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 12th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was about to say the same thing.

I totally agree. One cannot have one's cake and eat it too, but that is what the government is trying to do today. I do not think that is fair. It should not have moved on to government orders if it wanted to table that kind of thing.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-76. I have talked about this bill a few times already, and I hope this will be the last. If I have to speak to this bill, this is what I will say.

If the bill were truly about democracy, it has failed. If the bill were truly about the Prime Minister rigging the election for the benefit of the Liberal government, then mission accomplished. With that, I will go on to explain how, in our view, as the official opposition, Bill C-76 would fail, in so many ways, to achieve the democratic purposes the government claims it would.

First are the spending limits during the pre-writ period. Historically, of course, these were very different from what was first proposed in Bill C-76. The bill proposed specific limits in regard to not only third parties but also registered parties. In the original format of the bill, it would only take four third parties to outspend a registered party. Through the graciousness of my colleagues, as well as through negotiations, we were able to get this up to $2 million, which we on this side do not necessarily believe is fair. However, it is certainly an improvement over what it was previously, which was $1.5 million. Essentially, by setting these limits, the bill would be gagging Canadians by not giving them different parties with opportunities to present themselves to Canadians with the information required for them to make informed decisions. That is what the government has tried to do with the elections modernization act.

In addition to rigging the election for the Liberals, the bill would attempt to undo everything that was done within the Fair Elections Act, which some members refer to as the unfair elections act, which is so very funny. There are many other things, in addition to these spending limits, that attempt to achieve democracy but would not.

Second is the attempt to curtail foreign interference. As I have stated in previous speeches, the measures that would be put in place under the bill would essentially be a slap on the wrist. In fact, it is well known that we offered 200 amendments in an attempt to serve the Canadian public and democracy, but fewer than a handful were accepted. Some were in regard to the attempt to keep foreign interference out of Canadian elections. In fact, we are not seeing that this would happen as a result of Bill C-76. Not only would it just give a slap on the wrist, it would not legislate the mechanics that would be necessary to ensure that foreign interference did not take place.

It is interesting that when the issue of foreign interference was on the other side of the House, there was not a lot said about it after the last election. However, the tide has turned. All of a sudden, we are seeing the effectiveness of these third party groups. These things now become very interesting.

The third reason that Bill C-76 would fail to protect the Canadian public is with regard to foreign influence. This is very alarming on our side of the House. We are very aware of the interventions that we saw, not only in the United States in their most recent election, but also with Brexit.

I will not go into the suggested protocol to be applied during the election, which we also believe should be extended perhaps to the pre-writ period, and extended indefinitely. We are not convinced that it is a protocol that will serve Canadians.

Putting the protocol aside for a moment, foreign influence was absolutely ignored in this bill, and it is very concerning for us on this side of the House.

The greatest concerns for us include the use of voter cards as proof of residency. We are very committed to ensuring the legitimacy of the electorate. That is a Conservative value that we will not forgo. We feel very confident that the use of voter cards does not ensure that.

In addition, in terms of preserving the legitimacy of the electorate, we are very concerned about the non-residency requirements that were withdrawn.

The vouch to return to Canada and the five-year leave requirements were withdrawn. As a result, we are very concerned about the government's safeguard for the legitimacy of the electorate, which is the most important thing of all.

Ensuring that we have safe and fair elections for Canadians is the obligation of the government. We take our role in pointing this out to the government, as the official opposition, very seriously.

This is coming back here. This bill went to the Senate and our Conservative colleagues in the Senate, who are truly Conservative, who do not wear the veil of independent senators, proposed four amendments to the bill on Monday. We are very proud of our Conservative senators. All four amendments were unfortunately defeated, unsurprisingly.

Here we are again, bringing back this piece of legislation that fails Canadians, fails democracy and fails the Canadian electorate. This really is not a big surprise, considering that the government is also putting forward the debate commission to not only rig the election in its favour, but to rig the leadership debate process in its favour as well.

We certainly cannot overlook the Liberal government's attempt to buy the media for close to $600 million.

We simply cannot overlook all of these things.

It is with much regret that we come to have the final debate on this bill. We think it is a travesty for democracy in Canada. Frankly, it is no different than what has been par for the course with the Liberal government. Between the pre-writ spending, the true lack of commitment to foreign influence, the use of voter cards and the taking away of the non-residency rules, it is really not surprising for us that this piece of legislation would be pushed through prior to the upcoming election in 2019, and that democracy would not be served.

