An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (expanded voting opportunities) and to make a consequential amendment to the Referendum Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Peter Van Loan  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Dec. 10, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to increase the number of days of advance polling.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

February 24th, 2009 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Monsieur Mayrand, for appearing here with your officials.

I want to talk briefly on an issue--and I know, as a committee, we'll probably have many questions on many issues--that I know concerns all of us and all parliamentarians, and frankly all candidates across Canada. It relates to voter turnout. I note that, once again, we had a decrease in voter turnout this year to under 60%, which is almost unconscionable.

One of the things I also note is that there has been a relatively steady increase in voter turnout at advance polls over the course of the last few elections. In the last Parliament, the government introduced Bill C-16 on expanded advanced polling days. That was never passed. It was relatively gutted through committee and never passed by Parliament.

I'm wondering if you have an opinion on whether more advanced polling days, increased opportunities for voters to cast ballots prior to election day, could have a positive impact on voter turnout.

July 15th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Marc Mayrand Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Thank you.

Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

I am accompanied today, as the chair indicated, by Mr. François Bernier, the legal services director at Elections Canada.

I was requested by the chair of this committee to assist members in the study of the review and treatment of election financial returns and the key considerations involved in the review of these returns. In discussions prior to my appearance, the chair requested that I provide a detailed explanation of the aspects of the legislative and administrative framework that relate to political financing under the Canada Elections Act and, more specifically, of the treatment of election expenses.

This will be the subject of the first part of the presentation. I hope it will provide the committee with a better understanding of the operating context in which decisions are made regarding reimbursement of electoral expenses. I will then turn to the subject of particular decisions of interest to the committee and explain how they relate to the legislative and administrative framework.

The mandate of Elections Canada is to administer the Canada Elections Act in a fair, consistent, transparent and impartial manner. As an officer of Parliament, my first duty is to serve Parliament and Canadians. While the committee is reviewing the activities of public office holders, I trust it will understand that in my capacity as Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, I can only speak to electoral matters. I will not comment on ongoing investigations of the Commissioner of Elections Canada, or the specifics of the case currently before the Federal Court. As well, I will not deal with any individual cases.

Mr. Chairman, with your concurrence, I will now proceed with the first part of my presentation. The committee has already received a presentation that extends to a number of pages—42 pages, I believe. So I won't read each of those pages, but I will simply make the main comments on the essential aspects of the presentation.

The presentation will contain four parts: first, the objective itself, as well as a part dealing with the key principles underlying the legislation and the administration of that legislation, the key aspects of the legislation, and, lastly, the aspects of the administration of that legislation. I will also provide a brief conclusion.

I think it's fair to say that the first hundred years of federal democracy in Canada have been focused almost exclusively on the conduct of elections and on progressively expanding the franchise--the right to vote--to all Canadian citizens. In fact, the right to vote became a fundamental right protected by the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.

This focus continues today, as the agenda of the 39th Parliament attests. For example, Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, dealt with the appointment of returning officers, who are now the responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer. It also dealt, under Bill C-31, with the integrity of voting. It also dealt with the issue of proof of residence, under Bill C-18. And it is considering, currently, Bill C-6, which deals with visual ID; Bill C-16, which deals with advanced polling; and Bill C-20, an important piece of legislation that deals with the appointment of senators. This is all to show that there is still a focus on the electoral process and the conduct of elections.

However, over the last 40 years, growing concerns have been expressed with regard to the influence of money in the electoral process. These concerns have led Parliament to incrementally design a regulatory regime to govern the use of money during electoral campaigns. We are now at the point at which Canada is at the forefront among mature democracies in how it regulates the influence of money in election campaigns. This regulatory regime of political financing was initially built in the seventies, and it has since witnessed repeated legislative reform that continues today. Again, this Parliament passed Bill C-2, which deals with contributions and gifts and which banned contributions from corporations and unions. It is also considering another important aspect of the financial regime, under Bill C-29, with regard to loans.

My purpose today will be to deal with a particular and key aspect of our political financing regime, that of election expenses and their treatment by Elections Canada under the Canada Elections Act. More specifically, I will touch on the legislative framework, the administrative framework, and the compliance and enforcement program.

There are certain principles underlying the legislative and administrative framework. First, to maintain public trust, are transparency and fairness. These principles are expressed through various provisions in the act that deal with public disclosure, expense limits, public funding, compliance and enforcement, and, something that is often forgotten, the distinctiveness of political entities. Each has its own regime, with distinct rights and obligations.

Transparency is about disclosure. It's about providing information to electors on candidates, parties, and other entities. It involves, with regard to financial matters, reporting revenues and expenses and the sources of those.

