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 / 11:30 a.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, what we have before us is very positive legislation that will have a positive impact on democracy in Canada.

I know from personal experience, whether it is the voter identification card or many other aspects of the legislation that the minister has brought forward, that it will assist in enabling more participation in elections.

A good majority of the recommendations that were brought forward in from the previous chief electoral officer have been incorporated. This is good legislation. Given the significance of the day, and many have commented that this might even be the last day in this beautiful chamber for the next 10 years, it is appropriate that we are debating this bill. It is positive legislation that will enhance Canada's democracy.

Could the member provide a comment?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is some history being made, an ironic sense of history, because the Liberals have put the bill under time allocation. When my friend sat in opposition, he said that it was a horrible thing for the then Harper government to do. Yes, it is historical, but it is also ironic.

I said to the government consistently that we needed to put all political parties under privacy laws. That was a recommendation from the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner and the study that was commissioned by the minister herself of our spy agencies to prevent the threat of foreign hacks into our elections, as happened in the Brexit vote and the recent U.S. federal election. The Liberals ignored all of that and said they wanted to study that threat some more. What a great thing to do with a threat.

This place is historic and it does deserve our respect. Passing a bill this way, with this major flaw missing in the bill's entire composition, is an unfortunate way to commend this place to the renovation nigh for some number of years.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to hear my colleague's thoughts on some of the remarks by the minister today. She made a lot of the fact that what had come back from the Senate was, effectively, a technical amendment, that all parties supported it and that it was a drafting error. She said that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs had been looking at this issue for a year or more.

As I understand it, PROC did not have this bill for a year. It is a huge bill with a lot in it. It was time allocated in the House and in committee. That kind of rushing to get things done, particularly after the Liberals sat on their hands for over two years in bringing forward some of these important reforms, is exactly the way we end up with technical errors in a bill. When the government tries to ram a huge omnibus bill through the House and committee, that is how these kinds of mistakes are made.

Now we are being told we need to move this through the House quickly. Could my colleague give us a little perspective on the process that has gotten us here?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, how we got here is the problem. The Liberals sat on the bill for hundreds of days and sat on the previous version of the bill for hundreds more days, having wasted almost three years in the process. Elections Canada gave a deadline over 200 days ago for the legislation to pass, so now not all of this bill will be incorporated. That was the problem.

One would think, after the Liberals betrayed their promise on electoral reform, the very next thing they would do to undo the unfair elections act by the Harper government would have been to get on with it, the urgency of now, but they did not.

Now we have the Senate fixing a democratic bill for the House that was passed. It is a shame, unfortunate and entirely due to the lack of any sense of responsibility or urgency on the part of the government.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-76, the elections modernization act, with my esteemed colleagues.

This bill would be a generational change to the Canada Elections Act. Many of the changes proposed in this bill are long overdue and would fulfill long-standing recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer to adapt the administration of Canada's federal elections to a modern age.

Bill C-76 contains measures on four important themes. First, the bill seeks to make the electoral process more transparent to Canadians. Second, it aims to enhance the accessibility of elections to all Canadians. Third, it would update the Canada Elections Act to adapt to the ways in which our elections have changed. Fourth, it seeks to strengthen the security and integrity of Canadian elections.

I now wish to discuss the themes in greater detail to remind my colleagues of what exactly the bill proposes to do, and how. With the introduction of fixed election dates in 2007, elections can begin in earnest well before the official writ is dropped. To address this, Bill C-76 would introduce a pre-election period. When all political entities know that an election is likely to be held on the third Monday of October in an election year, they are able to spend large sums of money in the medium term right before an election with no regulatory oversight until the drop of the writ. This new pre-election period would introduce limits on political parties and third parties in the months leading up to the writ period.

Bill C-76 would also introduce new requirements on third parties, including spending limits for the pre-election period, reporting on a greater number of activities and the need to register with Elections Canada when spending more than $500 on partisan activities or election advertising. Additionally, new reporting mechanisms for third parties to occur during the election campaign, rather than after, would ensure Canadians have a clearer look at how these entities spend money before they vote.

The bill would also limit the actual election period to 50 days, which would help us avoid a long-drawn-out campaign like in 2015. Combined with the elimination of a pro-rated increase for spending limits, this bill would save taxpayers money. This bill would also help make the electoral process more accessible for Canadians.

Great care has been used in determining groups of Canadians who may face barriers when exercising their right to vote, including electors with disabilities, electors who have trouble producing identification, electors who are living abroad and electors in the Canadian Armed Forces. New measures in Bill C-76 would aid these specific groups in exercising their franchise, along with improving general accessibility for all Canadians.

The bill would reform many of the provisions allowing for people to vote outside of the polling station, and would redefine what can constitute an accessible polling place. For people who may have trouble producing appropriate identification, Bill C-76 would reintroduce provisions of vouching for an elector's identity or residence. Additionally, the Chief Electoral Officer would be able to approve the voter identification card as proof of residence.

There are appropriate protections in place for these changes, so Canadians would be assured that the security of the election would not be sacrificed. Additionally, changes would be made to allow Canadians who have been living outside of Canada for over five years to vote. Once again, the bill would make the electoral process more accessible for all Canadians. This would include candidates and young Canadians.

Bill C-76 would introduce new expense reimbursements to provide support to candidates with families and candidates with disabilities, or those who may care for someone with a disability. These changes come from the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer, and should simplify the administrative hoops that candidates are required to jump through in order to run their campaigns.

Additionally, the bill would enable the Chief Electoral Officer to establish a register of future electors. There are an estimated 1.5 million Canadians aged 14 to 17 who would be able to register with Elections Canada. Once they reach the age of 18, they would seamlessly be transferred to the register of electors and be ready to exercise their right to vote.

I also want to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Guelph.

The register of future electors would be totally secure, separate from the established register and completely voluntary. This register would be an excellent way to engage young Canadians and harness interest in politics.

Regarding the administration of the election, Bill C-76 also makes changes that would have an impact throughout the entire delivery of the election. In the past, there was a degree of prescriptiveness, which was necessary, in the Canada Elections Act. However, this prescriptiveness has evolved from a necessity to a detriment. The bill would give the Chief Electoral Officer greater ability to organize the election in a more efficient and fair manner. These changes would impact polling-place procedures and address a number of issues causing long lines at the polls.

