An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Maryam Monsef  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of Nov. 24, 2016
(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
(a) remove limitations on public education and information activities conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer;
(b) establish a Register of Future Electors in which Canadian citizens 14 to 17 years of age may consent to be included;
(c) authorize the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with information about permanent residents and foreign nationals for the purpose of updating the Register of Electors;
(d) remove the prohibition on the Chief Electoral Officer authorizing the notice of confirmation of registration (commonly known as a “voter information card”) as identification;
(e) replace, in the context of voter identification, the option of attestation for residence with an option of vouching for identity and residence;
(f) remove two limitations on voting by non-resident electors: the requirement that they have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years, and the requirement that they intend to return to Canada to resume residence in the future; and
(g) relocate the Commissioner of Canada Elections to within the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provide that the Commissioner is to be appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, after consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, for a non-renewable term of 10 years.
In addition, the enactment contains transitional provisions and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2019 / 7:30 p.m.
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Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, moving a motion to extend the sitting hours of the House is not a great way to close out the last session of the 42nd Parliament of Canada. We are not opposed to working late every evening. We want to work and make progress on files.

Once again, we take issue with the means the government is using to get all members to work a little harder because the session is ending and these are the last days of this Parliament. The other items in the motion do not concern the extension of sitting hours. We take issue with the government's approach, which prevents the opposition from doing its job properly. It is handcuffing the opposition and moving the government's agenda along as quickly as possible, not based on what parliamentarians may have to say, but on what the government wants.

This is not new to us, given how the government has handled the legislative process throughout its mandate. The government has been unable to advance a decent legislative agenda. I am the opposition agriculture and agri-food critic. I spoke to my predecessors, and we have been waiting for the Minister of Agriculture to introduce a bill to improve the lives of Canadian farmers since my appointment two years ago.

When I look at all the agriculture documents and bills this government has introduced since it was elected in 2015, it is clear to me that the government has achieved nothing. Absolutely no legislation was proposed to improve the lives of Canadian farmers.

However, numerous bills were introduced. Now, the government is saying that the situation is urgent and that we must move quickly and pass this legislation. A number of bills were not passed by the government, and now time is of the essence.

Of all of the bills that were not passed, some never even moved forward. We have, for example, Bill C-5, introduced on February 5, 2016; Bill C-12, introduced on March 24, 2016; Bill C-27, introduced on October 19, 2016; Bill C-28, introduced on October 21, 2016; Bill C-32, introduced on November 15, 2016; and Bill C-33, introduced on November 24, 2016. The Liberals have had four years to move these bills forward.

All of a sudden, the government claims that these bills need to be passed urgently. After the vote this evening we will debate Bill C-81, which was introduced on June 20, 2018. It has been nearly a year. We are being told that this bill is urgent and must absolutely be passed, but the government was unable to bring it forward earlier.

If this is so urgent, why did the government not bring up this bill more regularly in the House? Why did we not talk about it on a regular basis? All of a sudden, we need to pass it quickly because the Liberals have realized that they are going to run out of time. The government was unable to manage the House. It was unable to give parliamentarians an opportunity to do their work and to speak about important bills. The Liberals have realized at the last minute that they have forgotten this and that. There is an election coming up in the fall and now parliamentarians have to do the work to pass this or that bill.

The government chose to impose late sittings on the House for 18 days while also moving a time allocation motion, which means that we will not even have the chance to talk about it for long. If we refer to the Standing Orders, the government could have extended sitting hours for the last 10 days of the session, as provided for in our normal parliamentary calendar. That is what it could have done, and it would have been entirely doable.

I would like to talk about one of the Standing Orders. Even though the standing order that governs the extension of sitting hours in June has been in effect since 1982, it is not used every year. In some cases, special orders were proposed and adopted instead, usually by unanimous consent.

Parliamentarians are here to represent the people in their ridings. According to the Standing Orders, anyone who wants to change the rules to move things along has to seek the unanimous consent of the House.

Unfortunately, this government does not really seem to care about unanimous consent. It does not really seem to care what the opposition thinks or has to say even though, just like MPs on government benches, we represent all the people of our ridings. The least the government could do, out of respect for Canadian voters, is respect people in opposition. We have a role to play.

Unfortunately, our role is not to agree all the time and say the government is doing a good job. On the contrary, our role is to try to point out its failings so it can improve. Basically, the opposition's role is to make the government better by pointing out its mistakes and bad decisions so the government can reflect on that and find better solutions for all Canadians. However, the government does not seem willing to take that into account.

On top of that, there are two opposition days left. I mentioned the negative effects of the motion. The government is proposing to extend the hours in the House, but what it failed to mention is that it is going to deny the opposition the opportunity to have two full opposition days to address situations that are very troubling to Canadians.

For instance, during a normal opposition day during which we might hear from a number of stakeholders, we could have talked about the canola crisis, which is affecting thousands of canola producers across Canada. This crisis, which involves China, is costing Canadian canola producers billions of dollars. For all members who have canola farmers among their constituents, it would have been an opportunity to express the concerns of their fellow citizens and farmers in their regions. Perhaps we could have convinced the government to take action, such as filing a complaint through the World Trade Organization to condemn China's actions or appointing an ambassador, for example. As peculiar as it may seem, Canada currently has no representative in China to speak with Chinese authorities.

We could have had such a debate here in the House.

The one thing that the members across the aisle seem to have forgotten is that members of the House are not the government. The government is the ministers, the cabinet members. In this chamber, people have the right to speak their minds in the hope of swaying the government.

It is true that the government is formed by the party with the most members elected to the House, but it is also up to backbench members of the ruling party to try to persuade their government and speak for the people they represent, such as the farmers in their ridings. Sadly, the members on that side of the House seem to be divorced from reality. They seem to be blind to the government's desire to crush Parliament, to crush the MPs who are trying to do a good job of representing the constituents of every riding. I think that is a real shame.

We have absolutely nothing against extending the sitting hours of the House, but if it is intended to cover up the government's mistakes and its inability to properly organize the work of the House, then I think that is disgraceful.

The government is using this kind of motion to not only make us work more, which, as I mentioned, we agree with, but also deprive us of our last remaining tools, like the voting marathons everyone remembers. We held those voting marathons to make the government realize it cannot do whatever it wants in the House of Commons. The House of Commons is not the tool of the government. This motion to extend the sitting hours also prevents us from using that tool, which was a powerful means for us to send the government a message.

After making such grand promises of transparency and openness, this government has failed spectacularly to deliver. Sadly, its latest motion on the rules of the House just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has no respect for the work of the House. It saddens me to see a government ending its term on such a sour note.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour and privilege to be chosen, among the 338 members of Parliament, to speak today on the last day we will be sitting in this building, the Centre Block, in the House of Commons, in our wonderful Parliament, in our great federation.

Before I go any further and talk a bit about Centre Block, I should say that I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, one of my esteemed colleagues, whose riding is quite close to my own. We share a border, between Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval and Beauport. I am very happy to work with him on various issues that affect our respective constituents.

