Bill C-55 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (expanded voting opportunities) and to make a consequential amendment to the Referendum Act
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Peter Van Loan Conservative
Not active, as of June 1, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to increase the number of days of advance polling from three to five, and to increase the number of advance polling stations open on the last day of advance polling. It also makes a consequential amendment to the Referendum Act.
Canada Elections Act
November 15th, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK
Mr. Speaker, I should probably correct my hon. colleague, who seems to be confusing two different bills. She quoted my comments in Hansard, and correctly, I might add, but they did not deal with Bill C-31. They were about another bill on expanded voting opportunities. That is a bill through which we want to increase the number of days on which voters can cast ballots in advance polls. We are debating that right now in committee, my committee, which I am missing in order to be here to share my comments with members. It is now called Bill C-16, which used to be called Bill C-55, and is on expanded voter opportunities. It really does not have anything to do with Bill C-31.
However, I would point out one other flaw or misinterpretation the member is trying to foist upon members of this place. She said, quite correctly, that in committee the NDP voted against Bill C-31, but it was not because NDP members identified the flaw of the residential address. NDP members voted against it strictly on the basis that they felt the homeless would be disenfranchised.
I will speak to that, but the NDP voted against Bill C-31 not because, as some of the NDP members have tried to suggest, they discovered before the bill was passed that there was this flaw on residential addresses. Nothing of that sort occurred in conversations in the procedure and House affairs committee. Every single member missed this one gap, this one little glitch that eliminated or disenfranchised rural voters who did not have a residential address. I want to correct the record on that.
Specifically on the question of the homeless, I spoke to that in my main address. We have taken great pains to try to make it as fair and as equitable as possible. Yes, many homeless, perhaps the vast majority of homeless, do not have proper identification. However, if they are members of or frequent attendees at a homeless centre, they can get the attestation, whereby the manager can say, “I verify this person's name and the fact that he or she resides in the centre”. Secondly, they do have the ability to have someone to vouch for their identity.
Finally, I would say, again as I mentioned in my main address, is there any legislation in this place which will ensure that absolutely, without question, 100% of eligible voters will be able to cast a ballot? Probably not. There probably never will be.
However, we have taken great steps to ensure a balance between the ability to ensure voter integrity and the ability of everyone who possibly can vote to do so.
November 15th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
Lucienne Robillard Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC
Mr. Chairman, I have a question for you. When we began our study of what was then Bill C-55, Minister Van Loan appeared before the committee to answer our questions. While he was here, he quoted a number of research papers. Before he left, Mr. Chairman, you yourself asked the minister to provide us with a list of those studies so that our researchers could summarize them for us. The minister said that he would provide us with a list.
Has it been sent to you yet? Are we going to be given a summary of the research that has been carried out on the subject?
November 15th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
The Chair Gary Goodyear
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I call the meeting to order. Thank you all for coming this morning. I appreciate everyone being here. The proceedings are being televised at the request of some committee members.
As agreed by the committee at the last meeting on Tuesday, and pursuant to the committee's order of reference of Thursday, November 7, 2007, the committee is here to continue its study of Bill C-16, which is the new number. This is the former Bill C-55 from the last session. It is an An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (expanded voting opportunities) and to make a consequential amendment to the Referendum Act.
Madam Robillard, do you have a comment?
November 1st, 2007 / 1 p.m.
The Chair Gary Goodyear
And that's respectfully accepted.
We have then the witness lists to be presented to the clerk, on the matter that we were discussing today, by Monday at 5 o'clock. As to Bill C-55--I'm not sure what the number will be when it comes in--we have seen it. We have started studying it. Please take your time to refresh your memories on the bill. Just so that the clerks are prepared and the committee doesn't waste too much time, if you have any witnesses, get them to us. We will discuss further witnesses on Tuesday, November 13.
Is that acceptable?
Comment, Mr. Reid?
November 1st, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
November 1st, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
Canada Elections Act
November 1st, 2007 / 10 a.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-55 was at the time of prorogation of the 1st session of the 39th Parliament.
Accordingly, pursuant to order made on Thursday, October 25, 2007, the bill is deemed read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)
Canada Elections Act
November 1st, 2007 / 10 a.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (expanded voting opportunities) and to make a consequential amendment to the Referendum Act.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-55 was at the time of prorogation.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne
October 22nd, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to open the debate on today's theme from the throne speech: strengthening the federation and our democratic institutions.