As I said, if this bill was truly about democracy, it fails. If this was about the Prime Minister rigging the election for his Liberal government, then it is mission accomplished.

With that, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“the order for the consideration of the amendments 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 discharged and the Bill withdrawn”.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, in normal speak, we would probably call this a hoist amendment. On this side of the House, we call the hoist amendment part of the 2015 election. One of the reasons why we hoisted the Conservatives was the fact that the Fair Elections Act of 2014 was such an egregious mess. In many cases, it was really an insult to section 3 of the charter, the right of all Canadians above the age of 18 to vote.

One of the issues the member spoke of was with respect to the voter information card. How we draw logic that allowing people to use their voter identification card as a piece of ID is a regressive measure in democracy defies all logic.

I remember when a certain Conservative member from Mississauga said that he saw an actual abuse of the voter information card, only to find out he made it up. It was all make-believe. It was like this once upon a time a voter information card was abused. The whole thing was an absolute shambles from when it started until the very end.

If the Conservatives want to brag about the 2014 Fair Elections Act, or the unfair elections act, depending on what side of the House one is on, and if this bill does not go far enough to cut down on foreign intervention or interference in our elections, why did they not do something about in 2014?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, we did do a lot for democracy in the Fair Elections Act. In addition to the voter information cards, we also had the non-residency requirements in regard to both the vouching to return to Canada as well as the amount of time spent outside of Canada.

The idea that Bill C-76 does more to protect the integrity of the electorate, which is the key issue here, is absolutely preposterous. It is ridiculous. There is no comparison. We attempted, through close to 200 amendments, to make these inserts that would do a better job of providing legitimacy to the electorate.

In my opinion, with respect to this specific issue, the Fair Elections Act was a far superior piece of legislation when it came to this objective. I would suggest that my colleague perhaps review the Fair Elections Act and in particular the parts related to legitimacy of the electorate.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the conversation was about the potential for voter fraud, which should occupy all of us. When people go to vote, they must be able to trust the results, although they may not like the results under the unfair voting system that Canada maintains, despite the rest of the world evolving and despite the Prime Minister promising to make every vote count and make 2015 the last election under first past the post. Therefore, when my Liberal colleague talks about a commitment falling into shambles, we know of what he speaks.

It was suggested by my Conservative colleagues that by using voter ID cards, that somehow they were being used to manipulate or vote fraudulently. This was the whole inspiration of their election act, which some called the Fair Elections Act, and those who did not like it, such as myself and my party, called the unfair election act, We asked the Chief Electoral Officer for proof of that. He came back to us and said that in the last election, or in the election before, there was no evidence of significant voter fraud under any condition, certainly not by using the voter ID card, which every Canadian is sent.

Therefore, while there have been discrepancies on the cards themselves, some small pieces of misinformation or information that gets corrected at the poll, the Conservatives continue to spread the idea that people are defrauding the voting system and voting illegally, which is unfair and not wise to the conversation.

This bill brings back the use of those voter ID cards. Is it not our hope and inspiration to ensure that as many Canadians who are entitled to vote are able to cast that vote in the next election and the elections that follow?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I very much disagree with my colleague, not necessarily on the legitimacy of the voter card, but perhaps their disorganized distribution. There are many stories of cards ending up in the mail rooms of apartment buildings for people to grab at will and to obtain another piece of identification very easily through non-governmental means to use in voting. I think the concern regarding the use of these cards is not only well-founded but legitimate.

What stood out more to me was my colleague's first point about the broken promises of the Liberal government. I can see here that he and his party feel this was a major promise broken by the Liberal government. He was disappointed enough by it that he spoke about it here today on our final day in the Centre Block. Certainly, on this side of the House, we feel, just as Canadians do, there has been a slew of broken promises by the Liberal government. This example, sadly, just outlines another broken promise.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I think concerns us in the official opposition is the impact of foreign influence on our elections. The Prime Minister said there was not much foreign influence or tampering in the last election. He did not go on to indicate exactly what he meant by that. We are still waiting to hear an answer on that.

At committee, among the many thoughtful and reasoned amendments put forward by the opposition parties was an amendment requiring a third party to have a segregated bank account. It was recommended by Dr. Lori Turnbull, a former adviser to the democratic institutions portfolio within PCO. She suggested having a segregated bank account to ensure that every dime going into it would be from domestic sources, with zero possibility of foreign influence finding its way into those bank accounts. That suggestion was rejected by the Liberal majority.

