Canada Elections Act

An Act respecting the election of members to the House of Commons, repealing other Acts relating to elections and making consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in October 2000.

Sponsor

Don Boudria  Liberal

Status

Not active
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2008 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure today to speak to Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans).

First, I would like, as my colleagues have done, to remind the House that our party supports Bill C-29, which will partially fill some of the gaps in Bill C-2, which we considered earlier. While Bill C-29 fills some of those gaps, it does not fix all of the problems. There are things that we thought it was very important to fix some time ago and that we would have liked to see in Bill C-29 that are unfortunately not there. However, this bill does fill one important gap by providing better rules governing loans, to ensure that the ceilings are not deliberately circumvented.

As I said earlier, Bill C-29 fills some of the gaps in Bill C-2, but it does not fix everything. One of the things we would have liked to see incorporated in this bill is stronger provisions relating to protection for whistleblowers. Second, we would have liked to see reform of the Access to Information Act, because as we know the Information Commissioner has repeatedly pointed out that various measures were completely unacceptable and prevented members of the public from obtaining documents even though they should be available to the general public.

Unfortunately, we have seen this government, and not just this government but also the previous government, bring in a reform of the Access to Information Act in 2005 that essentially had two consequences. The reform proposed by the Liberals meant that administrative charges doubled for requests by the public and by groups and journalists, generally for information from various departments. Second, we realized, and we continue to realize, that when we, as elected members, make access to information requests, we run into certain exceptions. Very often, those exceptions are used by the government to make sure that documents that should be made public are unfortunately not accessible. In my opinion, that demonstrates once again that this government is completely lacking in transparency with respect to government decision-making and with respect to documents that are available to them and that could be used to inform the public about major issues.

We will recall that the government and the Conservative Party promised in the last election campaign to overhaul the Access to Information Act. On that point, I will quote a passage from the Conservative platform in the last election campaign.

The Conservative government had promised to reform the Access to Information Act. Here is what it said at that time: “A Conservative government will implement the Information Commissioner's recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act.”

We must recall what the Information Commissioner said. He replied that the reason we need action and not further studies is because governments continue to distrust and resist the Access to Information Act and the oversight of the Information Commissioner.

Thus, a reform of the Access to Information Act is what was needed, and what is still needed. This reform needs to go even further than what the Liberal government proposed in 2005. Unfortunately, the current government is not fulfilling its obligations and not respecting the commitments it made to the people of Quebec and Canada during the last election campaign.

Let us not forget that Bill C-29 could have been an opportunity for this government to begin this overhaul of the Access to Information Act, thereby allowing the public to obtain essential documents in order to better understand the government decision-making process.

We also would have liked to see this bill protect whistleblowers. When there is a legal challenge, these whistleblowers cannot act and cannot defend themselves on an equal footing with other citizens or organizations that have ample means with which to defend themselves. Unfortunately, these whistelblowers will only be reimbursed for up to $1,500 in legal fees, which is a ridiculous amount for such coverage.

This demonstrates that, despite the sponsorship scandal, this government did not listen to the wishes of either the public or Justice Gomery, who called for greater transparency and greater reform. A few weeks ago, I heard Justice Gomery again say that too much power is concentrated and centralized in the Prime Minister's Office and that it was not healthy for a democracy. We would have therefore liked to see greater access and better coverage of legal fees for whistleblowers when the time comes to seek legal counsel.

We would have liked more guarantees to protect all Canadians who report wrongdoing within the government, not just public servants. Currently public servants enjoy some protection, but I think anyone who witnesses wrongdoing should benefit from the same protection under the current legislation as public servants.

Finally, and it is unfortunate, this bill fails to prevent the government from excluding crown corporations and other entities from the application of the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act. Quite often these crown corporations give out contracts or sometimes appoint cronies as CEOs at the behest of the government. We must make sure the government cannot exclude these crown corporations from the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act.

Bill C-2 is good, but it could be better. Bill C-29 is not good enough either. However, we agree that we need to have as many legislative guarantees as possible in order to prevent political parties, and leadership candidates in particular, from circumventing the ceilings. Furthermore, I must say it is totally unacceptable that these ceilings can be circumvented by taking out personal loans. Just look at the last leadership race when Bob Rae received loans totalling $705,000 and the creditors were John Rae and Bob Rae himself, who gave $125,000 to his own campaign. We must not be able to do indirectly what we are not allowed to do directly.

In closing, we support Bill C-29, but we would like to see better protection for whistleblowers and also a reform of the Access to Information Act.