Fairness is the key principle of a healthy democracy. In our democracy, fairness is about allowing political parties' candidates to have an opportunity to present their visions, their policies, and their values to electors. What those are and how they are communicated to electors is the exclusive domain of political parties and candidates. However, legislation seeks to ensure that the competition among political parties and candidates to secure the vote of electors be conducted within certain rules designed to create and maintain a level playing field. One area of legislation, again, over the last 40 years, has been the adoption of rules that will foster this level playing field. These rules deal specifically with how money can be raised and how it can be spent in order for them to present ideas and reach out to electors.

The Canada Elections Act passed it to the CEO to administer these complex rules, with a view to ensuring that key principles are maintained at all times. In doing so, Elections Canada must act fairly and impartially and exercise due diligence at all times. When it finds evidence of non-compliance and possible offences, it must exercise the authorities provided by the legislation in accordance with all the requirements of fairness and due process, within the strict limits of the law. To do otherwise would undermine not only Elections Canada as an institution but also the democratic process itself.

Let me turn now to the key aspect of the legislative framework as it relates to the treatment of election expenses and the role these key principles play in the electoral law.

The relevant aspects of the legislative framework involve key definitions, a brief discussion of duties of official agents, the notion and concept of election expense limits, the concept of transfers among political entities, reporting requirements for those political entities, entitlement to reimbursement, and key differences between parties and candidates. Note that some misunderstand the system and tend to view parties and their candidates as a single entity, yet the law makes clear distinctions and establishes distinct responsibilities, benefits, and obligations for parties and candidates. For the most part, these are treated independently of one another. This is particularly true in disclosure and reporting requirements, which are different for parties and candidates. Access to public funding is different. Spending limits are set differently for candidates and parties. To some extent, rules governing the raising of contributions are different for candidates and parties.

Let's first look at key definitions. Under candidate electoral campaign expenses, there are three key definitions that need to be considered: candidate electoral campaign expenses; candidate election expenses; and candidate personal expenses.

Electoral campaign expenses are expenses reasonably incurred in the election and include election expenses themselves and personal expenses. There are electoral campaign expenses that are neither election expenses nor personal expenses. An example is the audit expense in excess of the subsidy. It is an electoral expense, but it is not an election expense. There is also the rent of an office outside the rent period. For example, when a candidate rents an office before the writ is dropped or carries the office after the polling date, these are electoral campaign expenses, but they are not election expenses.

An election expense includes any cost incurred or non-monetary contribution received to the extent that the property or service for which the cost was incurred or non-money contribution received is used to directly promote or oppose a candidate during an election period. The expression “directly promote” does not refer only to expenses incurred to expressly urge voters to vote for or against a particular candidate. It has a much broader meaning that encompasses all expenses that directly assist in getting a candidate elected. For example, it includes the rental of office space, equipment in that office, the computers, the supplies, and the remuneration of campaign workers during the election period. All such expenses directly promote the candidate and are thus election expenses for the purpose of the act.

The third definition has to do with personal expenses. Personal expenses of a candidate are his or her electoral campaign expenses other than election expenses reasonably incurred in relation to his or her campaign. Personal expenses include travel and living expenses, child care, and similar expenses.

It's important to note that there are three categories of expenses, each with its own definition and standards. Election expenses must generally be disclosed. They are subject to a reimbursement, and they are subject to spending limits. Personal expenses must be disclosed, and they are subject to a reimbursement. Residual expenses that are neither personal nor for an election must be disclosed, but they are not subject to a reimbursement. Again, I mentioned previously the subsidy for audit.

Another key concept in looking at election expenses is the notion of transfer. The act allows specific political entities of the same political affiliation to move resources amongst themselves without being subject to the restriction on the source and amounts of contributions set out in the act. A contribution is the amount of money received that is not repayable; otherwise it would be a loan. It is the amount of money received that is not repayable, or the commercial value of a service or a property, or the use of property or money to the extent that it is provided without charge or at less than commercial value.

Again, this is a new, essential concept--commercial value. How is commercial value defined? It's the lowest amount charged for a property or service by the person who is in the business of providing that good or service. Alternatively, it's what another commercial provider charges for the property or service who is not in that business.

At the end of the electoral campaign, candidates must file an electoral campaign return. That return is an account of all financial transactions for an election. It consists of a form that has 15 pages and is divided into four parts. It's a bit longer than even a tax return, so there's a level of complexity attached to filing those returns.