What does the member for Calgary Midnapore think about the rejection by the Liberal Party of that thoughtful, reasonable amendment by an eminent scholar in this field, Dr. Lori Turnbull?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of thoughts in regard to this.

First of all, it is as I said. If there were truly a commitment to democracy and to ensuring there is no foreign interference in elections, the measures recommended by experts in the field would have been taken into consideration and implemented in this bill. Quite frankly, they were not. That is just one example of the mechanisms that could have been implemented in Bill C-76 to absolutely make certain that foreign interference does not occur within our electoral process.

My second thought is this. Heaven forbid should something major happen in the 2019 election, given the lack of commitment to negating foreign interference, in addition to the weak protocol that I see being put forward in regard to possible foreign interference, our electoral system and possibly the election itself would be in grave trouble.

My thanks to my colleague for bringing this not only to my attention but also to the attention of Canadians.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure this evening to rise in this place, which has been referred to much over the last couple of days. As we all know, in just a few short days, members of Parliament will be returning to their constituencies and homes for the holidays and this place will be shut down for some number of years. We were told it will be for 10 or 12 years, but in Ottawa speak, we are guessing more like 15 or 20, which is probably fair. My kids will be in their mid or late twenties the next time we are in this place.

I reflect on the fact that we are dealing with an elections bill. It is kind of appropriate that this place, for the last 100 years, is the place where representatives of Canadians from every corner of the country have engaged, two and a half sword lengths from each other, in debate on the issues of the day. The reason we are able to do that is based on our electoral system. The legitimacy we all have to stand in this place is only based on one thing, and that is the support of the people in our ridings in the various parts of the country.

It is fitting that we are debating an election bill, the last bill debated in this room, this hallowed ground. It is a bit ironic that the bill has been put under what we call time allocation, which means the government is imposing its will on the legislation, shutting off debate on our democracy and how democracy will be affected. This is also passing ironic because when the Conservatives did it when they were in power, the Liberals raged about such a mistreatment of our parliamentary democracy, that they would shut down the voice of Parliament in order to ram a bill through. A couple of years later, the Liberals are doing the same thing. Why the rush? It is because they took so long to bring the bill forward.

I say with all clarity of voice and vision that Liberals were elected, promising to undo what the Harper government had done to our election system, to make consequential changes. They introduced a bill about a year into their term in office to do it and then did nothing. They sat on the bill for hundreds of days. It sat there, with no debate, no discussion, nothing. It kind of felt like they had no sense of urgency to fix our democracy. The Prime Minister had said that one of his most urgent priorities was to fix the problems the previous prime minister had created. We agreed with him and we kept asking him where the bill was.

The Liberals did nothing with it. Then they introduced this bill a few hundred days after that. It was 748 days in total that we had been waiting on it before they brought it forward. That is 226 days past the deadline that Elections Canada had set. It told the Parliament of Canada that it ran the elections and that it needed any rule changes by a specific date. That was 226 days ago. A bunch of things in Bill C-76, if passed in Parliament, as it is likely to do in a day or two, will not happen for our next election. Those fixes will not happen and not because of anything the opposition did. The government sat for so long on the legislation because it had other priorities.

There is something not known about this entire building, Centre Block and the House of Commons. When the original architects put this building together, they intentionally left it unfinished. If we go through the halls and look at the masonry and architecture, we will see blank spaces, spaces that have not yet been affected by art or any description. When asked why they did not finish the building entirely, they said that the building was meant to represent democracy in Canada, which was a conversation and that conversation was not finished.

For many Canadians, too many Canadians, that conversation has hardly yet begun, particularly for indigenous peoples who have been waiting more than 150 years for some sort of comprehension and understanding from the Crown and this place as to how to properly respect and engage in what we call nation-to-nation dialogue. It is unfinished business.

We often speak of standing on unceded territory, land that has not yet been ceded to Canada, to the Crown. For us to fully and completely become ourselves, it is not just going to be a renovation of a building. It is going to take meaningful, structural change, power sharing change, where the Government of Canada no longer acts like some sort of paternalistic entity in the lives of indigenous peoples, but as a conversation of mutuality and respect, which has for so long been lacking.

