Evidence of meeting #60 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sunday.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • David Anderson  Senior Policy Advisor, Legislation and House Planning, Privy Council Office
  • Marc Chénier  Counsel, Legislation and House Planning, Privy Council Office

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Just as a comment, I'll take the opportunity to add—because I was running out of time—to my response to Madame Robillard that in terms of consultation, there was consultation with Elections Canada. That's where the costing numbers you saw came from. That's where a lot of the discussions about the technical things we have to do to make this happen came from. So that consultation did occur as well.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

There is time left, so if you'd like to share with Mr. Lukiwski, I'll recognize Mr. Lukiwski. There are four minutes left.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

To underscore some of Mr. Hill's comments, Saskatchewan, as you mentioned in your presentation, already has advance polling on Sunday.

I also represent a riding of which about 30% is rural and 70% is urban. The particular point in this legislation that's going to be very popular in our riding is the Sunday immediately prior to election day. Because of the vast distances that have to be covered in most rural ridings to get to an advance poll, many of my constituents have told me that they vote only on Sunday, even at an advance poll, just because it's far more convenient. And when I've had the opportunity to mention to them that we are considering bringing in legislation that would allow them to vote in their own community, at their regular polling station, on the Sunday prior to the election, I've heard nothing but tremendous feedback on that. Particularly in rural ridings, depending on the time of year, if it's a farming community and people are out in the fields and the like, Sunday is the one day they always schedule time to relax a little bit. They've got church, and that makes it a family day. Many of my constituents have told me that in previous years on the Sunday they have gone to church and then, as a family—those who are 18 and above—they have travelled directly from there to the advance poll to cast their ballots so that they didn't have to worry about it on the Monday.

If we can get a Sunday immediately prior to election day with a poll that is in their home community, so they don't even have to travel—in my case, I think the longest distance one of my constituents had to travel was about 130 kilometres, which is a fair haul there and back—it's going to be very popular and very well received.

You can make a comment if you wish, Minister, but it's been proven in Saskatchewan that Sundays are popular. It is not an inconvenience. It doesn't disturb the day that many people use as a church day, and I think it's just going to be a very well-received piece of legislation.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

I have just a very brief response on the faith issue, which is an issue of genuine concern for some people. There are a couple of points on that. One, there would be the regular advance polling hours to vote on this day; it's merely another option that should be no more offensive to a person of a Sunday-observant faith than the current arrangement right now would be to someone who's of a Friday- or a Saturday-observant faith, in my view.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

Thank you.

Monsieur Guimond, go ahead for seven minutes, please.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome to this committee, Minister.

I don't know whether you have ever played baseball, but I'll warn you right now: I'll be throwing you a curve ball on the inside of the plate.

On page 13 of the English version of your presentation, you state:

After taking into consideration the benefits of Sunday voting on voter turnout, and the increased use of advanced polls...

With this bill, you are betting—please tell me whether I understand this correctly—that voter turnout will increase if two Sundays are added. You have not chosen Sunday arbitrarily. You believe that voter turnout is better on Sundays. Is that correct?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Certainly our assumption, based on the evidence from other countries and from the research, is that having it on Sunday does increase turnout, as some studies say, by 10%. Anecdotally, if you connect the complaint people have, the general 35% to 40% of those who didn't vote who say the reason they didn't vote was that they were too busy with work or school or other types of commitments—those commitments, for many, do not exist on a Sunday, so that increases that possibility. And that is the principal objective here, to encourage voter participation, as the name of the bill implies.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

If my memory serves me, when the Conservative government introduced the bill on fixed election dates, why did you not accept the suggestion I made to have the election held on a Sunday? In fact, they will take place on Monday, October 19, 2009. At the time, I said that municipal elections in Quebec were held on Sunday. I said that Quebec's provincial elections were held on Sunday. I said that Quebec's school board elections were held on Sunday.

If Sunday is the day on which voter turnout is highest... I'll repeat Mr. Hill's comments on people working in the bush Monday to Friday, as well as Mr. Lukiwski's comments about religious people for whom Sunday would be an excellent day to vote: you go to mass, and then you go vote. So if that's the right day, why did you not accept the proposal I made at the time to have the fixed-date elections held on Sunday?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

That obviously is an option. I wasn't the minister at the time so I can't comment on the calculus that occurred at that time. However, I think in our case it's certainly a lot easier to add additional advance polling days and to establish them on a Sunday rather than to have the full voting day on a Sunday. You are correct in that 22 out of 29 OECD countries have their major voting day on a day of rest. With those that do not, you'll find there is something of a common thread there: Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The United States and the United Kingdom, which have obviously a similar political system to Canada, fit into that. Australia, though, also with a British parliamentary tradition, goes with day-of-rest voting.

There are different options there. I think what you can take comfort in is the fact that in addition to simply adding Sunday as the advance polling day, the Sunday immediately before election day does create significant additional opportunities with the additional polling stations.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

But you are here now. You are a government House leader and minister responsible for democratic reform. Can you undertake before this committee that, when the new session begins in the fall, you will amend the fixed-date elections bill and change next election's date to Sunday, October 18, 2009? You are the person now in a position to do that.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

My intention would be to continue with the bill as we have it, creating the additional opportunities it does on a Sunday and to maintain the traditional federal election voting day on a Monday.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

I will once again make a suggestion that would once again increase the voter turnout in general, but thereby also increase advanced polling rates. Can you undertake to give Elections Canada the budget it needs to increase the number of advanced polling stations? In the city, for example for Ms. Robillard in the riding of Westmount-Ville-Marie, the polling station is on a street corner. In my riding—and Mr. Hill could well have said the same—a rural area, there are not enough advanced polling stations. Voters have to travel 70 km to cast a ballot early. So obviously, he'll go on the official voting day because he can cast a ballot on his street corner, but on that day if there's some impediment, like those the minister mentioned, like driving his kids to hockey, having some problem during the day, or having an argument with his boss, he'll forget to vote. I would therefore like to make a suggestion. Give Elections Canada the funding it needs to set up more advanced polling stations and reduce the distance people have to travel to vote. After all, Canada is not just Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. There are a great many rural ridings that are large, where people have to travel long distances to vote.

I'm in great shape today.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

A twofold response. First, I think most of us know that within the parameters that currently exist, most returning officers are, in their ridings, expanding the number of advance poll opportunities for the next election. Bill C-31 will give them further ambit to do that.

Now, here, of course, in our proposal under Bill C-55, the Sunday before election day, every polling station that would be open on election day will also be open on an advance polling day, which is the Sunday. So you will have significantly expanded opportunities exactly in the direction you're seeking.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Gary Goodyear

Thank you.

Mr. Dewar, please. You have seven minutes.