I would like to wish a very merry Christmas to everyone in Beauport—Limoilou who is watching us right now or who might watch this evening on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. I wish everyone a wonderful time with their family, and I hope they take some time to rest and relax. That is important. This season can be a time to focus a little more on ourselves and our familes, and to spend time together, to catch up and to rest up. I wish all my constituents the very best for 2019. Of course we will be seeing one another next week in our riding. I will be in my office and out in the community all week. I invite all my constituents to the Christmas party I am hosting on Wednesday, December 19, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m, at my office, which is located at 2000 Sanfaçon Avenue. Refreshments will be served and we will celebrate Christmas together. Over 200 people attended the event last year. I hope to see just as many people out this year. Merry Christmas and happy new year to everyone.

Today I want to talk about Bill C-76. I think this is the third time I speak to this bill. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to speak at all three readings of the same bill, and I am delighted I have been able do so.

This is somewhat ironic, because we have every reason to feel nostalgic today. The Centre Block of the House of Commons has been the centre of Canadian democracy since 1916, or rather, since its reconstruction, which was completed in 1920 after the fire. We have been sitting in this place for over a century, for 102 years. We serve to ensure the well-being of our constituents and to discuss democracy, to discuss legislation and the issues that matter to our country every day.

Today, rather ironically, we are discussing Bill C-76, which seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act. This is the legislation that sets the guidelines, standards, conditions and guarantees by which we, the 338 members of Parliament, were elected by constituents to sit here in the House of Commons. It is an interesting bill that we are discussing on our last day here, but this situation is indeed somewhat ironic, as my NDP colleague so rightly said in his question to the parliamentary secretary. He asked why, if this bill is so important to the Liberals, they waited until the last minute to rush it through after three years in power. The same version appeared in Bill C-33 in 2015-16, and the Liberals delayed implementation of that bill.

Since we are talking about Bill C-76, which affects the Elections Act and democracy, I must say I find it a shame that only six out of the 200 amendments the Conservatives proposed in committee were accepted.

We have concrete grievances based on real concerns and even the opinion of the majority. I will share with the House some of the surveys I have here. I just want to take a minute to say to all those watching us on CPAC or elsewhere right now, that it has been my dream ever since I was 15 to serve Canadians first and foremost. That is why I enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces. That is why I dreamed of becoming an MP since I was 15. In 2015, I had the exceptional honour of earning the confidence of the majority of the 92,000 constituents of Beauport—Limoilou. I would like to tell them that, in my view, the House of Commons represents the opposite of what the Prime Minister said yesterday. He said it was just a room.

I did not like that because the House of Commons, which will close for renovations for 15 years in a few days, is not just a room, as the Prime Minister said. I find it unfortunate that he used that term. It is the chamber of the people. That is why it is green. The colour green represents the people and the colour red represents aristocracy. Hence the Senate chamber is red.

I hope I am not mistaken. Perhaps the parliamentary guides could talk to me about this.

It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister said that it is not the centre of democracy, because that is not true. I will explain to Canadians why it is wrong to say that Parliament is not the centre of democracy.

The Prime Minister was right when he said that democracy resides everywhere, whether in protests in the streets, meetings of political associations or union meetings. Of course, democracy happens there. However, the centre of democracy is here, because it is here that elected members sit and vote on the laws that govern absolutely everything in the country. It is also here that we can even change Canada's Constitution. The country's Constitution cannot be changed anywhere else or as part of political debates by a political association or a protest. No, it can only be done here or in the other legislative assemblies of the provinces in Canada. It is only in those places that we can make amendments and change how democracy works or deal with problems to address current issues. Yes, by definition, in a practical manner, the centre of democracy is right here. It is not, as the Prime Minister said, just a room like so many others. No, it is the House of Commons.

Just briefly, before I get back to Bill C-76, I want to talk about the six sculptures on the east wall. The first represents civil law; the second, freedom of speech; the third, the Senate; the fourth, the governor general; the fifth, Confederation; and the sixth, the vote. On the west wall, there are sculptures representing bilingualism, education, the House of Commons, taxation—it says “IMPÔT — TAX” up top—criminal law and, lastly, communications. Those sculptures are here because we are at the centre of democracy. The 12 sculptures represent elements of how our federation works.

With respect to Bill C-67, we have three main complaints.

First, Bill C-76 would make it possible for a Canadian to use a voter card as their only document at a polling station. To be clear, the voter card is the paper people get for registering as an eligible voter. From now on, the Liberals will let people vote using that card only. Currently, and until this bill is passed, voters have to present a piece of identification to vote.

There are risks in letting people vote without an ID card like a driver's licence, health card or passport. First, in 2015, the information on over one million voter identification cards was incorrect. That is a major concern. Second, it is easy to vote with a card displaying incorrect information. That creates a significant problem. It is serious. We need to make sure that voting remains a protected, powerful and serious privilege in Canada.

Our second concern—and this is why we have no choice but to vote against the bill and what upsets me the most personally—is that the government is going to allow Canadians who live outside the country to vote, regardless of how long they have been living abroad. There used to be a five-year limit. In Australia, it is six years. Many countries have limits.

Now, the Liberals want to allow 1.4 million Canadians who live abroad to participate in Canadian elections, even if they have not lived in Canada for 20 or 30 years. They will even be allowed to choose what riding they want to vote in.

Do the Liberals realize the incredible power they are giving to Canadian citizens who have not lived in Canada for 20 years? Those individuals could potentially choose a riding where the polls indicate that the race is very close and change which party is chosen to govern.

Our third concern about this bill is that the Liberals want to prevent third parties, such as labour groups, from accepting money from individuals or groups outside the country during the pre-writ period.

That is good, but there is nothing stopping this from happening before the pre-writ period. People will be able to take in money and receive money from groups outside the country before the start of the pre-writ period.

I thank all Canadians who are watching us for their trust. I look forward to seeing them in the riding next week.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am still concerned about one aspect of the bill, despite all the time the government has taken to propose amendments to what they had already proposed in Bill C-33 to protect Canadians' privacy.

Even the Privacy Commissioner said that Bill C-76 adds nothing of substance in terms of privacy protection. For instance, this bill still allows parties to sell Canadians' personal information, so it is not covered by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Does my colleague not think that we are moving a little too fast with this bill, considering that the government has rejected some significant amendments?

Also, is it not totally ironic that a so-called electoral reform bill is being rushed through the House of Commons—virtually on the last possible day that Parliament gets to debate in this chamber in 2018—and that it is riddled with so many privacy loopholes?

If we move ahead with this bill, it may not even come into effect in time for the next election. Why not take the time to get it right and make absolutely certain that everyone's privacy is protected?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we just watched a curious exchange. There was a specific question by a Conservative member about the use of closure on this bill, put to the democratic institutions minister about a tactic that, in all fairness, the Conservatives used with regard to a voting bill in the last Parliament. At that time, the Liberals said it was terrible that the Conservatives were using closure on something as important as a democratic voting bill, a procedure the Liberals are now using and cannot even admit they are doing, in answer to straightforward question. Again, ironically, it is being done with a bill concerning our democracy. Canadians look upon this and scratch their heads and wonder.

This bill comes 750 days after the Liberals first introduced Bill C-33. It is 226 days after Elections Canada gave its own deadline. As the minister knows, many of the things in this bill with merit would not be applied to the 2019 election because it took the Liberals so long to introduce the bill.