Let me get back to the bill, which is hundreds of pages long and so badly written. Three hundred and thirty-eight amendments were drafted by government and opposition members. That is an extraordinary number of fixes to a bill that the government took three years to write. The bill may be vast in its comprehension but it is kind of simple in its effort, which is to make voting fair and open to all Canadians.

A couple of opportunities were sorely missed. Our former colleague Kennedy Stewart had quite an ingenious bill. He is a smart guy. He is now the mayor of Vancouver. Smart people in that city elected him mayor. When he looked around the world at democracy, he wondered which countries do well in terms of having their Parliament reflect the population. One clear indicator would be the kind of gender balance in a parliament, and which parliaments are good at it and which are bad at it.

Canadians might live under the misapprehension that, because we have a self-described feminist Prime Minister, this Parliament itself must also have some sort of gender balance. Lo and behold, we do not. Seventy-six per cent of the people in this place look like me, male, mostly white, and 24% are women.

One might ask what it was like under Harper. It was almost exactly the same. I think there was a 1% change from one administration to the next. That might be shocking to Canadians, because the government seems to have changed so much, but in terms of the gender balance of this place, it did not change at all, really. Why not? Because the same rules exist.

Our friend looked around the world, at Ireland, Norway and the Scandinavian countries, and found the number one way to do it, and the Liberals know because we had all this evidence at committee, is to have a fair voting system.

A proportional voting system tends to elect more women and under-represented groups. Our feminist Prime Minister looked at that, made the promise to change the voting system, realized that it might not work out so well for the Liberals, and then quashed the promise, even though it would have brought more women and more equity-seeking groups into Parliament. A choice between country and party, and the Liberal Prime Minister chose party.

He killed that promise, much to the disappointment of many Canadians because it had been repeated 1,800 times. I actually believed him. I might be a little on the gullible side. I thought, when I saw a leader of a party who sought to be prime minister repeat a promise clear as day 1,800 times, that he was not going to back out of that one, because that would make him a liar.

Suddenly, lo and behold, he decided one day that he did not want to do it anymore because he did not like it. Committee heard testimony from average, ordinary Canadians. Eighty-eight per cent said they wanted a proportional voting system. Of the experts who testified in front of committee, 90% said Canada needed to move towards a fairer voting system. All the studies, the 14 national studies from the law commission to all the provinces that have studied this, concluded that Canada needed to move towards a proportional voting system where every vote counts.

I do not know about my colleagues, but one of the number one reasons I hear on the doorstep when someone says they do not want to vote is “My vote does not matter. I vote for a party in my riding that does not stand a chance, so what is the point? I voted in 10 elections and I have never voted for somebody who held office.”

In the last election, a little over half of all the votes cast in Canada elected nobody. The experience of more than half of the electors who went to the polls to cast their vote, which is an expression of hope for the future, was that their vote was not realized in any kind of meaningful way. The Liberals do not want a fair voting system because it did not work out for them.

We then look to this idea from our friend Kennedy Stewart, who says Ireland has a really novel thing going. When political parties in Ireland spend money in elections, they actually get a reimbursement from taxpayers. This is very generous to the political parties. How about we tie that reimbursement back to how well-balanced each of the parties' list of candidates is? As the Prime Minister said in 2015, it is 2015. The closer a party gets to fielding candidates for office who actually look like the country we seek to represent, the closer it gets to 100% of the reimbursement back from taxpayers. The further away they get from that parity, the less money they get, because money seems to be a motivation for political parties. Who knew?

In Ireland, what were the results when it made this one change? The number of candidates from diversity-seeking groups and from women increased by 90% across the political spectrum. The number of people who were elected into the Dáil, the legislature, increased by 40%. Again, remember, from the Harper government to the new Liberal government, we changed 1%. This one change brought in 40% better representation, more fair representation of what the country is.

My bet is this. If we had 75% women in Parliament, we would already have affordable child care in this country. If we had 75% women in Parliament, we would already have pay equity legislation in this country. We know it matters who stands for office and gains the seats in this place in terms of what kind of policies we push. For so many generations, women and other diversity-seeking groups have been standing on the outside pleading with the powers that be rather than being on the inside.

Daughters of the Vote was here. Does everyone remember the moment when 338 young women from each of the ridings were here? One woman stood and asked the Prime Minister a question, and she said that she would like to see proportional representation brought in as a voting system because we know it works. The Prime Minister said no, that when we ask a man to run he says yes and when we ask a woman to run she asks why her. It kind of felt like victim blaming a bit, like it is women's fault for not having enough courage and confidence to take on the challenge of electoral politics, like women do not have enough courage and confidence to tackle some of those difficult things that face families in communities right across this country. I felt it was a bit insulting. This young woman shot back, which I think was really great, that at the current pace, Parliament would be gender-balanced in 86 years, and that she did not want to wait that long. It was nice to see a young woman put the Prime Minister of Canada properly in his place.

