Elections Modernization Act

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

Sponsor

Karina Gould  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of May 23, 2018

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to establish spending limits for third parties and political parties during a defined period before the election period of a general election held on a day fixed under that Act. It also establishes measures to increase transparency regarding the participation of third parties in the electoral process. Among other things that it does in this regard, the enactment

(a) adds reporting requirements for third parties engaging in partisan activities, partisan advertising, and election surveys to the reporting requirements for third parties engaging in election advertising;

(b) creates an obligation for third parties to open a separate bank account for expenses related to the matters referred to in paragraph (a); and

(c) creates an obligation for political parties and third parties to identify themselves in partisan advertising during the defined period before the election period.

The enactment also amends the Act to implement measures to reduce barriers to participation and increase accessibility. Among other things that it does in this regard, the enactment

(a) establishes a Register of Future Electors in which Canadian citizens 14 to 17 years of age may consent to be included;

(b) broadens the application of accommodation measures to all persons with a disability, irrespective of its nature;

(c) creates a financial incentive for registered parties and candidates to take steps to accommodate persons with a disability during an election period;

(d) amends some of the rules regarding the treatment of candidates’ expenses, including the rules related to childcare expenses, expenses related to the care of a person with a disability and litigation expenses;

(e) amends the rules regarding the treatment of nomination contestants’ and leadership contestants’ litigation expenses and personal expenses;

(f) allows Canadian Forces electors access to several methods of voting, while also adopting measures to ensure the integrity of the vote;

(g) removes limitations on public education and information activities conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer;

(h) removes 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

(i) extends voting hours on advance polling days.

The enactment also amends the Act to modernize voting services, facilitate enforcement and improve various aspects of the administration of elections and of political financing. Among other things that it does in this regard, the enactment

(a) removes the assignment of specific responsibilities set out in the Act to specific election officers by creating a generic category of election officer to whom all those responsibilities may be assigned;

(b) limits election periods to a maximum of 50 days;

(c) removes administrative barriers in order to facilitate the hiring of election officers;

(d) authorizes 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;

(e) removes the prohibition on the Chief Electoral Officer authorizing the notice of confirmation of registration (commonly known as a “voter information card”) as identification;

(f) replaces, in the context of voter identification, the option of attestation for residence with an option of vouching for identity and residence;

(g) removes the requirement for electors’ signatures during advance polls, changes procedures for the closing of advance polls and allows for counting ballots from advance polls one hour before the regular polls close;

(h) replaces the right or obligation to take an oath with a right or obligation to make a solemn declaration, and streamlines the various declarations that electors may have the right or obligation to make under specific circumstances;

(i) relocates the Commissioner of Canada Elections to within the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provides 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;

(j) provides the Commissioner of Canada Elections with the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties for contraventions of provisions of Parts 16,17 and 18 of the Act and certain other provisions of the Act;

(k) provides the Commissioner of Canada Elections with the authority to lay charges;

(l) provides the Commissioner of Canada Elections with the power to apply for a court order requiring testimony or a written return;

(m) clarifies offences relating to

(i) the publishing of false statements,

(ii) participation by non-Canadians in elections, including inducing electors to vote or refrain from voting, and

(iii) impersonation; and

(n) implements a number of measures to harmonize and streamline political financing monitoring and reporting.

The enactment also amends the Act to provide for certain requirements with regard to the protection of personal information for registered parties, eligible parties and political parties that are applying to become registered parties, including the obligation for the party to adopt a policy for the protection of personal information and to publish it on its Internet site.

The enactment also amends the Parliament of Canada Act to prevent the calling of a by-election when a vacancy in the House of Commons occurs within nine months before the day fixed for a general election under the Canada Elections Act.

It also amends the Public Service Employment Act to clarify that the maximum period of employment of casual workers in the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer — 165 working days in one calendar year — applies to those who are appointed by the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Finally, the enactment contains transitional provisions, makes consequential amendments to other Acts and repeals the Special Voting Rules.

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.