I would like to ask the minister about one very specific thing that is not in this bill. One change that New Democrats proposed was to suggest that the reimbursement parties get back from Elections Canada, effectively the voters and taxpayers, for elections expenses should be tied to the effort each party makes to present an equal mandate—in other words, that it be tied to their attempts to get toward fifty-fifty. The Prime Minister made great boasts about 50% of his cabinet being women, and we said that we should extend that to the whole House. As the minister knows, three-quarters of the House remain men. That is essentially the same composition under the Harper government. Therefore, if we are going to change this, New Democrats say that we should follow the money, as is often said in finance and business and politics. Therefore, we proposed what we did.

By the way, when this one proposal was applied in Ireland, it increased the number of women and under-represented groups in the next election by 90%, and the number of women and under-represented groups in the Irish parliament by 40%. We proposed making this change, and the Liberals voted against it.

To my friend across the way and her allegedly feminist Prime Minister, when we propose ideas that would help get more women elected to the House of Commons, why do Liberals vote against those ideas that have been proven to work in democracies around the world?

November 22nd, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Hamilton Centre, NDP

David Christopherson

They handed off their lead to me. If anybody ever needed to know where the expression “politics makes for strange bedfellows” came from, this would be exactly that scenario. I thank my colleagues in the Conservative caucus for an opportunity to jump ahead in the order of precedence.

Let me begin, first of all, by expressing my personal respect for you, Minister. We're in neighbouring cities, and for a while you were our regional minister and you did an outstanding job in that capacity. I enjoy working with you, and everything I have to say is about your government in your capacity as the minister and not as a person or as an MP, because, on that front, you have an impeccable reputation with me.

Having said that, I have to tell you, if the Conservatives had attempted a move like this, the whole country would be enraged, but somehow, because they are the Liberals, it's not as horrible a thing. I have to tell you, this is a disgraceful expression of lack of democracy, again, on the democratic reform file. Let's remember, too, that there's a context to this. There's a history and a pattern.

This government said that the last election we had would be the last one we would have under first past the post. They broke that promise and set that aside. Then they brought in a whole series of draconian changes to our House Standing Orders, moves that Stephen Harper would never even dream of, and they had to retreat on that because of the backlash.

On Bill C-33, we were in the middle, this committee, of doing a major intensive review of the recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer. That report was supposed to help advise the government, because they had promised that committees were going to matter from now on. We were going to go back to respecting the independence of committees and allowing committees to do their good parliamentary work. That was trounced on by virtue of Bill C-33, the Liberals' major reform bill to the election laws, which was dumped on the floor of Parliament while we were still in the midst of reviewing that report. That lead to a filibuster by a certain somebody that tied us up for goodness knows how long until we managed to get that mess the government caused unravelled.

Now here we are again on a major issue, and I don't disagree with its importance as underscored by the minister and by my friend Madam May, but the process matters. This is a democracy. We spent a lot of time working hard on that report, and two of the key things, the biggest rubs that we had the greatest difficulty with, were how we decide who the commissioner will be and what the criteria would be for who's in debates.

None of us at the committee level—and I'll include my colleagues in the Liberal caucus for this part of it—felt adequate to make that decision as a committee made up of members from all the parties. Now this government has come along and here's its rationale; here's the thing. I claim the reason they had to do this was that they've mismanaged this file so badly that they didn't leave enough time. In fact, we just barely got the last major bill through, again, because of the government's mismanagement. In their own backgrounder for justification for ignoring this committee and running roughshod over democracy, here was their rationale:

In the interest of time, and as a starting point for the upcoming 2019 debates...

It's as if nobody had talked about it yet, as if nobody was paying any attention, and the government went, “Oh, wait a minute. We should do something, and there's really not enough time to do it, so we'll just make that decision.”

This is so important, and I am so profoundly disappointed that the government has been so undemocratic in their approach here and so unilateral.

My only question, I guess, would be, at this point, where on earth do the Liberals—never mind government—get off believing that they have the almighty power and right to unilaterally appoint the commissioner and unilaterally decide who's in the debates and who isn't in the debates?

Where do the Liberals get off believing they have the right to make that decision when we, collectively, at the committee level, which the government was supposed to respect, have said that we need to put it into a process so that it's fair? How do the Liberals justify saying, no, they know better and they'll just set aside what the committee said?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my great friend and colleague, the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

I am looking at the clock right now and I see that we have little more than half an hour left in this debate. It is a sad state of affairs for a bill that really covers such an important law in which every Canadian has so much vested, not the least of whom are members of the House, that we have to debate it under the yoke of time allocation.

The rush is all the making of the Liberals. We have heard repeatedly about Bill C-33, the first attempt by the Liberals at amending our election laws. That bill was introduced on November 24, 2016, and it is about as far as it got. It stayed at first reading. The member for Perth—Wellington called it a very unloved bill because it seemed to have been forgotten by the Liberal government.

Bill C-33 languished for many months and then finally on April 30 of this year, Bill C-76 was brought in, which swallowed up Bill C-33 but added a whole bunch more.

Then the sense of urgency came. The Liberals suddenly became aware of the timelines they had to deal with this. The Liberal government has a clear majority. It has commanding control over the agenda of the House. The Liberals came to power with an ambitious election agenda, and they are making us pay for their laggardness.

The bill came back to the House for report stage last week. On Thursday, October 25, the government moved time allocation. We really only had a few days to debate the bill, which started on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, the Dutch prime minister was here, so it was not a full day. We debated the bill on Friday afternoon. On Monday, the government decided to debate Bill C-84 and Bill C-85. We had the votes at report stage last night, Here we are on Tuesday, the final day to debate the bill at third reading.

It makes a mockery out of the Prime Minister's promise to treat this institution with respect when he rams the bill through, especially when the amendments that were looked at in committee and at report stage were backed up by such solid evidence. The Liberals have demonstrated time and again that it is their way or the highway.

We have to place all of this within the context of the biggest promise the Liberals made with respect to electoral reform, and that was that 2015 would be the last election held under first past the post. Why does this matter? When the hon. clerks at the table read out the tally of the votes, we do not approve a motion with 39% support, yet that is precisely what happens in this place. The Liberals do have a majority government, but it was elected by 39% of the people.

If we truly believe that every vote should count equally, then the House of Commons should reflect how people voted. I certainly wish the Liberals had followed through on their promise, that they had listened to the evidence that was gathered by the special committee on electoral reform and at least had progressed.

If the Liberals want to see how it is really done, they need to look no further than the province of British Columbia, where a B.C. NDP government, led by my friend Premier John Horgan, who is also a constituent, is following through with a promise.

Right now B.C. is having a referendum on electoral reform. I was happy to cast my ballot last weekend in support of proportional representation. This is a great opportunity for the province of B.C. to lead the way on electoral reform. It is a great way to show Canadians that on this issue, if they want progress, if they want a government that keeps its promise, they will vote NDP. John Horgan and the NDP are showing that.

I want to move on because I do not want to be entirely negative. There are some important things in the bill that we support. Many of the changes in Bill C-76 are just simple reversals of the Conservative bill from 2014.

