Evidence of meeting #28 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was referendum.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • John Hollins  Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Professor Boyer basically said the same thing. He said that if people aren't interested, then those who are should have the ability to let their opinions be known.

11:30 a.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

John Hollins

I guess the comparison would be with the question whether or not, if a candidate runs and doesn't get a certain percentage, you allow them to take their seat.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

The last question is on contributions. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe I heard you say that in Ontario during the last referendum, there were no limits on contributions or expenses by referendum committees.

11:30 a.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

John Hollins

That's correct.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

It goes back to a question I raised a few meetings ago with a previous witness, which we've discussed on a number of occasions since.

If a referendum question were held in conjunction with a provincial election—or a general election federally, for that matter—and if the question were one of some political sensitivity, similar to what happened in 1986 in Saskatchewan, there are currently federal expense limits that individuals can contribute to candidates and political parties—$1,100 per year. However, if there were no expense limits or contribution limits on referendum committees, it is conceivable to think that individuals, corporations, unions—political parties, for that matter—could contribute to a referendum committee that could spend untold dollars to promote a position on the referendum question that happened to be similar to the political position of a certain political party.

In fact, they could do indirectly what they're not allowed to do directly to influence voter intentions. Do you see any conflict in having a separate regime for contributions on a referendum from that for the political financing regime we have currently?

11:30 a.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

John Hollins

In Ontario, definitely I do. The question was how you level the playing field, just as you say. If a yes campaign spends $50 million and the no campaign spends $100,000, what is the influence level? Is there one, or isn't there? I don't know. The people who make the rules have to weigh that when setting the rules up.

For instance, in Ontario, you had a double event, so what was the priority for the money? Was it the referendum or was it the political entity? The politicians stayed out for a reason.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you, Mr. Lukiwski.

Madame DeBellefeuille.

November 26th, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Lukiwski has already asked a lot of the questions I had. Mr. Hollins, let's talk about the 2007 referendum. Could you tell us how the inmates' right to vote issue was dealt with? Did they have the right to vote in the referendum and the election? How did it work in Ontario?

We want to know because the issue of inmates' right to vote in referendums is still not settled. We have a lot of questions about that. Based on your experience, could you tell us how it worked?

11:35 a.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

John Hollins

In the Ontario election, everybody who was qualified to receive a regular ballot also received a referendum ballot. There was no differentiation whatsoever. So inmates who would vote normally would also get the second ballot. However, I should explain that in Ontario inmates vote using a proxy system; consequently, they empower someone to exercise their franchise on their behalf.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Since we are trying to modernize the Referendum Act, would you recommend that we give inmates the right to vote in a referendum?

11:35 a.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

John Hollins

I don't know that this is a question that I would deal with. If they have the right to vote in a general election, I don't know why they wouldn't on a referendum.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

I want to know what you think. You can give your opinion. If you do not want to, that is your prerogative.

Nevertheless, would it be appropriate, in accordance with certain values, to give inmates the right to vote in a federal referendum? Would you recommend that? No witness tells us what to do, we just want to hear your professional opinion.

11:35 a.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

John Hollins

To reiterate, I don't know why you wouldn't give them the right to vote. If you're giving them the ballot to vote for members, I don't see why you wouldn't give them the right to vote in a referendum.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

I am afraid that I may have misunderstood what you said, because you were speaking quickly and the interpreter had a little trouble following you.

Could you tell me whether you had trouble separating referendum-related expenses from election-related expenses? Was that a problem you encountered, as Chief Electoral Officer?

11:35 a.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, As an Individual

John Hollins

That did not prove to be a problem at all, because you had to register separately. Parties and constituency associations were not allowed to participate, so that there would be no duplication. A candidate wanted to become involved had to register separately. None did. But it was very clear how the process would be controlled, and the rules were different.