We have a great, united country whose foundation is a solid federation and a living democracy. In fact, federalism and democracy have gone hand and hand throughout Canada's history.
Our country's history is one of people joining together to achieve great dreams thought impossible by the pessimists, but it is also a history of people who, through accommodation and respect, build practical, workable approaches allowing remarkable progress to unfold.
The project of Confederation was about bringing together the different regions into a strong and united country based on democratic practices and the rule of law. Sir John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier and the Fathers of Confederation, through strong leadership united Canadians in a federal union which would deliver a future of security and prosperity for the country as a whole. Their vision was strong and enduring, a firm foundation on which successive generations have built.
Our government is continuing this nation building project today with our commitments for strengthening the federation and our democratic institutions. Strong leadership and a better Canada: that is our objective.
I would like to spend my time today discussing the progress we have already made in this area and highlighting our plans for this new session of Parliament.
Our government made a commitment to practise open federalism, and it is taking steps to ensure that our country is prosperous and united.
Our approach is not new, but it is based on the very principles underlying Confederation.
The union was based on a simple concept: the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. The objective was not to have a weak, passive federal government, but a government that would respect the provinces' areas of jurisdiction.
Provincial governments are closer to their citizens and are well positioned to determine local needs and aspirations. In contrast, the federal government is well placed to protect the national interest in pursuit of the common good of the country as a whole. As the project of our Confederation first became committed to paper in the Quebec Resolutions of 1864, this approach was clear:
In the Federation of the British North American Provinces, the system of Government best adapted under existing circumstances to protect the diversified interest of the several Provinces, and secure efficiency, harmony and permanency in the working of the Union, would be a general Government, charged with matters of a common interest to the whole country; and Local Governments...charged with the control of local matters in their respective sections.
The steps we have taken recently and the measures we plan to take to create a federalism of openness will produce unprecedented efficiency, harmony and stability in the union, as the Fathers of Confederation envisioned many years ago.
Our federalism of openness means respecting provincial areas of jurisdiction, and that, in turn, means two things. First, a federal government that shows leadership in its areas of jurisdiction. Second, a federal government that unites the country by introducing fair, respectful intergovernmental policies.
We have shown strong leadership in areas of federal jurisdiction, such as strengthening our economy by cutting taxes and helping families, in the process paying down billions on the debt and achieving the lowest national unemployment rate since I was a child; in international trade with the resolution of the softwood lumber dispute; in defence with our leadership in international aid efforts in Afghanistan; and in public safety and security with our agenda for making communities safer by tackling crime.
In the new session this leadership will continue with measures to strengthen Canada's economic union through internal free trade among the provinces; a commitment to action in protecting Canada's sovereignty, particularly in the Arctic; continued pursuit of a safer Canada beginning with the comprehensive criminal justice reforms in our Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act.
We have treated the provincial and territorial governments with respect, which has strengthened national unity. To restore the fiscal balance within the Canadian federation, we have increased the main federal transfers and introduced a new stable, reliable, fair funding formula. We have helped build a better Canada with our historic recognition that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada.
Our 2007 budget contained an unprecedented long term commitment to rebuild Canada's infrastructure, amounting to a total of $33 billion over the next seven years, the largest federal investment in Canadian infrastructure in over half a century.
During this session, we will introduce a bill to place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This bill will formalize the commitments our government made in the 2006 and 2007 budgets, because it will specify the limits on federal power.
In keeping with how we see open federalism, our bill will also allow the provinces and territories to opt out of new shared-cost programs with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs. In addition to recognizing the provinces' and territories' ability to provide programs in their specific areas of responsibility, our bill will enable Canadians, wherever they live, to receive services comparable to those available under national programs.
Our diversity as a country serves as a source both of strength and innovation. Through our actions in open federalism, including equitable and predictable funding and clarified roles and responsibilities in our federation, we are offering a principles based approach on which all orders of government can continue to work into the future.
The vision of Macdonald and Cartier of a country united from east to west, of new Canadians and old, French and English, country and city, together dreaming great dreams and building a brighter future is alive and well and has a place deep in the heart of our government in 2007.