Last, Bill C-76 would bolster the security and integrity of our elections. The bill would make it more difficult for third parties to use foreign money during elections without facing penalties. I would also note that there are significant changes to the Commissioner of Canada Elections in this bill. The commissioner would now be a part of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer as has been the case through most of our commissioner's history. This relocation would be accompanied by a new compliance mechanism, an administrative monetary penalties regime, which would allow the commissioner to more efficiently allocate resources and would provide him or her with a mechanism to enforce the Canada Elections Act without invoking criminal penalties. The commissioner would also be given the ability to compel testimony, which would streamline his or her investigation of offences against the act.

This is only a rough outline of what Bill C-76 would accomplish. Canadians enjoy a high degree of confidence in our elections, which is especially important in these fractious times. We are convinced that Bill C-76 would help retain this high level of confidence in our elections.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my friend to the debate around this bill. It is very important, of course, and we have all recognized that its passage is likely one of the last bills, if not the last bill, passed out of Parliament.

We were just discussing with some of the committee members on the privacy and ethics committee that they have completed a large study that supplemented the study that the democratic institutions minister herself asked for from our Canadian spy agency, about the threats to our elections. The minister knows this but for Canadians watching, the parties all collect an enormous amount of information about individual Canadians: voting preference, gender, income and all sorts of things to best understand the voter. Parties pursue voters to try to get them to vote a certain way and we can understand why parties want to do that. That is the name of the game. The member's party, after the last election, congratulated itself about how good it was at collecting that data.

Here is the problem. That data is not falling under any restrictions or laws in terms of its protection from foreign actors or from individuals trying to hack that data, as was done with the Democrats and probably the Republicans and as was done in the Brexit scenario with Cambridge Analytica and all the rest.

This bill would do nothing to protect that privacy of Canadians or protect our democracy from that foreign influence from bad actors, domestically or internationally. Is that protection not something we should put in, if we have the research and the study and information available that there is a real and present threat to our democracy? Why do a democracy bill and omit that important piece, if not for partisan interests?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his work on this committee and on this piece of legislation. I would like to point out that the NDP and my colleagues across the way have been very supportive every step of the way when it comes to the passage of Bill C-76. They were enthusiastic to see the voter identification card being placed back into this legislation. They were happy to see the so-called Fair Elections Act be reversed through this piece of legislation. I am grateful for all the hard work they have done in supporting this legislation.

I understand the worry of my colleague. All has not been lost. I know the minister and our government take foreign interference very seriously and will look into this issue. This bill has made steps toward that. No foreign actors would be allowed to participate financially in our elections and also for all those who are advertising on platforms such as Facebook or any other platforms, all would be made transparent. These are big steps toward transparency in our elections and also in deterring those foreign actors from—

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons that change was made to the identification requirements of the so-called Fair Elections Act was to prevent people with insufficient identification voting fraudulently in elections.

I would like to ask the hon. member this. Has there been any documented instance in Canadian history of any significant voter fraud that has had any influence on an election?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of misinformation and fear raised about this issue. Of course, on all aisles of this House, we want our elections to be safe and integral. However, as a member of the procedure and House affairs committee that passed this piece of legislation and went through over 300 amendments, we failed to see any instances where this was reported. The Chief Electoral Officer also said on record that this was not a concern that he had seen in any past election.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it ironic that the last question from a Liberal member to his own colleague seems to disregard the case law on this very fact of voting, voting fraud and voting irregularities. He should speak to his friend from Etobicoke, because there is a leading Supreme Court case on this called Opitz v. Wrzesnewskyj. I can say the case name in this House I think. In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada determined there were issues related to irregularities and fraud. At paragraph 43 of the decision it equated them.

I will quote the Supreme Court of Canada for that member, which states:

In associating the word “irregularity” with those words, Parliament must have contemplated mistakes and administrative errors that are serious and capable of undermining the integrity of the electoral process.

In many ways, fraud or serious irregularities with an election undermine the democratic process. Therefore, I would ask the member this. By enhancing more voting from people with no connection to Canada after many years, and by allowing the voter identification card to be a substitute for the 30-plus types of identification for use, is the government not enshrining more irregularities into the electoral process?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome that question so I can clarify the misconception that is being put out there by the Conservatives.

The Chief Electoral Officer has said that there was no significant hike in any voter fraud. Also, disenfranchising over a million people from being able to vote is very serious. On this side, we would much rather that people have the ability to vote in our fair election process than disenfranchising them because of one case that may have happened out there.

Therefore, there is no serious threat of voter fraud. The voter identification card does not replace the need for any other ID. Rather, it is one of two IDs that would be required. Voters would still require photo identification, as well as something with an address. This provides that proof of address. Therefore, it is not the ID needed alone to vote. I feel that is the misconception that has been put out there. Let us have people vote and have their voices heard. This is Canada after all.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to take the floor today to continue the debate on Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments, also known as the elections modernization act.

I am speaking on behalf of my constituents in Guelph who are keenly interested in the changes we are putting forward. Guelph has been a centre for electoral fraud in other elections, so they want to see us take the steps necessary to ensure there are fair elections, especially in my riding of Guelph.

I have participated in debates on this bill in other stages in the House and I am very pleased to be able to weigh in after the Senate has had a chance to look at the bill and we are approaching the final periods of debate in this place.

Bill C-76 does many things that would modernize our electoral system, including making it more secure, more transparent and more accessible. The bill builds on recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer following the 42nd general election. It was also informed by the study of his recommendations by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which I was pleased to sit in on for some of those meetings.

It is noteworthy that the bill implements over 85% of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations, and also of note is that the parties were in agreement with our coming forward with what we have in front of us today.

To set the stage for my comments, I would like to quote the former Chief Electoral Officer in his report:

Over the years, amendments to the Act have added new requirements and new rules, with little regard to the overall burden placed on electors, candidates, parties, volunteers and election workers. In the last decade, changes have been made without taking into account the rapidly shifting technological context; we now need to evaluate whether there are better ways to achieve the same results as in the past.

Those words of our former Chief Electoral Officer frame our discussion today. They are a good illustration of the importance of modernizing our electoral process to bring it into the 21st century.

That is why by implementing the recommendations, Bill C-76 would make the electoral process more efficient for all involved while continuing to protect the integrity of our elections. This includes changes that will affect the candidates. I would like to go through some of those measures, which should be of particular interest to the members of the House.

The Chief Electoral Officer indicated that many aspects of the existing nomination process reflect a view of candidacy that is simply out of step with modern approaches. For example, the requirement for a witness to file the nomination documents suggests that the candidate is only reluctantly accepting the nomination. Bill C-76 proposes to modernize the process for prospective candidates.