Votes

May 23, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments
May 23, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (reasoned amendment)
May 23, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, here we are and this is the situation. The government has brought forward changes to our electoral law, the law that governs the way the House of Commons is made up, the way that Canadians have an opportunity to have a say on who sits here and represents them here. I do not know of any legislation that could be more significant, but after one hour of debate, the government moved notice of time allocation.

I remember a few years ago when the Liberal member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame brought forward a motion that would amend some Standing Orders of the House of Commons. One of them was a standing order that dealt with time allocation. It was to change it so that no motion pursuant to that standing order could be moved if it dealt with the Canada Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act. It also went on to amend the standing order around closure as well to make sure that closure would not be used for the Canada Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act.

A number of members of the Liberal Party made comments then, a couple of which I will share. The member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame said:

If we are actually debating on second reading, third reading, or reports stage any changes to the Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act, time allocation and closure need not apply.....

He continued:

[I]f we are making changes to the way Canadians express their opinions by the fundamental right of democracy.... I hope every member of this House will agree with us that closure and, specifically, time allocation would be set aside because of something of this importance.

I also remember the member for Winnipeg North saying:

We now have the government bringing in time allocation on a bill that deals with Elections Canada.... We need to debate this legislation.

The hon. member for Malpeque said:

It has to be noted that in terms of this motion today that we are only dealing with the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act. What more important business could Parliament have than with those particular acts, which are the underpinnings of our democracy?

We need to ensure, at least on those particular pieces of legislation, that a slight majority government in Canada cannot impose its will in this place. It is one of the flaws in our democracy.

I wonder does the Liberal government members still believe those words they made back then.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Madam Speaker, I am glad to be working with my hon. colleague yet again. There is one point he made that I think is incredibly important. I agree that this incredibly important legislation, which is why I am pleased to be here today to work with members on both sides of the House to get the bill to committee so that the committee can do the important work that needs to be done, to ask those questions of witnesses and experts to ensure that we get this legislation right.

More than half of what is in this legislation has already been studied by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. It has already been agreed to by the committee. It is based on recommendations made by the former CEO of Elections Canada, which were agreed to by the procedure and House affairs committee. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with them to bring this legislation forward so that we can do good things for democracy, good things for Canadians, and ensure that we expand the franchise to as many Canadians as we can who have the inherent right to vote.

I look forward to working with my colleague from Banff—Airdrie, who is vice-chair of that committee, and with members on both sides of the House so that we can get this done and improve elections legislation here in Canada.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, so that Canadians can understand what is going on here, the Liberals have proposed what they call “generational changes” to our election laws, a whole sweeping 350-page omnibus bill. In the last Parliament, Liberals moved a motion that when it comes to election bills, Parliament should never force them through with the use of time allocation as the previous government did.

Liberal members from Toronto—St. Paul's, Charlottetown, Cape Breton—Canso, Saint-Laurent, Charlotteville, Bourassa, Malpeque, Sydney—Victoria, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, Wascana, Labrador, Winnipeg North, Beauséjour, Cardigan, Scarborough—Guildwood, Vancouver Quadra, Halifax West, Lac-Saint-Louis, Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, and the Prime Minister himself voted that Parliament should never change our election laws if the government uses the procedure of time allocation to shut down debate in Parliament.

This is exactly what the Liberals are doing now. I am confused by what the minister just said, because today we gave the Liberal government a proposal that would have avoided this. It would have allowed proper study at committee and allowed Canadians to have their say on a bill that belongs to them, not to her or her government. The Liberals did not even have the decency to respond to the proposal. We suggested the number of hours at committee, the tour that we could do across the country, the study at committee, and the passage of the bill in time for Elections Canada to do its work on behalf of all Canadians. What did the Liberals do? They said nothing and then moved time allocation, which they promised in the last campaign not to do.

If this is not hypocrisy, I do not know what is. The Liberals promised not to do this; they all campaigned on not doing this. My friend did not campaign in the last election by saying that she would do exactly what Stephen Harper did. She did not campaign by saying that when it were to their benefit, they would shut down debate in Parliament. It is not for them to decide. These laws do not belong to the Government of Canada; they belong to all Canadians.