Let me give you an example of how these concepts can come together. Let's assume that a party pools the purchase of lawn signs for its candidates and offers those lawn signs to candidates. They have the option of accepting the package or turning it down. Let's say one candidate agrees to purchase 1,000 signs for his campaign and that those signs have a value of $10,000; however, the candidate can only afford $2,000. Provided the signs are used during the campaign to promote the candidate, the return will have to show the transaction as follows. First of all, the election expense will be $10,000 for the candidate, because he received those 1,000 signs and used them during the campaign. That's the amount shown as the expense. Within that he will show the paid expense as $2,000. He will show a non-monetary transfer of $8,000, which is the commercial value of the signs that were transferred from the party to the candidate. The amount shown as the expense will be counted against the spending limit and it will be eligible for reimbursement. The amount shown as non-monetary will count against the spending limit, but it will not be reimbursed since nothing was paid for that amount.

This is a very simple example of how those transactions have to be reflected in the return.

To emphasize the critical role of money and the need to rigorously control inflows and outflows and ensure that financial activities are strictly within the constraints of the legislation, the legislation provides or requires that each candidate appoint an official agent. In fact, a candidate cannot officially run as a candidate without having appointed an official agent. This is a must under the legislation.

An official agent is much more than a bookkeeper. In fact, if we can do an analogy, he or she could be seen as a treasurer or a financial comptroller. You have on slide 9 the key duties of an official agent.

Generally, the official agent is responsible for controlling all electoral campaign expenses; that is, for a candidate's campaign, only the official agent or the candidate or someone authorized in writing can incur an electoral campaign expense. So you will understand that to fulfill his or her duties, the official agent must of course be familiar with all the concepts and the definitions I mentioned earlier and must develop a good understanding of the underlying principles of the legislation.

Let me talk briefly about expense limits. The first point to note is that there are separate limits for parties and candidates and that those limits apply to election expenses, whether paid or unpaid, and include the commercial value of non-monetary contributions or transfers.

Elections Canada calculates those limits for each in accordance with a formula set out in the act. I will not go through the specifics of the formula, except to say that, for candidates, that formula takes account of the number of electors, the population density in the riding, and the geography of the riding, and provides an adjustment for inflation.

Spending limits for parties are a little bit simpler to calculate. It's the number of electors in the ridings for which candidates are presented by the party.

For the 39th election—that's slide 13—the average expense limit for candidates per electoral district was a bit over $81,000, and for a registered party that endorsed a candidate in all 308 ridings, the limit was set at a bit over $18 million. What does that mean? One may be tempted to say that in total a party having 308 candidates could spend altogether up to $18 million for the party and up to $24 million, almost $25 million, given the limits of each and every candidate, for a total of $43 million. However, to look at it in this manner would be mistaken, as the law does not consider the political family as one entity but rather, in this case and this example, as 308 distinct, separate entities with their own rights and obligations.

Let me talk briefly about transfers. The Canada Elections Act recognizes the organic link that exists in the family of political entities, allowing them to move funds, goods, and services among themselves without treating those movements of resources as contributions. The provision of resources from one political party to another, which is not specifically provided for under the act, constitutes a contribution and is subject to the eligibility and limits set out in the act.

Transfer of expenses is not permitted, as this would render the distinct limit of parties and candidates meaningless. As you can see, it is absolutely essential to keep all those definitions and concepts as we look through various returns provided at the end of electoral campaigns.

You will find on slide 15 a table showing the transfers, what is allowed and what is not allowed. Clearly, you will see that transfers between parties and candidates are perfectly allowed by the Canada Elections Act. It has some standards, but they can move resources freely between entities.

You will note that for candidates, these movements of resources can start only after they've been officially declared candidates, meaning that their candidacy has been registered with the returning officer. You will also note that transfers to candidates after polling day are allowed only to pay for unpaid claims and for nothing else.

You will find again at slide 16 another way of looking at it. There is a triangle on that slide that shows the relationship between the party, the candidates, and the EDAs, and the respective rights and obligations for each. You will see clearly that the transfer of money, goods, and services among all three entities is allowed. You will also note that the transfer of expenses is not allowed, and you will see that Elections Canada is overseeing, through various programs, how the money flows among entities.

I should point out that for the 39th election, Elections Canada dealt with 15 registered parties that had over 1,200 electoral district associations, and with over 1,600 candidates, each with their respective agents.

On page 17 you will find a table of the transfers reported in Canada through returns for the 39th election. You will see that all parties represented in the House have transferred resources with their affiliated entities. These have taken place between candidates and parties, between candidates and EDAs, and between parties and EDAs.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start off by saying that the Bloc Québécois, like the official opposition, and like—I believe—the NDP, will opposed the motion by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to extend the sitting hours, for a number of reasons.

