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.

June 7th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Chris Aylward National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the committee for allowing us to appear today.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada represents 180,000 members. We are the largest union in the federal public service.

Bill C-76 proposes extensive changes that have a significant impact on our democratic process. We strongly support the amendments in the bill that will remove barriers to voting and make it more accessible.

My comments will focus on changes related to third parties.

Our usual election activity is to inform our members about issues and encourage them to exercise their political rights and to vote. We do this by communicating with them in a number of ways, including advertising. During the last federal election and in a number of previous elections, the Public Service Alliance of Canada registered as a third party.

Bill C-76 has not changed the definition of third party election advertising; however, the definition curtails our right to represent our members' interests during an election period. Messages we transmit that can be received or seen by the public, such as information posted on bulletin boards or included in flyers, are considered to be election advertising if they take a position on an issue that a registered party or candidate is associated with or if the message opposes a registered party.

I challenge you to think of an issue that affects Canadians and our members that cannot be associated with a party, leader, or candidate at some time or another. The vast majority of our members are employed by the federal government and by federal agencies controlled or regulated by the government, and we take on issues associated with registered parties on an ongoing basis. It is our role and responsibility to advance their interests and concerns, and our right to do so has been upheld by the courts.

The existing restrictions on third party advertising, the proposed changes to the election period, and the introduction of new pre-election periods deny our legitimate advocacy role. This is particularly crucial when governments attempt to prevent our members from speaking out on issues and to restrict their political rights and activities because they are government employees.

During the last federal election period, we were in the middle of bargaining with Treasury Board for approximately 100,000 members. When we demonstrated against the government's proposals, Elections Canada advised us that the messages on our picket signs and banners might be considered election advertising under the Elections Act. They were seen as transmitting a message to the public during an election period that could be seen as opposing a registered party or speaking out on an issue associated with a registered party—in this case, the previous governing party.

Bill C-76 proposes to extend similar although not identical restrictions during a new pre-election period. The difference is that advertising during the pre-election period excludes messages that take a position on an issue associated with political parties and their candidates or leaders; however, the restrictions could still be interpreted to put limits on what we can say publicly about positions being taken by our government employers.

I refer you to the landmark 1991 Supreme Court case of Lavigne and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. In that decision, the court affirmed the interconnected nature of political activity and union interests, or democratic unionism. The court said that many political activities, “be they concerned with the environment, tax policy, day-care or feminism, can be construed as related to the larger environment in which unions must represent their members”. Note that the court said “must represent their members” in this “larger environment”.

We are also concerned about the unnecessary burden the proposed legislation would put on unions to track and report all advertising expenses between elections. PSAC is a large organization, with 15 relatively autonomous components and over 1,000 locals; however, the third party provision treats us as a single entity. We would now be required to monitor all those parts in order to report expenses related to messages to the public amounting to $10,000 or more between an election and the pre-election period.

In conclusion, we ask the committee to review the proposed sections on third party advertising very carefully before proceeding with the bill so as not to affect the legitimate rights of unions to speak out on behalf of their members. We also ask you to consider splitting the bill and moving quickly to deal with the sections where there is general agreement and support, such as the sections that were originally contained in Bill C-33, and spend more time assessing the changes proposed by Bill C-76 before making other adjustments to the federal elections process.

Thank you for your time.

June 7th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

We do, too.

I'm starting to believe that, as my grandmother used to say, a lack of planning on your part doesn't make for a crisis on mine. I was eight years old at the time, but she had a point that still stays with me today when I look at this bill. With days to study it, virtually every committee meeting we've had has been interrupted by votes. We've rarely gone through an entire cycle, yet I, too, am supporting some of what you've said here. I'm in support of some of what I'll call the enfranchisement pieces of the bill.

There are a number of questions outstanding, particularly around privacy, the loophole you talked about in commingling, and some of the pre-writ conversations we've had as to whether they're fair between the government and non-government parties.

I'm wondering if the bill needs to be split. I'm wondering if we need to expedite the pieces that there has been some dispute about but more of a consensus around—the Bill C-33 components. There have been a lot of questions about the second part, the third party, the commingling loophole, and the lack of privacy restrictions of parties. What do you think of that suggestion?

