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

Sponsor

Maryam Monsef  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 24, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-33.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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

February 27th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

I think they're already past this committee. They haven't even been to this committee. Bill C-33 has got a lot of the big changes. Is this going to be a problem, Chair? I'll leave it open ended, but I've got to tell you there's going to be hell to pay if we went through all that work and Elections Canada is raring to go and that legislation doesn't get through Parliament. You can blame the opposition all you want; you're the majority government; you control the House; you control everything. I'm a little disappointed that one of you isn't confident enough in your own government's ability to pass legislation so you'd give us that assurance today.

February 27th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thanks, Bill C-33, and there's another one. Anyway, those two bills have been through us, but they're waiting. They need them passed, and I'm just asking if we can get some assurance from the government that they're going to be made law so that Elections Canada can act, because time is running out.

February 27th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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An hon. member

It's Bill C-33.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, I am very proud of the bill. This is an important step and it opens up fundraising activities in a way that we have not had before in Canada. It is yet to be determined what kind of impact it will have. However, the fact that the official opposition does not want to pursue it demonstrates that it has a significant impact on how we raise money as politicians, something all of us absolutely need to do.

With regard to the other elements of my mandate that were mentioned, I am very proud of Bill C-33. It is a really important bill that will reverse some of the elements of the previous government's so-called fair elections act.

With regard to cybersecurity and protecting our democratic institutions, it is absolutely vital for our next election.

I look forward to continuing to work with members in this place to do what we can to protect, strengthen, and improve our electoral system and democratic institutions.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act in relation to political financing. This bill proposes to amend the Canada Elections Act to bring unprecedented openness and transparency to federal political fundraising. The legislation is the latest step the Government of Canada is taking to improve upon transparency, accountability, and integrity in our public institutions and toward strengthening the democratic process. I would like to thank the minister and her parliamentary secretary for their work.

In 2017, Canadians celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter is a model for democracies around the world. Section 3 of the charter guarantees every citizen the right to vote and to run in elections. This fundamental democratic right guaranteed to all Canadians is central, obviously, to our democracy. When candidates for a federally elected office engage in raising funds to run a campaign and when donors contribute, it is critical to ensure that the processes are open, transparent, and accountable. The integrity of our political system depends on being vigilant and on continuous improvement in recognition of the fact that the public trust is earned and re-earned every day.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also enshrines the freedoms of association and expression. Section 2 of the charter has been interpreted to include the right of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to make a donation to a political party and to participate in fundraising activities, subject to reasonable limits. Political parties are a vital part of our democratic system. They unite and mobilize people from different regions and with a variety of different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to volunteer, champion policies, have new ideas, and foster and engage in public debate.

Voting in an election for a candidate is one of the ways we play an active role in our society. Volunteering for a political party or campaign is another way. Certainly, making a financial contribution to a political campaign is a way to play a direct role in the democratic process. Upholding and protecting the integrity of the political campaign contribution process is our collective responsibility as members of Parliament. We must continue to ensure that Canadians are free to contribute to political parties and candidates.

Canada is known around the world for the rigour of its political financing regime, and this comes from our constant attention. Donations from corporations and unions are prohibited under existing legislation and there are strict limits on the contributions an individual can make. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can contribute a maximum of $1,575 annually to each registered party. They can donate $1,575, in total, to all leadership contestants in a particular contest, and they can donate a total of $1,575 to contestants for nomination, candidates, and/or riding associations of each registered party. Contributions are reported to Elections Canada, and the names, municipalities, provinces, and postal codes of those who contribute more than $200 are published.

Bill C-50 builds on the existing rules. When a fundraising event requires someone to contribute or pay a ticket price totalling more than $200, the name and partial address of each attendee, with certain exceptions, would be published. The exceptions are young people under 18, volunteers, event staff, media, someone assisting a person with a disability, and support staff for a minister or party leader in attendance.

Canadians take political fundraising seriously. There are significant consequences for disobeying the law, and that is why currently the Canada Elections Act provides tough sanctions for those who break the rules. Though Canadians can be proud of our already strict regulations for political financing, we recognize that they have the right to know even more when it comes to political fundraising events. Bill C-50 would provide Canadians with more information about political fundraising events in order to continue to enhance trust and confidence in our democratic institutions.

