s Coalition, or any other group with a lot of money, do not controvert the spirit of that law. I am very grateful to the Hon. Member for Yukon for giving me the occasion to explain that to the country. I know my explanation has his support and that of the NDP.
RECOMMENDATION MADE BY CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER
Hon. Erik Nielsen (Yukon): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that all Parties in the House of Commons supported that legislation. Since that time of course the Chief Electoral Officer, as is required by statute, has filed his statutory report to this House for 1983. In it he stated:
I believe this proposed amendment will ensure a level of equality amongst all participants in federal elections. It was carefully developed so as not to conflict with the intent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with respect to freedom of expression as this specifically related to the electoral process.
The following are the important words in the report: This notwithstanding, Parliament may find it desirable in the light of the Charter, to be more explicit and specifically exempt media editorials from the proposed amendment.
In view of that recommendation on page 74 of the report of the Chief Electoral Officer for 1983, is it the intention of the Prime Minister and his Government, as a matter of public policy to re-examine that clause?
Right Hon. P.E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the Hon. Member agrees with my previous answer. Of course, the complaint by the Citizen’s Coalition was not against that aspect of the law which dealt with freedom of speech in this country. Anyone can get up and oppose any Party and any Member in any way. It is just that he cannot use the power of money, once again, to give him an advantage over other candidates.
The Hon. Member asks a specific question about something contained in the report of the Chief Electoral Officer which, the House Leader informs me, has just been tabled. I think we should do what the usual process calls for. In other words, that report should be referred automatically to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections.
If the Hon. Member has some concerns I am sure, he will express them, along with other colleagues who might have other concerns on other matters. I think it is good that we have the occasion in the House today, as we did yesterday, when Members on this side indicated the spirit of the law and of that amendment to reaffirm the intention that all parties had in supporting that amendment.