June 7th, 2018 / 12:08 p.m.
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Dr. Paul Thomas Professor Emeritus, Political Studies, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Thank you very much. I have submitted a brief to the committee, and it has been translated and circulated. I will try to stay strictly within the five-minute limit and make five brief points in five minutes so the chair doesn't have to bring down the guillotine on me.

The first point, and an integrating theme of my brief to the committee, is that Bill C-76 is an excellent illustration of how technical and complicated election law has become in response to changing social, technological, and political activities within Canada and elsewhere. Under those conditions, Elections Canada needs a very diverse and flexible set of policy tools in order to plan for and execute elections. In other words, unlike the traditional Canada Elections Act, which is very detailed and prescriptive, we need a future act that grants broader authority to the professionals within Elections Canada. Bill C-76 goes some way in this direction. It grants the CEO of Elections Canada more authority to conduct the operations of the election, it grants the commissioner administrative monetary penalties, and it makes use of written interpretations and opinions, and so on.

Second, overall, this bill is worthwhile. I endorse it in general terms. I endorse the features that are brought forward from Bill C-33 that made changes to the more problematic features of the so-called Fair Elections Act. I like some of the new features that are included within the bill, such as the creation of a pre-writ period ceiling on party and advocacy advertising, tags on all advertising, and so on.

Then I shift in my brief to three concerns I have. The greatest disappointment for me is the failure to bring political parties under the provisions of the privacy acts in Canada and to provide a route to address privacy concerns through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. This bill essentially says that the parties will be left to regulate themselves with respect to privacy practices. Not my preferred one, but a second-best solution would require the Privacy Commissioner, not Elections Canada, to give the parties' privacy policies and practices a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. On the second part of that concern, another option I would suggest is that annually the parties publish online a statement of what has gone on with respect to their privacy activities, including the education of their members and staff, and so on, on any privacy complaints that have come up.

My fourth point has to do with the flow of foreign money and foreign influence into Canadian elections. As I read the bill, and I'm not a lawyer, there appears to be a loophole in the bill that allows for the commingling of foreign and domestic funds, including the support to advocacy groups, third parties as they're called in the bill. I don't see any easy fix to this problem through legislation or regulation, but I note the provision in the bill for a prohibition on collusion. It may be over time, through the operation of the collusion clause, that precedents will develop that will restrict but probably not eliminate completely the potential for foreign influence in Canadian elections.

My fifth point and final concern has to do with the pre-writ period beginning on June 30. The point I'm making there in the brief is the need to align the timing of restrictions on partisan and advocacy advertising with the ban on government advertising that currently flows out of an administrative policy statement. It is not based on legislation. That ban requires the ads to stop 90 days before voting day. The two periods should be aligned so that you set up a situation where the government is, in effect, in a caretaker situation and any benefit that might come to the governing party from government advertising would be eliminated.

My final observation is that this bill should have been proceeded with much earlier, or an earlier version of a bill, perhaps. It has been left late.

I know the professionals at Elections Canada do their utmost to execute the provisions of the bill, but we have to get into the habit of treating these deadlines for planning an election more seriously.

Thank you very much. I look forward to questions.

June 5th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

She means the CEO's report, not Bill C-33.

June 5th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

I thought the 30 hours was to the end of today. It's actually to the end of Thursday; by the end of Thursday we will have had 30 hours. I'm not making the point to end discussion. I'm making the point to say that a suggestion that we haven't had witnesses or listened to witnesses in a robust way I think is misrepresentative, particularly in light of the fact that Bill C-33 is also in this bill, which we also spent numerous hours on.

I'd like to get a response from the clerk, not right now, but maybe the next time we meet, as to how many hours of witnesses we heard there. I want to make that point. I don't want to drag this out. I don't want it to be misrepresented that we haven't heard from witnesses.

June 5th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

As of Thursday, it will be 30 hours. I don't know what it was with Bill C-33, which is included in this. I would like the clerk to tell us.

June 5th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Could we just recap?

Although the suggestion is that we haven't studied this, I feel like it's all that I've studied for months and months. Can the clerk confirm that we've had about 30 hours of witnesses? Do you have the number? That doesn't include the next few days of witnesses. It's in addition to that. For Bill C-33, we studied for....

