House of Commons photo

Track Blake

Your Say

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is first.

Conservative MP for Wild Rose (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 74.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Banff Lake Louise Tourism April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, after more than a decade of achievement, this week Julie Canning will step down from her post as president and CEO of Banff Lake Louise Tourism.

Under her leadership, this destination marketing organization has consistently raised the bar, redefining the meaning of success in our tourism industry. Steadfastly promoting Banff and Lake Louise as world-class, year-round destinations, Julie has opened new doors to the world. Today more than three million people visit this region each year, learning about Canada's natural heritage and sharing in new adventures. When they depart, they are eager to return.

The good news is that Julie will continue to play a role in our tourism industry. She has taken over Holiday on Horseback, the iconic outfitting and guiding operation founded by Ron Warner more than 50 years ago.

As the chair of the parliamentary tourism caucus, the member of Parliament representing Banff, and one of many proud to call Julie Canning a friend, I thank her for her significant contributions to Canada's tourism sector and I wish her well in her future endeavour.

The Economy March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our government has delivered historic tax relief for all Canadians. We have cut taxes over 160 times. Because of this tax relief, a typical family of four will save nearly $3,400 in taxes in 2014.

Statistics Canada has confirmed that middle-income families are better off today under our Conservative government than under the previous Liberal government. In fact, the net worth of families is up over 44% from 2005.

Unfortunately, the Liberal leader has no idea what it is like to be middle class. Middle-class families do not live pampered lifestyles while fleecing charities for thousands of dollars in speaking fees. Middle-class families do not promote easier access to illegal drugs for children or blurt out obscene remarks at charity events. Middle-class families know that budgets do not magically balance themselves.

Despite the antics of the Liberal leader, Canadians can rest assured that this government will continue to look out for the interests of middle-income families, and all Canadians.

Democratic Reform March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of State for Democratic Reform regarding the fair elections act and how it will protect taxpayers from partisan abuse of their tax dollars. This is very important to all Canadian taxpayers as there have recently been alarming reports about possible violations of the Elections Act by sitting NDP MPs.

Can the minister please explain how the fair elections act will protect taxpayers from these kinds of abuses that we have seen from the NDP?

Canadian Commission on Physician-Assisted Death March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to consider the matter of accusations of the official opposition's improper use of House of Commons resources for partisan purposes and that the Leader of the Opposition be ordered to appear as a witness at a televised meeting of the committee to be held no later than May 16, 2014.

Ethics March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has been caught abusing MP mailing privileges during by-elections and using its House of Commons budget to run offices for partisan activities. Not only is this disrespectful of taxpayers, it is also a direct violation of the rules.

Can the Minister of State for Democratic Reform

Business of Supply March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I noted his support for the town of Sylvan Lake in the Kraft Hockeyville contest. I am certainly very supportive. I know it has had some tragic issues with its arena, and I am certainly hopeful that people will vote early and often for them.

However, I agree with him that when it comes to something as important as our federal elections, we have to make sure we are doing all we can to ensure the vote is accurate, fair, and free from voter fraud. I think that is why he has highlighted that it is so important that we look at the voter information cards, as the opposition is calling for them to be used as an acceptable form of identification, and we know that there are errors on one in six. The member has outlined an example in his case. I have heard many other examples like that. One of my colleagues who sits on the procedure and House affairs committee that has examined this bill has indicated that in one election he received three different cards for himself, based upon variations of his middle name, first name, and combinations thereof. I have heard many other examples like that.

Obviously, there is a concern when we have one in six with the wrong information. That is a very high error rate, something we should all be concerned about.

I just reiterate one last time that there are 39 forms of acceptable identification that can be produced at the polls. What is also important is that we provide education through Elections Canada, which focuses on where and when to vote and what identification to bring to the polls to ensure that Canadians know before coming to the polls. I believe we would see fairer elections and better turnouts, as well.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I should re-emphasize for the member that, when we talk about the voter information cards, there are errors on one in six of these cards. There is clearly something that needs to be addressed here. What he needs to also be clear on is that there are 39 forms of acceptable identification. He did use specifically the example of seniors. That was what I would have liked to address had I had the chance earlier, so I will do that now.

He used the specific example of seniors. One example we can use is that one of the 39 forms of acceptable identification is a statement of government benefits. Therefore, in the case of a senior, old age security would be an example of that. In the case of a senior living in a seniors' residence or a long-term care facility, there are various forms such as attestation of residence, letter of standing, or admission form. These are all acceptable.