Let Parliament do its job. Pick up our proposal, say yes, say no, say something, and let us get to work on behalf of all Canadians.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, that is exactly what I want us to do. Let us get to work on this legislation and send it to committee so we can do the work that Canadians sent us here to do. In fact, the committee has done great work already, which is evident in this legislation. I have had great working opportunities with the member's colleague from Hamilton Centre, who put a lot of work into this on behalf of the New Democratic Party on the recommendations that were put forward. More than 30 hours were spent at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs studying more than half of what is in this legislation. Over 85% of the recommendations from the CEO of Elections Canada are contained in this legislation. This is good legislation that I look forward to debating and having questions asked about it at committee, and to being there and testifying on behalf of the government to what is good about this legislation.

Furthermore, we absolutely are here to to make sure that we make changes to the previous unfair elections act so that Canadians have the right to vote. That is exactly what we are doing. I know that the members want to get this done and to work together. Therefore, let us work together to send this to committee to make sure we have witnesses, we hear the testimony needed, and that we get this done in time for the next election.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, there is a lot of dialogue currently going on here, and we have an NDP member who is very concerned. I am watching the member for Winnipeg North, and we have pages and pages of quotes of him where he is being extremely hypocritical. Let me just read this simple quote, and maybe the democratic institutions minister can explain to me how all of a sudden, when they switch from that end to over there, the government members forget everything they ever said before. This is something that was said back on June 5: “The government has invoked time allocation on this important budget bill, thereby limiting the amount of time members of Parliament will have to speak to it.”

Could my colleague explain why the Liberal majority today are using mechanisms to pass laws that not only abuse the rules but are also not in the best interest of Canadians? The minister is saying that they are going to take it from here, where there are 338 members of Parliament who get to debate legislation and be the voice of their constituents, down to a level where—being a chair—I recognize that 10 people are going to make the choices for all Canadians. Is that the right thing to do, and can she explain why this is not extremely hypocritical of the government?

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, Canadians have seen pages and pages of why we need to change the so-called Fair Elections Act the previous government brought in. In fact, there were five sections dedicated in The Globe and Mail to begging the previous government not to bring forth that legislation. The former CEO of Elections Canada stated that he could not support something that disenfranchised so many Canadians. That is exactly why we need to work together to ensure that we are increasing democracy and Canadians' ability to vote, because it is their right in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is exactly why we are working here in the House on behalf of Canadians, to ensure that we can continue to further democracy.

Furthermore, there have been over 30 hours of debate and discussions in the procedure and House affairs committee. This is the fourth day of debate in the House. Let us get it to committee. Let us continue to work hard on this, and let us make sure we do what is right for Canadians.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, have there been four days of debate? Is the minister kidding the House? I cannot believe what I just heard from the minister. Thursday, May 10 had the sitting hours of a Wednesday, and then we had a Friday May 11. Yesterday was the only full day. Today is a Wednesday, so we will be lucky if we get an hour this afternoon to debate the bill. I just cannot understand the gall of the Liberals. The Liberals before 2015 and the Liberals now are just completely different stories.

I am sick of the Liberals blaming the opposition for their delays, when they let Bill C-33 languish at first reading for 18 months. They dumped this bill in the House of Commons on April 30 and then expect us to wear the blame for their delays. Will the minister please explain to the House why she delayed this, when the Liberals control the procedure and House affairs committee and have a clear majority in the House. Here, at the 11th hour, she is dumping the blame on the opposition for her government's fault.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, as I have said, over 50% of the bill has already been studied and agreed to by the procedure and House affairs committee. Over 30 hours was dedicated to much of what is in the bill. Furthermore, the majority of its contents is stuff that was recommended by the previous CEO of Elections Canada, which administers elections on behalf of Canadians and ensures that we have integrity in our electoral system.

We are absolutely committed to ensuring that we have the necessary debate, but let us get this to committee so we can ask those questions there and so all members of the House can have an opportunity to pose questions to me, to the CEO of Elections Canada, to officials, experts, and witnesses to make sure that we get this right. I look forward to hearing those reasonable, interesting, and exciting amendments to see how we can do what is best for Canadians before 2019.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Québec debout

Luc Thériault Québec debout Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, when this government first took office, it promised to reform the Canada Elections Act. However, what we have here are amendments that seek to modernize the act but that really only make minor changes to it.