April 26th, 2007 / 9:25 a.m.
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Information Commissioner, Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

Robert Marleau

Without having seen the details, I do not know whether I could say that the case reported in today's, or yesterday's, newspaper serves to underscore the necessity of updating the act. It is possible that it was appropriate to censor the sections in question and that it was not an over-zealous application of the act. It is also possible that the opposite is true. I cannot comment without being apprised of the details.

To return to your question on the Access to Information Act, I cannot confirm whether the government intends to undertake a substantive review of the act. I can however tell you that my first move as Commissioner was to meet with the justice minister and offer him our full support in reviewing the act and preparing the groundwork before tabling a draft with the committee. The Deputy Minister of Justice and I agreed to review both the bill that my predecessor tabled and the discussion paper the minister tabled last April in order to establish areas of agreement: we set up a task force, which began work last week. We also want to evaluate whether Bill C-2 has resolved certain issues, as well as try to fill in some of the missing pieces, regarding matters that were addressed neither by my predecessor nor by the minister's discussion paper.

We hope to produce a discussion paper that will help both parties and will perhaps result in the committee being asked to study a draft bill. From our point of view, it is also a way of initiating a dialogue on administrative matters with the Department of Justice so that we have a better awareness of one another's situation when we have to take a public stance on issues.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

March 2nd, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre is storm stayed in Ottawa with the rest of us until we try to make it out tonight.

My friend and colleague raises two important points. One is about the level of frustration that many seniors feel when they apply for CPP benefits. Most seniors with whom I have spoken have gone through the same frustration levels of applying, being denied, appealing and finally getting their benefits.

Something we, as a government, have been trying to achieve since we were elected is to streamline government services. Quite frankly, we are a government that believes in leaner, meaner, more efficient governments. I wish we could this overnight but we cannot. However, I think over time we will be able to streamline some of the processes of government and ease the frustrations and access to benefits that most seniors richly deserve. We will be working hard on that.

I would point out to my friend and colleague from Winnipeg Centre that in our latest cabinet shuffle we announced that there would be a minister responsible for seniors. The government House leader in the Senate has now been appointed the minister responsible for seniors. I know she is taking an active role in the files to benefit seniors on every level. This will be one of the areas that she will be investigating. My commitment to my friend is that I will be speaking with the minister responsible to see if we can giddy-up the process and streamline it as quickly as possible.

The other point my friend makes concerns the investment board itself and the patronage appointments that have been predominant on that board and other boards within our country over the past decade or two. I do not believe that is something that we should ignore.

As my friend knows, having worked with me on the legislative committee on Bill C-2, the accountability act, appointments to all boards and commissions must be made on merit. We felt very strongly about that when we developed the context of Bill C-2, the accountability act. I know it is a file that my friend is very familiar with because he played an integral role in getting many components, including the merit based component of boards and commissions and the appointment of a commissioner to oversee these appointments, into the bill itself.

I can assure my friend and colleague that we will be ensuring in future as we go forward, once various aspects of Bill C-2 have received royal assent and come into force, that appointments for all boards and commissions will be based on a go forward basis on competency and merit and not on patronage.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 16th, 2007 / 2:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Ottawa Centre raises another very valuable point. Again I thank him for the dedication he has shown in trying to bring an element of reason to this debate.

There is one other thing that we should be addressing today in terms of election law: the rules that allow people to launder money through their children's bank accounts in order to circumvent the donation limits of the Elections Act. That would be time well spent if we could have some of that cleaned up before we go into the next election campaign, because it made most Canadians feel a little bit ill when they saw eleven year olds donating $5,400 each to a leadership race in the last Liberal leadership campaign.

However, when we tried to change that law in Bill C-2, the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Bloc voted against the NDP's efforts to try to make it illegal to shake down kids for their lunch money to run an election campaign. I thought that was appalling. I thought that this would have been an opportunity, because once the Elections Act is opened, every clause can be reviewed, but we have seen fit to allow another election to go by where the donation limits can be circumvented by laundering money through our children, grandmother, neighbour and God knows who.

I think these loans are criminal, but legal, which may be a contradiction. They are certainly criminal to anyone with the sensibilities of most Canadians. As for this idea that we can launder money by funnelling it through our children's bank accounts to circumvent the rules, it should be illegal.

November 28th, 2006 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Interesting.

Apparently with Gomery you had some very serious concerns about going the accounting officer route, and then when it appeared in Bill C-2, something gave you a higher comfort level. Can you express what that was, what led you to go from no to yes?