There are many examples of acceptable forms of identification. There are 39 pieces, in fact. I would argue that if one were to take a good look at the list—and I will not read them all now because time is short—it seems to me it would be quite clear that there are quite a few options that are acceptable forms of identification, which I firmly believe would facilitate the ability of all Canadians to be able to vote and to vote knowing we have been able to ensure their vote is safe and there is not the ability for others to cancel their vote through voter fraud.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of reasons why the assertions the member made in coming to the question would be wrong. First, he indicated he feels the voter information cards should be used as identification and that would not create any errors or potential for fraud. Frankly, as I outlined in my speech, it is very clear there are errors in one in six of these voter information cards. Does he really believe there is not concern about the potential for that to be a problem, when one in six are incorrect or not factual?

That is the first problem with what he said. The second problem is that, when there are 39 acceptable forms of identification, he has indicated that in most cases one would have to provide two. I would argue that in many cases, if one has government issued ID, which has a photo and a name and address, which many Canadians do in fact have, there would only be the need for one. However, there are cases where there is the need for two, and there are many acceptable forms of ID. I have talked about a few of them specific to the groups we talked about today. For example, students could use an attestation of residence that shows residence at the school. They could use a lease document that would indicate where they are living when they are at school. They could use their student information cards, library cards, and many things like that. I could go on and on with a number of acceptable forms of ID if the time were available. I just really believe that the hon. member should take another look at what he has asked.

Business of Supply March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to express my views regarding the New Democratic Party's opposition day motion concerning various reforms the fair elections act would bring to voter identification procedures under the Canada Elections Act.

The motion before the House also deals with the effects of these important reforms for specific groups in Canadian society. My remarks today will focus on this dimension of the issue and will demonstrate why the fair elections act would have beneficial effects on the voting rights of the groups listed in the motion.

I welcome this debate today, because it gives me an opportunity not only to contribute my perspective on what the real impacts of the voter identification reforms and the fair election act would be for the groups specified in the motion before us today but also because it will be an opportunity to provide colleagues with some of my thoughts on the multiple and significant advantages the fair elections act would bring to Canada's electoral system. In particular, I would like to highlight the importance of upholding the integrity of our elections and of protecting Canadians' right to vote.

I would like to make it clear to the House from the outset, however, that I disagree with the motion put forward by the New Democratic Party today regarding the bill.

The motion would have the House pronounce an opinion against the needed reforms the fair election act would bring to the current voter identification procedures set out in the Canada Elections Act. Furthermore, the motion would have Canadians believe that the fair elections act would have negative effects on the voting rights of the groups specified in today's motion, but I am pleased to say that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the fair elections act would have just the opposite purpose, that of protecting all Canadians' electoral rights from the risks of fraudulent voting and high rates of administrative errors, factors that can undermine confidence in the integrity of elections.

I would like to begin my remarks today with a few preliminary observations regarding the important enhancements the fair elections act would bring to our electoral system. The fair elections act proposes comprehensive changes to the Canada Elections Act. It is unquestionably important legislation that will reinforce the integrity of Canada's elections and will revitalize our democracy.

An element of particular relevance in today's debate is that the fair elections act would provide better customer service for voters by focusing Elections Canada's advertising on the basics of voting: where and when and what identification to bring. This measure will benefit all Canadians, including by facilitating the voting processes for all the specific groups referenced in today's motion.

For example, Elections Canada concluded in its evaluation report on the 41st general election that a top priority to increase youth turnout would be, and I quote, “increasing awareness about when, where and how to vote, by providing information in formats suitable for youth”. The fair elections act would ensure that Elections Canada would focus its communications messages on this crucial information for our electors.

I would like to add that the act would also establish an extra day of advance polling. The proposed change would give Canadians access to four advance polling days: the 10th, 9th, 8th, and the 7th days before election day. This important measure would also benefit all Canadians, including, again, those specific groups in society that are the subject of our debate today.

This would be an appropriate point to note that among the most important initiatives included in the act are measures to combat voter fraud and increase the confidence of Canadians in the electoral process. I think all members can agree that the prevention of electoral fraud is a very worthwhile goal and that every fraudulent vote not only undermines confidence in our elections but also, in effect, cancels out the legitimate vote of a Canadian.

In light of the fact that the motion before the House today refers specifically to the prohibitions in the fair elections act on the use of the vouching procedure and the voter information cards as replacements for acceptable identification, I would at this point like to take a few additional minutes to outline for the House precisely why it is imperative that those practices be prohibited.