I'm just concerned about it being suggested that we haven't studied this sufficiently. I am happy if there are witnesses who want to come forward soon, but I don't appreciate the comment that we haven't studied this. I feel that we have studied it. We have 30 plus hours already and we have another—

June 5th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Executive Director, Canadian Federation of Students

Justine De Jaegher

Again, we really wanted to emphasize that the elements featured in Bill C-33 are again featured in this bill. We're leaving some of the other areas up to other experts that you'll be speaking to.

June 5th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Executive Director, Canadian Federation of Students

Justine De Jaegher

We're generally supportive of the legislation, including those changes. The one area in which we really can't proclaim to be any kind of expert is more on the cybersecurity pieces. Obviously we're glad that you're speaking to experts in that area.

However, other than that, we're quite happy with this legislation. Again, our concern is primarily with the timing. We feel it's a bit late, unfortunately. We were hoping to see Bill C-33 passed much earlier to make sure that it came into effect before the next election.

June 5th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
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Coty Zachariah National Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students

[Witness speaks in Mohawk]

I was just speaking Mohawk and said, “Hello, everyone.” My name is Coty Zachariah, or “He Speaks in the Wind”. I come from the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation, located near Kingston. I'm also the national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students and represent around 650,000 students across the country at the post-secondary level.

In October 2014, we joined the Council of Canadians in a charter challenge to the voter suppression elements of the so-called Fair Elections Act. Our primary concerns about the act were with regard to prohibiting the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer, or CEO, to authorize the use of the voter information cards as valid ID for voting, and limiting the CEO's authority to carry out voter education and outreach.

Students face additional barriers to voting, notably that students move frequently, often up to twice a year. As a result, common identification cards do not indicate the address that students live at on election day, or their names are not on the voters list in the poll or riding that they live in while they attend school. Moreover, by limiting the CEO's authority to carry out voter education and outreach, students, who are often new voters, are likely to be more confused about the process.

Despite these barriers in the last election, the CFS undertook a massive, non-partisan elections campaign that worked to mobilize students to come out in record numbers to vote. In 2015, 70,000 student voters took part in the democratic process at on-campus polling stations. It led to an expansion of that initial pilot project within Elections Canada. For 18- to 24-year-olds, turnout was 57.1%, compared to 38.8% in 2011. This increase of 18.3 percentage points is the largest increase of voting engagement in any demographic in the country. However, this increase was in spite of the Fair Elections Act and students still faced issues.

To quote the Chief Electoral Officer's post-2015 election retrospective report:

As in the previous two elections, problems with voter identification at the polls were more often related to proof of address. The labour force survey after the 42nd general election asked non-voters why they did not vote. In terms of reasons related to the electoral process, the inability to prove identity or address was the main reason cited ... and was more often cited among those aged 18 to 24.... Based on estimations from the survey, that amounts to approximately 172,700 electors. Among them, some 49,600 (28.7%) said they went to the polling station, but did not vote because they were not able to prove their identity and address. Approximately 39% of that group were aged 18 to 34.

We at CSF find that unacceptable. Students, however, are encouraged to see that Bill C-76 would make substantial reform to the Canada Elections Act, including the amendments formerly set in Bill C-33, and we look forward to seeing it passed.

We are discouraged, however, that these reforms are coming so late. It seems likely that even if Bill C-76 proceeds expeditiously, it would not make it through the Senate and be proclaimed into force until 2019, making it unlikely that Elections Canada could fully implement the bill's reforms before the next general election in October of next year. It seems likely that it is our court case with the Council of Canadians that might result in the necessary reforms around voter suppression being implemented prior to this election, a regretful outcome of a delayed process around Bill C-33 that we would like noted.

We believe student and youth participation in the democratic process is something to be celebrated and not discouraged. We hope that Bill C-76 will promote this principle.

Thank you.

June 5th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Wouldn't that have been great 18 months ago, in Bill C-33?

If you were a government and you said a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, for example, and that they should be allowed to vote, and this was important to you, and you introduced the bill 18 months ago and then did nothing, what are you telling the expat community?

June 5th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

They're only obligated to do that because the government didn't move Bill C-33, which they introduced a year and a half ago. If that bill had been moved a year and a half ago would you still be in court and would we be spending taxpayer money arguing against what the government has said?