For example, Bill C-76 would reinstate vouching for identity. It would restore the voter ID card. It would remove restrictions on how the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada could communicate with voters. These are all good things and we support them.

On a personal note, the government has incorporated the idea behind my private member's bill, Bill C-279, which I introduced in 2016. That bill sought to limit the length of elections. I think all members, and indeed Canadians, would be very happy if we did not have to go through a 78-day marathon campaign anymore. Seriously, there needs to be a limit on the length of elections, especially with the changes the Conservatives brought in under its government. It greatly expanded how much political parties could spend every day we went past 36 days. I do not think anyone could argue in favour of Canadians needing 78 days to make their decision. Therefore, I am glad to see there is a hard limit of 50 days on the length of elections.

I am also happy to see that Elections Canada would now be able to access information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. One of the great things I do as a member of Parliament, pretty much every month, is I get a list of new citizens who recently acquired their citizenship. I get to write certificates, congratulating them on acquiring their citizenship and welcoming them as future electors of Canada. If Elections Canada is able to update its registry in co-operation with another government department, all the better. I think every party in this place wants to see more people participate.

The early registration of teenagers, age 14 to 17, is a great step forward. One of the other things I really enjoy doing as a member of Parliament is visiting all the high schools in my riding. When we make efforts to speak to students, especially grade 11 and 12 students, they are actually a very thoughtful and engaged group. They care very much about their future. They care about climate change, about very progressive ideals. I have really valued my exchanges with them. With early registration as voters, it gives them another impetus to get the buy-in to the system so when they turn 18, they can actually go and cast their ballot.

I was fortunate enough to turn 18 in 1997, an election year, and I got to cast my ballot. I can remember doing that with a lot of pride.

Removing the ban on public education by the Chief Electoral Officer is also a great thing, as well as extending the hours of advanced polls. These are all positive measures in my view.

That is not to say that there are not problems. One of the biggest gaps, and it has been clearly identified by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who has been doing yeoman's work on this bill on behalf of the NDP, is the privacy rules covering political parties. Every political party in this place gathers a lot of information on Canadians. We know generally how many people live in a household, what their ages are, their genders and, in some cases, what their professions are.

We live in a time now where information warfare is a fact. Hacking is a fact. We need look no further than the examples of the Brexit vote and the recent election in the United States. It would be absolutely foolish of us to pretend it will not to affect Canada. Unfortunately, despite all the evidence that was heard at the procedure and House affairs committee, not only from the Privacy Commissioner but a whole host of experts, the Liberals cynically ignored this important provision. They decided not to strengthen privacy laws covering political parties. Also, nothing was really done with respect to election ads on social media and the Internet.

One of the big things is this. I remember the Liberals amended their own bill at committee to remove the requirement of political parties to keep receipts for their spending. This is the Liberals at committee amending their own bill to take that out. Last night, through report stage amendments, we tried to insert that back in, through vote no. 12. It was voted against. The Chief Electoral Officer has been calling for this since the 38th Parliament. For a party that likes to sing praises of the Chief Electoral Officer, to repeatedly ignore his recommendations and his calls to action on so many occasions makes a mockery of the Liberal statements in this place.

We also tried to move the voting day to Sunday, which I think would have encouraged more participation. On a Monday, I know everyone is entitled to get those hours off, but it sometimes does not always work out.

We tried to be constructive with the bill. Despite the many flaws that exist, we will vote to send it to the other place. However, I will be reminding Canadians of the opportunities that were lost, the opportunities that we attempted to address and the Liberals' flagrant attempts to ignore all of those constructive proposals.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in debate at this point on Bill C-76. I want to take the occasion to start with a bit of a broad historical sweep, albeit going back just to 2014. It is important for Canadians to know what is being accomplished with this legislation and what remains to be done. It is not perfect. I want to stress that, but I will be voting for it. I am also gratified that at least some of my amendments were accepted in the committee that studied the bill.

I want to go back to 2014, when the current hon. member for Carleton was the minister of democratic institutions. He brought forward a bill in that Parliament, Bill C-23, that was given the unlikely title, given its content, of the Fair Elections Act. I was a member of the opposition at the time, as leader of the Green Party, but I struggled with other members of the opposition, the New Democrats and Liberals, to try to stop that piece of legislation because it clearly had less to do with fairness than with trying to create favourable conditions for the governing party, the Conservatives at that time, going into the 2015 election.

Therefore, it is with a great deal of irony that I have heard a number of times Conservative members say that the Liberals are just trying to change the terms to make them better for their party.

We cannot forget the circumstances in 2014 when the member for Carleton introduced his bill. I hope that this will now be fixed by the changes to Bill C-76.

Going back to what the so-called Fair Elections Act did, it was consumed, as some members of this place still are, with a fiction—and I want to underscore the word “fiction”.

It is completely untrue. I want to stress that Canada does not have a problem with election fraud.

We do not have a problem of people disguising themselves, taking voter cards or any number of things that have been hinted at in the chamber in the last debate on Bill C-76. We do not have a problem of Canadians voting more than once under assumed identities. We have a problem of Canadians voting less than once. That is a serious problem, and that is why we needed the things that the so-called Fair Elections Act got rid of. These were things like being able to vouch for someone and being able to provide one's voter card as a piece of ID when going to the polls.

None of this would have been necessary if it were not for changes that the former Harper Conservatives made back at the very beginning of their first mandate. For the first time, they made it a requirement that Canadians produce a piece of government issued photo ID in order to vote. That, again, hinted darkly at the idea that people were voting more than once because we did not have enough checks on this problem. It was a non-existent problem then and does not exist now. It never existed. That is the evidence of several chief electoral officers, including Marc Mayrand and Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who both testified to the PROC committee that it was a non-problem.

Bill C-23 did a few other things. It took away some of the abilities of our Chief Electoral Officer to speak to us as voters when we needed information. One of those critical moments was, for instance, the election in 2011. The Chief Electoral Officer sent out a press release and got on the phone and radio. Robocalls were going on. Canadians were being misdirected, being told that their polling stations had changed. None of that was true. We had an investigation. I do not think it was ever adequately investigated. We know it took place, but we do not know who did it. That is a mystery that remains unsolved, but I think we know there was a gun lying on the floor, it was smoking, and several people standing around appeared to have used it. We have no conclusion, but we know for sure that voters who did not intend to vote Conservative were being told to go to polling stations that did not exist.

The Chief Electoral Officer then had the power to get on the radio and say “If you get a message on the phone that tells you it's Elections Canada on the line and your polling station has changed, ignore it. We have not changed any polling stations”. That was important.

What Bill C-23 did in 2014 was to take away the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer to do exactly that. It took away the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer to reassure Canadians that their polling stations had not changed.

There were a number of other things that the so-called Fair Elections Act did. One was to say that if there were a particularly long writ period, more spending would be permitted. That meant that the really big parties, like the Conservatives or the Liberals, and this was certainly to the advantage of the Conservatives in that election, could spend more money if the writ period were longer. They spent a lot of money. In that election, they spent just shy of $42 million. The people of Canada gave them half back, because of the way the so-called Fair Elections Act operated to their benefit.

