House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post-secondary.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would love to talk at great length about Mulcair. He is an excellent candidate and will be an excellent member, I am sure, but that is not the subject today.

I will talk to him about this because I think he would believe, as a social democrat, that there is no connection between giving up one's birthdate to whatever election body, Élections Québec or Elections Canada, and voter participation. There is no logic there. If I give my birthdate and put it on the list, how does that affect voter turnout? If anyone listening or watching or reading this transcript can provide me with the logic, I would welcome it, because there is none.

Let me be clear. We will not be supporting this recommendation from the Senate because it does not go to the extent we wished it to. I agree with him on the concerns we have about the source of this and therefore we are not in favour of this motion from the Senate.

I say to my friend from Quebec that we have something called asymmetry as an idea here. They love to use asymmetry, or at least the proponents and principles of it, that when things are in the rest of Canada, they should not always be adopted by Quebec. May I ask for the same logic, extension and provision in this case?

The member has a case where this birthdate information on the voters' lists is shared with political parties in Quebec.

That is fine for Quebec.

Maybe it is different for the rest of Canada in this instance. Is that something to divide us over? I would think not.

It is called asymmetry and it is a principle the NDP believes in. I would like to see my friend see the logic and the light in that as well. I still have not heard from him the connection between birthdate information and voter participation and I wait patiently for his response.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Vancouver East would be interested to know there is a minute and a half for both the question and the answer.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre because he has brought to light the serious flaws in this bill.

I would like to ask him to maybe put forward some information. I am aware that the former chief electoral officer actually did not believe that there was a significant problem with voter fraud. Whatever problems do exist, they undertake investigations, and in his opinion this bill was never warranted in the first place.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Vancouver for the question and her work on this.

When this bill came in front of us, we had to look at it carefully. I would have to agree with her that this bill is not required. There are facets of concerns around potential voter fraud, which was the language used, but that has more to do with the voter cards I mentioned and the fact that we do not have proper enumeration.

In fact, in committee, when we asked the chief electoral officer, an officer of Parliament, if this was a concern of his, he said that it was not. He had to be put into a corner to comment on the bill as we went through its different facets.

However, on her question as to whether there was evidence for this bill, no, there was not.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I stand to speak in support of not only Bill C-31 but the majority of the amendments that we have seen coming back from the Senate.

First, I would say that while Bill C-31 is important, it is only one in a suite of democratic reform initiatives that the government has brought in. We have seen, for an example, very important democratic reform initiatives such as fixed election dates which is Bill C-16. It passed and has come into force. It states that the third Monday of October 2009 will be the date for the next general election unless of course by some strange occurrence the combined opposition determines that it wants to have an election before that date.

That was the first initiative that we brought in to try to ensure Canadians that there would be some consistency and regularity in the timing of federal elections. Far too often we saw political parties in power manipulate the voting system to their advantage. In other words, we saw parties in previous years take a look at the polling numbers and if they determined that it would be to their advantage to have an election earlier rather than later, because the polls happened to be advantageous for them, they would call an election at that time.

Subsequently, we saw both federally and provincially from time to time governments of the day go well beyond a traditional four year voting window because the polls were not quite a favourable for them during that four year cycle. What we are doing with Bill C-16 is ensuring that all Canadians will have some certainty as to the timing of federal elections and I think that is a good thing for democracy. I think it is a good thing for Canadian voters.

Also, however, we saw several other initiatives with respect to democratic reform. We saw bills come forward dealing with expanded voting opportunities in an attempt to get more and more voters to turn out at the polls. As I said in that debate, we have seen over the course of the last two decades or so a decline in voter turnout year after year, or at least election after election.

I think that is a reflection of many factors, the overall probably being the cynicism that most Canadian voters have with the political process per se. What we are trying to do, by presenting a bill that will give increased and expanded voting opportunities for all Canada, is attempt to raise the level of voter turnout because.

I think that we all agree, regardless of our political affiliations, that it is incumbent upon all Canadians to express either their opinions come election day or at least exercise their franchise because if we ever got to the point where we had less than 50% of the people in the country who were eligible to vote electing a government of the day, that would be truly a sad day for the democratic process.

We have also seen other examples of our democratic reform initiatives. Just today in committee we dealt with Bill C-54 on political loans and how we can ensure that all loans given to candidates over the course of an election are done in such a manner that we can ensure accountability and transparency. I think that is a very important initiative, again, one of a suite of initiatives we brought in.