First, the changes to the Canada Elections Act proposed in Bill C-76 would allow either the candidate or a witness to file nomination papers. This change corrects an anachronism and at the same time respects tradition by allowing the candidate to choose who is best placed to file these important documents. While on the subject of filing the nomination papers, I would also note that Bill C-76 would make the necessary legislative amendments to allow Elections Canada to develop an electronic portal to allow the documents to be filed electronically.

Since all those present in the House have been candidates, we can all appreciate how these changes will facilitate the nomination process and bring it into the 21st century by taking advantage of available technologies.

Another key change in Bill C-76 that would affect candidates is the removal of the $1,000 deposit requirement for prospective candidates. In late October 2017, a court in Alberta held that the candidate nomination deposit was unconstitutional. The government did not appeal the decision and Bill C-76 makes the necessary changes to comply with the decision. This would remove a financial impediment to those participating in the electoral process as candidates. It would align perfectly with a central objective of Bill C-76, namely, to make the electoral process more accessible.

There are other changes affecting candidates that I would like to mention.

There is one relating to the parties' endorsements of candidates. Following Bill C-76, registered political parties will be able to provide Elections Canada with a list of all the candidates they are endorsing during the general election. Previously, parties had to do so individually, in each electoral district for each candidate and with individual returning officers. This is a remnant from a time when the elections administration was highly centralized. There is no reason to allow such a burdensome process to continue in the 21st century. Going forward, returning officers will be able to confirm the endorsement of the candidate in the electoral district simply by looking at a global list provided by the registered political parties. These changes are examples of how Bill C-76 would modernize our electoral process.

Another such example relating to candidates deals identification. I believe that many Canadians would be surprised to learn that while they, as electors, are required to show identification to vote, we, as candidates, are not required to do so for the nomination process. This would change with Bill C-76. Respective candidates would be required to provide proof of identification with their nomination papers. This would not limit their ability to use another name by which they are commonly known, such as a nickname. It only means that if they wished to use a name other than the one that is on their identification, they would need to provide evidence that they are, in fact, known by that name. We believe it is reasonable to ask candidates to provide evidence of their identity as a measure to ensure the integrity of our electoral system.

The last series of changes I would like to note is the amendments that Bill C-76 would bring to the treatment of candidates' expenses during the election period. It is noteworthy that these changes have also been made in response to the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer. Most importantly, changes are being made to the reimbursements of candidates for expenses incurred during the election period for child care or the care of a person with a disability. Following the passage of Bill C-76, these expenses would not be counted towards a candidate's spending limit. The candidate would be allowed to use his or her personal funds to cover these expenses, and they would be reimbursed at 90% instead of the current 60%. We believe this will prove to be an important measure that, once again, would make our elections more accessible to a wider range of candidates, including women and people with disabilities.

During the debates on this important proposed legislation, we talked a lot about the measures related to foreign interference, as in fact mentioned in the previous speech, such as identification requirements for electors and other issues coming from offshore.

I am pleased that the debate today has given me the opportunity to discuss some of the lesser known aspects of the elections modernization act. I think we are heading in the right direction. The Senate has made some good suggestions. The committee was very collaborative and came forward with measures that would really improve our electoral process, including the process relating to candidates.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / noon
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to a theme that my colleague for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has been pursuing, and I think quite rightly, with respect to the proposed legislation. For all the pomp and ceremony that we hear from government members about the proposed legislation and how great it is going to be, there are two things I find really objectionable about the bill.

One is the fact that it took so long to get the bill, but then in exchange for the time the government took to prepare the bill and get around to debating it, it said to Parliament that it was somehow our job to review a massive piece of legislation in a very short amount of time. I think there is something fundamentally unfair about that. This is not the only time we have seen this happen, but particularly with legislation on how we conduct our election, I think it is wrong. Therefore, we have a process grievance that perhaps the member would care to address.

Furthermore, for all the time the Liberals took, they did not include anything to obligate political parties to protect the privacy of Canadians' personal information, which we know political parties harvest and use for their own purposes. We have seen some recent very high profile abuses of such information, such as for the Brexit vote and the presidential election in the United States.

Therefore, we have this odd contradiction where there is a really important issue that I think Canadians would like to see addressed, but that has not been addressed in the bill, and the fact that the government took an inordinately long time to prepare the bill and then asked Parliament to rush its approval. I wonder how the member justifies that to this place and to Canadians generally.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / noon
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard from the NDP with regard to other pieces of legislation that we move too slowly. The fact is that we have been very thorough in our review of this legislation. The committee was thorough. The Senate has spent time on it. We would rather get this done right instead of quickly. It is important for us to pass this legislation, though, in a timely way so that we can be prepared for the 2019 election.

In terms of transparency, parties are required to publish their transparency policies. The NDP currently does not have a transparency policy that shows who attends its fundraisers. Would the member consider that as his party goes forward?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / noon
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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, as I stated earlier, this legislation is going to greatly enhance Canada's democracy, and for that reason, the member should be supportive.

The Conservatives on the other hand oppose this legislation. They will do whatever they can to make sure that it never gets passed. We have had first reading, second reading, committee stage and have gone through report stage and third reading. The Senate has dealt with it also.

Maybe just to draw what would be a natural conclusion, would the member not agree that it is time to get the bill passed?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / noon
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg North. Winnipeg is my home town and I hope to get there over new year's and see some of my friends in that fine city. Maybe we could even have a coffee at his favourite restaurant, where he is at every Saturday morning at 10 o'clock.

We did a thorough analysis of this legislation in a way that would not advantage one party over another. The bill would empower Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer to administer our elections fairly. It would give them the power to prosecute when our elections are not done fairly, and really to take control of our elections out of the political process and have that power as an independent organization.

All members have contributed to this. All members of the committee put this forward, and so has the Senate. Today, we are really only looking at a technical amendment. There is a small part of the technical amendment that just puts a finer point on the pencil to make sure that we have all of the legislative details covered properly before we go into our next election.

We are in the right place and I look forward to the vote.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am still concerned about one aspect of the bill, despite all the time the government has taken to propose amendments to what they had already proposed in Bill C-33 to protect Canadians' privacy.

Even the Privacy Commissioner said that Bill C-76 adds nothing of substance in terms of privacy protection. For instance, this bill still allows parties to sell Canadians' personal information, so it is not covered by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Does my colleague not think that we are moving a little too fast with this bill, considering that the government has rejected some significant amendments?

Also, is it not totally ironic that a so-called electoral reform bill is being rushed through the House of Commons—virtually on the last possible day that Parliament gets to debate in this chamber in 2018—and that it is riddled with so many privacy loopholes?

If we move ahead with this bill, it may not even come into effect in time for the next election. Why not take the time to get it right and make absolutely certain that everyone's privacy is protected?