June 5th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Professor Henry Milner Associate Fellow, Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal, As an Individual

I was under the misapprehension that I was going to be one of five, but it turned out that the five are the entire morning session, rather than just this hour. That is okay with me, but it means that I haven't prepared an exhaustive critique or analysis of Bill C-76. I'm just going to talk about the things that are of particular interest to me and where I think I can make a contribution.

The first thing is you will see in my presentation that I've done this before. It's nice to come to such a situation and be basically positive, rather than be here to criticize and be negative, which is the more normal situation for people like me. Much of my efforts have been around electoral reform. That experience was slightly less positive, if I may say, than this one will turn out to be, I think.

I think that I was in front of the same committee—although I think it was across the street from Parliament—being critical of the Fair Elections Act for various problems with it that seemed to have been rectified in Bill C-33, which I was happy to see presented way back when. I had assumed that this issue was now going to be resolved, but it turns out it's only now that the process continues. It has been widened, as I don't have to tell you, with a number of other areas.

From my point of view, the crucial aspect is access to make it easier for people to inform themselves. That's my specialization, political knowledge. I've published a great deal about that, including the political knowledge of young people, by comparing different countries, including Canada, and physical access to the voting booth in terms of some of the restrictions that were brought into the Fair Elections Act that have been removed in Bill C-76.

In my own work, my particular concern has been on the political knowledge aspect, so I was very concerned with the Fair Elections Act's efforts to reduce the ability of Elections Canada to provide information, especially to young people, but not only to young people, so they would be more able to participate in an election at the right time. I think that those aspects of Bill C-33 have found their way into Bill C-76, in terms of the role of Elections Canada, in terms of allowing registration before the age, in fact, encouraging young people to register before the age of 18, as well as other aspects, which are not just for young people, but for people with handicaps and so on. I'm very happy to see that.

In terms of what I would like to see added, there's only one aspect that seems to me to be missing. Once one is really looking at the entire electoral process—and I know there was some discussion of it in the consultation process that took place—perhaps regulate the question of leaders debates during the election period. Set up a process that would be standardized, so that people could expect it. I know that's a complicated issue and I certainly don't want to delay the implementation process, but I do think it's missing from a law that tries to be quite comprehensive about the way we run election campaigns.

My other problem wasn't part of the Fair Elections Act, but with the way the last election was run. It was that it was so long. I don't have to remind you that it lasted more than 11 weeks, I think. That was tied to a change—a change which I had something to do with—namely, fixed election dates. I testified before that, especially in the Senate committee, that was responsible for that issue. I have talked about that in other places, including the House of Lords in London.

When fixed election dates were adopted—and the 2015 election took place under fixed election dates—this silly idea of now doubling the time for the campaign was combined with it, which of course made us look bad, those of us who favoured fixed election dates. People were saying now it's a free-for-all, that it lasts forever, and all kinds of money is being spent. I'm glad to see that we're going back to a seven-week campaign like in the Fair Elections Act. That's the one additional factor that I think is very important, and there are some other specific procedures around this that I'm in favour of. I don't have anything particular to say about them.

My real concern is that this happen. We have an election coming up in a year and a half and I'm concerned that the necessary aspects of this law won't be implemented early enough so that they can actually work appropriately. I'm torn between wanting to improve Bill C-76 in any possible way and wanting it to move quickly. Having it move quickly is, I think, in many ways more important, especially the information aspect and so on. We would like to see Elections Canada again able to implement its various information programs.

I have to tell you—and I don't know how many of you are aware of this—that there's a very absurd thing taking place next week in Toronto. I'm not sure how many of you are aware. Probably none of you are aware, but a citizens' group tied to the Canadian Federation of Students.... I think I have it here if you'll just give me a minute. The Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students, and some individuals hired a law firm to contest the Fair Elections Act. I was one of those who wrote affidavits for this contestation, which is only now coming before the Ontario Supreme Court. All of us—there are several of us, though not as many as you'll be hearing from—those of us who opposed the Fair Elections Act, are required now to be cross-examined by government lawyers to defend our criticism of the Fair Elections Act, which, of course, will no longer exist, hopefully, very soon.

I guess the business of Parliament moves slowly. I found it quite strange, but when I was speaking to the law firm that's running all of this, I asked them why they wouldn't just drop it. They said they weren't sure that the new legislation replacing the Fair Elections Act would be implemented in time, so they had to go ahead. This will all be taking place in Toronto next week.