First, it is important to remember—and this was mentioned by the House leader of the official opposition—that the government and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have been completely unwilling to negotiate and cooperate. Usually, when Parliament is running smoothly, the leaders meet and agree on some priorities, some items and some ways of getting them done. But since the start of this session, or at least since September, House leaders' meetings on Tuesday afternoons have simply been meetings where we hear about a legislative agenda, which, within hours after we leave the meeting, is completely changed.

That is not how we move forward. Now the government can see that its way of doing things does not produce results. In fact, I think that this is what the government wanted in recent weeks, to prevent Parliament, the House of Commons and the various committees from working efficiently and effectively.

As I was saying, usually such motions are born out of cooperation, and are negotiated in good faith between the government and the opposition parties. But we were simply told that today a motion would be moved to extend the sitting hours, but with no information forthcoming about what the government's priorities would be through the end of this session, until June 20.

This was a very cavalier way to treat the opposition parties. And today, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Conservative government are reaping the consequences of their haughty attitude. As the saying goes, he who sows the wind, reaps the whirlwind. That is exactly what has happened to the Conservatives after many weeks of acting in bad faith and failing to cooperate with the opposition parties.

In this case, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons—and earlier I mentioned his arrogance, which, to me, has reached its peak today with the way the motion was moved—gave us no indication as to his government's priorities from now until the end of the session, despite the fact that he was pointedly questioned about that matter. What we did receive was a grocery list with no order, no priorities. As the leader of the official opposition said earlier, when everything is a priority, it means that nothing is.

That is the current situation: they gave us a list of bills which, in fact, included almost all of the bills on the order paper. Not only were things not prioritized, but in addition, as I mentioned before, it showed a disregard for the opposition parties. There is a price to pay for that today—we do not see why the government needs to extend the sitting hours.

Not only was the grocery list not realistic, but also it showed that the government has absolutely no priorities set. The list includes almost all of the bills, but week after week, despite what was said during the leaders' meetings, the order of business changed. If the order of business changes at the drop of a hat, with no rhyme or reason, it means that the government does not really have priorities.

I am thinking about Bill C-50, a bill to implement the budget, which we waited on for a long time. The government is surprised that we are coming up to the end of the session and that it will be adopted in the coming hours. However, we have to remember that between the budget speech and the introduction of Bill C-50, many weeks passed that could have been spent working on the bill.

As I mentioned, the list presented to us is unrealistic. It shows the arrogance of this government, and furthermore, the order of the bills on the list is constantly changing. We feel this is a clear demonstration of this government's lack of priority.

In light of that, we can reach only one conclusion: if the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform cannot present us with his government's legislative priorities as we near the end of this session, in effect, it means that his government has no legislative priorities. It has no long-term vision. Its management is short sighted, very short sighted indeed. I would even say it is managing from one day to the next. From my perspective, this can mean only one thing: it has no legislative agenda. When we have before us bills dealing with only minor issues, this is what that means.

Proof of this lack of legislative agenda is easy to see, considering the current state of this government's agenda. An abnormally small number of bills for this time of year are currently before the House at the report stage and at third reading. Usually, if the government had planned, if it had been working in good faith and had cooperated with the opposition parties, in these last two weeks remaining before the summer recess, we should have been completing the work on any number of bills.

Overall, as we speak there are just five government bills that are ready to be debated at these stages, in other words, report stage or third reading stage. Among those, we note that Bill C-7, which is now at third reading stage, reached report stage during the first session of the 39th Parliament, in other words in June 2007. It has been brought back to us a year later. And that is a priority? What happened between June 2007 and June 2008 to prevent Bill C-7 from getting through third reading stage? In my opinion, we should indeed finish the work on Bill C-7, but this truly illustrates the government's lack of planning and organization.

As far as Bill C-5 is concerned, it was reported on by the Standing Committee on Natural Resources on December 12, 2007, and voted on at report stage on May 6, 2008. Again, a great deal of time, nearly six months, went by between the tabling of the report and the vote at this stage, which was held on May 6, 2008, while the report was tabled on December 12, 2007.

Finally, Bills C-29 and C-16 were both reported on by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs roughly six months ago.

All these delays of six months to a year force us to conclude that these bills are not legislative priorities to this government.

It would be great to finish the work on these four or five bills, but let us admit that we could have finished it much sooner.

This lack of legislative priority was even more apparent before question period when the House was debating second reading of Bill C-51 on food and drugs. Next on the agenda is second reading of Bill C-53 on auto theft.

