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

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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

Dec. 13, 2018 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments
Dec. 13, 2018 Failed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (amendment)
Dec. 13, 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
Oct. 30, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments
Oct. 30, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (recommittal to a committee)
Oct. 29, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Passed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2018 Failed Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (report stage amendment)
Oct. 25, 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
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

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague very closely.

I am privileged to be a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, where we studied Bill C-76, a bill to modernize elections administration by making the electoral process more transparent, accessible and secure. The study took a long time because there was a lot of obstruction.

Although I completely disagree with my colleague opposite, I would like to hear what he has to say about the following facts. From now on, it will be easier for Canadians abroad—be they members of the armed forces, public servants with Global Affairs Canada, or RCMP officers—to participate in the voting process via mail-in ballot. That means one million voters will now have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote, a fundamental right enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would like my colleague to comment on that.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. I do not think she listened to my speech because I did not say anything about that.

Bills to improve legislation often contain good things and other not so good things. In this case, showing respect for those who serve our nation abroad and making it easier for them to vote is a good thing. However, that does not mean that we should be less vigilant when it comes to security, accessibility and transparency.

I agree with my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles that we should make it easier for our workers and representatives abroad to participate in the electoral process. However, I would like her to ask me other questions because I have a lot of things to say.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government has basically failed at everything it has done. When we talk about electoral reform, its approach was a complete failure. The Liberals came in with a set agenda and found out from Canadians that they did not want anything to do with it. The Liberals backed off on that.

With respect to their financial commitments, the government has completely turned its back on the commitments made in 2015. We have talked a lot about the balanced budget over the last few days and how the deficits continue to climb and climb. We can look at the attacks on the small business community over the last year. The government for some reason has decided it does not like small business owners and refers to them as tax cheats. We have looked at the immigration system over the last couple days. The Liberals have lost control of that as well. Taxpayers are spending over $1 billion now because of an inability to control an immigration system that was in good shape when it was turned over to them.

Communities are very upset with respect to firearms. We have carbon tax that will add billions of dollars to the expenses of Canadians. When it comes to bills, legislation has to be fixed again and again. I find it ironic we are speaking to one today that has had so many problems and had numerous amendments. The general perception is that it gives the Liberals an advantage in the next election.

Does the member think we should be discussing this history of incompetence as we close out our final hours in this place? The focus seems to be on the incompetence of the Liberals and their capacity for self-delusion and for trying to manipulate the system so it works for them.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands. I am wondering the same thing. I think that the government is ramming this through. This is yet another example of the amateurism, and I emphasize the word amateurism, of this government, which is always improvising.

As we said, the illegal migrant situation is going to cost $1.1 billion. Yesterday, the government had its chequebook out and was giving out $25,000 for those who are living at the camp at Roxham Road, $10,000 for those who live a little further away, etc. It is unacceptable.

Fortunately, 2019 is just around the corner, and it is an election year. Canadians will finally be able to vote in a responsible government.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we are in a beautiful building that has so much meaning to Canadians from all regions of our country. It is such a privilege to be an elected representative. We know today will be our last sitting day. When I think of some of the institutions we have in Canada, number one on the list for me is the Parliament Building. This is the centre of our democracy. I appreciated the words yesterday from the Prime Minister.

It is significant that we are debating another aspect of democracy on our last sitting day in this beautiful room inside the Parliament Building. It is about democracy and how wonderful Canada is, which I and many others would argue is the best country in the world. We owe it to the individuals who have fought the wars. We owe it to the individuals who have filled this chamber. Most important, we owe it to Canadians from coast to coast who recognize the importance of our democracy, who get out and get engaged, whether they are volunteers, candidates or contributors, whomever they might be.

It is such a touching day that this will be our last day inside this hall. Perhaps I might be afforded an opportunity, depending on my constituents and my family, to give another speech inside this chamber 10 years from now. It is tough to say, but I do look forward to the future.

As this will be the last time I rise this year, I would give my thanks to some special people, including the individuals who record everything that is said. We call them our Hansard people. I also thank the individuals up in the TV room. For those who have never been in the TV room, it is quite the grouping up there. They do a fantastic job in ensuring we all look relatively well in our presentations and in delivering our speeches. My thanks go to the individuals who provide the security of this building and this chamber; to the table officers for the fine work they do in supporting members of Parliament, including you, Mr. Speaker; to the individuals such as our pages who play a very important role for all of us members of Parliament. I expect some speeches are a bit more challenging than others to listen to, but at the end of it, we do appreciate the efforts of the pages. I thank our support staff as well. We have amazing individuals who participate in our House leadership teams, from the ministers and the staff who are there to provide us often the type of speaking notes that are necessary in order to participate and be engaged in the debates.