If passed, Bill C-50 would allow Canadians to learn when a political fundraiser that has a ticket price or requires a contribution of $200 or more is happening and who attended. This legislation would apply to all fundraising activities attended by cabinet ministers, including the prime minister, party leaders, and leadership contestants who meet the criteria. It would also apply to appreciation events for donors to a political party or contestant. This legislation would only apply to parties with a seat in the House of Commons. It would require parties to advertise fundraising events at least five days in advance. Canadians would know about a political fundraiser before the event takes place, giving them an opportunity to participate and even observe.

Bill C-50 gives journalists the ability to determine when and where fundraisers are happening. At the same time, political parties would retain the flexibility to set their own rules for providing media access and accreditation. Parties would be required to report the names and partial addresses of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days of the event. That information would then become public.

The bill would also introduce new offences in the Canada Elections Act for those who do not respect the rules, and require the return of any money collected at the event. These sanctions would apply to political parties and event organizers rather than the senior political leaders invited to the event. We propose a maximum $1,000 fine on summary conviction for offences introduced under Bill C-50.

This new level of transparency recognizes that the public trust is always being built, and delivers on the government's promise to bring greater transparency to Canada's political financing system and thus strengthen our democratic institutions. We are also taking action to increase voter participation and enhance the integrity of elections through Bill C-33. The government is partnered with the Communications Security Establishment to protect Canada's democracy from cyber-threats.

While we know that Canadians have every reason to be proud of our democracy, which together we build every day, we recognize there is always room for improvement. Shining a light on political fundraising activities builds upon our already strong and robust system for political financing in Canada.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing). This bill proposes amending the Canada Elections Act to bring an unprecedented level of openness and transparency to federal political fundraisers. The legislation is just one of many steps that we are taking as a government to raise the bar on transparency, accountability, and integrity of our public institutions and the democratic process.

The year 2017 marked the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was signed on a blustery day in April on the front lawn of Parliament just a few steps from where we are right now. Canadians cherish our charter and rightly so. It is a model for democracies around the world.

Section 3 of the charter guarantees every citizen the right to vote and to run in an election. This fundamental democratic right, guaranteed to all Canadians, is one of our most cherished civic rights. The simple act of voting is an exercise of democratic freedom that unites all of us as Canadians. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also enshrines the freedoms of association and expression. Section 2 of the charter has been interpreted to include the right of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to make a donation to a party and to participate in fundraising activities. Of course, these rights are both subject to the reasonable limitations that might be imposed in a free and democratic society.

Political parties represent a vital part of our democratic system. They unite people from different parts of the country with a variety of different perspectives and backgrounds and experiences. Parties mobilize ordinary citizens to champion policies and ideas and they foster the kind of vigorous public debate about ideas that is at the heart of our healthy democracy. Voting in an election for a candidate is one of the ways Canadians play an active and engaged role in this society. We see this as an opportunity to make our country a better place for our children and our grandchildren. Some Canadians even choose to work or volunteer in a political party or a candidate's campaign, and for many of us here in this room, we probably know few people who do not. We engage all of our friends and family to help us in our political activities, and many of the people whom we meet are either our volunteers or people who work against us in campaigns.

It is true that it is a broad expanse of the Canadian population that participates in political activity at the municipal and provincial levels, and also here at the federal level, but not everyone has the time or inclination to become involved in politics in that respect. Still, people may want to have their voices heard, so for many Canadians, making a financial contribution to a political campaign is a meaningful way for them to play a direct role in our democracy. It is an important forum of democratic expression. Choosing to support a political party or a candidate is something we must continue to uphold and protect. Everyone in this place knows that donations given by people who believe in us, who believe in what we stand for and what our parties stand for, help make our work possible, and we must continue to ensure that Canadians are free to contribute to political parties and candidates openly and transparently.

It bears noting that Canada is known around the world for the rigour of its political financing regime. Donations from corporations and from unions are prohibited under the existing legislation. To further level the playing field, there are strict limits on the contributions an individual can make. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can each contribute a maximum this year of $1,575 to each registered party. They can donate a total of $1,575 to the leadership contestants in a particular contest. In addition, they can donate a total of $1,575 to contestants for nomination, candidates, and/or riding associations of each registered party. Contributions are reported to Elections Canada and the name, municipality, province, and postal code of those who contribute more than $200 are posted online.

Bill C-50 would build on this existing regime so that when a fundraising event requires an attendee to contribute or pay a ticket price totalling more than $200, the name and partial address of each attendee, with certain exceptions, would be published online. The exceptions are youth under 18, volunteers, event staff, media, someone assisting a person with a disability, and support staff for a minister or party leader in attendance.