Moving quickly, we had two pieces of legislation tabled in this 42nd Parliament to deal primarily with fixing all of the things that had gone wrong or were perverse under Bill C-23 in the 41st Parliament. In December 2016, we got Bill C-33. I was thrilled to see it, but it never got to second reading. Everything in Bill C-33 was added to Bill C-76, which emerged this year.

Let me just go through the great things that were in the original Bill C-33 and are now before us in Bill C-76. It gave the Chief Electoral Officer back the powers to warn people, to talk to Canadians, and to educate people in a non-partisan fashion. It got rid of the extended period in which parties could get more money out of the whole system. That is now in Bill C-76. It actually shortened up the period and restricted how much money big parties could spend, which means that the taxpayers will reimburse them less at the end, which is great.

The first part of Bill C-33, which has now come forward within Bill C-76, brought back the basics, namely that people are allowed to bring someone with them to the polls to say, “I know Joe. He's my brother-in-law. We live in the same neighbourhood. He's missing a driver's licence because his driver's licence has been taken away from him. I am here to vouch for him.” Students voting at university have a very difficult time proving where they live and thus that they have the right to vote.

Far too many people were denied their constitutionally enshrined right to vote in 2015. The Conservatives said that voter turnout went up. Sure it did. Voters were desperate to get rid of Stephen Harper, and they showed up in large droves. However, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of Canadians were denied the right to vote because of the changes to the Elections Act that we are now getting rid of.

What is also really good and entirely new is the concept that the Chief Electoral Officer, that is, Elections Canada, can go into schools and try to encourage 14-year olds to register to vote for when they turn 18. They can start, right away, knowing that they are registered so that they can begin to think about their civic duty to vote.

The lack of voter turnout among our youngest citizens is a real problem. I would love to see us reduce the voting age to 16. That is not in this bill, but a good first step is allowing Elections Canada to go into the schools to talk to the young people when they are in high school. Their civics education will feel far more real when they are personally registering to vote. It is not that they have the right to vote, but they are pre-registered for when they turn 18 and do have the right to vote.

Bill C-76 does a number of other things. I do not think we will ever do enough to deal with the threats to social media, things like Cambridge Analytica, the way that Facebook information can be mined, the way that Facebook ads can be targeted, and the use of fake news. Bill C-76 attempts to deal with this. I think we are going to have to come back to it and do more. I certainly support what they have done in this bill.

I certainly support having pre-writ election spending limits. This was a big vacuum in our laws. I think it is because the last time we looked at the Elections Act, no political party was spending money pre-writ. They kept their money and started spending it after the writ fell. It was not until Stephen Harper's attacks on Stéphane Dion in January 2007 that we started having attack ads outside of a writ period with no spending controls at all. Now we have spending controls.

What is missing? Here is the big gap. This was our opportunity to put political parties under our privacy laws. This legislation says that political parties must develop privacy policies and table them, but that is a far cry from having them under our privacy laws. It is a voluntary scheme. We need to put political parties under our privacy laws.

Back when Bill C-23 was going through the House in 2014, during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, I did try to get an amendment passed that would make political parties subject to the Privacy Act. No party supported that then. I really want to thank the New Democratic Party for supporting my amendment, which did not succeed, to set out that parties must adhere to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA. We did not succeed, but I thank the NDP for being with me on that.

We need to keep working for fair elections in Canada. Bill C-76 gets us a long way toward them.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, free and fair elections are a fundamental part of our Canadian democracy. Unfortunately, the entire democratic institutions file has been a failure since the Liberals took office.

One of the greatest promises they made in the last election was that the 2015 election would be the last election under first past the post. There was no asterisk. There was no disclaimer. There was no fine print that said it would be the last election under first past the post unless, of course, they did not get the type of electoral system they wanted that would benefit them, “them” being the Liberal Party.

There was no such asterisk. There was no such small print. Nonetheless, the Liberals walked it back, and they blamed everyone else for their failure. They blamed the opposition. They blamed the committee itself. They blamed the multi-party committee, which came to a general consensus. They blamed that committee, which included Liberal members, for its failure. They blamed the general public for not having a clear consensus on what an alternative electoral system ought to be. However, the failure rests with the Liberal Party. It is, and it continues to be, the Liberal Party's failure.

While the Liberals were failing at the electoral reform committee, they also introduced Bill C-33, which they claimed would implement many of the recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer following the 2015 election. Here are the facts. Bill C-33 was tabled at first reading on November 24, 2016, nearly two years ago. Today that bill remains at first reading, unmoved and unloved. We have to question the motivation of the current Liberal government in introducing that bill, then allowing it to sit at first reading and never once bringing it forward for debate in this august chamber.

In testimony at committee, when the eminent political science scholar, Dr. Paul Thomas, questioned the very motive of the Liberal Party, he said:

The government's management of this file has been very poor, in my opinion. If [Bill C-33] sits on the Order Paper for 18 months, it says something about the commitment of the government to get this moving ahead

However, that is exactly what has happened. The Liberals introduced legislation for window dressing and allowed it to sit idly by.

There are other failures in the democratic institutions file. Take cash for access, for example, and the ethical lapses of the current Liberal Party when it comes to fundraising. The Liberal government had barely been sworn in when it was already using its ministers to fundraise, using lobbyists who were registered to lobby their own ministers to fundraise from them. Rather than admitting that they were wrong to be fundraising from access to federal ministers, the Liberals tried to legitimize this practice by introducing Bill C-50. Of course, being Liberals, they left a great big loophole, what we call the Laurier Club loophole, allowing their well-funded Liberal donors to continue to have unfettered access to Liberal decision-makers, as long as it happened at Laurier Club events. They might as well have named that clause the Laurier Club loophole, because that is exactly what it is. Rather than dealing with the issue, rather than dealing with the unethical nature of selling access to senior ministers of the Crown, the Liberals simply used legislation to try to legitimize their bad practices.

The Liberals' failures do not end there. The Liberals even failed in the appointment process for the Chief Electoral Officer, the person in charge of ensuring that our elections run smoothly and appropriately, free from all interference.

The former chief electoral officer, to his great credit and foresight, announced that he would retire early from his position. He announced this in the spring of 2016 to allow whoever succeeded him as CEO to have enough time to get familiar with the job and to prepare for the 2019 election. However, at the end of December 2016, when he formally resigned and retired as chief electoral officer, there was no replacement in the offing. In fact, there was no replacement until this spring, nearly two years after Mr. Mayrand announced his retirement.

Even when they finally replaced the Chief Electoral Officer, they could not do it without failing. The media reported that a new Chief Electoral Officer had been chosen on April 4, 2018. They noted that someone had been selected, that the consultation had been done with the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party.

Lo and behold, weeks later, we found out that the original name circulated in both the media and to the opposition was in fact not the new Chief Electoral Officer. Rather, the very competent interim Chief Electoral Officer was appointed as the permanent replacement. I have to wonder how the Liberals could have waited nearly two years to appoint the person who was already doing the job. It is yet another example of the Liberal government's failing on the democratic institutions file.