If these five bills were a priority, we would finish the work. But no, what we are being presented with are bills that are only at second reading stage. This only delays further the report stage or third reading of the bills I have already mentioned. If we were serious about this, we would finish the work on bills at third reading and then move on to bills that are at second reading.

Furthermore, if its legislative agenda has moved forward at a snail's pace, the government is responsible for that and has only itself to blame, since it paralyzed the work of important committees, including the justice committee and the procedure and House affairs committee, to which several bills had been referred. And then they dare make some sort of bogus Conservative moral claim, saying that we are refusing to extend sitting hours because we do not want to work. For months and months now, opposition members, especially the Bloc Québécois, have been trying to work in committee, but the government, for partisan reasons, in order to avoid talking about the Conservative Party's problems, has been obstructing committee work.

Earlier, the NDP whip spoke about take note debates.

Once again, it is not the opposition that is refusing to work on issues that are important to Canadians and Quebeckers. Rather, it is the government that refuses to allow take note debates, because of partisan obstinacy. In that regard, we clearly see that the argument presented by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform is mere tautology or a false argument. In fact, it was the Conservative Party, the Conservative government, that slowed down the work of the House and obstructed the work of several committees.

Not only is the government incapable of planning, vision, cooperation and good faith, but furthermore, its legislative agenda is very meagre and does not in any way warrant extending the sitting hours. In addition, the Bloc Québécois sees many of the bills that are now at the bottom of the list as problematic, but if we extend the sitting hours, we will end up having to examine them.

Take Bill C-14, for example, which would permit the privatization of certain Canada Post activities. Do they really think that sitting hours will be extended to hasten debate on a bill that threatens jobs and the quality of a public service as essential as that provided by the Canada Post Corporation? That demonstrates just how detrimental the Conservatives' right-wing ideology is, not just to public services but to the economy. Everyone knows very well—there are a large number of very convincing examples globally—that privatizing postal services leads to significant price increases for consumers and a deterioration in service, particularly in rural areas.

I will give another example, that of Bill C-24, which would abolish the long gun registry even though police forces want to keep it. Once again, we have an utter contradiction. Although the government boasts of an agenda that will increase security, they are dismantling a preventtive tool welcomed by all stakeholders. They are indirectly contributing to an increase in the crime rate.

These are two examples of matters that are not in step with the government's message. It is quite clear that we are not interested in extending sitting hours to move more quickly to a debate on Bill C-24.

I must also mention bills concerning democratic reform—or pseudo-reform. In my opinion, they are the best example of the hypocrisy of this government, which introduces bills and then, in the end, makes proposals that run counter to the interests of Quebec in particular.

Take Bill C-20, for example, on the consultation of voters with respect to the pool of candidates from which the Prime Minister should choose senators. Almost all the constitutional experts who appeared before the committee currently studying Bill C-20 said that the bill would do indirectly what cannot be done directly. We know that the basic characteristics of the Senate cannot be changed without the agreement of the provinces or, at the very least, without following the rule of the majority for constitutional amendments, which requires approval by seven provinces representing 50% of the population.

Since the government knows very well that it cannot move forward with its Senate reforms, it introduced a bill that would change the essential characteristics of the Senate, something prohibited by the Constitution, on the basis of some technicalities.

It is interesting to note that even a constitutional expert who told the committee that he did not think the way the government had manipulated the bill was unconstitutional admitted that the bill would indirectly allow the government to do what it could not do directly.

They are playing with the most important democratic institutions.

A country's Constitution—and we want Quebec to have its own Constitution soon—is the fundamental text. We currently have a government, a Prime Minister and a Leader of the Government in the House of Commons who are manipulating this fundamental text— the Canadian Constitution—in favour of reforms that would satisfy their supporters in western Canada.

We do not want to rush this bill through the House by extending the sitting hours. It is the same thing for Bill C-19, which, I remind members, limits a Senator's tenure to eight years.

These two bills, Bill C-19 and Bill C-20, in their previous form, meaning before the session was prorogued in the summer of 2007, were unanimously denounced by the Quebec National Assembly, which asked that they be withdrawn. It is rather ironic that the federal government recognized the Quebec nation and then decided to introduce two bills that were denounced by the Quebec National Assembly.

I must say that the two opposition parties are opposed to Bill C-20, albeit for different reasons. Thus, I do not think it would be in the best interests of the House to rush these bills through, since we are far from reaching a consensus on them.

I have one last example, that is, Bill C-22, which aims to change the make-up of the House of Commons. If passed, it would increase the number of members in Ontario and in western Canada, which would reduce the political weight of the 75 members from Quebec, since their representation in this House would drop from 24.4% to 22.7%. It is not that we are against changing the distribution of seats based on the changing demographics of the various regions of Canada. We would like to ensure, however, that the Quebec nation, which was recognized by the House of Commons, has a voice that is strong enough to be heard.