Another important element we have to address, because it is happening around the world as we speak, is the element of our elections being fair, outside of foreign influence. My Conservative colleagues talked about this. The evidence we heard at committee was overwhelming about the vulnerability of our political system to foreign interference, particularly through hacking of the parties' databases.

What is in the parties' databases? An incredibly rich amount of information about individualized voters. Not just their age and where they live, but their voting preference, their income and their opinions on major issues. Parties seek to collect all this information about voters. All the parties do it. The Liberal Party bragged about it out of the last election as the key element of its win. It had the best data. It was able to mine data from the social media environment better than anybody else. When people clicked something on Facebook, “liked” that cat photo, the data might have been grabbed by the Liberal Party.

Who did the Liberals hire? What was the name of the company they put on contract? Cambridge Analytica. That is right. The Liberals gave Cambridge Analytica a $100,000 contract, which we still have not been able to figure out. What else is Cambridge Analytica involved in? Brexit, right. These were the guys who were able to use backdoor technology to mine data illegally from Facebook, Twitter and other social media norms, grab people's preferences, opinions and personal information without them knowing about it.

One of the changes asked for at committee by the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner, the head of our secret service—the spies are saying this is a problem—was that political parties had to fall under privacy law. Now, let us be fully transparent here. Two years ago, my party, the New Democratic Party, was opposed to this. To fall under privacy law would mean we would have to be able to give Canadians the power to demand of us what information we had collected on them, give it back to them and forget them if they wanted us to. Political parties do not want to do that.

However, slowly and surely, with evidence building, we saw the light and we now agree with this. We had all three major political parties at committee. The Conservatives said that they would follow whatever law was in place. The Liberals said that no way until Sunday they wanted to do this. Why?

I will read a quote that should chill some of my Liberal colleagues, ”We judge that it is highly probable that cyber threat activity against democratic processes worldwide will increase in quantity and sophistication over the next year,” particularly affecting Canada. This was said by the head of our Communications and Security Establishment. That is the spy agency that the Minister of Democratic Institutions commissioned a study for, to see what the security threat on our democracy is right now. He studied it and he said the threat is real because all it takes is a foreign government, a foreign entity, to hack into the Liberal, Conservative or NDP databases and then be able to manipulate elections as was done in Brexit.

My friend from Winnipeg smiles at the memory. I wonder how people in England would feel knowing that important vote they had on whether to stay in Europe or leave it was hacked into, that personal data was stolen from various political parties, mined out of Facebook sites and then voters were sent particularly influential messages to have them vote a certain way. In that case it was the leave vote. Now the government is in complete turmoil and people do not trust the system.

What happened in the Trump election? There is documented case after case that social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, were used to garner information about voters' intentions, how they were feeling about issues. Then they were sent very highly targeted messages to motivate them toward one side, in the case of Mr. Trump, voting for him for president. Who was hiring these hacks? The Russians were. That is what the entire inquiry is about. It is about foreign interference in the U.S. election. Never mind the payouts to the porn stars and all the rest. That is the sideshow. The major issue for American democracy was that the U.S. election was hacked by virtually a sworn enemy in Russia.

We say that in Canada we are nice people and no one would ever want to influence us. Certainly the Chinese government would not have any interest whatsoever in influencing the outcome of our next election. The Chinese government has no opinions about any arrests or detentions that have been taking place, about the introduction of any telecom companies into the Canadian environment, about the purchase of major oil sands assets by Chinese companies. No, no, the Chinese government would never stoop to such practices; except that it does and we are naive and foolish to not have done something about it when we were clear-eyed.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, the guy who runs our elections, said, “If there is one area where the bill failed, it is privacy.” The Privacy Commissioner said that the bill “adds nothing of substance”. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association said that protection of personal information “falls far short of internationally recognized privacy standards”. The Liberals said, “Let us just continue on with the wild west. We will be fine. We are Canada,” as if that somehow would be a protection for us.

