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Conservative MP for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 51.30% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Act March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, could the minister clarify why this legislation is needed, what process led to the legislation, and why it is important to send the bill to committee and on to royal assent as expeditiously as possible?
Committees of the House March 6th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in relation to supplementary estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014.
Canadian Heritage February 27th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, in 1968, Lincoln Alexander became Canada's first black member of Parliament. He would go on to serve as a cabinet minister, as chancellor of the University of Guelph, and as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He was named to the Order of Ontario and named Companion of the Order of Canada.
His legacy of fighting against racism and for diversity and equality is one that my constituents, and all Canadians, cherish.
February is Black History Month. What better time is there to recognize his contributions to Canada? Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage tell the House about our government's plans to further honour Lincoln Alexander?
Election of the Speaker February 24th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in today's discussion on Motion No. 489 on the process for electing the Speaker of the House of Commons.
My colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, has a keen interest in the functioning of this chamber and the rules and processes that govern the House of Commons. I believe he has brought forward the motion with the objective of strengthening one of the key processes in which we participate as members of the House of Commons; that is, the election of our Speaker.
For nearly all of us, voting for the Speaker at the beginning of a Parliament is the very first task we perform as parliamentarians. I thank the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for bringing forward this motion for debate. While my colleague's motion is quite detailed, I think it is worth summarizing some of the key elements of the motion.
First, for the benefit of those who may be following the debate, it is worth reiterating the present secret ballot system that is used to elect the Speaker as it is currently set out in Standing Order 4. Essentially the process starts with a list of candidates, which includes all members except ministers, party leaders, and those members who have withdrawn their names from consideration.
When it comes time to vote, members of the House write the name of the candidate of their choice on the ballot. After the first round of voting, if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes and all candidates who receive less than 5% of the vote are removed from the ballot, and a second round of voting takes place. The rounds of voting continue until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.
Motion No. 489 would instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study and, within six months of the adoption of this motion, table a report regarding the advisability of implementing a preferential ballot for the election of the Speaker.
I should probably also acknowledge my support as far as the preferential ballot is concerned, because I was elected in my own nomination through a preferential ballot.
To give the committee something to study and work from, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington has kindly set out in his motion a very specific and comprehensive proposal to replace Standing Order 4 with a new process for electing the Speaker. Being an independent entity, the procedure and House affairs committee would be free to recommend any changes to the proposal, I am sure.
It is worth noting that my colleague's proposal does not do away with every aspect of the current system. The ability of MPs to not put their names forward for consideration to be Speaker and the rule that no debate or questions of privilege are allowed during the election of Speaker would be retained.
The key elements of the proposed preferential ballot system are as follows. Members would be provided with a ballot paper that contains the full list, in alphabetical order, of the names of those members who are to be considered for the position of Speaker. Rather than voting for a single candidate, members would be able to rank their preferred candidate, their second preferred candidate, and so on.
After the single round of voting, the Clerk would count the number of first preferences recorded in the ballots, and if a candidate had received a majority of first preference votes, then that person would be declared elected. If, after the first count, no candidate had received a majority of first preference votes, the Clerk would eliminate the candidate who received the least number of first preference votes from further counts. For these ballots, the Clerk would treat each second or lower preference as if it were a first preference for the next highest candidate in the order of preference who is not eliminated. This process would be continued until a candidate had obtained a majority of the votes.
The motion sets out further details, but what I have just highlighted is the crux of the proposal of the new system. It would allow for a single ballot to be cast by each member, and eliminate the need for multiple rounds of voting. I believe the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington made it quite clear about the amount of time in history that many of these votes have taken and the exhaustive process.
While I would not want to speak for the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, I see a simple question in the motion. Is there a benefit to be gained by eliminating the potential for multiple rounds of voting and possible jockeying for the position of Speaker? Quite frankly, as I mentioned just a moment ago, historically there has been quite a bit of time consumed by that very action.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to address the importance of the motion that we are debating today.
As we all know, the role of the Speaker is key to the proper functioning of this place; therefore, the election of the Speaker should not be taken lightly in any way, shape, or form.
With regard to the importance of the Speaker, it is worth quoting from a source that the Speaker would know all too well, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states on page 307:
It is in this spirit that the Speaker, as the chief servant of the House, applies the rules. The Speaker is the servant, neither of any part of the House nor of any majority in the House, but of the entire institution and serves the best interests of the House as distilled over many generations in its practices.
Bearing the significance of this quote in mind and the key question at the heart of the motion, we must decide whether the current system for electing the Speaker needs replacing, and specifically whether it should be replaced by the proposed preferential ballot system.
Again, the key question is whether this is a study that procedure and House affairs committee should undertake.
It is worth noting that already in this session members have decided to adopt two motions that would require the procedure and House affairs committee to study potential changes to the Standing Orders. Motion No. 431, regarding the election of committee chairs, was passed by the House on February 5, 2014. Similarly, Motion No. 428, which calls on the procedure and House affairs committee to recommend changes to the Standing Orders to permit electronic petitions, was passed by the House on January 29, 2014.