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said at the beginning of my speech, 85% of what has come forward has been agreed to by the Chief Electoral Officer. This place will be able to do a review going forward after the next election to see whether there are further changes required.

We have introduced transparency and accountability and have modernized the act. We are in a place where we can have a much better election than we had the last time in terms of participation by all groups, including people overseas, and allowing seniors in residences to have multiple people vouch for them so they can participate in the election.

We are way ahead of where we were, but better is always possible.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak for probably the last time in these hallowed halls. It is an honour to stand once again to speak to what has been deemed amendments to Bill C-76. I am going to focus my speech on Bill C-76, which represents yet another failure of the government.

I want to bring Canadians back to day 10 of the 2015 election, when the member for Papineau, who is now the Prime Minister, said that under his government, debate would reign. The Liberals would not resort to Parliamentary trickery or invoke closure on debate, because every Canadian deserves to have a say.

Here we sit today debating a very important piece of legislation. Over 50 times, the government has invoked closure. I have said this a number of times, but this just shows the contempt of the Prime Minister and his team for this House, and indeed, for electors, electors who vote opposition members in. This House is not the Prime Minister's. It is not the Speaker's, and it is not mine. This House belongs to Canadians and those who elected the 338 members of Parliament to be their voices here in Ottawa.

The message the Prime Minister and his team send when they invoke closure is that if members are on the opposition side, their voices really do not matter, and the electors who elected them really do not matter. That is shameful. That is just one broken promise by the Prime Minister and his team. Bill C-76 is yet another broken promise. The Liberal platform in 2015 called for real change. The Liberals talked about omnibus bills, yet here we have another omnibus bill.

The Liberals talk about wanting to get this bill through. It is important that we get it done for the 2019 election. We have heard testimony from all our colleagues on this side of the House that this is because of the Liberals' failure to manage their legislative agenda. They are now at the eleventh hour having to push this through by invoking closure. They want to get this done before we rise. The Liberals said they would never limit debate, yet here we have seen it over 50 times.

The Liberals also talked about being open and transparent. I believe the member for Papineau, now our Prime Minister, said that his government would be the most open and transparent in the history of our country. Have we ever seen the government be open and transparent? It is so open that if one is a Liberal insider, one will get an appointment. If one is a Liberal family member or a former Liberal colleague, one will get a quota, such as the surf clam quota.

Mr. Speaker, if you can sense a little frustration in my voice, it is because I was elected here, and while the national outcome was not what I had hoped for, I came here with the best intentions. I came here with great hope for all of us, the 338 members of Parliament. We all put our names down with the intention of doing good for our country.

We have seen arrogance. It is not from all members on that side. There are good people on that side, but the front bench has let them down and has let Canada down. I am angry, and Canadians are angry.

The Liberals talk about Bill C-76 making things better for voters. I will bring members back to 2015. We had the highest voter turnout in the 2015 election. They said that somehow Prime Minister Harper was trying to suppress voter turnout, that the changes he made to the Elections Act were somehow going to suppress voter turnout, but we had the highest voter turnout. Speaking of voter ID, we increased the number of acceptable pieces of ID for voters. Not everyone has a driver's licence or a passport.

The hon. colleague who spoke just before me said that as candidates, people have to have ID to show that they are who they say they are and that they are not just nicknames they are putting on their candidate forms. I do not know how it works on that side, but on this side of the House, we have to prove who we are. I actually had to have a criminal record check as well. It is unbelievable.

It is funny. When other groups make changes, the Liberals say that it is an attack on democracy, but we heard the parliamentary secretary just a little earlier say that these changes will enhance Canada's democracy. Why is it that when it benefits the Liberals to do something, they say it is enhancing Canada's democracy? It would do nothing. This bill is another broken promise, another Liberal failure.

My speech today is a compilation of the Liberals' failures, case by case, citing critical examples. I talked about a few just now.

In the 2015 election, there were 114 third-party groups that received foreign funds to campaign to get Prime Minister Harper out. We hear from others saying that we are sowing the seeds of fear and that it is just Conservative rhetoric. However, I offer this, as I did in a previous speech. There is a website called leadnow.ca. Just shortly after the 2015 election, leadnow.ca received an international award for getting Prime Minister Harper out. I have not checked, but I said in my last speech that if one goes to leadnow.ca, and I mentioned that my colleagues were probably googling it, there would be a picture on the site where they were probably receiving the award for getting Prime Minister Harper out. I do not know if it is still going to be there, but that was one of the entities. Bill C-76 does nothing to stop this. The Liberals want to talk about how they are strengthening our electoral process and stopping that foreign interference.

There is a bit of a pattern with the Liberal government and the Prime Minister. They promise big, and they under-deliver.

I want to go back to the speech the Prime Minister gave yesterday about the closure of this House and Centre Block. To me, it spoke to his contempt for this place. Maybe that is what happens when one is raised in the halls of this place. It becomes just another hall, just another building. These are hallowed halls. We look around and think about the history. His words were that this is just another building, just another room.

Thinking back to 2014, when I started my run, I never would have thought that a kid from the Cariboo would end up here. There is not a day I am not honoured to sit among all members of Parliament. I am honoured when I see the flag waving on the Peace Tower and the one over your shoulder, Mr. Speaker. I think of Canadians. I think of the veterans who signed up and of first responders who serve and protect us. They are all our silent sentinels, yet the government and the Prime Minister have failed them.

Let us go back to the Chris Garnier case. This is a convicted murderer who is receiving PTSD benefits from Veterans Affairs but never served a day in his life.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

I appreciate your intervention, Mr. Speaker. My colleague across the way should have listened to this debate, as I have, from the very beginning, by all members of Parliament, especially in the last couple of days, because this is our last day in the House. I would challenge my hon. colleague to look through Hansard and see if some of the speeches by her own colleagues were relevant throughout. As a matter of fact, I prefaced my comments today by saying that Bill C-76 is yet another Liberal failure and that I would be speaking to the other failures and how they relate to Bill C-76. With that, I will continue.

Let us talk about natural resources and the hundreds of thousands of pipeline workers, softwood lumber workers and forestry workers—

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, a member cannot say at the beginning of a speech that it will have a general theme and that the member will not necessarily talk about the debate but instead will talk about the failures and then go through a litany of issues that are completely irrelevant to the legislation. The member knows that. I would ask him to be somewhat relevant. Just because he declared at the beginning of his speech that he wants to talk about a litany of issues does not necessarily mean he can do that, because there is a responsibility to be somewhat relevant.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-76 is about electoral reform. It is about what we do in the House. It is about how we govern.