So many individuals contribute to the functionality of this place. I extend my thanks, and also on behalf of many, if not all, members, and express how much I truly appreciate them.

Having said that, I want to get to the core of the issue. Having listened to the debate so far, there are many things that come to mind. In listening to what members have said, I sometimes wonder whether we are even debating Bill C-76. Someone posed a question as to what the government had actually achieved over the last three years. Others have talked about specific things that have occurred in the last three years. Then there has been some discussion from the Conservatives in regard to Bill C-76, and that is where I would like to start.

A few years back, when I was sitting in opposition, we had Stephen Harper's Fair Elections Act, as the Conservatives called it. In opposition, we called it the “unfair elections act”.

I remember that individuals, stakeholders and Canadians from coast to coast to coast recognized the many flaws in Stephen Harper's attempt to reform our elections. People were greatly discouraged. We made a commitment to make changes to our Canada Elections Act and that is what we are talking about today.

When I reflect on the days we debated it when we were in opposition, there was something in common with today. Back then, those in opposition to the Conservative legislation included the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, political stakeholders and individuals who followed politics from virtually every region of our country. Letters were written, appealing to prime minister Stephen Harper at the time not to move forward on a number of fronts. In its presentations to committee, there was no doubt that Elections Canada felt very frustrated because the government seemed to disregard it. Elections Canada, as an institution, is recognized around the world as an agency that performs exceptionally well when it comes to democracy. The Conservative government had no real respect for Elections Canada.

It is somewhat offensive to hear Conservative members talk about how, through this legislation, we are trying to jig the election in any way whatsoever. It is misinformation and that is something Conservatives are fairly good at, that Conservative spin, and it does not have to be truthful. They continue to spin things even though they are not true. They are often very misleading, and I am being generous when I say “very misleading”.

The legislation before us today is supported by other political entities. It is only the Conservative Party that does not want this legislation to pass. It has gone through first and second reading, it went to committee, it came back at report stage and had third reading in the House. Then it went to the Senate, where it was thoroughly debated again and all sorts of stakeholders made presentations. A relatively minor technical amendment was made and now it is back before the House. The Conservatives, once again, have taken the approach that, without the government applying time allocation, this bill will never see the light of day.

Let there be no doubt that at every stage of the bill in Parliament, the Conservative official opposition, which I would argue is still spearheaded by Stephen Harper himself, at least one would think that, continues to frustrate the House, attempting to ensure that Bill C-76 never sees the light of day. I suggest that is most tragic. Bill C-76 would enhance democracy in Canada. It would enable more people to participate in the democratic process. Ministers, parliamentary secretaries, many members and even some New Democrats have stood in their places and talked about the importance of this legislation becoming the law of the land. The reason is that at the end of the day, it would improve the system.

People who might be following this debate should be aware that if the government did not bring in time allocation on this motion, it would not pass. The Conservatives have no intention of seeing this proposed legislation pass. They talk about this being a historic day and, yes, this is a historic day, as it is the last day we will have debate inside this chamber. However, it is somewhat disingenuous to refer to the government's desire to use time allocation in order to fulfill a commitment to Canadians in making these changes, because the Conservatives do not want to see this bill pass.

We made a commitment in the last federal election to pass this legislation. In fact, there is wide support for it, and for a very good reason. We can take a look at some of the things the bill would do, such as the treatment of expenses related to the provision of care. This would be of great benefit for those individuals with children going through an election where there are spending caps. Under the bill, candidates would be able to have care provided, which would not be applied under the spending cap, and a healthy percentage of that cost would be rebated. This is widely supported in every area for anyone who talks about improving democracy, not only in Canada but in the world.

There are many aspects of this proposed legislation that would make our democratic system better. For example, there is assistance for electors with disabilities, transfer certificates for electors with disabilities, enhanced voting at home opportunities and level access for polling places. The bill would allow for pilot projects to be conducted through the Chief Electoral Officer and refers to costs to accommodate electors with disabilities. There are things within the proposed legislation that would enhance democracy for members of the Canadian Forces. It would revise who is entitled to vote under division 2, again with the idea of enhancing our democracy. It would put new voting integrity measures into place. There are requirements to provide service numbers with respect to the Canadian Forces. There is a lengthy list of actions that would be put into place as a direct result of this proposed legislation.