That brings us to this bill itself, Bill C-76. Both the former and current Chief Electoral Officers were very clear about the need to have this legislation tabled and implemented early so that they could be prepared for the next election. In fact, when the acting, now permanent, Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, appeared before committee, on April 24, 2018, he stated:

When I appeared last February, I indicated that the window of opportunity to implement major changes in time for the next election was rapidly closing. That was not a new message. Both Monsieur Mayrand and I had previously indicated that legislative changes should be enacted by April 2018. This means that we are now at a point where the implementation of new legislation will likely involve some compromises.

What did the Liberals do? They sat on their hands for nearly three years and then finally tabled Bill C-76 on April 30, 2018, the same day the Chief Electoral Officer said he needed legislation fully enacted, with royal assent. The Liberals only introduced it on April 30 and then expected the opposition and the third party to simply roll over and allow this legislation to pass expeditiously.

We cannot ignore the fact that this very debate we are having in this chamber is under the guillotine of time allocation. Frankly, I am shocked, because it was the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister who introduced and supported a motion that would have amended Standing Order 78 so that:

No motion, pursuant to any paragraph of this Standing Order, may be used to allocate a specified number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of any bill that seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act.

Here we are with a bill that has 401 clauses and 352 pages. It is a bill the Liberal Party itself accepted as being flawed by introducing 65 amendments during the committee analysis, because it recognized that despite waiting nearly three years, it was rushing at the last minute to try to get some legislation on the books, and it tried to correct its own legislation this past summer.

We see that work has yet to be done in the Senate, in the other place. I am intrigued to see what amendments it will be relying on to fix some of the concerns expressed about this piece of legislation.

This legislation is flawed, and we will be voting against it.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, if I recall, the debate was about changing Bill C-33, doing exactly what it is we are doing right now. That is the whole point of this. The point is to walk back what was done by the former Conservative government.

By the way, members of the NDP agreed with what we were doing at the time. I am assuming they are voting for this legislation for that reason alone.

There are so many egregious things that we wanted to fix and it is all done right here in Bill C-76. The whole point of the thing, as I said before, is that it was the making of a solution to a problem that did not exist. Right now, we are working it back because we truly believe it is an inalienable right for people to have access to vote in our democracy if they are above the age of 18 and a Canadian citizen. That is their right.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act.

Today has been one of those days on Parliament Hill. We just had a committee looking at parents who have lost newborn children or during pregnancy. As we sat listening to the stories of those individuals, it brought, I think, most of the committee to tears.

However, this afternoon we are looking at a bill to amend the Elections Act. It shows the broad range of things that happen in Parliament. This morning we saw people who were genuinely affected and now we are seeing a bill brought in place that really, for all intents and purposes, will just give an advantage to the Liberal Party.

I should say, though, that I sincerely regret the fact that many of my colleagues are denied a similar opportunity to speak, given the Liberal government's decision to move time allocation on this bill. Having an opportunity with an appropriate amount of allotted time for MPs to express the views of their constituents is a fundamental principle of democracy upon which the House of Commons is founded. This opportunity is being denied.

It is for this reason that we on this side of the House adamantly oppose the Liberals' blatant, disrespectful manoeuvre. Shutting down this debate is disrespectful to MPs and, more importantly, disrespectful to those Canadians who want to be heard on this issue.

I am confident that Canadians will justifiably punish the Liberal government for silencing them on this very important issue of electoral reform. At the very crux of our democracy are elections and how we facilitate those elections is key, and yet Canadians have had their voices silenced on this.

I am equally confident that Canadians will take great exception to the bill before us today, which leaves our elections wide open to foreign interference. It does so to the benefit to the Liberal Party. It is widely suspected that in the 2015 federal election, Liberal candidates defeated their opponents in several key ridings due to foreign interference.

The speed the Liberals are trying to ram this legislation through Parliament a year before the 2019 election clearly shows their eagerness to once again win with just a little extra help. I firmly believe that every vote cast by a Canadian citizen matters. I will therefore continue to work with my Conservative colleagues to keep foreign entities from undermining our democratic institutions, especially through the very fundamental exercise of elections.

As my honourable colleague from Thornhill pointed out last Friday, Bill C-76 would double the total maximum third party spending amount allowed during the writ period and would allow unlimited contributions by individual donors and others, unlimited spending by third parties and unlimited foreign donations outside the pre-writ and the writ periods. Effectively, this loophole would allow foreign charities to give millions of foreign dollars to Canadian charities, and those millions, as my colleagues stated, can be disbursed as Canadian dollars to third party groups to support and oppose parties and candidates.

Canadians deserve to know where the money for elections is coming from and it is up to the Liberal government to ensure that third-party entities are being fully transparent and there is no undue and outside interference. Bill C-76 fails miserably in this regard.

It is also up to the government to ensure that non-resident electors are not treated the same as full-time residents, residents who are impacted in their daily lives by the regulations, decisions and economic realities and red tape of government. The individuals who are living here deal with all of these regulations. Allowing non-resident electors the vote, regardless of how long they have lived outside of Canada or whether they intend to ever return, is simply wrong.

Most non-residents were unable to vote in Canadian elections until 1993, when expats living outside Canada for fewer than five years and who intended to return were granted the right to vote by mail-in ballot. I wholeheartedly agree with the less-than-five-year rule, but obviously the Liberal government does not. Again, I believe that they do not agree because, for all intents and purposes, they are looking for ways to gain an advantage.

As a result, the legislation before us today goes further than simply restoring voting rights to short-term expats, because the Liberals feel it is to their advantage. Under Bill C-76, anyone who has ever lived in Canada would be able to vote. Following the introduction of Bill C-33, Bill C-76's predecessor, as noted in a November 2016 South China Morning Post article, “They would theoretically include most of the 300,000 Canadians who live in Hong Kong, most of whom are returnee emigrants and their children. Huge numbers of Hong Kongers emigrated to Canada ahead of the 1997 handover, but many have now returned as dual citizens.”

The article gives the example that when Hong Kong was returned to mainland China, many people came to Canada and other countries. Now, many of them have returned. The same article goes on to express the divergent views of two Hong Kong residents. One, a civil servant close to retirement who spent 11 years in Canada before leaving in 1995, said:

Having the right to vote is an honour, this will motivate me to pay more attention to their political news because I still have family members living in Canada and I will spend more time over there after I retire.

In that article, he said he would vote in Canada at the time of an election if he were allowed to.

The same article made a comparison with a 39-year-old high school teacher in Hong Kong, who was born in Canada, but who said he would not vote, because he said:

I only lived there for 10 years when I was young. I do not know that much about Canadian politics and have not been following closely of their news, so I believe it would be irresponsible for me to vote.

I would agree with that. It would be irresponsible, as it is irresponsible for the current Liberal government, to lift the less-than-five-year voting restriction and thereby open up the system to abuse. It is irresponsible for individuals who have no idea of the issues, no idea of the candidates and no idea of what is really happening, to put an X when their country and their passion is where they are residing, as was the case with this 39-year-old, for some 29 years.

Another measure in Bill C-76 that would leave the Canadian democratic process open to abuse is the use of the voter identification card as acceptable voter ID. In the last election in 2015, nearly one million erroneous voter identification cards were given out, creating huge potential for voter fraud. I cannot support a bill that has the potential to undermine our highly respected electoral system as a result of voter ID cards being taken as a valid form of identification when we know that out of the 16 million or 17 million people who were eligible to vote in the last election, more than a million of them were given erroneous cards.