However, our Confederation must be more than the sum of its parts. The federal government must act as a leader in keeping the country strong and united and as a model for democratic values. To perform this leadership role, the democratic underpinnings of our government must be solid in order to continue to meet the expectations of the Canadians we serve. Our initiatives in the area of democratic reform demonstrate our government's leadership in this area. Nowhere is this more evident than our efforts to modernize our central democratic institution, a federal Parliament where the representation of both popular and provincial interests are united within the federal legislative process.
Since Confederation, Canada's Parliament has served the democratic interests of Canadians well, but the government must take action to ensure that this institution, which is the cornerstone of our representative democracy, remains strong, vibrant and adapted to the needs of Canadians in the 21st century.
Our bicameral Parliament includes two houses, the lower house here which is comprised of elected representatives of the citizens of this great country originally founded on the fundamental principle of representation by population, and the upper house which was designed to represent the regions of the country to act as a chamber of sober second thought.
However, in the contemporary era, the Senate has been unable to credibly fulfill its role as an effective representative of the regions in the federal legislative process due to fundamental concerns with legitimacy and effectiveness of that appointed and unaccountable chamber. As for the other chamber, this one, the distribution of seats in the House of Commons has shifted too far away from the principle of representation by population, resulting in the unfair under-representation of the fast growing provinces.
Our government has already taken measures to address this situation as we promised during the last election with BillC-56 introduced in the last session to enhance the principle of representation by population in the House of Commons and give fast growing provinces the representation that their population merits, and by Bills S-4 and C-43 introduced in the last session to begin the long overdue project of Senate reform.
I would like to spend a few moments discussing Senate reform. It is a priority of our government that is urgently needed to modernize our federal Parliament. We put forward an agenda for the Senate reforms that is practical and achievable. As stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will continue to pursue this agenda with the reintroduction of two important bills.
The Senate tenure bill proposed a uniform fixed term for senators of eight years. Rather than leave the length of tenure as long as 45 years, as it is currently, our bill proposed that senators be appointed to a fixed term of eight years. This is a change that would bring renewal and relevance to the Senate. This change would improve the effectiveness of the Senate. It would ensure that senators' terms were long enough for them to gain the expertise and independence necessary to act as a chamber of sober second thought, but at the same time it would ensure that the terms would not be so long as to undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the Senate as a modern institution in what we seek to declare to be a democratic country.
Unfortunately, the current unelected unaccountable Liberal senators spent over a year delaying this legislation before they finally took a decision to not take a decision. This action alone, or inaction more accurately, demonstrates clearly that the Senate must change. Its current form does not function well on this issue, or at all.
As I stated, our government intends to reintroduce the Senate term limits bill this session. I hope that the summer recess gave opposition senators some time for that sober second thought in relation to their position of inaction on this bill where they have refused to exercise their constitutional obligation to vote on the bill.
Our second Senate reform, Bill C-43, offered a means for democratizing the Senate by providing Canadians an opportunity to choose and advise who they want representing them in the Senate. It would provide for the first time an opportunity for voters across this country to have a democratic say in who sits in their Senate. This should hardly be a difficult principle to embrace in a 21st century western democracy. It would provide greater legitimacy and credibility to the work of the Senate as a democratic institution.
I was extremely pleased to attend the swearing in of Senator Bert Brown last week. He of course was popularly elected by the people of his province. I hope that we can look forward to the day when the Senate appointment consultations bill becomes law and all senators arrive in Ottawa with a democratic mandate.
As the Prime Minister has indicated, when the Senate consultations bill is reintroduced, we will be sending it to committee before second reading so that collaboration can begin on this important step toward a democratic Senate.
There are some who have suggested that governing parties of the past could maintain the status quo in the Senate out of self-interest, that we could benefit from the patronage appointments to be made and stack the chamber with partisans who would serve for decades. Our government believes that the Senate should be a democratically elected body that represents Canadians. So far, we have taken concrete steps toward that vision and they are steps that are achievable in the short term. What is more, surveys show that our agenda for term limits in a democratized Senate is strongly supported by Canadians. Surely in a democracy this above all should be a key indicator of what constitutes a good democratic reform.
The Senate must change. If it cannot be changed, it should be abolished. In its current illegitimate form the Senate does nothing to enhance our democracy, even as we aim at the same time to promote democratic values abroad.