The way things are going today, it is clear that in 10, 15 or 20 years, Quebec will no longer be able to make its voice heard in this House. We therefore believe we must guarantee the Quebec nation a percentage of the members in this House. We propose that it be 25%. If people want more members in Ontario and in the west, that is not a problem. We will simply have to increase the number of members from Quebec to maintain a proportion of 25%. There are a number of possible solutions to this.

Once again, I would like to point out that we introduced a whole series of bills to formalize the recognition of the Quebec nation, including Bill C-482, sponsored by my colleague from Drummond. That bill sought to apply the Charter of the French Language to federally regulated organizations working in Quebec. That was for organizations working in Quebec, of course. At no time did we seek to control what happens elsewhere in Canada. The bill would have given employees of federally regulated organizations the same rights as all employees in Quebec, that is, the right to work in French.

Unfortunately, the bill was defeated, but we will try again. Once again, the fact that Bill C-482 was defeated does not mean we are about to throw in the towel and let Bills C-22, C-19, and C-20 pass just like that. As I said earlier, we will certainly not make things easy for the government by rushing debate on these bills here.

And now to my fourth point. I started out talking about the government's lack of cooperation, vision and planning, not to mention its bad faith. Next, I talked about its poor excuse for a legislative agenda. Then I talked about the fact that we find certain bills extremely problematic. We will certainly not be giving the government carte blanche to bring those bills back here in a big hurry before the end of the session on June 20. Our fourth reason is the government's hypocrisy, in a general sense.

This has been apparent in many ways, such as the government's attitude to certain bills. I would like to mention some of them, such as Bill C-20. I cannot help but mention Bills C-50 and C-10 as well.

Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill, makes changes to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's powers, but that is not what the debate is about. Bill C-10, which introduces elements that allow the Conservative government—

April 9th, 2008 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

I have one final request to make. I will be brief, because we were asked to be.

You regularly conduct studies on various topics. In relation to Bill C-16, for example, you provided us with some relating to voter turnout among youth. They were extremely interesting. I don't know whether you have any research reports on the experience in Australia, Scotland or other countries. However, if you do have any information that could help us in our own study, I invite you to pass it along to us through the clerk.

April 9th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

In the case of Bill C-16, you did prepare a costing. I understand that it was easier to do that, because it was simply an extension of your current activities. Do you have any costings for a consultation of this type, as provided for under Bill C-20?

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend brings up a very good point. I can assure my colleague from Ottawa Centre that we are currently looking up all the promises the Prime Minister in particular made about Bill C-16, that he would not use the traditional methodology of bringing his government down at the whim of the government, but that he would abide by the spirit of Bill C-16 and fixed election dates. It is a concept that we have supported.

However, we are ready. If the Conservatives go ahead with this motion and the Senate does not meet their deadline by March 1, we will be ready to tell Canadians that the Prime Minister has misled them once again.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh for his precise analysis of this debate.

I would appreciate it if he would comment on where Bill C-16 fits into all this. Bill C-16 is about fixed election dates. I sat on the committee and the government said that it would never use it. At the committee, we tried to put in caveats around fixed election dates to ensure no government, this government or any other government, could use fixed election dates for its own benefit.

It seems to me the government is breaking that promise and using fixed election dates when it needs to. When the Conservatives do not like something, they will go outside and use the option of bringing down the House on their own.

I would appreciate hearing from my colleague on that.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The report is in regard to its order of reference of Thursday, November 1, 2007, Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (expanded voting opportunities) and to make a consequential amendment to the Referendum Act.

The committee has considered Bill C-16 and reports the bill with amendments.

December 6th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

Thank you, Mr. Lukiwski.

There is no debate on a point of order.

At the risk of revealing more in camera discussions, we'll move to the business of the day, please.

Colleagues, the orders of the day are that we begin clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (expanded voting opportunities) and to make a consequential amendment to the Referendum Act. If colleagues could put their papers up for Bill C-16, you will have in front of you the clause-by-clause notes that are prepared.

Colleagues, there are no suggested amendments to clause 1.

(Clause 1 agreed to)

December 4th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

Mr. Reid, I apologize for interrupting, but I have to respect members' agendas.

Colleagues, the subcommittee on code of ethics will be meeting on Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., regarding the disclosure forms. That's just a reminder. That is just before the main committee's meeting at 11 o'clock.

As the committee agreed last week, I will need a list of potential witnesses for Bill C-6 and Bill C-18. If it's at all possible to have any lists in by Thursday at 9 a.m., that would be very helpful for our clerks.