There will be further democratic reform initiatives as we go forward in the course of the government's life cycle. Today I want to speak specifically to Bill C-31, the voter integrity bill. I think there is no greater fraud that could be perpetrated on Canadians than that of an individual voting in a federal or provincial election who pretends to be someone that he or she is not. In other words, I think there could be no greater fraud than someone trying to influence the election results by fraudulent manners. That is what the bill deals with.

In committee, we dealt with many of the things that we felt needed to be corrected to ensure that there was greater accountability, transparency and greater integrity in the voting system. Primarily we talked about things around identification where all voters now, once the bill becomes a law of the land, will be required to show sufficient identification at the polling station to ensure that they are who they purport to be because we have heard on many occasions many examples of individuals fraudulently voting in individual elections.

Anything that we can do, as a House and as individual members of Parliament, to stop that abuse of the voting system is extremely well intentioned and I think will be well received by the voting public. We dealt with that and many other issues of which my hon. colleagues who proceeded me in this debate spoke about.

Primarily, we came up with what we thought was a bill that would accurately reflect the intention of the committee. The committee worked long and hard on the bill and at the end of day when we reported back to this House, we felt that we had a bill which would capture all of the suggestions and recommendations of committee members who dealt with the bill over a period of several months.

However, as is normally the case, and it seems at least these days it is normally the case, when our bill went from our place to the Senate there were additional discussions and additional amendments. While some of the amendments from the Senate are ones that we have some question about, I am pleased to report that the vast majority of the amendments that were made in the Senate will be agreed to, at least by this government.

We are doing so in a manner which we believe we can get the bill passed into law before we rise for the summer because in a minority situation, the length of a minority government is tenuous at best. If we happen to have an election within the next six months or so, we want to ensure that we have a bill that deals with these very important issues, so that we can ensure that voter integrity is at the utmost, that we dispel and dispense with any kind of attempted fraud in the next election that will be held, whenever that may be.

I want to speak for a few moments on the amendments brought back from our colleagues in the Senate. There were about 12 amendments in total but they fit into about five broad categories. The first one deals with what is generally known as bingo cards. Most of us in this House and any politician who has ever run for elected office is familiar with the concept of bingo cards. For those Canadians who may be somewhat confused about what a bingo card has to do with an election, let me explain.

Every political party, certainly every candidate, wants to track their supporters and whether or not they are supporters that they have identified during the preceding number of months leading up to the election and actually come out to the polls and vote. From time to time there are very close election races throughout Canada. When I was first elected in 2004, I was elected by a whopping majority of 122 votes.

One of the elements that really helped my election in that very stressful time was the fact that we had a very good voter identification program within my riding association and within my campaign team. On election day we had a very good “get out the vote” team which tracked people who came into the polling station, find out which of my supporters had not yet made it to the polls, and we brought those people for the most part to come in to vote. Close to 80% of my identified vote actually cast ballots in that election of 2004.

The use of bingo cards is a mechanism by which we can track the voter turnout. As the name suggests and anyone who has every gone to a bingo hall and played a game knows there are cards with numbers from 1 through 400. When scrutineers go into an election or polling station they are able to mark off on the bingo card the number of the voter assigned to them on the electoral list to ensure that everyone in our campaign team, or get out the vote team, understands who has, and more importantly, who has not voted.

From time to time during the day our scrutineers would go in and pick up these bingo cards from the inside scrutineers, take them back to GOTV headquarters, and phone voters who had not yet made it out to the polls in an attempt to make sure that all of our supporters understood the importance of their vote in that election.

What we are saying in this provision, at least what Bill C-31 purports, is that the bingo card concept be formalized and that Elections Canada be tasked with the responsibility of developing a standardized bingo card that would be available for all political parties and all candidates, so they could use the same get out the vote techniques that most candidates and most political parties have been doing informally over the course of the last number of years.

We see this being an asset to the political process because it helps engage all or potential voters by getting them out to vote. Yes, some of them might need a slight kick in the rear end from some of the GOTV members, but if we can at least increase the voter turnout we will have done a great service for the democratic process. So the amendments that the Senate brought back in with respect to bingo cards are ones that we agree with.

What are those amendments? Primarily, they say that in the original report coming from this place bingo cards should be available and updated every 30 minutes, so that candidates and political parties would be able to go into polling stations every 30 minutes to pick up the bingo cards and take it back to their GOTV headquarters and start their phone backs.

What the Senate has amended is that during advance polls these bingo cards need only be picked up once a day. That makes perfect sense to me. The time a candidate wants to know is on election day what the voter turnout is like. So that every 30 minutes during an advance poll is almost a bit of overkill. It is certainly not required. Therefore, I think it was a very useful, a very serviceable amendment to suggest that bingo cards during those four or five days that advance polls are open need only be picked up once a day and we agree with that.