Canadians take political financing seriously. There are significant consequences for disobeying the law, and that is why currently the Canada Elections Act provides tough sanctions for those who break the rules. Although Canadians can be proud of our already strict regulations for political financing, we recognize that they have a right to know even more and perhaps in a more timely fashion when it comes to political fundraising events. Bill C-50 aims to provide Canadians with more information quicker about political financing events in order to continue to enhance trust and confidence in our democratic institutions.

If passed, Bill C-50 would allow Canadians to learn when a political fundraiser has a ticket price or requires contributions above $200, that it is happening, and who attended. The legislation would apply to all fundraising activities attended by cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, party leaders, and leadership contestants who meet these criteria.

This provision also applies to appreciation events for donors to a political party or contestant. This legislation would apply only to parties with a seat in the House of Commons. It would require parties to advertise fundraising events at least five days in advance. Canadians would know about a political fundraiser before the event takes place, which would give them the opportunity to inquire about a ticket if they so choose.

Bill C-50 would also give journalists the ability to determine when and where fundraisers are happening. At the same time, political parties would retain the flexibility to set their own rules for providing media access and accreditation. Parties would be required to report the names and partial addresses of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days of the event. That information would then become public in a much more timely fashion than currently is the case.

The bill would also introduce new offences under the Canada Elections Act for those who do not respect the rules and require the return of any money collected at the event. These sanctions would apply to political parties and event organizers rather than the senior political leaders invited to the events.

We propose a maximum $1,000 fine on summary conviction for offences introduced under Bill C-50. Of course, this is in addition to returning the funds raised. This new level of transparency would further enhance Canadians' trust in government, and that is good for everyone.

If passed, Bill C-50 would deliver on the government's promise to bring greater transparency to Canada's political financing system and thus strengthen our democratic institutions. As I have said, this is just one of the efforts that we are putting into place. The government is also taking action to increase voter participation and enhance the integrity of elections through Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, and the government has partnered with the Communications Security Establishment to protect democracy from cyber-threats.

While we know that Canadians have confidence in our democracy, we recognize that there is always room for improvement. Shining a light on political fundraising activities as and when they happen builds upon our already strong and robust system for political financing in Canada. It should be welcomed by everyone in the House.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the million-dollar question is, where is Bill C-33? It was introduced in November 2016, and yet here it is, stalled. There has been no debate at second reading. It has not even reached the point where we can get it to committee and discuss it. Our party is open to debating Bill C-33, but we have not been given the chance to debate it. It is sitting awaiting second reading, unmoved, unloved, completely stalled. I would have to ask the government, where is Bill C-33?

Where are so many other bills that the government has introduced and let sit stagnant on the Order Paper?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe my colleague just referred to the first past the post electoral system.

It is not something that trips off the tongue easily even for the Québécois, but that is the current dysfunctional voting system we have.

I appreciate that the hon. member for Perth—Wellington raised, as I did, a really substantive piece of legislation. I do not know why Bill C-33 has been stalled for so long at first reading. I wonder if he could give me a sense of the reason.

The member for Perth—Wellington and I worked together on electoral reform on various committees. He is a sterling fellow. I do not want to put him on the spot on behalf of his whole party. Bill C-33 is trying to repair a lot of what many of us in the opposition at the time felt was damage to our electoral system. Does my colleague know the current intention, and how does he personally feel he will vote on Bill C-33?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

My colleague is telling me to get a life.

It is an excellent piece of work. I am thankful to all those involved. It will stand the test of time as an important document.

Let us go to the subject at hand, Bill C-50.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands briefly mentioned in her comments Bill C-33, and I was intrigued today in question period when the Minister of Democratic Institutions mentioned Bill C-33. In fact, I will quote her from the blues. She said, “My job is to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians. Through the introduction of Bill C-33 and Bill C-50, we are moving to accomplish that mandate.”

How important is Bill C-33 to the government? It received first reading on November 24, 2016, 14 months ago. Where is that bill today? It still sits at first reading, having never been brought forward for second reading. This is reflective of the entire government's legislative agenda. It introduces certain pieces of legislation to great fanfare, yet there they sit 14 months later, unmoved, at the same stage as they were when they were first introduced. This is reflective of the entire government's agenda, but most particularly of the democratic institutions' agenda.

Let us contrast that with our former Conservative government's agenda. The very first piece of legislation introduced in 2006 was Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. What did that do? It banned corporate donations and union donations, and placed a hard cap on the maximum that an individual could donate.

The Liberal government, in the introduction of Bill C-50, is simply trying to legitimize its cash for access events. It is trying to legitimize its pay-to-play events. It is trying to legitimize that which it should not have been doing in the first place, by its own rules and its own document “Open and Accountable Government”.