I would now like to address a second element of the democratic reform program that we will continue to implement during this new session of Parliament: strengthening the electoral system.
A strong democracy requires both modern democratic institutions and an electoral process with integrity that inspires confidence among voters.
We have already introduced a number of measures that were passed in the last session to improve elections, which were broadly supported.
For example, Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act—the first legislative measure we introduced—fulfilled our campaign commitment to clean up political funding. We levelled the playing field by banning donations from companies and unions, as well as large and secret donations, so that ordinary Canadians can contribute to the political process knowing that their donations will really count.
Bill C-4 was the first bill passed in the last session. We acted quickly to ensure that the party registration rules would not sunset and that those registration rules would remain in effect at all times.
With Bill C-16, setting dates for elections, we have established a four year electoral cycle, preventing snap elections from being called solely for the partisan advantage of the governing party.
As a result, after this House provides a mandate to govern when it approves the throne speech on Wednesday, we can look forward to the next election, now set in law to take place October 19, 2009.
In Bill C-31, we implemented wide-ranging recommendations of the procedure and House affairs committee for improving the electoral process, including important measures for reducing the opportunity for voter fraud, such as a voter identification procedure for federal elections.
In addition to these bills, which are now law, we introduced additional election reforms that did not have an opportunity to pass before we prorogued.
Building on our political financing reforms in the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-54, our new bill to clean up campaign financing, proposed bringing accountability to political loans by eliminating loans as a means for circumventing contribution limits and establishing a transparent reporting regime for campaign finance.
Building on a number of measures for improving voter accessibility, Bill C-55, our expanded voting opportunities bill, proposed additional advanced polling days to enhance opportunities and encourage higher voter turnout.
During the second session of Parliament, our government will continue to strengthen the electoral process.
As stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will introduce measures that will enable us to confirm the identity of voters by requiring them to uncover their faces before voting. Like our other reforms, this concrete measure will improve the electoral process for all Canadians.
Public concerns raised about this issue during the September 17 byelections made it clear that we must act.
During meetings of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in September, all parties approved the decision to prioritize resolving this issue.
Our government will act quickly to resolve this issue, and I hope that I can count on the support of all members of Parliament to give Canadians the strong, fair electoral process they expect.
There is so much that makes Canada great. We are mindful of the valuable legacy bestowed upon us by the visionary leadership of Sir John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier and the Fathers of Confederation when they rendered the blueprint for what has proven to be the best country in the world. But it is our strong foundations that enable us to continue building a better Canada that is a leader in the world.
Those foundations are our federal state and our democratic spirit, but we also know, as did those Fathers of Confederation, that as the world modernizes, so must Canada. That is in fact the spirit of Confederation. It is that spirit that leads us to seek ways to strengthen our democracy and improve accountability to Canadians. We must be a democracy worthy of that name in a 21st century world.
Our government has already put forward a full agenda to fortify and modernize our federation and democracy, and we will continue to do so this session. We invite all parties in the House to join us as we build a stronger Canada with a brighter future for the generations that will follow.
June 19th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
The Chair Gary Goodyear
Colleagues, there is nothing further for today, except again, a reminder to get any witness lists or suggestions for further study on Bill C-55 to our clerk as soon as you possibly can.
I wish almost everyone the best of summers. I certainly hope you have a safe and wonderful time. I didn't know it was summer. I'm prepared to be here next week, but in the event that we're moving toward summer, I do sincerely wish everybody that.
And actually, with all sincerity, I thank everybody for this session. I believe that this committee is an example for other committees. I can tell you that I've never seen some members work as hard as you members do and be as prepared as you are. I appreciate it. Our clerks appreciate it. Canadians appreciate it. Have a wonderful summer.
The meeting is adjourned.
June 19th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON
My question is very simple. If we don't consult with Canadians directly on these issues, aren't we leaving them out of the equation? I say that with all sincerity, because that's what I think is missing in both C-56 and C-55. We're getting it from head office, and dare I say it—and my friend Monsieur Belanger would appreciate this—often we hear out in the hinterland that that's coming from Ottawa, and that's a concern. I wouldn't want to have our reputations tainted on this or any other bill, to say that we don't provide people with good ideas in the rest of the country.