My sincere worry is that as we look to the end of this Parliament, as the last bill to pass out of this Parliament, it is the most important one which guides how we elect our representatives, the people who speak on our behalf, the people who will make the laws that affect us not just today, but for generations to come. In passing this piece of legislation, the Liberals were given all of the evidence and the solutions to fix the bill to protect our democracy as best we could from foreign interference, from hacking, from people trying to influence the outcome of a free and fair election. The Liberals said, “We just need to study that more.” After hundreds of days of delay, they said, “We need to study it more,” when we were studying it at the time.

The Liberals' own members on the privacy and ethics committee just finished a study on this and concluded—this is radical, I know—that political parties should fall under privacy law, the very thing we were asking to be changed in the bill. Liberals on one committee said we need to do this to protect our democracy and Liberals on one committee over did not want to enact it into law. This is so frustrating. We cannot have this.

As we end this session, as we see the bill make its final way, let us not pretend that it does all the things the minister earlier claimed it does, because it does not. Canadians need to understand and be vigilant and wary. When we do this again, and we are going to have to fix this again, my fear is this. We will have our next election and in the midst of it, we will hear of allegations of hacking and foreign interference. At the end of the election, there will be actual evidence of a hacked election. Canadians will not just blame one of the political parties, they will lose even more faith than they already have lost in our political process. That undermines everything that we try to do in this place and everything that we have been trying to do for the last century in this place.

We can do better. Canadians deserve better. This bill could have been so much more.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is one of the final times we get to speak in this House. We have been doing this since 2004. I want to thank my colleague for his speech and his insight with respect to the legislation.

I want to go back to the last election and when we talked about democratic reform. I will let my colleague talk about the position we took in 2015, which he has already done and will do again. However, I want to talk about the position of the New Democrats for a moment, because it is a one-sided argument. I do this with the utmost respect.

My problem with the New Democrats and their position in the last election is simply this. They wanted to propose not only democratic reform and not only proportional representation but an exact prescription as to how that would be initiated. It is called mixed member proportional representation, MMP. It was something that was run by the electorate of Ontario a while back and in other jurisdictions.

This is what they based it on. In 2002, there was a Canadian law commission study that was done, across the country, on how we could reform the democratic process. It said that if we went by way of proportional representation, MMP would be the system to use. I am not saying that would not be a good thing to have in this country. One-third of the people would either be taken from a list or appointed by a leader, and two-thirds would be directly elected, much like we are here, and our ridings would be much bigger. There would be two levels of MPs in this country. However, it was very prescriptive.

They spent two hours, in 2002, in St. John's, Newfoundland, talking about this system, and now it was going to take that two hours and impose it on the people. I found it at the time to be overly insincere. In actual fact, it could not have been done within four years, because so many people were not consulted about that exact system. If they had opened up the conversation post-election, that would have been better.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect and admiration for my friend. However, the notion is strange to me that he seems to be critical of the idea of parties standing in elections and making promises that are specific. I have two points. First is that specificity is okay. Voters can handle it. Second is that in the process of the study my colleagues and I worked on, where we went around the country as part of the electoral reform initiative, I remember that at the time, the minister stood up in the House and said that the striking of this committee was almost as significant as women earning the right to vote. It is a strange irony that she later became the minister who killed that very initiative. Life works out strangely in politics. However, she saw it as important, as did I. A lot of us put a lot of energy into it. Our families made some sacrifices. We listened to Canadians.

MMP, the system my friend described, was overwhelmingly supported, as it is by the evidence, and as it is by our global partners in democracy. Even for those who do not follow the intricacies of voting systems, I would say look at the results. How do countries that use first past the post do when measuring economic, environmental and social measures? Are they more equitable? Are they more green? Are they doing better on the economy? The committee heard about all the research from the OECD, which is the developed countries of the world, the free democracies, Overwhelmingly, the OECD countries that use a proportional voting system get better outcomes, not just on the environment and social issues, which we might guess, but also on economic issues.

Aside from the actual way the vote is cast, most Canadians are curious about a couple of things. One is whether they will have a direct representative, someone they can call. Second is whether the kind of government they are going to get will produce better results for them, their families and their communities. The evidence on that scale is overwhelming.

I will end on this. With the minister, the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister himself, I was not prescriptive in our attempts at negotiation. We never, at any point, publicly or privately, said that it was MMP or bust and that it had to be exactly that model. We set out a range of models. We also offered the government a slow roll. They could do it over a few elections. We offered as much as we could. However, in the end, the sincerity to actually do something about it was lacking, in all honesty, on the government side. There was not a willingness to see this thing through in any form other than the personal system the Prime Minister liked, one that is used by one house in the Australian government and that does not work for Australians or anyone else.