I would like to quote from this document. The prelude states:

Open and Accountable Government sets out core principles regarding the roles and responsibilities of Ministers in Canada’s system of responsible parliamentary government.

Under Annex B, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, the very first paragraph states:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.

This legislation would not have been needed had the Prime Minister accepted his own words, and had he and his ministers followed their own document and simply done what they were asked to do.

It goes on to state:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.

On this specific point, the Liberal government, the Prime Minister, and his cabinet have failed to live up to the standards that the Prime Minister himself set in “Open and Accountable Government”. The Prime Minister laid out his vision. He promised to be open and transparent, and then the Liberals broke their own rules.

This is not the first time we have seen this. We have seen it time and time again over the two years this government has been in office. The Liberals are constantly placing themselves in the appearance or potential of conflict of interest. All week in this House we have heard questions asking the Prime Minister and the government House leader about the Prime Minister's unethical trip to the Aga Khan's island, for which he was found guilty on four separate counts under the Conflict of Interest Act.

The government, in only two short years, is achieving a level of ethics lapses that took the Chrétien-Martin Liberals a full 13 years to get to. It has accomplished that in two years.

Let us talk about this piece of legislation and some of the exemptions and exceptions that the government has brought forward in Bill C-50. There is one particular exception, what I like to call the Laurier Club loophole. This legislation applies to donor appreciation events, except when those events take place at conventions.

People may be wondering, what exactly is the Laurier Club? I have an answer. I went on the Liberal Party's website and found a little information about it. For the low price of $1,500 a year, anyone can become a member of the Laurier Club.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we also have another really important piece of electoral reform legislation that has received first reading in this place, but has not yet gone to committee, which is Bill C-33. It would do away with a lot of what was done under the previous administration's, what we called, the unfair elections act. It has a lot of really good provisions in it to bring back the rights of the Chief Electoral Officer to communicate with Canadians and educate Canadians. It has a really cool provision to allow young people at age 16 to be registered to vote, so they are already registered by the time they turn 18. I would love to see something in there, and we could go back to that when it gets to committee. What former Prime Minister Harper did in the unfair elections act was create, for the first time, additional money, depending on how long the writ lasted.

We had a very long writ period in 2005. My friends here with the memory will remember that on November 28, 2005, the Liberal government of Paul Martin fell, but the election was not until later in January. There was the feeling that between Christmas and Hanukkah there had to be some time allotted. However, that was in the days before we had additional spending limits during a writ period. Stephen Harper changed it so parties could get more money back by having a longer writ period. That election campaign went from August 3 to late October.

I agree entirely with my friend. I do not know that we want to put a hard cap on the length of an election. There may be reasons we would want to extend it, like if a government falls right before Christmas, as in the case of the November 28, 2005, fall of the government. However, we need to ensure that long writ periods are not an excuse to get more money from taxpayers because the game has already been rigged so parties can spend more money and get more money. The party that had the most money at the time engineered those changes.

Democratic ReformOral Questions

February 1st, 2018 / 2:40 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to strengthening our democracy, Canadians want us to focus on what unites us, not on what divides us. We listened to Canadians. They expect us to protect the integrity of our democracy.

My job is to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians. Through the introduction of Bill C-33 and Bill C-50, we are moving to accomplish that mandate.

I know every member of the House shares the deep affection Canadians have for our democracy. Canadians want us to work together on priorities that unite us, and that is where our focus will remain.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-377.

This is a private member's bill put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Châteauguay—Lacolle. As we know, it proposes to change the name of her electoral district to Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville.

The municipality of Lacolle, which is currently included in the name of my colleague's electoral district, is actually located in the neighbouring riding of Saint-Jean. This is confusing as we have heard, for residents in both ridings and for this reason, the hon. member for Saint-Jean supports the legislation as well. Our government in turn supports the bill because it makes good sense.

Typically, as all members know, riding names are selected during a process every decade under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. In the latest process, census commissions were created in all provinces after the 2011 census. Each three-person commission, in accordance with the legislation, was chaired by a judge appointed by the provincial chief justice.

In the spring and summer of 2012, the commissions crafted and made public proposals for each of their respective provinces. They then held hearings to get public feedback and to consider possible alterations. Final reports were submitted by the Chief Electoral Officer to the Speaker of the House of Commons. They were then referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

This process is as exciting as it sounds. I think we can all agree with that. That referral gave MPs an opportunity to file objections, which the committee considered before producing its final report. That report was put forward to the commissions with the recommended changes.