On top of those studies, the procedure and House affairs committee is also undertaking a general review of the Standing Orders, both under its own initiative as well as under a motion passed by the House in October 2013.
If Motion No. 489 were to join these other motions at the procedure and House affairs committee for study and the committee ultimately recommended changes to the Standing Orders, I feel it is worth reiterating a key message that came up during the previous debates on Motions Nos. 431 and 428.
The rules of the House are carefully balanced, based on parliamentary principles and traditions, and reflect the interests of all members. Changing these rules should not be a trivial matter. Rather, prudence, due diligence, and wide support among members are needed before making any significant changes to the Standing Orders.
Today's discussion is an important part of the consideration of the motion. I know that all members will take any proposed changes to the Standing Orders seriously. No doubt we will hear members from all sides bring forward their own questions and comments that will eventually shape the debate on Motion No. 489.
In closing, I go back one last time to what I see as the key question that arises when I compare the current secret ballot system for electing the Speaker and the proposed single preferential ballot system set out in Motion No. 489: is there a benefit to be gained by eliminating multiple rounds of voting? I believe that a preferential ballot would greatly increase efficiency over the present exhaustive ballot process we now use.
The next question, though, is whether the system would be strengthened by members' casting a single ballot that contains a clear ranking of their preferred candidates. Although I am clearly in support of Motion No. 489, I am not sure I can stand here today and give a definitive answer to that question. However, if today's motion were to be adopted, then the procedure and House affairs committee could undertake a closer examination of the proposed preferential ballot system and other related considerations and make that determination as a committee that is the master of its own destiny.
The Budget February 14th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, we announced economic action plan 2014, which demonstrates our government's commitment to growing the economy, creating jobs, and long-term prosperity for Canadians.
However, out of all of the comments made by the leader of the Liberal Party, there was one very interesting and telling exchange. During an interview, the leader of the Liberal Party refused to answer a question as to whether or not he would run budget deficits. His answer was, “The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy and the budget will balance itself”.
I am sorry. Canadians know that a budget just does not balance itself. Although this economic assessment is interesting, they need to expect more from the leader of a G7 country.
Would the leader of the Liberal Party admit that his party would raise taxes to balance the budget?
Fair Elections Act February 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it was great to hear my colleague's speech. He is one of the most esteemed chairs of standing committees in this House.
I wonder if he might tell the House, if he had a witness who made multiple recommendations and over 30 of them were adopted in a piece of legislation, would he would call that a good step forward in consultation?
Fair Elections Act February 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have to understand is that we have an obligation not only to make it easy for people to vote but make it secure for people to vote as well, in the sense that someone does not cast a vote that is not eligible and thereby cancels out somebody else's vote that is eligible.
In this case, vouching is one of the areas for which we have very serious empirical evidence. In vouching, errors happened 25% of the time, and even when there was extra effort put toward that situation, errors happened 21% of the time.
There are 39 different items that can be used for identification when people go to the polls and capitalize on their franchise to vote. The bill would also implement measures that would make it easier for people to vote, such as an extra day of advance polling, and would have Elections Canada focus on outreach to disabled people so that they know how they can vote and can go to places where it will be easy for them to do that.
Fair Elections Act February 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, in the two minutes that I have left, I will make two points.
Something unique and seriously consequential to our electoral system and democracy was articulated yesterday by my colleague, the member for Calgary Centre-North. She was the singular voice so far in informing the members of the House of our responsibility to be always reaching out to Canadian citizens to participate in our democracy. We should be allowing Elections Canada to focus on those things that will assist all Canadians to vote and we should be reaching out to our constituents to give the a good reason to vote. I thought she articulated that very well yesterday.
Finally, I want to reaffirm the fact that this bill implements 38 of the recommendations that the Chief Electoral Officer made in his report on the 40th general election, which he tabled in June 2010. I would encourage all hon. members to join me in supporting this bill and in working toward its swift passage in the House.
International Development February 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Minister for International Development recently returned from a productive visit to Africa, where among other accomplishments, he was able to see first-hand some of the important work being done by Canada. The flagship priority of our government, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne, is maternal, child, and newborn health, along with achieving real results for those living in poverty abroad by engaging private sector expertise.
Notwithstanding that the NDP oppose Canadian businesses at every opportunity and refuse to support any of our initiatives, would the minister offer an update on his most recent engagement in Africa?
Fair Elections Act February 7th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to debate Bill C-23, the fair elections act, which would make it easier to vote and harder to break the law. It is a bill that would close loopholes to big money and give law enforcement sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand. This bill is another step in the proud legacy of Canadian democracy. Step by step and generation by generation, Canadians have fine-tuned their electoral practices and procedures to make our system more representative, more responsible, and fairer.
I am delighted today to discuss the steps our government is proposing to improve the fairness of Canada's elections and how the rules are enforced. The fair elections act is a comprehensive bill designed to protect the integrity of federal elections in Canada by making the rules clearer, by reducing the influence of big money, and by giving real strength to the authorities that enforce the rules.
