House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, many people who live in urban environments are transient. I spoke earlier about the UN special rapporteur's report on housing and homelessness in Canada, and it is no wonder. People are facing a crisis. Many people who live in cities simply do not have an ID or a residence address but they can be vouched for under a statutory declaration. It is a fairly widespread problem.

I want to quote from a blog on the CTV website. It is from someone in the Gulf Islands who said, “Well, I guess I won't be voting in the next election. I live on a small Gulf Island off the B.C. coast. We were recently assigned house numbers for this island but pick up mail on a different island and our voting stations are on a third island. A few years ago I was turned away at the polls because my driver's licence address (place I live) didn't match my voters card address (mailing address). Here we go again....”

That kind of thing happens all over Canada.

In one of the advance polls in the last election, a person who lived on one Gulf Island had to travel to Vancouver Island to cross over to another Gulf Island to vote in the advance poll.

If we are going to talk about how we actually ensure voters legitimately vote in this country, we need to fix some of the problems that are in the system that have been clearly identified, instead of doing the kinds of things in Bill C-31, which actually made sure voters could not vote.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has put forward many good arguments. Over the past while in Parliament, before the summer break, we worked diligently on this issue trying to understand what was driving the government agenda in actually developing Bill C-31 in the first place.

Is it a question of voter fraud? We had four cases of voter fraud in the last four elections. That is not sufficient to bring forward an act to this Parliament.

Is it a question that somehow our system of voting is under scrutiny, that the elaborate system of returning officers, scrutineers and the complete system of Canadian voting, which is probably one of the best in the world, is somehow under suspicion? Are we letting too many people through the gate? Is it because some people walking into the polls are unable to identify themselves in many instances?

Yes, there are some problems but did it require this kind of authoritarian hammer that came down in terms of Bill C-31? Or, is this something else? Is this really about social conditioning? Is the bill one of the steps that is leading us toward a more authoritarian state where everything we do must be qualified with some form of identification, where we are moving toward government identity cards and where we are taking the steps that will lead us to a society that Canadians will not like? Or, are the steps being taken small ones so that Canadians will be conditioned to accept this kind of burden?

What does my hon. colleague think was the motive behind the government moving ahead with this legislation, wasting our time in Parliament and creating a situation where, in the next election, we will have massive confusion at the polls, which will turn many people off voting? What was the government's purpose in all of this?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It remains somewhat of a mystery because the chief electoral officer himself talked about the fact that fraud in our electoral system was a rare and unusual case.

Instead of dealing with the circumstances as they arose, this is the government's response. It makes great political rhetoric because the government can say that it is protecting the integrity of the voting system. However, the integrity of the voting system, by and large, is just fine, thanks very much. Instead, what we had was a response that far outweighed the problem.

What happens when we develop responses that far outweigh the problems identified is that mistakes are made. Instead, we have created a far greater problem with this flawed piece of legislation.

There is a creeping notion and we are seeing it any number of ways. We now have no-fly lists. What is happening in this day and age in our country in terms of protecting the integrity of certain systems when we have this kind of legislation creeping in?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is probably nothing more important in a democracy than to have integrity in the voting system, integrity in results. It is critically important that everybody who wants their voice heard in an election have that opportunity.

However, it is also critically important that the results of an election, the results in all 308 ridings, are beyond question, that they are above any sort of suspicion that there may be a problem in the voting system.

It is right for members of Parliament to look at the system from time to time to ensure the integrity of the system is beyond reproach.

Does the member feel that the previous system was perfect or is it right for Parliament, from time to time, to look at the system and ensure the integrity is there and that the results of an election in any riding cannot be questioned?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course New Democrats are absolutely concerned with the integrity of the system. That is why we are really concerned with a bill that actually disenfranchised a million voters. When we talk about the integrity of the system, surely a bill that actually does not let people vote when they legitimately should be able to vote speaks to a lack of integrity in that bill.

New Democrats again have suggested ways to make sure people could vote legitimately.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska has 20 minutes, but I will have to interrupt him at 2 p.m.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand completely. This is going to be a very important question period.

It is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (verification of residence). A few minutes ago, my colleague from Drummond discussed this and stated that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-18 in principle.

The purpose of the bill is to close some of the loopholes in Bill C-31. All of our colleagues who have spoken to Bill C-18 talked about problems that resulted from the adoption of Bill C-31. People did not pass it in bad faith to cause problems, but, as is frequently the case, they realized after the fact that there were some problems. That is what happened with Bill C-31, which attempted to minimize opportunities for fraud or error by strengthening requirements related to voter identification. People were asked to produce identification that included their home address. That was when a pretty serious problem surfaced.