What the government is trying to enshrine in this bill works against fair elections. It works against the very principles of democracy. When anyone is willing to take away the rights of someone else to advance his or her own, I would warn Canadians, because if Liberals are willing to take that from someone else, what will they be willing to take from Canadians in the future?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the sake of novelty, I thought I would do my entire speech without yelling or screaming, even once. Let us see if that helps to set the tone for the rest of the debate. I thought it was going pretty well until the last intervention and then we sort of went off the rails.

I want to start by dealing with a couple of things that have nothing to do with Bill C-76.

The first is to draw attention to the poppy on my lapel. There has been a developing tradition here the last couple of years where members will be wearing poppies that are different from the traditional ones put out by the legion. Sometimes they are an aboriginal poppy. Sometimes they have some other significance. The one I am wearing is done by the women's axillary at the Perth legion and the funds go directly to the local legion.

I also want to take a moment to deal with a matter that is near and dear to my heart, as I was unable to do so in any other spot. It is the issue of freedom of religion and the right to worship safely and peacefully. I am speaking of course of the tragedy that occurred last Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I chaired an all-party parliamentary committee dealing with anti-Semitism and, subsequently, along with the Liberal MP, co-edited a book about anti-Semitism. This is the very worst example of anti-Semitism we have seen in recent years on our continent. Like all members, I speak in solidarity with that.

I want to mention one other thing before I move on from this topic. I learned of this tragedy because I was informed of it by an email sent out by an Islamic group called LaunchGood, which raises money to assist people who face tragedies of this sort. Typically, these are tragedies within the Muslim community. A year ago, I and a number of other people, including some MPs, contributed to the LaunchGood effort to raise money for one of the survivors of the Quebec mosque shooting. This time, it is raising money on behalf of the victims of the synagogue shooting. That is indication of the kind of generosity and spirit we see among the great religions of the world and those who truly believe in their faith.

None of that is germane to Bill C-76, which I will turn to now. I will be splitting my time with the member for Battle River—Crowfoot, who like me is a survivor of the class of 2000. His riding name is more appropriate with time, as all of us who have been here since 2000 are developing deeper and deeper “crowfoots” at the corner of our eyes. It has been a great pleasure to serve beside him and the other veterans.

In dealing with Bill C-76, I will delve into a number of the issues relating to the way the government has pushed all too little on the bill until the last minute and now is in a panic to get it done in time to go into effect for the next election. This has been an unnecessary delay. I will return to that theme if there is time.

However, I want to start by talking about an issue that arose today, which is the proposed amendment to the motion before the House. That is the amendment introduced by my colleague and my New Democratic colleague calling for us to return it to committee so we can deal with the issue of by-elections.

There is a by-election under way now in the riding to my south, where my esteemed late colleague Gord Brown served. He sat in the seat near me. He passed away earlier this year. The Prime Minister took the maximum allowed period of time before calling a by-election for that riding. This means that the people in Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes have gone without representation far longer than is appropriate. Shame on the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has failed to call several by-elections for several vacancies, including the one in Burnaby South, where the New Democratic candidate is the current leader of the New Democrats, Jagmeet Singh. There can be only one purpose in delaying that by-election. It cannot be because the Prime Minister was caught off guard by this or because there is some kind of impediment keeping him from doing this. The former member for Burnaby South, Mr. Kennedy Stewart, our former colleague, resigned on September 14. However, he made public the letter to the Speaker in which he announced his intention to resign on August 2. He made it clear back in May that he intended to resign. That is now four months in the past. The by-election should have been called immediately.

There can only be one purpose for delaying this by-election. Take account of all the insincere posturing about being a friend of democracy we hear from the Prime Minister of Canada right now. The reason for delaying this by-election is to ensure Jagmeet Singh does not get to take a seat in the House until the last second.

Why would the Prime Minister do this? Because this is an extraordinarily effective tactic for neutering the leaders of opposing parties. We saw an example of just how this works the year I was elected. It was also the year my colleague from Battle River—Crowfoot was elected. We were elected November 27, 2000. The election was called, a snap election, in mid-October of 2000. Our former leader, Stockwell Day, was newly elected in a by-election on September 11, 2000. He came to the House, began speaking here, was beginning to bite and have some effect so the prime minister called an election to essentially neuter him before he could become effective.

The Prime Minister can no longer easily affect the date of the election, but he has the ability to delay and delay the calling of a by-election in order to ensure Jagmeet Singh will meet with a similar fate, that he will be unable to come here, advocate effectively for the causes he believes in and start nibbling into Liberal support from the left, just as our leader has been very effective in doing so from the right. That is an affront to democracy.

I do not care how many sincere looks the Prime Minister gives the camera while he explains whatever his ostensible motivation is. The fact is that he is stripping away a vital aspect of parliamentary democracy. There is a real need to deal with this sort of thing, to prevent this sort of misuse, especially when it comes to the election of party leaders to the House of Commons.

We have always had a practice of showing a kind of courtesy. I thought Jean Chrétien was egregious in his abuse and violation in turning away from that practice when he called a snap election in 2000. However, he really does not hold a candle to a prime minister who seems to simply want to hold off the by-election forever. It is wrong, it is always wrong and it is wrong when the Prime Minister does it.

Let me talk a bit the urgency of getting this bill through and the need to use time allocation. The Liberals introduced legislation dealing with elections changes, Bill C-33, in November 2016. Then they never brought it forward. Over a year later, they came out with the replacement for Bill C-33, containing most of what Bill C-33 contained plus some new additions. That is the current legislation, Bill C-76.

The year-long delay is not the fault of the opposition; it is the fault of the government. The government likes to say that the opposition was constantly filibustering in committee and it could not get anything done. The procedure and House affairs committee, on which I sit, met in the spring to deal with the bill and then it met again mid-September when the House resumed.

An entire summer went by during which this committee did not meet. It could have met. There is nothing stopping a committee from meeting over the summer. Indeed, a couple of years ago, another committee I was on, the committee on electoral reform, met all through the summer. This past summer, a number of committees met. Some of them met several times. This committee could have done that. That is not the fault of the opposition parties; it is the fault of the government.

Going back yet further, the government could have started dealing with this legislation much earlier. Instead, it chose to deal with its electoral reform that would change our electoral system, and there were hearings on it. It delayed that for the better part or a year in order to consume enough time that only one electoral system could possibly be put forward and implemented in time for the 2019 election, which is preferential voting because it does not require redistribution.

At this point, there has been a delay of about two and a half years out of the three years that have gone by so far. All of it is because of the government's own delays. The government has tried to say that it ought to impose closure, limiting debate on a 300-page bill, because we dragged our heels. My response to that is that the government's mismanagement ought not to constitute my crisis nor ought to constitute a crisis for the people of Canada.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise here today to speak to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. I am somewhat happily surprised to get this speaking opportunity, as we are debating this under time allocation.