That segues nicely into the second major classification of amendments and that deals with coming into force provisions. Primarily, we only have one problem with any of the coming into force provisions as amended by our colleagues in the Senate. That again deals with bingo cards.

What it suggests is that electoral offices be given 10 months to develop these bingo cards themselves and come up with a standardized format that would then be available for use by all parties and all candidates.

We feel that 10 months is too long. We believe that this bingo card format can be structured, developed and printed within a six month period. Therefore, we will be putting our new amendment that we will send back to our colleagues in the Senate, and we hope that they support it, suggesting that the only amendment we wish to make on its amended bill is that the coming into force provision for bingo cards would be six rather than 10 months.

I think that is a very legitimate and reasonable amendment for us to be making. We say that because again in a minority government one never knows how long such a government will last. In other words, if this bill is given royal assent before we rise for the summer, that means if we have an election before December bingo cards would not be available, but if any election is held from 2008 on we will have bingo cards available for all candidates. We think that is reasonable.

Again, the only change to the amendments that the Liberal dominated Senate has made is that we will have a six month window rather than a 10 month window for the bingo cards.

The third provision that is captured by amendments in the Senate deals with casual election workers. Again, as we know in a minority government situation we need a lot of casual workers who work from election to election to election on standby because there can be an election held at any time.

Currently, the Public Service Employment Act contemplates that casual workers and the broad category of casual government workers could only be classified as such if they work 90 days or less in any calendar year.

We felt that was too tight of a time line because if there happened to be two elections in one year, clearly 90 days would not be enough time for a casual worker to do both elections. Thereby, they would fall outside of that 90 day classification.

What the Senate committee had discussed and amended was that the provision now read that 165 days be the length of time that casual workers would be classified still as a casual worker within the Public Service Employment Act. We think that is reasonable and we are certainly willing to agree to that amendment and recommend that the amendment be passed in this House.

The fourth provision is one that I know will take a fair amount of time. I see that the time—

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I interrupt the hon. the parliamentary secretary, but the time provided for the study of government bills has now expired. When we return to the study of Bill C-31, there will be six minutes left for the hon. the parliamentary secretary to make his presentation and 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Housing
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, in Edmonton, Mayor Mandel says that the number one concern for the city is affordable housing. For Alberta, Premier Stelmach said the same.

While much has been done by this government to improve shelters and non-profit housing, the private sector rental industry remains in crisis. Over the past 30 years across Canada, the newly built private sector rental housing numbers have fallen from 90% of new construction of multiple housing units to less than 10%, not even beginning to meet market demand.

In overheated markets the remaining stock of rental units are being splashed with paint and sold as condos at several times the cost of even four years ago.

What caused this collapse of a once viable rental industry? The cities, the provinces and Ottawa must work together to determine the cause and to find solutions. We owe it to all to help.

School Speaking Tour
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the students, staff, parents and teachers who participated in my school speaking tour. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to listen to and speak with over 80,000 students and have benefited greatly from their input.

During this year's tour, the message from the students to the Prime Minister was crystal clear. They want the government to step up its efforts in a number of key areas, by making investments and designing a comprehensive plan of action to address the challenges we face as a country, including our environment, foreign aid, homelessness, immigration, health care, education, poverty, taxation, crime, research and development, community safety, infrastructure, drug abuse, gun violence, animal cruelty, aboriginals, seniors and Canada's place in the world.

The students of the city of Vaughan acknowledge that they live in a city with an exceptional quality of life and standard of living. Their gift is their ability to have a national view of our country and a global view of the world.

I am very impressed by their knowledge and willingness to accept responsibility and seize opportunities to make our country and our world a better place in which to live.

EcoKids Prize
Statements By Members

June 18th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in this House and congratulate the staff and students at École Jeanne-Mance in my riding on winning the EcoKids prize for the greenest school initiative.

The children have taken tangible steps to protect their environment. For example, they have scheduled times at lunch for washing the reusable dishes the school purchased. In addition, the students throw nothing away: leftovers are composted and packaging rinsed and recycled. Some students are using recycled materials to make games that will later be displayed at the Biodome in Montreal, while others are decorating the school corridors with flower boxes. The students hope to make their own recycled paper next year.

When it comes to the environment, the students at École Jeanne-Mance have things to teach this government, which is not even concerned about their future.