Elections Canada revealed that at least one million Canadians do not have a proper residential address, that is, an address with a civic number and street name, as required by Bill C-31. This might seem strange or unusual to someone who lives in the city and has always had a civic address with a street name. This does not mean, however, that these other people have nowhere to live. We are familiar with the plight of the homeless. However, there are also people who live in a rural setting who do not have that kind of address. It is not the same thing. They do not have a civic number and street name. They may simply have a rural route number. For instance, in the case of first nations peoples, their address might simply be the name of the reserve and nothing else. The address is just as valid, but it is not the kind of address that city dwellers tend to have.

One million voters represent 4.4% of all eligible voters in Canada. As I was saying, in rural settings, addresses often consist of post office boxes or rural routes. On first nations reserves, residential addresses often consist only of the name of the reserve. In order to ensure a healthy democratic process, everyone must, if possible, have the right to vote, which is an inalienable right.

Those who have a rural route as their address, for instance, cannot call upon a vouching elector from the same polling division, because he or she will have a similar address. If a voter brings along their neighbour or their roommate because they do not have all the documentation required by the law, the problem is that the other person will have more or less exactly the same address. They will have the same problem, that is, no civic number or street name. Therein lies the problem in Bill C-31.

This situation affects about one million people in Canada. Fortunately, the number is much smaller in Quebec, but there are people who do have that problem. Indeed, 15,836 voters, or 0.27% of all electors in Quebec were found to have an address that can be described as incomplete. They find themselves in the situation that I described earlier, in that they do not necessarily have a civic number or a street name. So, a solution had to be found to allow the greatest possible number of people to exercise their right to vote, a right—and I am saying it again, because it is important—that is unalienable.

So, Bill C-18 was drafted. However, the democratic process must be conducted while trying to prevent fraud as much as possible. Now, we joke about the days when people used to say that political parties would sometimes make dead people vote. We laugh, but it is not funny, because it was the reality. Some people did use that ploy at one time. Whenever the possibility exists, dishonest people will try to use all sorts of schemes to win elections in a fraudulent and illegal manner. That was done in the past. People would go to the cemetery, write down the name of a dead person, find his old address, and then go and vote while using the dead person's identity. This really happened.

In more recent times—unfortunately, this may still be happening, but it definitely did in the rather recent past—some people would vote by doing nothing less than to steal another voter's identity.

I do not believe I am mistaken in saying that this happened in the borough of Anjou, in Quebec. In the very recent past, it was proven that people were engaging in this fraudulent practice. Someone was elected because people—called floating voters—had been paid to vote for that person by stealing other voters' identities. This is a serious problem that must be prevented. That is why the NDP's suggestion that people simply take an oath in order to have the right to vote is highly problematic. It is not enough.

Bill C-18 amends the Canada Elections Act to relax the rules on verifying residence for voters who live in areas where the municipal address on pieces of identification consists of a post office box, general delivery or a rural route. The bill provides that if the mailing address on the pieces of identification provided does not prove the voter's residence, but is consistent with the information related to that voter on the voters list, the voter's residence is deemed to have been proven. For example, a voter whose identification shows an address limited to a rural route can prove his residence if that mailing address matches the information on the voters list.

In the case of someone who is vouching for another voter, the bill requires that the voucher first prove his or her own identity and residence. If the address on the voucher's identification matches the information related to the voucher on the voters list, that address can be used to prove the voucher's residence.

I will conclude by saying that if there is any doubt, the deputy returning officer, poll clerk, candidate or candidate's representative can ask the voter to take the prescribed oath. This is what is proposed in Bill C-18. As I said earlier, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle.

Sinclair Cutcliffe
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I wish to pay tribute to one of P.E.I.'s finest sons, Sinclair Cutcliffe, who passed away Saturday.

Sinclair spent his lifetime helping others and was strongly committed to his family, his community and Canada. He was active in many capacities, key among them being past owner and director of Cutcliffe Funeral Home. He was a provincial MLA and deputy speaker, a stalwart Liberal activist, a founding member of the Hillsborough Rotary Club, provider of ambulance services and first aid training to nurses and firefighters. For his years in first aid he won the highest honour, the Order of the Red Cross.

Although he never sat in this chamber having made one attempt to do so, he still had an influence on this place and federal policy through his active connections with Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal Party. The stories he could tell.

Canada and Prince Edward Island are a better place because of Sinclair Cutcliffe. We thank his family and we wish them well.

Democratic Reform
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as our government took office almost 22 months ago, there was little doubt that Canadians had grown tired of the scandals and entitlement that had become the watchwords of the former Liberal government. They looked to us to clean up the mess and get government back on track. We have kept that commitment. We have honoured that promise and our work continues.

