Evidence of meeting #24 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was election.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Marc Mayrand  Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada
  • Stéphane Perrault  Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

We're happy to have you here.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

I'm sure you are, sir. Thank you very much.

Thank you very much for your presentation. It's an enormous amount of work. I'm very impressed.

I would just start with one issue that caught my eye, in no particular order of importance: the issue of nicknames. It sounds like a small matter, but we're dealing with the actual, visual ballot that people see, and it has a lot to do with what goes on at the moment they're about to cast that ballot.

I'm having a little difficulty understanding this. The basic thing you're looking for is that the English reflect the French. I get that. The English, as I understand it, currently says “provide evidence of the acceptance of a nickname”, and some of the notes comment that this is difficult to enforce, etc. I'm curious as to how that plays out right now in English-speaking circumstances.

11:50 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

I'll ask my colleague Mr. Perrault to comment.

October 7th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.

Stéphane Perrault Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Well, it's largely difficult to define public recognition; people will have to provide examples of newspaper clippings where their nickname is used or other information that could show this, whether it's correspondence in which they're known by that nickname.... It's a bit difficult, and in our view, unnecessarily so.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Right, but what currently happens, though, if somebody comes in, wants to make a change, and wants their nickname to show? The example here is “Buddy”. How does that happen right now?

11:50 a.m.

Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Stéphane Perrault

The returning officer will ask for the information to show public knowledge and acceptance.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Then in one of those circumstances you've described, there has to be something.... But if it's being raised in French, where someone is asking for their rights under the law in their preferred language, French, they wouldn't have that obligation under the current writing. Is that correct?

11:50 a.m.

Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Stéphane Perrault

Well, both provisions, the French and English, have to be read together. Also, this is administered locally, so we're not necessarily always involved on how the decisions are made for accepting a nickname or not. Variances may result.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

So let's bring it to where we are now. What are you proposing going forward, then? What would be the process for bringing in a nickname? Are you concerned about any potential abuse?

11:50 a.m.

Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Stéphane Perrault

We haven't seen any significant abuse. The concern is to avoid people ridiculing the electoral process by inventing names out of the blue, so there has to be some measure of control over this.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Could they not also take the nickname of someone who is the incumbent and has a known nickname? If you change it to “I want to be known as Superman,” you could have anything you want there.

That's my concern: if you leave it that open-ended, there are.... We all take the election very seriously, but there are others who have a different reason for participating, and winning may not be their major objective. I'm just wondering, how do we...? In the extreme, you'd have a ballot with Donald Duck and all kinds of crazy things, so what's the check there?

11:55 a.m.

Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Stéphane Perrault

There would still be a requirement of public knowledge, so they'd have to show--

11:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Yes.

11:55 a.m.

Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Stéphane Perrault

What's difficult to show is public acceptance. The fact that his name is known is something that can be shown; whether it's accepted publicly is something that's more difficult.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

So to drill down a little on that language, that means if I'm a new candidate and I'd like my name to appear as whatever, how do I go about that?