In the case of Quebec, the committee sent 11 objections to riding names and suggested alternatives. All were adopted and the 2013 Representation Order was proclaimed that autumn, resulting in our new electoral map.

However, Parliament has the option of adopting name changes after this process finishes. Normally this goes smoothly, though in 2003-04 there were objections from the Chief Electoral Officer at the time, Jean-Pierre Kingsley. Mr. Kingsley pointed out that there was an excessive administrative burden imposed because it took place so close to the 2004 election. He also voiced concern that the change could lead to public confusion and additional costs because electoral materials would have to be reprinted and software reconfigured. However, there have not been any significant issues identified when name changes are proposed well in advance of elections.

In the case of the bill we are considering now, there is no indication that the name change will cause any technical problems. Elections Canada has asked that no name exceed 50 characters, including hyphens and dashes. This proposed new name is well below that threshold. I am sure the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent would agree with that.

Elections Canada has also asked that name change bills receive royal assent no later than January 2019. There is plenty of time.

In addition to this kind of legislation, our government and indeed all members of this chamber must do everything in our power to encourage Canadians to participate in our democracy. Confusing Canadians, confusing voters does not foster participation in our democracy. In fact, the Minister of Democratic Institutions has spoken passionately about the need for us to do everything we can to encourage and not discourage democratic participation.

As a result, we are committed to restoring integrity to our democratic process by reversing some of the previous government's Fair Elections Act, which made voting difficult for so many. We are accomplishing this with Bill C-33, which was introduced last year, as all members of the House know. This legislation, if passed, would make it easier for Canadians to vote, get more Canadians involved in voting, and build confidence and integrity in our voting system.

In essence, this private member's bill is about empowering Canadians. It is about empowering constituents to feel they are part of the process.

I do find it a little surprising that some members opposite are quarrelling about the process, although are supportive of the substance. However, there are many ways to get to the same objective. For instance, some people wear belts. Some wear suspenders. Neither is right and neither is wrong. They both get to the goal that is established at the outset, and in this case, it is holding up one's pants. Does it really matter what process is used if it supports the goal? It is a fair and open process. Surely we can all agree on that in this place.

My colleague for Châteauguay—Lacolle knows her constituents' concerns better than any of us. She has heard from them. We heard her say there is a petition in the riding asking to change the name of the riding. The member for Châteauguay—Lacolle would ignore that at her peril. How could she go back home and say she got the petition with the thousand names, but decided to ignore it because the opposition wanted her to do something else for them instead? Would they not ask if she were not here to work for them? Of course she is, as we all are throughout this country, working very hard for our constituents. To the suggestion there is some flaw in her conclusion that it is important to her constituents, I would say, no, there is not.

I honestly believe, as I think we all do, that this private member's bill—

November 9th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Christopherson.

As I mentioned in the presentation, Bill C-364 touches the same subject, amending the Election Act, as Bill C-50 and Bill C-33, so there's a bit of an inconsistency between two decisions with bills that have subjects that are similar to the subjects of government bills but are being treated in a different way.

As I said earlier, and I can't stress this enough, the intent of providing more scope for private members' business, as Mr. Christopherson said very eloquently just now, has always been to open the scope for each of us as a private member. It has nothing to do with whatever party we're affiliated with. It has much more to do with our rights as members.

This committee has always been the committee that has stood up for the prerogatives of members of Parliament. You have a very important role to play in that regard. This is, I think, a key circumstance, in that there's a bit of a loophole and that's why you're being asked in a sense to hear this appeal and make what I believe would be the right decision, which is to make Bill C-352 votable, because I think it meets all the tests. It certainly meets the intent as well of where we have evolved on private members' legislation, and you're the ones who can come to the defence of private members' legislation with this appeal that Ms. Malcolmson has brought to your attention.

November 9th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I also want to thank you, Ms. Malcolmson. We are very happy to have an opportunity to speak with you today about why Bill C-352 should be votable in the House of Commons.

Since your committee is in charge of all the prerogatives of Parliament, the decision you have to make is important.

There are three main arguments I would like to put forward at the beginning.

First off, as you will see, Bill C-352 is in fact quite a different piece of legislation from the government bill, Bill C-64, and therefore should not be considered the same question as Bill C-64, which is currently on the Order Paper.