I am proud to be part of a government that just this week introduced new legislation that goes right to the heart of a more democratic accountable government, giving Canadians a say as to who will represent them in the Senate, limiting Senate terms to eight years, and providing fairness in representation in the House.

We know from experience that the Liberals will flip and flop, obstruct and delay these reforms, just as they did in the last session. It is up to Liberal members and senators to put their romance with the days of privilege behind them, do what Canadians want and expect, stand up and pass these measures without delay here and in the other place.

International Day of Tolerance
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, every November 16 is designated as the International Day of Tolerance, a day to advance human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as to encourage tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples.

In Darfur, Burma and Colombia, the concept of tolerance is being trampled and severely tested. Closer to home, the Conservative government's tolerance of the minorities in this country also leaves much to be desired.

They are intolerant of women's groups which dare to fight for their rights and for pay equity, intolerant of our workers, from whom they have been stealing billions of dollars for years, and intolerant of Quebeckers, whom they recognize as a nation, even though that does not really mean a thing.

Youth Rendez-vous
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, Rendez-vous Jeunesse will bring together some 150 young people to discuss the future of the Acadian peninsula. It will be held November 16 and 17 at the Shippagan campus of the Université de Moncton.

The aim of the meeting, an initiative of the Comité Avenir jeunesse, is to create a platform for discussion and the exchange of ideas regarding the Acadian peninsula's social, economic and educational situation.

The event will consist of workshops and other activities, as young people from near and from afar share their success stories.

This innovative and ambitious project, designed by and for young people, will help boost the development of the Acadian peninsula and serve as preparation for a youth encounter initiative as part of the Congrès mondial acadien in 2009. On behalf of the NDP, I would like to wish Rendez-vous Jeunesse every success.

Alberta Diabetes Institute
Statements By Members

November 15th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, November 14, marked the celebration of World Diabetes Day. On that same day, Canada's largest diabetes institute opened at the University of Alberta.

The Alberta Diabetes Institute will bring together top researchers in type 1 and type 2 diabetes to work toward prevention, better treatment and an eventual cure of the disease.

The disease affects 150,000 Albertans with 1,000 new patients being diagnosed each month. The opening of this remarkable institute will certainly have a positive effect on the prognosis and management of their disease.

This is the largest free-standing building dedicated to diabetes work in Canada and will house more than 200 researchers. The new building will hold 35 investigator labs for people in physical education, medicine, nutrition, pharmacy and public health.

The lives of Albertans and Canadians living with diabetes will be dramatically improved with the opening of this institute. As a resident of and member of Parliament for Edmonton—Strathcona, I am proud to congratulate Dr. Ray Rajotte and his team for working very hard to make this a reality.

Income Trusts
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hold in my hands a petition from 4,000 Canadians who want to remind the Prime Minister that he once said, “There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept”. They are among the million-plus victims of the Prime Minister's broken promise on income trusts.

Their names were compiled by David Marshall, a retired man from the Cornwall area who worked hard all his life only to see his retirement savings go up in smoke. He delivered these names to me on the first anniversary of the income trust announcement.

What he and millions of Canadians want now is simple. They want the government to uncover the 18 pages of blacked-out documents used to justify destroying their billions of dollars of savings.

Most of all, they want an apology, because the only thing they did wrong was to take the Prime Minister at his word.

Project Red Ribbon
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Project Red Ribbon officially started on Parliament Hill today.

This national campaign asks Canadians to display a red ribbon on their vehicle or their car keys, purse, backpack or other personal item.

This red ribbon is a tribute to honour those killed or injured in impaired driving crashes. It also serves as a constant message to people on the roads to drive safe and sober.

MADD Canada hopes the red ribbon will also serve as a reminder to call 911 and take action in ensuring our roads are safe.

We can all agree that impaired driving is not to be tolerated. That is why this government has introduced impaired driving measures within the tackling violent crime act. I urge the House to support this important legislation and I urge Canadians to support MADD's valiant efforts by displaying a red ribbon.

Anti-Doping
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the third World Conference on Doping in Sport opens today in Madrid with the objective of revising the World Anti-Doping Code, I would like to highlight the importance of this exercise for the credibility of the world of sport.

Every day, thousands of athletes spare neither time, nor money, nor energy—sometimes to the detriment of their health—to give a performance that will go down in history. They have to deal with the demands of sponsors and the public's judgment. They must never disappoint.

We cannot deny that all this pressure makes doping attractive. However, athletes—as well as their families, doctors and trainers—must realize that doping is illegal and must not be trivialized.

This third conference should also eliminate the threat of moving the agency's main office, currently located in Montreal. The Secretary of State, now in Madrid, must accept nothing less.