One of the issues when Stephen Harper brought in electoral reform was the voter identification card. The card was a valuable piece of identification that could be used with other identification in order to enable a person to vote. The Conservatives got rid of that. There was widespread objection to the Conservative government at the time for getting rid of it. Bill C-76 would reinstate it, with the support of organizations such as Elections Canada; many stakeholders; political parties including the Greens, New Democrats, and obviously the Liberals; and others. We are doing that because we recognize the value of enhancing our democratic system.

Bill C-76 is good legislation. I do not understand why the Conservative Party does not support the bill.

I would invite people to listen to what the Conservatives said today in addressing Bill C-76. I would suggest that 50% of the time, or more, they did not focus on the legislation. Rather, they talked about the last three years and they used the words “failure after failure”. Let us talk about the last three years.

One of the very first speeches I gave was on the first piece of legislation our government introduced in this beautiful chamber. We are talking about the last one today. The first one dealt with the tax breaks for Canada's middle class. Not only are the Conservatives voting against Bill C-76, they also voted against that tax break for Canada's middle class.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would be remiss if I were not to point out the fact that perhaps my colleague might have strayed a bit from the relevance of the topic at hand. I would invite him to come back to the topic. Especially since this may or may not be the last speech given in this place for the next 15 years. he might want to make it relevant, and perhaps wish everyone a very merry Christmas.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, people are chewing up my time here. I have a lot to say. This is my last speech this year.

I would ask my friend to talk to the member for Cariboo—Prince George about the issue of relevance on this particular bill, and I do wish her a very merry Christmas.

Conservative after Conservative stood in their place and wanted to talk about what has happened in the last three years. That is what I want to spend my last three minutes on, because there have been lots of wonderful things in the last three years. There was the break for Canada's middle class, and what about that special tax on Canada's wealthiest 1%? That is something the Conservatives voted against.

On many occasions I have talked about the Canada child benefit increase and how that has lifted tens of thousands of children out of poverty. What about the guaranteed income supplement? It has lifted tens of thousands of seniors out of poverty. What about a government that has worked with other governments to achieve agreements, such as a price on pollution? Only the Conservatives, and they brought it up today in their speeches, believe that there should not be a price on pollution, and we still await their plan. What about the agreement between the provinces and territories on the CPP, which will put more money in the pockets of individuals when they start retiring in the years ahead? What about the reduction from age 67 back to 65 to collect OAS? I would also mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in historic investments in Canada's infrastructure that our government has put into place.

Our government has done more in the last three years than Stephen Harper did in 10 years. Our government, by working with Canadians in every region of our country, has generated over 700,000 jobs. We have an economy that is doing far better than most countries within the G7.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments by the Senate to Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments.

That the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments, be now read a second time and concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud to stand in the House once again, and probably for the last time in this specific place, to talk about Bill C-76, the elections modernization act. This is an important piece of legislation that would ensure that Canadians continue to take part in our democratic process.

To begin, I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to all those who have been part of the legislative process thus far. First, I thank the members of the House for the enriching debate that led to some amendments in committee that are making this legislation even stronger. I would also like to thank senators, in particular the sponsor of the bill in the Senate. I particularly appreciate the flexibility they have demonstrated in considering the bill, despite challenging timelines. I would like to thank the members of the legal and constitutional affairs committee for their observations, which shall guide the government in future efforts to amend the Canada Elections Act.

I would also like to thank the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections for supporting parliamentarians through every step of the legislative process. The exemplary dedication shown by their respective teams is fundamental for holding free and fair elections. I want to thank them.

Bill C-76 has now been returned to us with one amendment. This amendment is required because of a drafting error in one of the amendments supported by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We will recall that PROC proposed a new blanket prohibition on the use of foreign funding by third parties for their partisan advertising and activities at any time, including outside the pre-election and election period.

The most effective way to achieve this was to consolidate the relevant provisions into one new division in the Canada Elections Act. In doing so, the concept of election advertising was inadvertently dropped off. “Election advertising” is defined as partisan advertising and advertising on an issue associated with a party or a candidate. This amendment corrects this error and ensures that during the writ period, election advertising, not only partisan advertising, is also captured within the scope of the prohibition on the use of foreign funding.