This bill would assure Canadian citizens that their votes count. Their votes and their contributions will not be nullified by the actions of cheaters who try to take advantage of loopholes in rules. The contributions of ordinary citizens will also not be diluted by the presence of big money from special interests or individuals who have been able to funnel great wealth into political campaign financing through existing loopholes.
Let me emphasize this. The bill before us would strengthen the penalties against those who abuse the system. When Canadians are cheated out of their votes through fraudulent acts or the system is abused when votes that had no right to be cast are counted, the integrity of democracy itself is put into question. Sadly, we have seen too many incidents in which that integrity and the strength of the foundation have been questioned.
The fundamental right of a citizen is the right to vote. One might even call it a responsibility to vote, or a duty to vote. It is a right, a responsibility, and a duty that was earned in blood during the world wars and during the constant vigilance to maintain freedom and the rule of law in the decades since then.
However, the voter turnout numbers tell us a different story. A generation ago, a large majority of voters went to the polls. In 1988, for example, 75% of eligible voters cast their ballots, or about 4 out of 5 voters. In the most recent election, in 2011, that number had dropped to 61%, or about 3 out of 5 voters. Most troubling is the decline in voter turnout for youth aged 18 to 24.
The bill before us introduces a series of amendments designed to restore confidence in the electoral system and provide voters with the assurance that their votes will count. It would introduce a response to changes in technology that have provided challenges that previous generations did not face, but which, if left unacknowledged, could undermine confidence in the integrity of our electoral system. This bill would give enforcement powers that send clear signals that cheating the system will not be tolerated.
Let me provide the House with an overview of what this bill contains. I will leave it for my colleagues to provide further information on the precise details.
Broadly speaking, this bill would bring fairness to Canada's federal election in eight areas.
First, it would protect voters from rogue calls and political impostors. There have been serious allegations that telephone and telemarketing technologies have been abused in past elections, and we are taking steps to put a halt to the practice. The bill would establish a mandatory public registry, administered by the CRTC, for those who want to use robocall technology. At the same time, it would provide prison time for those who abuse the technology, including those who impersonate election officials. It would increase penalties for those who deceive people out of their votes, plain and simple.
Second, this bill would give law enforcement sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand. By sharper teeth, I mean that it would allow the commissioner of elections to seek tougher penalties for existing offences. A longer reach means empowering the commissioner with more than a dozen new offences to combat big money, rogue calls, and fraudulent voting. A freer hand means that the commissioner would have full independence, with control of his or her staff and investigations, and a fixed term of seven years.
Third, this bill would keep big money out of politics. It would prevent the use of loans to evade donation rules, and it would allow parties to fund democratic outreach with small increases in spending limits while imposing tougher audits and penalties to enforce those limits. It would make it easier for small donors to contribute more to democracy through the front door and harder for illegal big money to sneak in through the back door.
Fourth, the bill before us would crack down on voter fraud. It would prohibit the use of vouching and voter identification cards as replacements for acceptable identification papers. Elections Canada has found irregularities in the use of vouching and a high rate of inaccuracy in the National Register of Electors, which is used to create the voter information cards. I think my colleague earlier made this very clear with the example of his own personal situation. The bill would put a stop to the potential for these irregularities.
Fifth, the measures in the bill would make the rules easy to follow. Members on all sides of the House have complained that the current rules can be unclear. Complicated rules lead to unintentional breaches and intimidate everyday people from taking a more active part in democracy. The bill would make the rules for elections clearer, predictable, and easy to follow. In a fashion similar to the service provided by Revenue Canada, parties would have the right to advance rulings and interpretations from Elections Canada, which would keep a registry of interpretations and provide consultation with and notice to parties before changing any of these interpretations.
Sixth, the bill would enable the system to respect democratic election results. When members of Parliament and the Chief Electoral Officer disagree on an item on an MP's election expense return, the act would make it clear that MPs are able to present the disputed case in the courts before they are deemed ineligible to sit and vote as an MP.
Seventh, the bill would uphold free speech by repealing the ban on the premature transmission of election results. In the Internet age, this is as much a reflection of reality as anything else.
Finally, the bill before us would bring better service to voters, while focusing Elections Canada advertising on the basics of voting: where, when, and what ID to bring. It would explicitly require Elections Canada to inform voters with disabilities of the extra provisions available to help them vote.
Those are eight key areas in which we can build the democratic ideals that our country is known for around the world; the ideals that our soldiers in two world wars and since then have so sacrificed for.
I have served on the international human rights subcommittee of this House and listened to the testimonies of victims of various regimes in other countries that our freedom, democracy, and human rights are a big part of what makes Canada great.
Many people from across the political spectrum have underscored the importance of reforming our electoral laws and restoring confidence in Canada's democracy. I am confident they agree with me that these reforms are needed before Canadians return to the polls next year.
In fact, the bill would implement 38 of the recommendations that the Chief Electoral Officer made in his report on the 40th general election, which was tabled in 2010.
I urge hon. members—