Second, the subcommittee was incorrect in applying the criteria to Bill C-352 because it was similar to Bill C-64 at the same meeting where it applied different criteria, it seemed, to Bill C-364, which was declared votable, despite being on the same subject and amending the same Canada Elections Act as Bill C-50 and Bill C-33. There's an inconsistency there.

Third, allowing the subcommittee decision to stand is allowing the government to violate the separation of private members' business and to let it do through the back door what the rules were designed to forbid through the front door: to deny individual members their right to vote on their preferred item of private members' business.

As we all know, government bills are subject to party discipline. Private members' bills have been the exception to this, and in our bible, which is O'Brien and Bosc, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it is clear that these rules were developed over decades, leading to a system based on the following fundamental characteristics: each member should have “at least one opportunity per Parliament to have an item of Private Members' Business debated” and voted upon, and “each item in the Order of Precedence would be votable, unless the sponsor opted to make it non-votable.”

The basic premise for PMBs is that government business is fundamentally different from private members' business. This premise was put in place to protect individual initiatives from members against the power of majority governments, including the power to try to knock off a bill.

Now, to emphasize the differences, the House has many rules built in to reflect the separation of government and private members' business. Amendments to private members' motions can only be moved with the consent of the sponsor. PMB recorded divisions, as we know, are done row by row in the chamber, and not by party. The lottery is designed to exclude ministers and parliamentary secretaries from PMBs, and if the committee makes a decision and it is appealed, the appeal is done by secret ballot on the floor of the House of Commons. The only other time this arises is when we elect a Speaker at the beginning of Parliament.

I would like to pass the microphone back now to Ms. Malcolmson, who will explain why Bill C-352 is so different from Bill C-64.

October 18th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Thank you very much, Minister Brison.

Mr. Chair, colleagues, committee members, thank you for inviting me to appear alongside my colleague, Minister Brison, to address Bill C-58. I'd like to acknowledge that Allen Sutherland from Democratic Institutions is here.

I want to acknowledge the important work of the public service in putting this bill together.

The Government is taking measures to maintain the openness, the transparency and the accountability of our democracy. To this end, we have introduced Bill C-33 in order to increase voter turnout and to enhance the integrity of our electoral system.

We've also put forward Bill C-50, which would make political fundraising more transparent.

As Minister of Democratic Institutions, I have also acted to help protect our electoral system from cyber-threats.

Earlier this year, I asked the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, to undertake the very first assessment of threats to our democratic process. Since the release of the report, in June, the CSE has communicated with political parties and with provincial and territorial chief electoral officers to provide them with advice against cyberthreats.

Today, I am here with you to discuss Bill C-58. This legislation includes long-overdue amendments to an access to information law that has not been updated since it passed almost 34 years ago. The amendments to the act being brought forward by my colleague, Minister Brison, would help to significantly update and improve how Canada's access to information laws function.

Right now, I would like to focus in particular on how Bill C-58 would impact three areas: the offices of the Prime Minister and his ministers, members of Parliament and senators, and the administrative institutions that support Parliament and parliamentarians.

The bill would require the Prime Minister’s Office and ministerial offices to proactively disclose a variety of documents, including mandate letters, transition handbooks, information packages for ministers and their deputies, as well as information regarding travel and accommodation costs for ministers and their exempt staff.

It would also require disclosure of contracts over $10,000.

Information prepared by departments for question period and parliamentary committee appearances would also be subject to the act.

As you know, some of this information is already proactively disclosed by ministerial cabinets. However, this practice is not consistent and is not set out in the law. The aim of this bill is to obtain uniform disclosure from all cabinets. It would require the public release of those documents for the first time.

Of course, exemptions and exclusions under the law would still apply in the case of requests concerning certain issues, such as personal and national security issues.

Bill C-58 also extends the act to senators and members of Parliament. For the first time, this disclosure will be formalized in law. Bill C-58 also applies to institutions that support Parliament. I am referring to organizations like the Library of Parliament, the parliamentary budget officer, and the Senate and Commons administrations.

We’re improving the openness of these offices while ensuring security laws and parliamentary privilege.

Bill C-58 will make it possible to achieve the necessary balance while implementing measures that will contribute to modernize the Access to Information Act. Canada’s democratic institutions will thus increase their transparency and accountability.

To conclude, Bill C-58 will significantly advance the availability and efficiency of the Access to Information Act as it is related to the Prime Minister's office and ministers' offices, parliamentarians, as well as the institutions that support Parliament.

The reforms proposed in Bill C-58 are an important step in the ongoing review and modernization of the Access to Information Act, and I look forward to working with all members to enhance accountability.

With that, I welcome your questions. Merci.