Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today on the debate on Bill C-76. I know we have had a lot of conversations in this House of Commons about the Liberals and their plans for debating this bill or the ideas behind the bill.
As this House knows, Bill C-33 was languishing at first reading for 18 months. We then finally had the government bring in Bill C-76 on April 30. That was precisely during the month when the acting Chief Electoral Officer had informed the government and all members of Parliament that he wanted to see the changes on behalf of Elections Canada put in place in April 2018 so that Elections Canada would have the opportunity to implement the changes in time for the 2019 election. Here we are. It is now well past the halfway mark in May, and we are debating the bill at second reading.
I am by no means making an argument that the House should not have its look at this legislation. My main criticism is that the government has been sitting on this file for so long and has really left it to the eleventh hour to bring in major reform of our electoral system. The Liberals have made arguments that this issue has been looked at by the procedure and House affairs committee and that these concepts have been debated. I acknowledge that this is the case, but debating issues and policies at the procedure and House affairs committee is very different from actually looking at a piece of legislation, especially one that is as large as this particular bill. To dump this bill into the House of Commons on April 30, to have its first-day debate on May 10, then May 11, and then today, and then to suddenly expect the House of Commons to do its due diligence, when the government was aware all along of the constraints it was facing, really does a grave injustice to the people of Canada and to the members of this House who are here representing the people of Canada.
The other thing that we in the NDP are fairly critical of is the fact that there were some missed opportunities in this piece of legislation. For example, we all know that this Prime Minister, both in the 2015 election campaign and in this House, repeated the promise that 2015 would be the last election held under first past the post. That is a missed opportunity.
We had a special committee on electoral reform. I had the honour of sitting on that committee when it was going through the Atlantic provinces, and I remember hearing from Atlantic Canadians, both experts in the field and normal, everyday Canadians, who took time out of their day to appear before our committee in Halifax, in St. John's, in Fredericton, and in Charlottetown, to give us their views on what electoral reform should be. I thought the report by that special committee, which was formed by this House upon the recommendation of my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, was quite comprehensive and reflected a majority of the views of Canadians.
The way we reached a consensus was that all the parties on the opposition benches tried to work out our differences. I know that my Conservative colleagues have had a few problems with some of our ideas on electoral reform, but we in the NDP, the Green Party, and the Bloc Québécois decided that to arrive at a compromise so that we could have a committee report backed by the majority of the members on that committee, we would agree to hold a referendum to give Canadians the ability to decide whether they wanted to go past first past the post into a new system that would perhaps be something closer to proportional representation. It is just a fact of life here in Parliament that the governing party usually gets in with 39% of the vote. The ironic thing is that 60% to 61% of Canadians actually vote for members of the opposition parties, yet our voices continually lose out when it comes to votes in this place.
On the subject of missed opportunities, my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway mentioned this. There was an opportunity to go back and extend the media blackout so that the citizens of British Columbia who had yet to cast their votes would not be unduly influenced by a broadcaster announcing the results before the polls closed. We talk about fairness in this place. Where is the fairness for British Columbia when people are lining up at 6:30 or are just about to leave the house to go vote, and CBC comes online and says that the election has already been won and that we are going to get a Liberal majority? That is not fair to the people of British Columbia.
I acknowledge that we cannot do anything about social media. We cannot do anything about people on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram announcing the results, but we can at least make an effort so that our major broadcasters are not dumping this on the news and providing those kinds of updates. That was a missed opportunity.
I also think that in some ways, we could have provided an opportunity for a per-vote subsidy. In the NDP, we have always talked about this. The argument made is that we should not have public financing of our political system. Guess what, folks. When people make donations, especially generous donations, they are eligible for tax credits, which they can then apply, so we are actually giving people a reward from our public funds. Political parties are eligible for reimbursement of a certain percentage of their eligible election expenses. Our tax dollars are already being used, but they reward people with the means to make donations.
Before I continue, I want to notify the House that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
Continuing in that vein, a lot of my constituents struggle to pay the bills. Usually these families are living day to day and paycheque to paycheque, and they do not have the means to invest $100 in a political party. They certainly do not have the means to invest $1,500.
Through this system, political parties have to chase the money to stay competitive. I would like to see a system in which votes are put more on an equal plane and political parties are, in fact, rewarded for going after and getting the vote out rather than for going out and seeking the highest donor to fund their election expenses.
There are some good things. I will use the last bit of my speech to talk about the limit that would be placed on election length in this particular bill. I very much appreciate that the government has adopted my idea, because I introduced Bill C-279 in 2016, which sought to place a cap on the length of elections of a maximum of 46 days. I got this idea from the 2015 election, when we all had to go through the marathon 78-day campaign. I had a lot of constituents asking me why we needed an election that was 78 days and saying that they could easily make their decision in 36 days or 40 days. Obviously, the intent was to lengthen the election to such a point that money became an incredibly huge factor.
When we look at our neighbours to the south, the influence of money in politics is an insidious thing and can be a slippery slope. I am very glad the government has taken my private member's bill and sucked it up into Bill C-76 to make it part of this legislation. I am very glad to see that.
I am also glad to see that we will be registering future electors from age 14 to 17 and that we will allow child care expenses to be reimbursed. I would like to see more single parents have the opportunity to run as candidates. If we are truly going to be a representative House, we have to start reaching out to members of our society who do not often get that opportunity. We had an opportunity with the member for Burnaby South's bill, which would have rewarded political parties for trying to establish equity.
I see that my time is almost up. I will conclude by just acknowledging that the NDP will be giving its support in principle to this bill at second reading. We, of course, know that there will be a lot of hard work ahead in committee.