Our national economy is directly related to this, how we function. Pipelines and softwood lumber all relate to this. It is, yet, another Liberal failure. We still do not have a softwood lumber agreement. Pipeline workers in Alberta have been told to hang in there.

The Liberals failed miserably with Bill C-76. It is evidenced by the number of amendments offered by committee members, over 330 of them and only a handful were accepted.

It brings me back to, I think it was 2016, when we were pressuring the government to do something with softwood lumber. We were nearing the end of our softwood lumber agreement and our grace period. We were almost to that critical point. We challenged members across the way, at the natural resources committee, to hold an emergency meeting, to bring folks in from the industry and to find a team Canada approach to getting a softwood lumber agreement done. We were told that it was a waste of time and a waste of money.

There are sweeping mill closures, work curtailing and layoffs in my province of British Columbia. That is because government failed to secure rail access to our forestry manufacturers. It has failed to get a new softwood lumber agreement in place. The government has done nothing regarding the unfair tariffs and duties placed on our forestry workers. We are under attack, and the government has done nothing.

I will bring us back to the Prime Minister's very first speech on the world stage. There was no mention of softwood lumber in the minister's mandate letter, no mention of softwood or forestry in the Speech from the Throne. In his very first speech, he said that under his government, Canada would become known more for our resourcefulness, than for our natural resources. It is shocking.

I have talked about how far we have fallen. When someone who crosses our borders illegally, we cannot call it “illegal”, it is “irregular”. That goes to Bill C-76 as well, and I have mentioned it before. It is about that foreign interference and protecting us from those who come in to Canada.

There are so many holes in the bill. That was outlined through the many amendments. As my hon. colleague from Calgary Midnapore offered, there are holes big enough to drive a Mac truck through. This is not dissimilar to the government's leaky border policy. Do members remember the tweet “Welcome to Canada”? What is that costing Canadians? By 2020, that crisis will cost Canadian taxpayers $1.6 billion.

Let us go back to the deficit and why that is such an issue. It is another promise that was broken by the Prime Minister. He would say anything to get elected and once he was in here it was “I didn't really mean it.” He promised that 2019 would be be the final deficit and that the Liberals would return us to surplus in 2019, just in time for the election. Now we know there is another, possibly, $30 billion added to that.

Bill C-76 could potentially open the door for what proposes to dissuade, instead of taking this opportunity to ensure foreign influence, 114 different foreign-funded groups.

I mentioned veterans. I mentioned first responders. The government has failed them. Earlier this week at a meeting with veterans, the Minister of Veterans Affairs actually used his transition, of retiring from the media to political life, as a way to understand what veterans went through because he assumed it was similar to what he went through, going from the structured life of media. It was unreal.

Let us talk about ethics. The Prime Minister is the first prime minister in the history of our country to be found guilty of an ethics violation. Then there was the finance minister, guilty. Then there was the fisheries minister, guilty. Now there is a Liberal MP, who we are not sure whether he has resigned or not, tied to another minister and some shady land deals, and perhaps money stuff going to other foreign entities. This has been a year of failure.

If I seem a little riled up, it is because I was sent here with great hope for all of us. Sadly, the Prime Minister and his front bench, and then some, are failing Canadians. It is only those of us in the opposition who are doing whatever we can to hold their feet to the fire, yet they say we are calling them names and being divisive. All we are doing is standing up for Canadians. We will continue to do so.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Bernadette Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, after that speech, there are so many questions I would love to ask the hon. member. However, I will start with this one and maybe I will get another chance. He keeps talking about foreign funding in our elections. Bill C-76 would eliminate foreign funding from any partisan activities at all times, not just elections, not during the writ, not pre-writ but all times.

This was an amendment brought forward at PROC by the member from this side of the House and the Conservative members voted against it. If they are so concerned about foreign funding, why would they vote against banning foreign funding from partisan activities in the country? I would really love an answer to that.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thought what I would do instead of answering that question, because we know it is untrue, is recognize we have incredible groups of people who help us operate every day here. There are the pages who sit through these speech each and every day. There are the parliamentary security fellows and ladies who stand guard for us. They wear their green hats as they are still without a contract. Again, that is probably another failure from the government. I would like to wish them a merry Christmas and thank them. It is very important as they sit through long hours with us.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, we thank the Speaker for his indulgence, because over this last few days we have enjoyed, from all sides of the House, this being the last day perhaps that we will be in here. Therefore, my colleague took us through a bit of a walk of different things that have meant a lot to him in this place.

We know next year is an election year. Would the member comment on why the Liberal government now is pushing forward Bill C-76 so quickly, shutting down debate on it now, amendments that have come out? It was asked earlier if anyone could give examples of corruption within the electoral system. The answer is, yes, we can..

In Edmonton Centre, 10 to 15 years ago, people were taken off the list who had signed their residence as being a law office that the minister worked out of at the time. Thirty-some people had a factory listed as their residence. In fact, Joe Volpe, in his leadership race, had people on the voters list who were dead and buried. This was the kind of thing we were able to clear up in the last election.

The member talked about pipelines. In the last election, there were anti-pipeline groups, environmental groups, foreign groups from the United States and from Europe that put money not directly to fund certain target ridings for the Liberals, but that went through a Canadian affiliate. For example, there was a group that was listed as Canadian and the money went directly to that Canadian affiliate. As the member noted, in some of these the Liberals were bragging about showing success.

One of the main responsibilities of a democracy is to have integrity that is above reproach when it comes to elections. Maybe the member could comment on why this election is not that, but rather stacks up to the benefit of the Liberals.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague brings up a great point and perhaps I did not touch on it well enough. In 2015, 29 ridings were targeted by foreign funded groups. These ridings were listed as ridings of concern or vulnerable ridings, and my riding was one of them. Of those, 25 of those foreign funded ridings were successful. Obviously, they were not successful in my riding, and I challenge those people to come after me again.

When we talk about foreign funding, the top office has a former president and CEO of one of the foreign funded groups, World Wildlife Fund, is now calling the shots in policy. I have had fishermen and foresters say that to get in to see a minister, they have to go through an NGO and environmental group. That is shocking.

When the Liberals talk about limiting foreign funds, they are probably limiting funds for groups that might help a Conservative or an NDP get elected. However, they definitely are not going to stop foreign funds coming in if it benefits them.