The amendment proposed by the Senate is essentially a technical one, but it really is important for protecting Canadians from foreign interference in our electoral process. This amendment gives me a chance to remind the members of the House that making the electoral system more secure is one of the key objectives of Bill C-76. The bill contains some important measures for protecting Canada's electoral system from foreign interference, an issue that concerns parliamentarians of all political stripes. It also contains measures aimed at ensuring that anyone who contravenes the Canada Elections Act cannot escape punishment, including more enforcement tools for the commissioner.

Bill C-76 goes further than that. In addition to making our electoral system more secure, it aims to make it more accessible and transparent. It modernizes our electoral law to bring it into the 21st century. Our government maintains that the more Canadians participate in elections, the stronger our democratic institutions will be. This is, quite simply, about the health of our democracy. This is why Bill C-76 contains a series of measures that will reduce many of the barriers Canadians may face when casting a ballot or participating in the broader democratic process.

This includes important changes to ensure that the need to prove identity does not create administrative barriers to Canadians exercising their right to vote, such as reinstating the use of vouching and allowing the use of voter information cards to confirm an elector's place of residence. Statistics Canada estimated that over 170,000 Canadians were unable to cast their ballot in 2015 because of the previous government's decision to make voting less accessible. Voting is a right and it is the responsibility of the government to make voting accessible to as many Canadians as possible. We take that responsibility seriously.

These measures will empower Canadians who previously could not vote to cast their ballot on election day. We are also taking important steps to ensure that our democratic process is accessible, not for some Canadians but all Canadians.

Bill C-76 contains measures to better support electors with disabilities by ensuring that adaptation measures are available, irrespective of the nature of their disability. For example, the option of at-home voting will be available for persons with all types of disabilities. This legislation will also encourage political parties and candidates to accommodate electors with disabilities by creating a financial incentive through reimbursement of expenses related to the accommodating measures.

Bill C-76 will also facilitate the vote for Canadians Armed Forces electors. It will expand the franchise to many Canadians living abroad, and it reinstates a broader public education mandate for the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada.

With this legislation, we are ensuring that every Canadian who has the right to vote will be able to cast their ballot.

The legislative framework governing elections is supposed to put candidates and political parties on a level playing field. This is only possible when we have transparency rules in place. Bill C-76 also makes some noteworthy advances in that regard.

For example, it creates a pre-writ period and establishes spending limits for political parties and third parties during that period. In addition, third parties that are especially active will be required to file interim expenses returns with Elections Canada in the lead-up to election day.

Online platforms will also be required to maintain a registry of partisan and election advertising messages published on the platform during the pre-writ and writ periods.

These requirements will give Canadians access to more information about who is trying to influence their votes.

I would also mention that Bill C-76 takes key steps in modernizing voter services. For instance, it will give the Chief Electoral Officer more flexibility to manage the workflow in polling stations. Over time, these changes should reduce wait times on polling day. Recognizing that Canadian electors have busy lives, Bill C-76 also extends the hours of advance polling days by making them 12-hour days.

This legislation will also limit fixed election date elections to a maximum of 50 days and it will implement a pre-election period to ensure there is transparency around third party spending. There will also be spending limits for election advertising and partisan activity by third parties.

During the pre-writ period, a maximum of $1 million for advertising and activities can be spent and no more than $10,000 per electoral district. During the writ period, a maximum of $500,000 may be spent and no more than $4,000 per electoral district. These limits are set for 2019 and are adjusted for inflation.

I firmly believe that Bill C-76 is good for democracy and good for Canada. It is about strengthening the integrity and increasing the fairness of our elections and protecting them. This bill implements over 85% of the recommendations made by the former Chief Electoral Officer following the 2015 general election.

Canadians need to have a process they can trust and our election laws need to be as robust as possible. As the Minister of Democratic Institutions, I am committed to maintaining and strengthening the trust of Canadians in our democracy.

Bill C-76 will ensure that our democratic institutions are modem, transparent and accessible to all Canadians. As section 3 of the charter reads:

Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

Canadians have the right to cast their ballot and our government is ensuring that they do not face barriers when it comes to exercising their right to vote.

I am incredibly proud of this legislation. There is no right more fundamental than citizens being able to cast their ballots and exercise their right to vote. This legislation is about Canadians, and Canadians can trust that it was drafted and introduced with them in mind.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the minister that all Canadians hold our elections and our democratic traditions in this parliamentary democracy as very important. The right to vote and the promotion of voting are very important, as is this debate in the House. This will likely be the last bill we debate in this historic, original chamber of the House of Commons.