Finally, I want to stress that I am anxious to see this move ahead, so that it will all be in place in time for the next election.

I have to say that one of the reasons I'm a little bit cynical about how this body moves on it with what seems to be happening or should be happening is my experience with the electoral reform. I was one of a great many political science and other experts in this area who came before this body. We were a very large majority of experts who testified in favour of electoral reform, and it seemed that our voices were going to be heard as part of the process, and then, as I don't need to tell you, we know how that came out.

I don't want to be too cynical but I do want to stress the importance of moving forward with this so that this bill will be in place in time to be implemented correctly for the next election.

Thank you very much.

June 4th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Executive Director, Council of Canadians

Andrea Furlong

It would. We're mostly concerned about the timeline.

As you know, Bill C-33 stalled, and now we have Bill C-76. Our timeline is very intentional, because we want this to be provided for the next federal election, and for Elections Canada to be able to have the time. Our understanding is that they need at least six months, so we're going to continue with our court challenge until the bill has reached royal assent.

To answer your question, yes, it would.

Extension of Sitting HoursExtension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise to speak to the motion before the House. Of course, the essence of this motion has to do with the government's treatment of its own business and its capacity to move legislation through the House of Commons. It has certainly been the case in the past that various governments have decided to extend sittings to try to accomplish some of the business they were not able to accomplish throughout the year.

However, I think that my hon. colleague who just spoke and moved an amendment raises an excellent and fair point. His amendment is a good one in addressing one of the issues of equity in the House. We know that it is the job of the Speaker and the House to balance the needs of the minority against the majority. The amendment recognizes the fact that some people in this place have more power by virtue of the number of MPs within the governing party, and that others do not. I think that point is very well taken in the Conservative amendment. It really is just about making sure that in the government's attempt to create more time to pass more bills in the lead-up to summer that the business and the issues that matter to the opposition are given their equal due.

Of course, some members of this House will know, and certainly you, Mr. Speaker, will know, that supply days originated for the airing of grievances before the crown, before Parliament approves funding. That is why they are kind of archaically called “supply days”. We most often refer to them as “opposition days”, but they are an acknowledgement of the importance of non-government members being able to bring forward important issues for consideration by the House as part of the process of the government's hearing those concerns before Parliament grants it the authority to spend money. Supply days are not just some sort of trivial part of the process. They are not just some sort of tangent. They are certainly not a favour that the government grants the opposition and they are not something the government gets to do what it wants with willy-nilly, as it were.

The proposed amendment simply tries to give that equal weight and value to the issues being brought forward by the opposition, as well as to the government. I think that is perfectly reasonable and it is something we will be supporting.

In the absence of having that fair treatment and the right balancing between the needs of the government and the legitimate needs and purposes of opposition members of the House, it does make it really hard to support the main motion, because in that case we would fail to find that right balance, as it would somehow be implied that simply by virtue of the fact that the government is bringing certain issues forward, those issues are more important and more deserving of time in the House when I think the Standing Orders are very clear that the opposition is entitled to a certain proportion of the time in the House to bring forward the issues that matter, not just to it as the opposition but also to many Canadians whose view the opposition brings to this House and who are not represented within the government.

It is a good amendment. It is one that we will support, and I think in the absence of that amendment's going through, it would be very hard to say this is a fair and balanced motion. It is therefore hard to support.

One of the reasons we are in this predicament, of course, is that there is a lot of government legislation that has yet to be passed. One only has to look at the Order Paper and the number of bills on it, with a little bit of an understanding of where some of those bills come from, to know that the government, remarkably, has not been very ambitious with its legislative agenda. There are bills like Bill C-76, for instance, that have just rolled in other bills. While one could point to the bill number and look at all the bills that have been before Parliament, the fact is that a number of them are simply routine appropriation bills having to do with the business of supply. There are also a number of bills on public service labour issues to repeal some of the nefarious legislation of the Harper government with respect to public servants that, for all the announcements and talk about those bills for years now, have not actually gone anywhere.

One bill gets presented, it gets talked about for awhile, and then a new bill gets that does something a little differently gets presented, and that one gets rolled under, and then there is some talk by government at various events about how there is a new bill before the House and so on. For a government that has not brought a considerable amount of legislation before the House, it is somewhat surprising that the Liberals are having to resort to extraordinary measures to try to get more legislation passed before summer.