The hon. parliamentary secretary talked about enhancing Canada's democracy. No, it enhances the Liberals' opportunity to get re-elected. That is what they are doing. That is why they need to rush it through.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, based on the content of the speech delivered by the member, I am more inclined to deal with the issue of failure associated to Stephen Harper, which really is no different. He really has not left the Conservative benches. Every day we see remnants of Stephen Harper's policy. There really is no difference between the current leader and Stephen Harper—

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was Stephen Harper's party that violated the election law. Not only is my friend and colleague wrong on his point of order, I wish the Conservative Party would give me the same liberty that we gave its members on the issue.

The Conservatives overspent on an election by hundreds of thousands of dollars and they put it off to appeal after appeal. Then they had a settlement, in which I think they had to pay a fine of $50,000 for breaking the law. Do members remember the Conservative member of Parliament who had to go to jail because of violations of the Elections Act?

My question to the member is this. The Conservative Party is so determined to prevent this legislation from passing. In the name of being transparent and honest with Canadians, can the Conservative Party tell us why it is that it does not want this legislation passed? What is specifically in this legislation? The Green Party supports it. The NDP supports it. Canadians support this legislation. The current Conservative leadership and the Conservatives have not learned anything in the past few years. Why do they not support good, progressive legislation that is going to enhance our democracy?

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the Canadians who are listening in of the first Prime Minister who was found guilty of ethics violations, of the Minister of Finance who was found guilty, of the Minister of Fisheries who was found guilty, as well as another minister being investigated now.

Canadians just do not trust what the Liberals are saying anymore. When this gentleman stands up, it is always, “Don't look at us. Remember when that other guy was in? It was always their fault.”

The Prime Minister stood in the House yesterday and talked about his plan that he was going to unveil as he got closer to the election. His plan? He has been governing for three years. Why is he just talking about a plan now? These guys have had no plan. They have failed Canadians every step of the way. We are angry and we are not going to take it anymore.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bernadette Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to Bill C-76. I want to thank the House for all the discussions we have had today and the good debate.

There are two important topics that I want to discuss in the context of the elections modernization act. First, I would like to look at how the bill would change the public education part of the Elections Canada mandate; and second, at how the bill would seek to engage young Canadians.

The previous government placed restrictions on the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer to speak to Canadians. The Fair Elections Act restricted the kind of public education campaigns that the Chief Electoral Officer was able to develop. Since that bill, the Chief Electoral Officer has been limited to conducting public education programs with high school and primary school-age children. We are not sure how that made any sense at all.

Our government heard from Canadians during the electoral reform dialogue process that they wanted more done to increase civic literacy and to increase all Canadians' knowledge of democracy. Additionally, the previous Chief Electoral Officer recommended in his mandate to reinstate public education and information campaigns. Specifically, the CEO recommended being given the mandate to implement public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the general public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights. This is an honourable goal, and our government is proud to support the work of the Chief Electoral Officer in reaching out to those Canadians who may be less likely to participate in Canadian democracy.

The Chief Electoral Officer is the paragon of non-partisan professionalism. We as Canadians should expect nothing less than this professionalism from that office in these public education campaigns. However, Canadians can also be confident that Elections Canada would carry out these education campaigns with as much integrity and fervour as they use in administering each election. The fundamental issue here is that the lack of information may create barriers for Canadians in exercising their voting rights. This measure would help mitigate any potential problems caused by a lack of information or malicious attempts to impair Canadians' ability to exercise their charter rights.

At this point, I would also like to mention I will be splitting my time with the member for Halifax.

Thus, Elections Canada would now be empowered to reach out to all Canadians to relay crucial information about the election. The organization would also be able to tailor certain messages to at-risk groups to help ensure that all Canadians would have the chance to have their voices heard on election day.

I wish to discuss how Bill C-76 would engage young Canadians in Canada's electoral system. Following the 42nd general election, Elections Canada estimated that 57% of eligible Canadians aged 18 to 24 voted. This is over 20% lower than the estimated turnout for Canadians aged 65 to 74. The question of how to engage young people is one that democracies all over the world struggle with. Researchers have shown that voting can be a habit for life. If someone votes in one election, he or she is more likely to vote in subsequent elections. This is why it is important to address young people who are not voting. How can we harness a natural and intense youthful interest in politics and foster it into a lifelong dedication to civic life and engagement?

Bill C-76 introduces a variety of ways to encourage young Canadians to get involved with the next federal election. One measure that was recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer is the preregistration of young Canadians. Preregistration of young Canadians would create a new parallel register to the register of electors: the national register of future electors. Preregistration would be open to Canadians from the ages of 14 to 17 and conducted on a completely voluntary basis. From there, the process is quite simple. Once future electors leave behind their days of youth and don the legal mantle of adulthood at 18 years old, they would then be automatically transferred from the register of future electors to the national register.

The information stored in a register of future electors would be completely safe and inaccessible to anyone other than Elections Canada. The organization would have to comply with appropriate and considerable standards in the Canada Elections Act and in the Privacy Act to protect young Canadians' information. This means that risk and threat assessments would be conducted as necessary. The register of future electors would be kept completely separate from the national register, and so there would be no danger to the data if something were to happen. Additionally, it means that there would be no danger of the data of future electors being included in the national register.

Preregistration would be conducted on a voluntary basis. Parliamentarians of numerous political parties voiced some concern regarding the collection of information about young Canadians and the fact that parental consent would not be required to register. It is important that young Canadians feel comfortable participating in Canadian democracy. The fact of the matter is that some may wish to keep their political affiliation or even knowledge of an interest in politics close to their hearts. However, parents would be encouraged to discuss preregistration with youth. It should also be noted that any young Canadian could remove their information from the register of future electors by contacting Elections Canada.

I wish to stress that these measures would in no way affect the voting age in Canada. The age to vote would remain at 18 years of age. Nonetheless, preregistration is one concrete measure that would help expose more young Canadians to Canadian political life and enhance their civic education.

There is one other measure I will briefly touch upon.

Bill C-76 would also amend the staffing requirements for returning officers to hire election officers. The Canada Elections Act already enables the Chief Electoral Officer to allow the hiring of 16- and 17-year-olds as election officers. This permission was systematically given at each election, and the CEO has consistently noted that young Canadians have proven to be an excellent pool of workers. This measure would simply crystalize the permission in the Canada Elections Act. One can hardly think of a better way to foster an interest in civic life than by encouraging young Canadians to work during an election.

These changes are just some of the ways that young Canadians would be inspired to take part in Canadian elections. Similarly, I hope all members of this chamber will appreciate the work that Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer would be empowered to undertake in reaching out to all Canadians.