In other words, this seems and smells like and looks like coming from Ottawa and sending it out to, well, Mr. Hill's riding, etc., and saying, “We know what's good for you. Here, take it, and this will benefit you.” And that's it, as opposed to inverting that equation, going out to people and actually asking them what they think would improve—There is Mr. Reid's point, about more opportunities to vote at different places. I mentioned what they did in Manitoba. Doesn't that process make sense to you?
June 19th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON
It would be useful to determine whether that measure has encouraged better voter turnout. I think it has. In addition to achieving what Bill C-55 intends, the measure might be made more efficient by opening more than one location per riding during the run up to the election. It's up to the government to consider doing that.
As part of your consultations with Elections Canada, was there any consideration of the impact this measure might have on the demand for volunteers?
June 19th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
A twofold response. First, I think most of us know that within the parameters that currently exist, most returning officers are, in their ridings, expanding the number of advance poll opportunities for the next election. Bill C-31 will give them further ambit to do that.
Now, here, of course, in our proposal under Bill C-55, the Sunday before election day, every polling station that would be open on election day will also be open on an advance polling day, which is the Sunday. So you will have significantly expanded opportunities exactly in the direction you're seeking.
June 19th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
Lucienne Robillard Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC
Mr. Chairman, if I do not use my entire seven minutes, I will share my time with my colleague Mauril Bélanger.
Thank you for your comments on Bill C-55, Minister. As politicians representing all political parties, we can only be supportive of this bill's purpose, which in essence is to increase citizens' participation in voting, a democratic process. Obviously, we want voter participation to increase.
I held a position with the provincial government before becoming a federal member of Parliament, and when I first came to Ottawa I remember how impressed I was by the variety of means available to Canadians so that they can vote. In fact, not only can they vote early by mail, but also do that at any time. As soon as the process is initiated, they can go and see the Chief Electoral Officer. I discovered that a wide variety of opportunities to vote was available to Canadians who really wanted to vote. The system has a flexibility that our provincial systems generally do not have. I think that is a very good thing.
You cited a number of studies carried out by a variety of people. But I wonder if you, minister, the Privy Council or the government itself have carried out studies to determine whether increasing the number of early polling days available, as you suggested, would really have an impact on voter participation. In addition, I would like to know whom you consulted before putting forward this proposal.
June 19th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you. I am pleased to appear before you to discuss Bill C-55, also known as the expanded voting opportunities bill. The purpose of the expanded voting opportunities bill is to strengthen our democracy by making it easier for people to vote.
As I stated when I introduced the bill, the right to vote is our most precious and fundamental right, and citizen participation in the political process through the exercise of that right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. By making the decision to vote, Canadians do take ownership in their country.
As I mentioned in my previous appearance before this committee, the expanded voting opportunities bill is one part of our plan to strengthen accountability through democratic reform. The plan has three broad themes. First, we are eliminating the influence of big money in the political process by regulating the financing of political parties. Second, we've introduced legislation to modernize the Senate to make it more democratic, more accountable, and more effective. Third, and finally, we're taking steps to strengthen our electoral system, which includes the expanded voting opportunities bill that we're discussing today.
First I want to discuss the trend of declining voter participation.
As we are all aware, there has been a disturbing downward trend in voter participation in general elections. In 1958, 79.4% of Canadians voted in that year's General Election. However, that fell to 69.6% of eligible voters by 1993, and by 2004, only 60.5% of eligible voters cast a ballot.
More troubling than the overall participation rate is the fact that the voter participation rate of young people in general elections has been even lower. A 2002 study by Elections Canada found that only 25% of eligible 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the 2000 General Election.
This is a trend that we cannot allow to continue. The health of our democratic institutions depends on how successful we are at restoring the faith of our youth in the democratic process.
In terms of facilitating voter participation, I believe it's incumbent on elected representatives to do all they can to encourage Canadians across the country, both young and old, to get involved in the political process to ensure accountable, responsible government. We need to make sure that everyone who wants to vote is able to do so. This is essential to maintaining a healthy, vibrant democracy.
Unfortunately, despite the voting opportunities that currently exist, there are still significant numbers of eligible voters who continue to cite work and family responsibilities as their primary reasons for not voting.
In a 2003 survey conducted on behalf of Elections Canada, the authors found that nearly 40% of non-voters, during the 2000 federal election, indicated that they did not vote because of reasons that could be addressed through advance poll opportunities. Examples included being too busy with work, school, or family activities, transportation issues, or being away from home on voting day.
