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.