Palestine
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, tragically, the Palestinian unity government has collapsed. Never in 40 years had a Palestinian political body brought together the views of so many Palestinians. All major political movements were included.

Instead of seeing the unity government as a unique opportunity to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Conservative government shamefully boycotted, undermining the advocates of compromise, compounding political divisions within Gaza and the West Bank and increasing the insecurity plaguing the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.

The only viable government in Palestine is one that represents all Palestinians. Peace cannot be achieved without Hamas at the table. It is a fraud to pretend otherwise. It is imperative for the Canadian government to provide leadership and push for a unified, multilateral diplomatic front.

The current strife and tragic loss of life in Palestine and Israel will only be stemmed when a policy of peace and inclusive dialogue replaces the politics of militarism, boycott and division.

Millennium Excellence Award
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to advise the House that six Millennium Excellence Awards have been awarded to students in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap for the academic year 2007-08.

The Millennium Excellence Award program is one of Canada's most prestigious national scholarship initiatives. This program is directed at Canadians preparing to enter college or university for the first time. The program's entrance award plays a crucial role in the recognition and encouragement of excellence in the classroom and beyond.

Congratulations go to Erin Crockett of Kalamalka Secondary, Mary Howie of Pleasant Valley Secondary School, Aneil Jaswal of United College of South East Asia, Jasmine Patrick of W.L. Seaten Secondary School, Kam Phung of Pleasant Valley Secondary School and Amanda Shelley of Kalamalka Secondary.

Award recipients, job well done.

35th Annual Tournament of the Northwest Firefighters Association
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity today to congratulate everyone who took part in the 35th annual tournament of the Association des pompiers du Nord-Ouest, which took place in Saint-Basile.

I have great admiration for the members of this association and the work they do to make our communities safer. These firefighters do not hesitate to risk their own lives when a fire breaks out, and they deserve recognition.

At the tournament banquet, I had the opportunity to speak to the firefighters, and I again pledged my support for Bill C-219, which proposes to reduce taxes for volunteer emergency workers, including volunteer firefighters.

I want to congratulate the Green River brigade, which won the 35th annual tournament and will represent the northwest region at the provincial tournament.

I also want to thank all the volunteers and the organizing committee members for all their efforts in planning this memorable event.

The Environment
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the session draws to a close, I would like to talk about the leadership this government has shown by announcing a number of initiatives to fight greenhouse gas emissions. One thing that comes to mind is the ecoenergy retrofit incentive.

Our incentive goes further than all the other programs proposed by the previous Liberal government. In fact, 140,000 households can benefit from a grant of up to $5,000, a 25% increase over the previous program.

Under our incentive program, for every dollar paid out, 90¢ goes into the pockets of homeowners, compared to 50¢ under the old program. The average grant will be 40% higher than it was before.

In conclusion, I would like to say that our incentive program will also help fund a broader range of measures to reduce energy consumption in the home.

Once again, while the opposition is complaining and living in the past, we are taking action and proposing concrete, realistic and responsible initiatives to protect our environment.

Georges Thurston
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, Georges Thurston, known as Boule Noire, died last night at age 55, after a rich artistic career spanning 30 years.

He did not have an easy life. Abandoned at birth, he was raised in an orphanage, then went from one foster home to another, only to become a drifter for years. In his autobiography, published only a few days ago, he admits that music is what saved him.

He worked as a musician or music arranger for artists such as Charlebois, Roman, Dubois, Lautrec, Pagliaro and Workman, in addition to producing his own songs, many of which were recorded by the group Toulouse.

I would like to commend Georges Thurston's courage and determination in his battle with cancer, which he fought very publicly, in order to inspire others who are also battling incurable diseases.

He will be sadly missed.

The Environment
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, on June 15, I along with the Minister of Natural Resources and the chair of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology had an opportunity to tour Encana's CO2 sequestration site located in my riding just south of the city of Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

Encana's Weyburn oil field operation covers 70 square miles and on this site it has Canada's largest commercial scale carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery project and the world's largest geological CO2 sequestration project.

By the end of 2005, it had safely injected seven million tonnes of CO2. This is the equivalent of taking one and a half million cars off the road for a year.

Also in my riding, near Estevan, Saskatchewan, prospective plans are being developed to build the world's first near zero CO2 emission coal-fired plant where the CO2 will be captured, stored and used to increase oil production, and all of it done in an environmentally friendly manner.

These initiatives represent a bright future for not only my riding of Souris—Moose Mountain but for all of Canada. It is good for the environment, it is good for the economy and it is good for all of Canada.