The minister said that the bill covers 85% of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations, but the real problem with this bill is what is being left out.

During our debates and hearings on the so-called electoral reform that the government promised to make, a renowned and respected former chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, said that, in the interest of fairness, the government should immediately reinstate the per-vote subsidy.

The government claims to want to do things differently, so why then is that not included in the minister's bill?

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, let us see what is in the bill. We are strengthening the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. That is very important because it allows us to safeguard the integrity of elections in Canada. There are situations that call for more powers, and that is covered by this bill.

We are returning the ability of Canadians to vouch to establish their residency and to establish their identity. This is incredibly important. We know that Statistics Canada said there were 150,000 Canadians who were unable to vote in the last election because the Conservatives took that right away from them. We are looking at expanding the franchise to voters living abroad. We are also looking at ensuring that young people are engaged early on, establishing a youth voter registry for ages 14 to 17, so that they can be on the electoral list when they turn 18 and have that right to vote.

There is so much in this legislation that is good for democracy and good for Canadians. Let us work together, let us get this to committee, let us do the proper study, and let us get this in place for 2019.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, a number of times in question period our leader has stood up and asked a very specific question about some pieces of this legislation. He was never given a clear answer, so I do not think it is acceptable to say that we will go to committee and get clear answers.

It is clear that the Liberals are trying to rig this bill in their favour, and they are rushing it through and hoping Canadians do not notice. I would like the minister to stand up and tell us how they can possibly justify rigging an elections act in their favour and have ministers able to go out and do pre-writ spending instead of having the same kind of rules for the government as we do for the opposition.

Please stand up and tell us why you have not been able to give a clear answer on that issue and why you are rigging this bill to suit the Liberal Party of Canada.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I think the member is confused because she is recalling Bill C-23 from the previous government. That is what happened when the Conservatives tried to rig the election in their favour. This bill is precisely trying to fix those abhorrent changes that were put forward with regard to democracy and to specifically ensure that we re-establish its integrity.

In the previous response I mentioned returning power to the commissioner of Elections Canada to compel testimony and lay charges, precisely because there were some members on the other side of the aisle who ended up in jail for their transgressions. Therefore, we are empowering the commissioner of Elections Canada to make sure he has the tools necessary to enforce the law and also to ensure that the law is strengthened so that we can uphold democracy here in this country.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the minister for this piece of legislation, which I think has at its heart the inclusion of all Canadians in our democratic process.

I have been listening to this debate over the last little while, and in particular yesterday, when individuals in the opposition were talking about how the voter information cards were fraught with error and how there would be fraudulent occurrences happening. Professors at Carleton University have said that there is very little evidence that there will be fraudulent or double voting. We have the Chief Electoral Officer saying that very rarely does it lead to criminal prosecution. Professors at the University of British Columbia are saying that it is blatantly manipulative to say that using those information cards will lead to increased voter fraud.

Therefore, I wonder if the minister could please speak to how this piece of legislation allows more Canadians who have often felt disenfranchised to now become included in our electoral system.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionElections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I think it is incredibly important, when we are looking at this legislation, to look at the importance of the return of vouching and the return of the voter identification card. In fact, yesterday the acting Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, said at committee that one of the important things is that sometimes individuals living in households as couples do not have any identification that establishes their residency and that they can use a voter information card to establish residency along with their identification. This is particularly important, for example, for elderly women whose bills may not come in their name. It is important to ensure that they have the ability and the right to vote.

Furthermore, with regard to accessibility, for the first time we are putting forward the idea of an incentive for political parties and candidates to receive a reimbursement when it comes to providing accessible material. We heard of several issues from Elections Canada's disability committee with regard to voting and the polls. Seven of those eight recommendations are in this proposed legislation.

We look forward to hearing more about this, asking those tough questions at committee, and talking about this further.