I conclude by saying what an honour it has been to serve in this wonderful institution. I look forward to being in the West Block, but I will definitely miss this House. I thank all members for the wonderful engagement and debate we have had today.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague outlined quite a few measures that Bill C-76 would put in place to ensure that our democracy remains open to all Canadians to be able to vote, would increase their capacity to vote and would increase their engagement from a very early age.

The specific amendments that were brought back from the Senate speak to foreign interference and ensuring that all parties support that there is no foreign interference. As this proposed legislation would strengthen what we do across the country, this additional amendment would protect from foreign interference. Could my hon. colleague speak to the fact that we have all-party support on this, and that this proposed legislation would further engage Canadians and also protect Canadians and our democracy?

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Bernadette Jordan

Mr. Speaker, when Bill C-76 was first drafted, it denied foreign interference during writ and pre-writ periods or foreign funding in partisan activities. An amendment from PROC came forward that would now disallow any type of foreign interference partisan activities, no matter when they take place. I think this is really important, because we are all very concerned about what is happening around the world with foreign interference in elections, and we want to make sure that our democracy is protected.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noticed something the hon. member just did. At the beginning of her answer she said “foreign interference” and then corrected herself to say that Bill C-76 deals with “foreign funding”. However, then she went back and repeated the inference that Bill C-76 stops foreign interference. The reason I want to challenge her on this is that we proposed amendments to the bill that would actually help stop foreign interference. We heard testimony from the Chief Electoral Officer, whose proposed changes the Liberals accept when they agree with him, but which they just ignore when they disagree with him.

We heard this from the Privacy Commissioner and from the minister's own study, which she had requested that the Canadian spy agency do, asking the very important question of how vulnerable our political system is to foreign interference, particularly through the back door that has been used in the United States and England of hacking into political parties' databases. Why is that so important? It is because those databases are huge and contain enormous amounts of personal information about Canadians. What rules would apply to political parties right now under this bill? The parties would have to put a policy statement on their website somewhere. Is it enforceable? No, it is not. Are there any requirements for what that policy must have in it? No, there are not. Therefore, can parties have vulnerable databases that can be hacked into, and if so, why does this happen? It is because a foreign entity trying to interfere with our elections will then use that data, millions of points of data about how Canadians feel about issues, their gender, age, income and all these important things, to sway them one way or another.

Could the member imagine a foreign government, let us say China to pick one, having a problem with the government of the day, say this government, and then hacking into a political party's database, let us say the Liberals' database, to find all of that rich information about Canadians and those voters who might be inclined to vote Liberal—I do not know why, but let us just say they are so inclined for some reason, because they believe the lies—and then target them not to vote Liberal but Conservative, let us say. That is exactly what happened in the United States and in England. We have these real, living examples of threats to our democracy, which the spy agency of Canada confirmed, and yet Bill C-76 does nothing to prevent these and to protect our democracy. Why not?

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Bernadette Jordan

Mr. Speaker, I first have a comment to make before I get to the question. Eighty-seven per cent of the recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer are included in Bill C-76. My hon. colleague said that we only chose the ones we wanted, but we have included a huge number of good recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer in this legislation.

In regard to his question about foreign interference, as he well knows, the standing committee on ethics has just released a report. I have been reading it. It is a very good report, with a lot of great recommendations. We recognize how important it is to make sure that we protect Canadians' privacy, and we will be looking closely at and addressing those recommendations shortly.

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December 13th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Andy Fillmore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand to speak for the final time in this particular chamber before it closes for a decade and further discuss the elections modernization act, Bill C-76.

This legislation was introduced in the House of Commons by the Minister of Democratic Institutions on April 30, 2018, and was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs last May.

I was proud to work on this piece of legislation during my time as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, and I commend the work of my colleagues at committee and of the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, the very excellent member for South Shore—St. Margarets.

The amendments brought forward by committee have certainly strengthened Bill C-76. The elections modernization act would bring our electoral system into the 21st century and make it more secure, transparent and accessible. These improvements to the Canada Elections Act would contribute to restoring Canadians' trust in their democratic institutions after the debacle of the Conservative government's so-called Fair Elections Act, which we all know was anything but fair.

Today, I will focus on one key component of Bill C-76 that will be implemented for the first time in the next federal election, and that is the pre-election period.

The creation of a fixed date election contributes to a level playing field by providing more certainty to all political parties about the date of the next federal election. However, despite some of the positive aspects we have seen in past elections, a less positive consequence of the fixed date election is the extensive campaigning that begins well before the issuing of the writ, which we all know signals the commencement of the election period.

This is why the Prime Minister mandated the Minister of Democratic Institutions to “Review the limits on the amounts political parties and third parties can spend during elections, and propose measures to ensure that spending between elections is subject to reasonable limits as well.” With Bill C-76, we are delivering on that commitment.

The bill would see the creation of a regulated pre-election period that would begin on June 30 of the year of a fixed date election and would end with the issuing of the writ. The timing is important, since this would capture the core activities leading up to the actual campaign while at the same time not overlapping Parliament's session.

The goal is not to limit Canadians' right to criticize the activities of those who represent them. The pre-election period will include rules that would guide the activities of third parties and political parties during that period.

First and foremost, spending limits will be imposed on third parties and political parties during the pre-election period. Spending limits are important to ensure a level playing field and that all can have their voices heard, and that parties and candidates can get to the starting line in a equitable way.

For political parties, Bill C-76, as amended by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, will set a spending limit of $1.4 million. When applying the inflation factor, it is estimated that the limit will be approximately $2 million in the 2019 general election. This limit only applies to partisan advertising. It does not affect other regular activities of a political party.

The goal of this measure is not to unduly impede the ability of a party to reach out to Canadians and to engage with their ideas. Rather, the it is to allow for a level playing field to avoid a situation in which parties with more resources would be able to monopolize political debate. It will allow all voices to be heard.

While still months away from polling day, these campaigns have a lasting impact on Canadian electors.

With the same objective of limiting the potential harm to our democracy from the extensive and unregulated campaigning in the lead up to the election period, Bill C-76 would also impose a spending limit on third parties. For third parties, the limit would be $700,000. When adjusted for inflation, it is estimated that it would be about $1 million in 2019. Third parties will also have a limit of $7,000 per electoral district, which would be about $10,000 in 2019 when adjusted for inflation.

In the case of third parties, spending limits will include partisan activities, partisan advertising and election surveys. Take for example a third party that posts a large following with the stated purpose of tossing out select politicians from office, for example, Ontario Proud. Under these rules, third parties like it could not incur more than $1 million worth of expenses during the pre-election period. Under these rules, third parties like the one I described, could not incur more than $500,000 worth of expenses during the election period, including advertising and partisan activity like canvassing.