The irony is, if it was not so serious, it is a bit delicious debating a bill that would change the rules around our elections, the foundation of our democracy, under time allocation after only a couple of hours of debate on the committee report. It is doubly ironic because the Liberals used closure to limit debate on second reading as well back in the spring. I remember that. Maybe it is a triple irony, because in the previous Parliament, the Liberals used one of their opposition days to debate a motion that time allocation must never be used to cut off debate on any bill that touches on our electoral system, and they have already done it twice here.

The history of this bill, as the previous member touched on, goes back to the time of Conservative Bill C-23, the so-called “Fair Elections Act” of 2014. If there was ever an Orwellian name for a bill, that was it. Among other things, that act made it more difficult for many Canadians to vote and ordered Elections Canada not to educate Canadians about the electoral process.

Both the Liberals and the NDP ran in the 2015 election on a promise to repeal Bill C-23 and get rid of the first-past-the-post electoral system once and for all. What have the Liberals done with regard to the Fair Elections Act? In late 2016, they tabled Bill C-33, and then sat on it for 18 months and did nothing. Then they tabled this bill, Bill C-76, on April 30 of this year, which included the measures of Bill C-33. That is a little late, because the Chief Electoral Officer had given the government a deadline of April 30 to pass any legislation around election changes because they had to be ready for the 2019 election. The government was a bit late with its homework there.

Here we are almost two years after the government tabled C-33, its first attempt at electoral reform, two years after it broke its promise that the 2015 election was going to be the last election run under the first-past-the-post system, and five months past the Chief Electoral Officer's deadline for legislation to be passed in time for the 2019 federal election.

What is in this bill that we have been waiting for all these months and years? To be fair to the government, I will start with some of the good measures we are happy to see on this side of the aisle. In fact, many of them are changes the NDP has been calling on the government to do for some time. It would limit the writ period of any election to 50 days, thus eliminating the chance for another marathon election like the 70-day campaign we had in 2015. That is great news for all Canadians, not just for candidates. I would like to thank my NDP colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, for suggesting this to the government in the form of his private member's bill.

I am happy to see two parts of this bill that would encourage young people to get informed and involved in the electoral process. Like many MPs, I go to a lot of schools to talk about government and the electoral process. During the Thanksgiving break I spent a whole day at Grand Forks Secondary giving classes on civics, and a couple of classes on biology as well, because I was a biologist in my former life, but that is outside the scope of this topic.

The questions I get asked at school talks are often much more informed than those I get at open town halls. Unfortunately, the turnout for young voters at elections is usually well below that of older voters, so I am happy Bill C-76 would allow the registration of future electors between the ages of 14 years and 17 years. This simple act has been shown in other jurisdictions to increase the proportion of young people who vote after they turn 18.

Unfortunately, the Liberals voted down an NDP amendment to this bill that asked the government to study the possibility of lowering the voting age to 17. We allow young Canadians to join the military at age 17, but for some reason we do not want to give them the right to vote in our elections, to give them a voice for their future in this country.

Second, this bill would remove the ban on public education programs conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer through Elections Canada. Why this ban was put in place in the so-called Fair Elections Act is beyond me. However, I welcome the opportunity for Elections Canada to inform and educate Canadians about the electoral process.

Bill C-76 would also bring back the process of vouching to allow electors without proper ID to vote, as well as allowing the use of the voter ID card for the same purpose. These were disallowed under the Fair Elections Act in an effort that seemed to want to solve a non-existent problem, that of voter fraud, for which there are vanishingly few if any examples of, by creating a much more serious problem that inhibited Canadians, particularly disadvantaged citizens, from voting at all. We should be encouraging Canadians to vote and this will be a step in the right direction at last.

Unfortunately, the government missed an opportunity to increase gender equality in Canadian elections, to increase the number of women running as candidates. The Liberal government talks glowingly about its commitment to gender equality, but does next to nothing in the bill to advance that.

Canada is far behind other countries in gender equity in political representation. My former colleague, Kennedy Stewart, now the mayor of Vancouver, put forward a private member's bill that would have strongly encouraged parties to increase the proportion of female candidates in future elections. Unfortunately, the government voted that bill down and failed to include its provisions in this bill.

There is no ban on foreign third party spending or activity. We have seen evidence of how foreign activity has affected elections in the United States and the UK. We need to ban that from Canadian elections. We hear almost daily stories of election tampering in those areas and others.

Canadians are deeply concerned about privacy issues during election campaigns. Political parties amass huge amounts of personal information on voters, yet there is nothing in the bill that covers this.

The present Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, said in committee, “If there is one area where the bill failed, it is privacy. The parties are not subjected to any kind of privacy regime.”

The Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, said that the bill had “nothing of substance in regards to privacy.”

No one at committee spoke against more stringent privacy requirements. Everyone was concerned that we did not go far enough.

I will close by bringing up the big thing missing from the bill and that of course is real electoral reform.

The Liberals, the NDP and the Green Party all campaigned on a promise that 2015 would be the last election under first past the post. Over 60% of Canadian voters supported that idea. For many Canadians, that was the most important promise of the election.

Canadians were tired of elections that gave parties with less than 40% of the vote a 100% of the power in a majority government. The Harper government was an example and the present Liberal government is another. Unfortunately, once the Liberals were in power, they forgot about that promise.

The Liberals say they want to increase the participation of Canadians in the electoral process. They say that Bill C-76 is their answer to this. However, the incredible cynicism on their lack of action on real electoral reform has already had a negative effect on how Canadians feel about their elected representatives and whether it is even worth voting in the next election.

I support many of the reforms contained in Bill C-76, but it falls short in so many ways. Like so many bills we see in this place, it is a tentative step in the right direction, but we need to go further.

Let us get rid of big money in elections. Let us ban foreign interference in elections. Let us protect the privacy of Canadians. Let us get back on track to getting rid of first past the post, so every vote will count.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 25th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, here we are once again with time allocation on an electoral reform bill, on a bill that would change how we run our elections.

I wish I could say I am surprised by the Liberals, but this is yet another failure on their part. They failed when they tried to do electoral reform. When they did not get what they wanted, they left it. Bill C-33, introduced in November 2016, was left unmoved and unloved on the Order Paper for the last two years.

The Chief Electoral Officer and the former chief electoral officer both said they needed legislation passed with royal assent by April 30 of this year, yet this legislation was not even introduced in this place until April 30. This was yet another failure on the part of the Liberals.

Why will they not just admit this is another attempt to game the system in their favour?

October 17th, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.
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Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you.

In terms of the scope of the bill, C-76, unlike C-33, is much broader in its approach. There are all sorts of things we're trying to deal with in the way that our elections are conducted.

NDP-23 talks about how it is that candidates are preferred and the reimbursement system, which is also part of our elections act, as well as the way this is managed. How does that fall outside its scope? Our surface reading of this was that C-76 was an overhaul of the Elections Act. How Elections Canada interacts with the parties, reimbursements, going after receipts—all that stuff is within this bill.

This is simply a policy amendment to encourage a policy outcome. In this case, it seeks to have the Prime Minister's self-defined feminism actually happen by having more women present themselves as candidates and hopefully get elected.

I'm trying to figure where you're interpreting that this falls outside of that scope.

October 15th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

It was introduced on the date by which the Chief Electoral Officer stated that he needed the legislation fully passed, after leaving Bill C-33 unmoved and unloved at second reading during that period of time—