More importantly, 43% of respondents in the 18- to 24-year-old category stated that factors such as work, family, and school responsibilities, and similar reasons, had prevented them from voting. Similar numbers turned up in a 2001 voter participation study by the Centre for Research and Information on Canada.
We've all heard stories about people who woke up on election day with every intention of voting but because of a variety of reasons—maybe they had to work late, take their kids to hockey, or run errands—they didn't have time to vote. The fact is that the busy lives of Canadians is a serious factor that we must consider when looking for reasons behind declining voter participation.
There is considerable evidence that the existence of advance polling days has a positive impact on voter turnout. The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing made a number of pertinent conclusions. On page 123, it says:
In the specific case of advance voting, it might also be noted that for a variety of reasons, many Canadians do find themselves away from home at any given point in time, including the day on which the election is held. The increase in the incidence of travel, for business and leisure, likely means many would not be able to exercise their franchise without advance voting opportunities.
On page 130, it says:
Generally speaking, the evidence from the four countries and, indeed, Canada itself, suggests that advance voting has become an important mainstay in the repertoire of voting opportunities. There are suggestions that without it, turnout levels would be lower, and extending the point in the other direction, with more opportunities for advance voting, turnout levels might be higher.
In a study commissioned by Elections Canada in 2003 to analyze the impact of expanded voting opportunities on voter turnout, the empirical analysis found that turnout is some ten points higher in countries where it is possible to vote in advance.
As well, since 1993, the use of advanced polls by voters has nearly doubled in the Canadian elections. In 1994, 5.4% of voters cast a ballot at an advanced poll. This number has risen steadily in each election since, and 10.5% of voters cast their ballots at an advanced poll during the January 2006 General Election.
I believe that this trend will continue and that the public would respond very positively to the increased convenience and opportunity to vote presented by additional advanced polling days.
There is some evidence that countries which offer weekend voting have higher rates of voter participation. A 2002 study by Mark Franklin of the University of Houston found a significant positive effect of Sunday voting. He found that countries with Sunday voting have a voter turnout rate that is about six to seven percentage points higher than countries without Sunday voting.
Of note, the recent French presidential election, where voting is on Sunday, had a voter turnout of 82%. Moreover, advanced polling on Sunday is already available in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec. And, in his April 2004 report, the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec recommended holding elections on a Sunday for a number of reasons, including that it would be easier for workers who normally work Monday to Friday to get out and vote.
After taking into consideration the benefits of Sunday voting on voter turnout, and the increased use of advanced polls in Canadian elections, on May 9, 2007, Canada's New Government, introduced the Expanded Voting Opportunities Bill.
With respect to the details, the bill proposes to amend the Canada Elections Act to provide Canadians with two additional advance polling days on the two Sundays before election day.
Canadians currently have access to three advance polling days, on the Friday, Saturday, and Monday of the second last weekend before election day. People may vote between 12 noon and 8 p.m., but some people have to travel long distances because maybe only half a dozen polling stations are open in their constituency. The amendments in the expanded voting opportunities bill would add an advance polling day on the second last Sunday and the last Sunday before election day. This means there would be a block of four consecutive days of advance polling on the second last weekend before election day. However, the advance poll on the Sunday before election day would be a special one. All the polling stations used on election day will be opened, thereby maximizing voter opportunities for Canadians at a time when media attention and interest in the election should be at its height.
The hours for all advance polling days would continue to be between noon and 8 p.m., as opposed to the 12-hour periods of staggered voting hours that are available on election day.
In conclusion, our expanded voting opportunities bill will mean that all Canadians will have an opportunity to vote at an advance poll in their own neighbourhood on a Sunday, which for many is a day without work or school commitments. This will make it easier for Canadians to vote.
And with this increased convenience, we hope that families will bring their children with them when they go to vote—helping them appreciate from an early age the civic duty and opportunity to cast a vote, and to understand what it means to be a citizen in a free and democratic country. These are lessons that, if well taught, last a lifetime, build stronger communities and make a brighter future for Canada. And we know that engaging more Canadians in the electoral process through increasing voter turnout is good for our democracy and good for our country.
I would now be happy to take any questions that committee members may have.