The Prime Minister should have known better. In the end, the declaration he made was that the decision to betray this promise was his and his to make. I fundamentally disagree with that type of notion of what parliamentary democracy looks like.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am shocked by how much I agree with my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. My sister is a very strong member of the NDP, and we agree at the family dinner table that we are the principled ones, so it is a good to hear so much from that member.

It was we, the Conservatives, who were left holding the government to account in regard to Bill C-76 throughout this entire process. We were the bad cop; they were the good cop. Every time we said whoa, they said go. Why did they not do more? I am hearing today that they did not think it was a great piece of legislation. Why did they not do more to put the brakes on it, rather than letting it go forward so easily, when we worked so hard for Canadians to put the brakes on it?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we proposed a whole bunch of amendments. The government did not accept many of them. As for putting the brakes on it, what I think my friend is referring to is the filibuster at committee where the Conservatives just talked out the clock to delay the bill. That was a big part of it.

We may have agreed on some of the points I raised in my speech, but we fundamentally disagreed on vouching and some of the other things in this bill. As my friend knows, there are pieces missing from a large piece of legislation like this. There are pieces that we would like to see in it, but we have to look at the entire net of the bill and ask if it is a move forwards or backwards. That happens with many pieces of legislation. On this one, we wanted to see something happen and we enjoyed the substantive debates that we had. That is what our job is here: to have those debates.

Bill C-76—Notice of time allocation motionElections Modernization ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am definitely warmed by the words of that member.

It is interesting to rise in this place because so much has been done. I do know that we are able to accomplish much. Unfortunately, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the consideration of the Senate amendment to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank all the people who work around you to make this place function. I can assure the House that we will continue to try to work even better to ensure that we are serving Canadians.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
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Bernadette Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-76, the elections modernization act. This legislation represents a generational overhaul of the Canada Elections Act and will allow it to better address the realities facing our democratic system in the 21st century. As many in this House will know, this legislation is making our electoral processes more transparent and more accessible to all Canadians.

Let us be clear. Voting is a right. As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to make voting accessible to all Canadians. Members of this House will know from previous debates on this bill that Bill C-76 makes a number of important changes to federal elections in Canada.

This bill will make voting more accessible for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, those who lack certain types of ID, and Canadians with disabilities. It will make participation in our democracy easier for those who have children or are responsible for sick or disabled family members. It gives the Chief Electoral Officer the flexibility to make elections more efficient. It extends the right to vote to over a million Canadians abroad, and it repeals the element of the Harper Conservatives' so-called Fair Elections Act that made it harder for Canadians to vote, which is why of course so many people refer to Bill C-23 as the unfair elections act.

I am currently the only female member of Parliament elected from Nova Scotia. In fact, I am only the ninth ever elected to represent my beautiful province since Confederation. We clearly have work to do, which is why I want to focus for a moment on the provisions of Bill C-76 that make it easier for women to participate in our democracy.

Historically, women have been disproportionately responsible for caring for young, sick or disabled family members. Bill C-76 will do two things to help people in this situation. First, the legislation will increase the reimbursement rate for candidate expenses related to caring for a family member to 90%, and second, it will exempt those expenses from the campaign spending limit. No longer will candidates be punished for taking care of their young or vulnerable family members.

I would like to remind this House that this legislation is also repealing measures enacted by the previous Harper Conservatives, which made it harder for Canadians to vote.

Certainly, some of the more egregious aspects of this so-called Fair Elections Act included the elimination of vouching and the voter information cards, also known as the VIC, as a form of proof of address. As a result of those changes, many Canadians across the country saw increased barriers to voting. In fact, a 2016 Stats Canada survey found that approximately 170,000 Canadians did not participate in the last election because they lacked the required ID to vote. This is completely unacceptable.

The Conservatives will tell us that it is not hard for Canadians to obtain an ID to vote. They will make false comparisons between voting and boarding an airplane or buying a six-pack of beer. Let me assure members, many senior citizens who are living with relatives, who may not have a valid driver's licence or do not have bills addressed in their name would be greatly helped by the use of the voter information card in order to provide a proof of address. Other examples include Canadians who have their mail sent to a PO box, or students who are often in precarious living situations while studying.