The committee agreed last Thursday to proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-16 on Thursday, December 6, which is our next meeting. I'm just being informed that we have all party amendments, so that's fantastic. We will therefore proceed to clause-by-clause of Bill C-16 on Thursday, failing any other motions to go in a different direction.

Ms. Redman, please.

November 29th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

Thank you very much.

I regret that we're going to have to stop there. It wouldn't be fair to go to one more member without a full round, and we don't have time for a full round. I will offer an option to any members who still have questions: if you will please get them to me, I will make sure our witnesses receive them and I will request that the witnesses answer those questions, if there are any, as quickly as possible.

On behalf of the committee, I want to thank both of you for coming. Again, those were insightful answers. When committees have to deal with these types of issues, it's always helpful to have the advice of experts so that we can do our jobs better.

We'll excuse the witnesses with the compliments of the committee.

Colleagues, we were to end at 12:30 so that we could do committee business. I want to remind members that we still have a meeting with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. That meeting has been moved down the hall. I will instruct you as to where that is. The reason is that this room is booked, so we cannot stay in this room. However, if we could have members back to the table, I want to remind members of a number of things.

We have had a letter back from Mr. Marcel Blanchet. It was distributed to members of the committee during the meeting; that letter is before you.

As well, we will be starting clause-by-clause study of Bill C-16 on Tuesday. In order to ensure that our clerks and analysts have an opportunity to have a look at amendments and get them published as they have to, would it be acceptable to members to request that any amendments to Bill C-16 be in by one o'clock Friday--tomorrow?

I'm hearing an ooh, but not an outright objection. There's an ahh; I've got an ahh.

November 29th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, Mr. Ouellet, Mr. Wilkie.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec has provided us with his comments, because he could not be here to meet with us. He is of the same mind as you.

He said that moving election day to Sunday would solve certain problems, including the availability of premises. He pointed out some consequences that can be foreseen if Bill C-16 is enacted: the costs of this new measure, problems with recruiting election personnel for the hours that the advance polls on the day before election day are open, the availability of premises, custody of the ballots and the difficulty for personnel of clearly understanding the differences between the rules that apply the day before and the rules that apply on election day.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada also told us about these problems, and I note that you have made the same comments.

My question is this. Have you thought about the question of how to encourage young people to vote?

November 29th, 2007 / 11:58 a.m.
See context

Jean Ouellet Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Saskatchewan

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Members of the committee, I am accompanied today by David Wilkie, the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer of Saskatchewan. I am Jean Ouellet, the Chief Electoral Officer of Saskatchewan.

Before I begin my remarks, I would certainly like to thank the members of the committee for inviting us to present the views of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Saskatchewan regarding your bill.

It is often considered that high voter turnouts are desirable, as it is generally seen as evidence of legitimacy of those who are elected; alternatively, low turnout is associated with an inaccurate reflection of the will of the people.

The Province of Saskatchewan has just undergone its 26th general election on November 7, 2007. The preliminary calculated turnout stands at slightly over 76%. We can be very envious of that, I think. This represents an increase of approximately 5% from the last general election of November 5, 2003. Many scholars will peer over the results of this particular election--and we had two this morning--to try to find a reason or reasons for this increase, as generally turnouts are falling.

It is not my intention to second-guess the reason or reasons for this success; however, I believe that political entities and the election administrator have a role to play in securing greater participation in electoral events by eligible electors. For example, a close race between political participants will generate greater interest among voters, and political parties will find getting their votes out an easier task to accomplish.

As election administrators, we constantly look at other jurisdictions for ways to make our process more accessible to electors. Rules and laws are easier to change than attitudes. Ease of voting is certainly a factor in the rate of turnout.

Looking at Bill C-16, I believe the proposed legislation will give electors greater opportunity to exercise their franchise. With regard to the proposal for five days of advance polls, the Province of Saskatchewan already has five days of advance polls. Our period of five days is no less than one day before polling day, but no more than seven days before polling day. As a rule, it's generally one day before polling day.

Because the Province of Saskatchewan does not have a fixed day of the week for its election, depending on which day the election is called, one of those advance poll days will be on a Sunday. Sundays are generally when most voters are away from work, although this perspective is changing constantly.

The Province of Saskatchewan's electoral period is a minimum of 28 days and a maximum of 34 days, of which there are all but two days during which electors cannot cast a ballot. Those two days are the day before the start of the advance poll period and the day before election day to permit the returning officer to inform their deputy returning officer of those who have voted.