It is particularly surprising, notwithstanding some of the comments by the government House leader during the closure debate, because the fact is that our party on an important bill with a deadline, Bill C-76, which makes a large number of modifications to the elections regime in Canada, did make a proposal to government via my colleague, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, to move forward with that bill in an expeditious way. By that, I mean not just in a way that allows more members to speak to it, but one that would allow a whole bunch of Canadians in their home communities to speak to the bill and the changes it proposes.

My hon. colleague presented the Minister of Democratic Institutions with a proposal for how to go out across the country, and central to that proposal was ensuring that the bill gets passed by the end of the summer. For the government to say that it sure would be nice if the opposition worked with it, I note that we have been quite willing to work with the government to get legislation passed. When my hon. colleague sent that proposal to the minister, she did not even dignify it with a response. It is hard to hear from the government that it wants to work with opposition members when it does not even bother to respond to proposals by the opposition on how to work together to get a bill passed. It is a bill that has to be passed on a timeline because the government did not act and bring that legislation forward.

Apropos to my point about bills being rolled into each other, Bill C-33 was an act to make a bunch of substantive changes to the Elections Canada Act and other acts that go together in order to, according to the government, improve our elections process. That bill sat on the Order Paper for 18 months and went nowhere. Now we are being told there is a big rush and that we have to get this bill through.

The NDP would like to see that bill passed, but it is a little cheeky of the government to wait so long to bring a bill forward to make those important changes when it knew all along, as did everyone else, that Elections Canada had been very clear about when those changes needed to be introduced and passed by Parliament to be implemented in time for the next election. The Liberals did not meet that deadline and now they are crying foul, saying that opposition parties are being obstructionist despite the fact we sent them a proposal on how to do it more quickly. We wish to goodness that they had just bothered to move it forward 18 months ago when they had a bill on the Order Paper.

None of this is rocket science. There is no black magic here. There is no opposition making unreasonable demands. It is just an opposition disappointed that the Liberals had 18 months to move forward with changes to the elections act after they tabled their own proposals. We wish they had moved forward with them. However, we did not get that opportunity, as we do not say which bills get debated during government orders.

While that was going on and we were not debating Bill C-33, we were debating some bills like Bill C-24, which was a complete and utter waste of time. I will refer members to my comments on Bill C-24. All that bill did was affirm what the government was already doing and what was clearly within its legal mandate to do. If it were not, then the government should tell us, because then it would be an issue of its acting outside its legal mandate and illegally paying ministers of state more. However, it did not seem to be doing that, so presumably we did not need a change in the law.

All the while we debated that bill, the other bill, Bill C-33, was sitting on the table. It could have been taken up and we could have been working on that and meeting the Elections Canada deadline. The government did not need to be in a panic as it is now to get that legislation passed. We could have spent time scrutinizing that legislation and trying to make it better, not just here in Parliament but also by travelling across the country to make sure that Canadians had an opportunity to weigh in on it in their home communities.

However, that was an opportunity they squandered for reasons that remain unclear. I will say that part of it has to do generally with what has become a theme of the government in terms of a serious lack of respect for Parliament. I know the Liberals will say otherwise. We hear a lot about the great respect they have for the work that is done in committees, but let us consider the fact that many committee recommendations are never taken up. We have certainly had instances where committees have amended legislation, only to see the government come in with a heavy hand at report stage and wipe out the amendments that were passed by its own members at committee. That does not make one feel that the Liberals are talking in good faith when they talk about the so-called good work of committees.

Who could forget the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, where the government did not have a majority and a number of parties came together in order to propose a way forward for the government to meet its own election commitment? Who could forget how the Liberals took that work and threw it in the garbage? The day the report was tabled, I remember the minister, with great fanfare, disrespected the work of the committee, because apparently the government thought it would fail and it did not.

Earlier today, we heard the government's own House leader get up and insinuate that concurrence debates were just a waste of time and there was no way an opposition party could move concurrence in a committee report seriously because it actually cared about what the committee said and wanted the House to pronounce on the recommendations of the committee. Of course, that is the whole reason committees do reports and report them back to the House. The current government really does not understand Parliament's place in the system and does not have a lot of respect for it.

I will come back to this theme after private members' business.