On this bill that is about fair elections and our democratic process and debate, will the Minister of Democratic Institutions undertake not to use time allocation or closure of debate on our fundamental principles of democracy, which are our elections, our Elections Act and Bill C-76? Before we close this chamber, will our Minister of Democratic Institutions renounce the use of time allocation or closure on this bill concerning our democracy?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that there is symbolic importance to our debating elections legislation in this place, which brings all of us here as elected representatives. It is fitting to think about democracy in this place and that when this legislation, hopefully, passes this place and receives royal assent, the next group of members of Parliament will be elected into the House of Commons, not this chamber in particular but the one in the West Block. Integral to this legislation is the fact that it would ensure that every single Canadian would have the ability to cast their ballot in 2019. That is what all of us want to happen. As my hon. colleague mentioned, promoting the right to vote, the ability to vote, and education about voting are what all of us stand for in this place. That is what Bill C-76 would do.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

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

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

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

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

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

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member knows how passionate I am about getting more women elected to this place and about ensuring that we have greater representation of women in Canadian politics at all levels, whether here at the federal level or in provincial or municipal politics.

There are a number of measures in this legislation that would help ensure that women can run for office. We know that many of the barriers women face in terms of getting involved in politics are specifically around nominations. One of the things I am very proud of in the legislation, and it is something that has not been talked about enough, is the proposal to move the reimbursement for child care or other care expenses for family members out of the maximum candidates are allowed to spend and into a separate bucket. What happens now is that if I have to pay child care expenses as a candidate, I have to take that out of the maximum spend I have, and I am at a financial disadvantage compared to a colleague who does not have those care expenses. Under Bill C-76, those care expenses would be reimbursed up to 90%. These are important, tangible measures that would make a real difference.

Of course, we welcome conversation and debate on this issue, and I think it is a lively one we should continue to have. I look forward to the recommendations from the CEO following 2019.

As I have said many times in this place, it is incumbent upon all of us to reach out to women and to under-represented groups to ensure that they see themselves represented in this place and have the courage and the confidence to put their names forward. As all of us in this place know, it requires a lot of courage to put one's name on a ballot, in public, to stand for something. Let us all do that important outreach.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister for bringing Bill C-76 forward. It is a wonderful opportunity for many more Canadians to join when it comes to voting. As the minister and also the member for Durham mentioned, this might be the last time we will be debating the bill and that I will be standing here. I want to thank the constituents of Surrey—Newton for giving me the privilege of sitting in this beautiful and historic House for the third time.

The minister has said that she made many changes to make voting places accessible. What changes in particular did she make to make it easier for people to go to a special ballot and cast their votes? Because it is an ongoing process, are there any further changes she is thinking of bringing in that would help increase participation in our voting system when it comes to elections?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that in Bill C-76 , one of the amendments to the Canada Elections Act would provide the ability to ensure that vouching could occur at advance polls and at regular polls. This is something we heard from Canadians across the country, particularly the most vulnerable Canadians, who may not have the standard pieces of identification that many Canadians have but that not all Canadians have.

When the CEO of Elections Canada was at PROC and at the Senate committee, he talked about vulnerable Canadians and who they may be. With regard to vouching, but more importantly, with regard to the voter information card as a piece used to establish residency, he said that it is often older women who make use of these cards. They may not have a driver's licence or bills that come in the mail in their names. They are often in the husband's name. To be able to use the voter information card in conjunction with another identifying piece that establishes identity means that they can cast a ballot. That is something that is really quite important.

I look forward to the CEO's recommendations following the 2019 election, as I am sure all members in this place do. There will be a review of how this piece of legislation was rolled out and how it enabled Canadians to vote. Of course, if there are further suggestions, our government or the next government will take those under advisement.

What this legislation aims to do is enable Canadians to cast their ballots, regardless of their circumstances in life.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I will just point out on this point of order that the minister has just raised, Mr. Speaker, that if the government really wanted to table these things, perhaps it should not have pushed to end routine proceedings and should have given people an opportunity to table petitions and do other things.

I just want to point out that procedurally, the government forced a vote that eliminated this opportunity, and now the minister is standing up on a point of order to try to do exactly what they all, including the member, voted to eliminate.