Having reviewed some of the proposed provisions of the bill from an election administrator's point of view, I would raise a few concerns that have already been echoed by Mr. Mayrand, our Chief Electoral Officer for Canada.

The conduct of the last day of the advance poll on a Sunday before election day would present some difficulties if the voting is to be carried out under a different rule than would be carried out the day following. It is more and more difficult to find workers who will accept the work for a day, let alone two consecutive days of voting. Also, let's not forget that there is a check and balance in the system, and that's the candidate's representative. They will also have two days of advance polls; they will be there for two days, and they're generally volunteers.

There could also be instances where two different sets of deputy returning officers and poll clerks may have to be hired to cover the two voting opportunities. Legislation should make sure that returning officers have all the tools to obtain the polling material from any previous poll team, should it ever be required. For example, I remember in my days when I was an assistant returning officer, where the evening before voting day, one of our DROs had a heart attack; the polling material was locked in the car and there was no way we could get that material. So if you have a ballot box that is locked in a car and you can't access it, your count will be very delayed and incomplete.

As an administrator of elections, I would like to see a provision that allows for greater flexibility for the electoral authority to determine whether a single day of voting for a specific polling place, be it on a Sunday or a Monday, would be adequate to cover all those individuals. For example, persons living in personal care facilities may not need that second day of voting opportunity. Visiting this location on two different days may become redundant.

Similarly, I feel the bill should offer some flexibility for polling places to be established at different locations on each day. Too often we think of urban voters. My province is, in large part, a rural province. Our polling divisions sometimes cover very large tracts of land. If we were to establish voting opportunities in one corner of the polling division one day and in another corner the other day, we'd have a greater chance of reaching those people.

In closing, I come back to the point I made earlier: ease of voting is certainly a factor in rates of turnout.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

November 29th, 2007 / 11:58 a.m.
See context

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

Colleagues, let's bring our meeting back to order. We will start with our next set of witnesses.

I want to welcome to the committee Mr. Ouellet and Mr. Wilkie. We appreciate your being here.

Colleagues, we are still discussing Bill C-16 and the issue of an advance polling day.

I'm going to invite our witnesses to take a brief moment to introduce themselves.

If you have an opening statement, you're welcome to do that. If we could keep it to two minutes or three minutes, that would be appreciated. Then we'll start our rounds of questioning.

Perhaps we could start with Monsieur Ouellet, please.

November 29th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing here.

I must say, Mr. Docherty, that I found your brief very interesting. I have a couple of points, and then I'll just get you to maybe comment on a couple of your observations.

Number one, I think you concur with a number of other witnesses we've had here. While the bill before us, Bill C-16, is not going to be perfect--it's not going to dramatically increase voter turnout--it's probably better than nothing. It's going to, at least, in your opinion, marginally increase, incrementally increase, and I think it's important for all of us to know here that the intent of this bill is to try to increase voter turnout.

If you want to get into an argument, well, it doesn't increase it enough. I'm not sure how relevant that is, but I think most witnesses agree this will have an effect of increasing the voter turnout.

I'd like to concentrate on a couple of your comments, your observations. The first thing is that although you probably, correctly, assume that Elections Canada is maybe loath to do the surveys, I think it also would be very interesting to see a survey of some empirical evidence, in other words, of how many people actually make their voting decisions on voting day. I think for future legislation that might be very interesting to know.

You may want to comment on that, but what I do want to ask you particularly about is your observation that perhaps the permanent voters list may not be the best way to go, and perhaps we should consider going back to the door-to-door enumeration. I guess my observation would be that I don't think the door-to-door enumeration would necessarily improve the permanent voters system, because I can give you an example of what happened back in Saskatchewan, and I know witnesses coming after you will perhaps attest to that.

We found that in certain sections of Regina, when we provincially do door-to-door enumeration, when we got the voters list out and all candidates took a look at it, in many elections we would have actually blocks upon blocks of communities that were not enumerated. I would go to certain areas--maybe 10, 12, or 15 houses in a row--that were not on the voters list, yet we knew there were people there.

So I went to Elections Saskatchewan and said, “Why is that? Are you guys just getting sloppy? Didn't you enumerate?” They said, “No, the problem is these people won't come to the door. Many times we knocked on the doors, and we can see people inside the house, but because of the time of day, they were afraid to come and answer the door.” So I think that's going to be a problem, frankly, in a lot of urban centres, where we have the same fear of one's safety.

Therefore, I think to get more and more people actually on the voters list, we need to have maybe a hybrid between some form of a permanent voters list and maybe special enumerations.

I'd just like to get comments from both of you on what you think might be an answer to getting more and more people registered to vote, because I think that is one of the more serious problems we face.