I will first provide a little background information to explain precisely how the use of the vouching mechanism and the voter information cards for identification purposes relate to the current voter identification procedures under the Canada Elections Act.

With the passage of Bill C-31 in 2007, a mechanism was introduced for verifying the identity of electors and their residence upon registration at the polls and for voting. This was a significant advancement that our government brought to voter identification for federal elections in Canada. It helped bring us closer to restoring the confidence of Canadians in the electoral process.

As a result of those legislative changes, an elector voting in a federal election at an ordinary polling station must prove his or her identity in one of three ways. The first is by presenting one piece of identification issued by a government that includes a photograph of the elector and his or her name and address. The second is by presenting two pieces of identification, each of which establishes the elector's name and one of which establishes the elector's address. The third is by taking an oath, if accompanied by another elector whose name appears on the list of electors and who, after providing the piece or pieces of identification referred to, vouches for the elector on an oath. That is what is known as the vouching process.

There are certain safeguards in place that are intended to make the vouching process more reliable and accurate. For example, the voucher must have the required pieces of identification. He or she cannot previously have been vouched for. The voucher must reside in the same polling division as the elector. The voucher can only vouch for one elector; multiple vouching is prohibited. Most importantly, there is also supposed to be a record of who the voucher is and who he or she vouched for. This ought to create an effective deterrent to anybody who gives thought to vouching for an unqualified elector. However, in practice, those safeguards are undermined by the fact that there are high levels of irregularities being reported at the polls regarding the use of vouching.

Studies commissioned by Elections Canada demonstrate mass irregularities in the use of vouching. According to the Neufeld report relating to administrative deficiencies at the polls in the 2011 election, vouching procedures are complex, and there were irregularities in 42% of cases where vouching was used.The report indicates that even with increased quality assurance, the problem would not be remedied. The report found that in 38% of the cases where vouching was required, there was no record in the poll book that clearly indicated both who the voters and the vouchers were. This clearly does not mean that all of these cases were instances of voter fraud. However, it does mean that polling day irregularities by elections officers regularly undermine an essential safeguard in the vouching mechanism, which is to have a record of who vouched for whom.

While Elections Canada has estimated that as many as 120,000 voters chose to use the vouching procedure on election day, those voters could have proven their identity and their residence by other means. The fair elections act will require in law that Elections Canada communicate what forms of identification would be acceptable at polling locations. This important measure would provide voters with the basic information they need about what identification to bring to the polls before they go to the polls.

I would also add a few words about the measures in the fair elections act regarding voter information cards, which play an important role in informing Canadians about where and when they need to vote. It is important to recognize that voter information cards are not currently authorized forms of identification and cannot be used as proof of identification and residency. Since the voter identification requirements were established in 2007, we have had one general election when voter information cards were permitted to be used on an exceptional basis and one general election when they were not authorized forms of identification at all.

Potentially serious problems could arise if those cards were used as replacements for acceptable identification, since there is evidence that the use of voter information cards as identification presents the risk of voter fraud. For instance, studies commissioned by Elections Canada showed a one-in-six error rate on voter information cards. Such inaccuracies could allow those attempting to subvert election laws to use them to vote more than once or to vote in the wrong riding.

I would like to take a few moments to outline the current situation regarding the various forms of identification available to voters and to address the question of whether the reforms in the fair elections act would have any effect on their availability. This will illustrate quite clearly that the important voter identification measures contained in the fair elections act would not in any way disenfranchise the groups mentioned in today's motion: first-time voters, such as young people and new Canadians; aboriginal Canadians; and seniors living in residences.

I would also like to emphasize that the flexibility of the Canada Elections Act would not change. Rather, the goal of the fair elections act is, as I mentioned earlier, to prohibit only those specific administrative procedures that are risky and counterproductive, in particular the use of vouching and voter information cards as replacements for acceptable identification. In this way, it would minimize the risks of fraud and error in the voting process.

Nevertheless, even with the new protections introduced by the fair elections act, voters would still be able to choose from among 39 forms of authorized identification to prove their identity and residence, including a lease, bank statements, library cards, hunting licenses, Canadian Forces identity cards, and many more. In fact, the current authorized list includes not only about two dozen different kinds of identity cards but also a wide variety of original documents that contain a name and an address.

I would like to emphasize that this latter point is of particular importance with respect to certain groups in society that for various reasons may face challenges in proving their identity and residence. I would like to take a moment to elaborate on this point.

