An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (declined-vote ballots)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Charles Caccia  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of March 28, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2001 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, this was a very interesting hour. If Bill C-319 achieved anything it did indeed at least bring out a number of interesting perspectives on and outside the subject matter of the bill. We have now, at least on the record, a number of viewpoints.

It can be said that the essence of democracy is to provide options and choices. If the approach contained in the bill before discussion tonight is not the one that the majority of members concur with, let us then find the appropriate solution so as to increase the participation rate and reduce the number of people who reject ballots in elections.

The number of rejected ballots is not negligible and therefore it is necessary to address the issue and find ways of interpreting the meaning of rejected ballots. Obviously the majority consensus tonight is not to follow the route proposed in the bill. Therefore, what remains ahead of us is the necessity of making another effort to find the appropriate answers that would receive the support of all parties.

Having said that, I will conclude by thanking the members for Yukon, Témiscamingue, Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, Regina--Qu'Appelle, Calgary West and, of course, the parliamentary secretary for his fine, thoughtful and very professional intervention which set the stage for the debate.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2001 / 7 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I will delve immediately into the relevant part of my remarks. I was milliseconds away from doing so before I was pre-empted.

Having said that, I have a great deal of respect for the hon. member for Davenport and the valuable work he has done for many years both in the Chamber and in his previous incarnation in the provincial legislature. However I regret to inform him and the House that I am not able to support the bill before us.

The bill is quite accurately described as a none of the above addition to ballots in the Canadian electoral process. It would for all intents and purposes entrench into our system a non-choice. It would codify much of the cynicism of our current system by allowing individuals to go into a ballot booth and check off none of the above. As has been referred to by previous speakers, Canadians already have that ability. They can write it on their ballot. They can spoil their ballot.

What additional exercise of democracy would result from Bill C-319? Ballots must contain the names of candidates arranged alphabetically. The information is calculated from nominating papers. Having a choice on the ballot of declining to vote for any candidate would essentially encourage people not to participate. It would be an act of apathy.

As in regular voting, the names of individuals who wish to vote in this manner would not be disclosed so the statistic would be of little use. Bill C-319 would allow us to calculate the number of people who come out to vote to say they do not want to vote. I do not know what this would give us in terms of information or instruction.

Voting by special ballot allows electors to vote in writing in the designated area on a ballot. Voters may fill in the name of the candidate of their choice. They might spoil the ballot as a protest to signify they are not pleased with the candidates or as an expression of dismay at the overall system. Bill C-319 is not necessary. It would create a more complicated ballot and encourage complacency.

In discussing the bill with other members I thought of an anomaly. What if the none of the above choice won? What if the none of the above candidate received the most support? This would presumably necessitate a byelection or some form of recount that would add cost and cumbersome recounts to a system that is in some ways already too convoluted.

We should be encouraging Canadian citizens to participate. I know the hon. member for Davenport shares that view. Perhaps the intent behind his private member's bill is to somehow generate discussion and debate on the issue.

Bringing more people into the democratic process to exercise their democratic right to vote is a good thing and something we all want to embrace. However encouraging them to come out and signify on a ballot that they do not want to vote is a bit of an oxymoron.

The 2000 federal election saw the lowest voter turnout in 100 years. Perhaps this is some indication of the crisis. We can fairly deem it to be a crisis when such low turnout occurs that it directly impacts on Canadians. I am not in any way attaching motives to the hon. member in tabling his bill, but bolstering statistics by showing that individuals came out and voted even if they did not support any of the candidates would be somewhat misleading and counterproductive.

The old saying is that if we do not vote we do not have a right to complain. I do not completely ascribe to that. However younger people must be instilled with the importance of participating in the democratic process.

They must be encouraged to come out and make an informed decision. It is a cop out to say that one can go into a ballot box and simply not make a decision by checking the none of the above option.

I have listened to the remarks and I have done a little background work on the bill before us. Whatever is directly behind the initiative, I simply do not see that it would strengthen our process in any way. Lengthening the ballot which forces electoral officers to generate more activity and more effort to calculate statistics that really indicate nothing is counterproductive to the process. It would increase costs and confusion and give this outlet to individuals who simply are choosing not to participate.

I do not feel this is necessary as a public expression of disinterest because there are other ways to do so. Simply to stay home is sadly the option that most Canadians chose to exercise in the last general election.

Although I would not promote the right for Canadians to simply abstain from voting in an election, such action would be preferable to complicating this ballot with the choice of none of the above or declining any preference for the candidate.

I regret to say that I cannot support this proposal, but I thank the hon. member for Davenport for bringing the matter forward. Airing the issue in a public way is always a positive initiative. I simply would state that I wish the government would share his enthusiasm and honesty for debate, public commentary and discourse in the Chamber. It is very much a useful exercise to embark on the discussion of a process such as this one.

Regrettably I will not be supporting the motion, but I thank the hon. member again for bringing forward Bill C-319.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

moved that Bill C-319, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (declined vote ballots), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, the explanation of this bill is very short and simple.The purpose is to provide Canadian voters when they cast their votes the opportunity to express on the ballot not by way of spoiling it or handling it in a manner that would lead to rejection of the ballot but by way of placing the appropriate sign on the ballot itself that they decline to vote for any of the candidates named on the ballot. The ballot should be redesigned. In addition to indicating the duly registered candidates, it should have a line where the voter could indicate that he or she declines to vote for any of the candidates named on the ballot.

In French, “Je refuse de voter pour l'un ou l'autre des candidats nommés ci-dessus”.

One may wonder, why is that. Current trends show that rejected ballots comprise about 1% of the total number of ballots. It is not a large number of ballots that are rejected because of mistreatment or dissatisfaction on the part of the voter who would somehow express, as is often the case, dissatisfaction by way of rejection. An increased tendency was noticed in the last election. This matter was brought to my attention at that time by some voters in the riding of Davenport who were dissatisfied with the candidates in the race, so to speak. The bill is intended to provide a way of expressing this type of dissatisfaction.

Some people claim that we should not proceed with this type of measure because it would encourage even further disinterest on the part of Canadian voters in the democratic process. That is an opinion one should respect of course. I am inclined to think there is room in our democratic system, which is one of the best in the world, for a measure that would allow a voter, having already thought about how to vote before entering the polling station, to come to the conclusion that none of the named candidates or parties, as most of the time it is a matter of party choice, meets the requirements, expectations or political inclinations of that voter.

That is the essence of the bill. I bring it to the attention of the House as a measure that would perhaps provide some degree of satisfaction for voters who disagree with the system. If this measure is eventually adopted, I hope it will not attract a large number of voters. In a democratic system I think we ought to make room for every perspective and point of view. On election day we should provide for any type of expression, even if it sounds like one that is out of the main stream of thought and of democratic forces that are at play on election day.

Having said that, because of the late hour I will sit down and look forward to the comments of my colleagues on this measure.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 19th, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek concurrence in the House to substitute Bill C-319 standing in my name on the order of precedence for Bill C-407 standing in the name of the member for Ottawa--Vanier on the list of items outside the order of precedence.

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

March 28th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-319, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (declined vote ballots).

Mr. Speaker, this bill aims at amending the Canada Elections Act. It would permit the introduction of a declined vote ballot. It would allow electors to cast a vote indicating dissatisfaction with the parties and the candidates listed on the ballot and yet register a valid vote rather than casting a spoiled vote. The affected elector would thus be able to indicate his or her wish to decline to vote for any candidate standing for election without having to spoil the ballot, as is the case now.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)