Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to take the floor today to continue the debate on Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments, also known as the elections modernization act.
I am speaking on behalf of my constituents in Guelph who are keenly interested in the changes we are putting forward. Guelph has been a centre for electoral fraud in other elections, so they want to see us take the steps necessary to ensure there are fair elections, especially in my riding of Guelph.
I have participated in debates on this bill in other stages in the House and I am very pleased to be able to weigh in after the Senate has had a chance to look at the bill and we are approaching the final periods of debate in this place.
Bill C-76 does many things that would modernize our electoral system, including making it more secure, more transparent and more accessible. The bill builds on recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer following the 42nd general election. It was also informed by the study of his recommendations by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which I was pleased to sit in on for some of those meetings.
It is noteworthy that the bill implements over 85% of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations, and also of note is that the parties were in agreement with our coming forward with what we have in front of us today.
To set the stage for my comments, I would like to quote the former Chief Electoral Officer in his report:
Over the years, amendments to the Act have added new requirements and new rules, with little regard to the overall burden placed on electors, candidates, parties, volunteers and election workers. In the last decade, changes have been made without taking into account the rapidly shifting technological context; we now need to evaluate whether there are better ways to achieve the same results as in the past.
Those words of our former Chief Electoral Officer frame our discussion today. They are a good illustration of the importance of modernizing our electoral process to bring it into the 21st century.
That is why by implementing the recommendations, Bill C-76 would make the electoral process more efficient for all involved while continuing to protect the integrity of our elections. This includes changes that will affect the candidates. I would like to go through some of those measures, which should be of particular interest to the members of the House.
The Chief Electoral Officer indicated that many aspects of the existing nomination process reflect a view of candidacy that is simply out of step with modern approaches. For example, the requirement for a witness to file the nomination documents suggests that the candidate is only reluctantly accepting the nomination. Bill C-76 proposes to modernize the process for prospective candidates.
First, the changes to the Canada Elections Act proposed in Bill C-76 would allow either the candidate or a witness to file nomination papers. This change corrects an anachronism and at the same time respects tradition by allowing the candidate to choose who is best placed to file these important documents. While on the subject of filing the nomination papers, I would also note that Bill C-76 would make the necessary legislative amendments to allow Elections Canada to develop an electronic portal to allow the documents to be filed electronically.
Since all those present in the House have been candidates, we can all appreciate how these changes will facilitate the nomination process and bring it into the 21st century by taking advantage of available technologies.
Another key change in Bill C-76 that would affect candidates is the removal of the $1,000 deposit requirement for prospective candidates. In late October 2017, a court in Alberta held that the candidate nomination deposit was unconstitutional. The government did not appeal the decision and Bill C-76 makes the necessary changes to comply with the decision. This would remove a financial impediment to those participating in the electoral process as candidates. It would align perfectly with a central objective of Bill C-76, namely, to make the electoral process more accessible.
There are other changes affecting candidates that I would like to mention.
There is one relating to the parties' endorsements of candidates. Following Bill C-76, registered political parties will be able to provide Elections Canada with a list of all the candidates they are endorsing during the general election. Previously, parties had to do so individually, in each electoral district for each candidate and with individual returning officers. This is a remnant from a time when the elections administration was highly centralized. There is no reason to allow such a burdensome process to continue in the 21st century. Going forward, returning officers will be able to confirm the endorsement of the candidate in the electoral district simply by looking at a global list provided by the registered political parties. These changes are examples of how Bill C-76 would modernize our electoral process.
Another such example relating to candidates deals identification. I believe that many Canadians would be surprised to learn that while they, as electors, are required to show identification to vote, we, as candidates, are not required to do so for the nomination process. This would change with Bill C-76. Respective candidates would be required to provide proof of identification with their nomination papers. This would not limit their ability to use another name by which they are commonly known, such as a nickname. It only means that if they wished to use a name other than the one that is on their identification, they would need to provide evidence that they are, in fact, known by that name. We believe it is reasonable to ask candidates to provide evidence of their identity as a measure to ensure the integrity of our electoral system.
The last series of changes I would like to note is the amendments that Bill C-76 would bring to the treatment of candidates' expenses during the election period. It is noteworthy that these changes have also been made in response to the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer. Most importantly, changes are being made to the reimbursements of candidates for expenses incurred during the election period for child care or the care of a person with a disability. Following the passage of Bill C-76, these expenses would not be counted towards a candidate's spending limit. The candidate would be allowed to use his or her personal funds to cover these expenses, and they would be reimbursed at 90% instead of the current 60%. We believe this will prove to be an important measure that, once again, would make our elections more accessible to a wider range of candidates, including women and people with disabilities.
During the debates on this important proposed legislation, we talked a lot about the measures related to foreign interference, as in fact mentioned in the previous speech, such as identification requirements for electors and other issues coming from offshore.
I am pleased that the debate today has given me the opportunity to discuss some of the lesser known aspects of the elections modernization act. I think we are heading in the right direction. The Senate has made some good suggestions. The committee was very collaborative and came forward with measures that would really improve our electoral process, including the process relating to candidates.