The kinds of original documents with a name and address that are among the 39 forms of authorized identification include a statement of government benefits, which would be employment insurance, old age security, social assistance, disability support, or a child tax benefit. It is unquestionable that this option would facilitate the identification process, for example, for seniors who live in a residence. They would be able to use their old age security statements to provide identification at the polls.

Moreover, the list of original documents considered to be suitable identification for the purposes of voting would also include letters from a public curator, a public guardian, or a public trustee. It could be documentation, such as a letter of stay or an admission form, issued by the responsible authority of a shelter, a soup kitchen, a students residence, a seniors residence, or a long-term care facility.

Clearly the option of presenting a letter from the responsible authority of a student or seniors residence could be quite useful for seniors who live in a residence or for young first-time voters who may be students living away from home while they attend an educational institution. Students would also have the ability to use correspondence issued by a school, college, or university to provide their identification. All of this would be in addition to the fact that student identification cards and old age security cards are both authorized forms of identification.

I have not yet mentioned the forms of authorized identification that would be of specific benefit to aboriginal Canadians. Specifically, the forms of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer would include certificates of Indian status, also known as status cards. This is in addition to attestations of residence issued by the responsible authority of a first nations band or reserve.

I would also like to emphasize at this point that the Chief Electoral Officer would continue to authorize acceptable forms of identification at the polls. Furthermore, the Chief Electoral Officer would be encouraged to continue his efforts to ensure that the list of authorized identification contains documents to allow those with particular challenges in proving their identity and their residence to be able to do so. In fact, this is the central message of my remarks here today in the House.

The fair elections act would do nothing to detract from the flexibility and adaptability that is inherent in the current system of voter identification under the Canada Elections Act.

The government recognizes that these are key strengths of our electoral system, and as a consequence, the reforms in the fair elections act would serve to enhance those positive elements in the current system while minimizing the very real risks of electoral fraud.

With specific regard to new Canadians, those who are eligible electors would have been resident in Canada for some time prior to obtaining their citizenship and being able to vote in their first election, and so would not face greater challenges than any other Canadian in obtaining one or more of the 39 forms of authorized identification I have just talked about.

Additionally, I would like to note that Elections Canada has produced, in 27 languages in addition to English and French, a document concerning voter identification at the polls, which is intended to make this important information more easily accessible to voters from ethnocultural communities.

The fair elections act would do nothing to impede such important and fundamental advertising on the basics of voting: where, when, and what identification to bring. In fact, the fair elections act would ensure that Elections Canada focuses its advertising on this crucial information.

The reforms that the fair elections act would bring to the voter identification procedures under the Canada Elections Act are important and much needed measures that would help to ensure that our electoral system operates with the integrity that all Canadians expect and deserve.

In particular, the prohibitions in the fair elections act on vouching and the use of voter information cards as replacements for acceptable identification are designed to protect the vote of Canadians. This certainly includes the specific groups that are mentioned in today's motion: first time voters like youth and new Canadians, aboriginal Canadians, and seniors living in residences.

As I mentioned in my earlier remarks, the fair elections act actually has just the opposite purpose, that of protecting all Canadians' voting rights. With the fair elections act, our government continues to respond to emerging challenges in order to ensure fair elections in which the voice of every voter is counted.

I will bring my remarks to a close today by reiterating my opposition to the motion that has been put forward by the New Democratic Party today concerning the important reforms the fair elections act would bring to Canada's voter identification procedures.

I certainly hope hon. members will join me in opposing this motion and supporting the important changes in the fair elections act.

Paralympic Winter Games March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to recognize one of the greatest performances in Paralympics history.

On March 10, Canmore's Brian McKeever won our country's first gold medal of the 2014 Paralympics, winning the men's 20-kilometre visually impaired cross-country race.

But he was not done there. On March 12, Brian skied one of the greatest races in Canadian history. The shortest of cross-country disciplines, the one-kilometre race leaves virtually no room for error. Near the beginning, Brian fell to the snow after getting tangled up with a competitor. Displaying true Canadian character, Brian rose to his feet and overtook not one, not two, but three opponents to win the gold.

Brian capped off his Paralympics with a third gold medal in the 10-kilometre race, setting the Canadian record by winning 10 gold medals in a career.

On behalf of all Canadians, it is my honour to congratulate Brian and all of Canada's paralympic athletes for their outstanding performances and for inspiring us all.