These rules also mean that third parties could not use foreign monies to advertise or carry-out partisan activities. These rules also mean that third parties could not advertise anonymously. Rather, they would have to identify themselves by adding a tag line on partisan advertising in the pre-writ period. Importantly, these rules limit collusion between third parties and any registered party or candidate that would influence its partisan activities.

It is important to note here that we believe that discourse and debate are essential to the democratic process. As such, these rules are aimed at increasing transparency in our elections, not at limiting discourse. These limitations will be enforced equally on third parties, regardless of the party in whose favour they operate.

As the members of the House undoubtedly know, a third party under the Canada Elections Act can be anyone who is not a recognized political entity, such as an individual elector, a non-governmental organization, a corporation, or others. These are all third parties. All of them have a right to share their views with other Canadians. The spending limit that Bill C-76 imposes would ensure that all of these different voices have an opportunity to be heard.

The bill does not just establish spending limits in the pre-election period, but also makes other changes to increase transparency regarding third-party activities. Under the current legislation, third parties are required to report to Elections Canada on their spending in the months following polling day after electors have already cast their votes. That is why Bill C-76 includes new reporting requirements for third parties that are particularly active, for example, those who receive contributions or incur expenses in amounts of $10,000 or more. These third parties would be required to provide interim reports twice during the pre-election period, first upon registration and again on September 15. Similarly, the third parties that meet this threshold would also have to provide interim reports during the election period. These reports would be required 21 and seven days, respectively, before polling day.

Elections Canada would be required to publish on its website, in a timely fashion, the reports it receives. These reports will be very beneficial to Canadians. They will increase transparency as to who is trying to influence them before they actually have a chance to cast their votes. This way, Canadian electors will have access to the tools they need to make an informed and responsible decision.

Before I conclude, I would like to note some additional measures in Bill C-76 that would increase the transparency of third party participation in the electoral process.

First, third parties would have to register with Elections Canada during the pre-election period when they reach $500 in regulated expenses. Currently, that requirement only exists in the election period.

Second, similar to the existing rules regarding political entities, third parties would be required to have a dedicated Canadian bank account for all of the relevant contributions and expenses.

As members can see, Bill C-76 provides a comprehensive regime for the participation of third parties that will contribute to a level playing field, provide greater transparency and, ultimately, make our democracy stronger.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I wish to join you and all members in saying a fond farewell to this storied place and its hallowed halls until its renovation is complete.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish my friend a merry Christmas, and the best to his family as well.

Here is the strange irony of what we are going through in the final hours of this House of Commons in this place. Of course, the House of Commons will continue, but 400 metres that way.

If we think about all the debates that have happened across this floor, where wars have been debated, Canadians have been interned, terrible things have been discussed and hard debates have happened, at the foundation of all that is our democracy, the way we vote and the way we elect people. As the member said, there are all these laudable pieces of this bill that help people vote and allow for better reporting as to what happens.

However, during his speech, part of me was wondering this. If it is such a wonderful bill, why did it take three years for it to get here, and why did it blow right by Elections Canada's deadline to implement many of the things he talked about? That was entirely the Liberals' own choice. In fact, we were banging on the door after they introduced the first version of this bill two years ago, asking them to bring it to the House so we could debate it and get on with it, so that Elections Canada could do its job.

Therefore, that lack of urgency from the Liberals is weird and troubling, and has caused them a whole bunch of problems. We now have this bill passing through the House under time allocation, which means they are shutting down debate and the ability of this House to do what it was built for.

Here is my question. Come the next election, which is less than a year away, will there be reports coming out that there has been a hack of one of the parties' databases? Will there be some sort of foreign interference in our democratic process, where Canadians will rightly be asking their elected representatives what they have done about it to protect them, to make sure they do not have a Donald Trump-style election or a Brexit-style vote? Will there be interference during the election and then, after the fact, once the votes have all been cast, will it be pulled back so we realize that millions of dollars were spent trying to influence Canadians and how they feel about their country with false information and lies, as that is how it is usually done?

As members know, a lie makes its way around the world many times before the truth is up in the morning, and is very difficult to correct with the social media environment we are in. We know all these things because the privacy and ethics committee, which the Liberals sit on, reported more than a year ago that parties should exist under some kind of privacy laws. With all the evidence we now have, does my friend at least agree that that omission from this bill was more than an oversight, and that it was in fact a grave error made by the government?

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December 13th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, Lib.

Andy Fillmore

Mr. Speaker, with respect to how long it has taken us to get here, we were of course subjected to relentless filibustering, in which the member's own party participated. In fact, I remember knocking on the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley's door, asking him to come quickly with the amendments that he was looking for, so that we could move to clause-by-clause. He was never able to respond to me, and I was never able to move with that member toward clause-by-clause.

In the end, we heard from 56 witnesses at committee. We had 24 hours of study at committee. However, it was ultimately the filibustering, which began in May of 2018, that did not allow us to get to clause-by-clause until four and a half months later, on October 15, a scant month and a half ago. Therefore, we have moved this as quickly as we could in the face of that relentless opposition.

With respect to foreign interference, this bill bans all foreign money from being used in elections at all times, not only in the pre-writ and writ periods, but at all times. It requires organizations selling ad space to not knowingly accept elections advertisements from foreign entities. This is putting social media platforms on notice that we will be their partners as we head into 2019, to make sure their advertising is fair.

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

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am specifically looking at the anti-collusion provisions with respect to having a tag line on all advertising that states it has been approved by the financial agent, whether that advertising comes from inside or outside Canada, through the three periods we are discussing, the pre-electoral and during the election period.

Could the hon. member comment on that?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, Lib.

Andy Fillmore

Mr. Speaker, the bill will require organizations selling ad space to not knowingly accept elections advertisements from foreign entities. That is in the writ period and in the pre-writ period.

However, it goes further. The member for Guelph may be interested to know that the bill will also require third parties to use a dedicated Canadian bank account for the payment of election-related spending during the pre-writ and writ periods. This will further help us ensure that these rules are being followed.

Additional punishments also exist for third parties who are found guilty of offences related to the use of foreign funds. They could be subjected to a punishment of up to five times the amount of the foreign funds that were used.

The bill goes on to create other administrative penalties, including the ability for the commissioner to compel testimony and seek judicial respite.

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December 13th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour and privilege to be chosen, among the 338 members of Parliament, to speak today on the last day we will be sitting in this building, the Centre Block, in the House of Commons, in our wonderful Parliament, in our great federation.

Before I go any further and talk a bit about Centre Block, I should say that I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, one of my esteemed colleagues, whose riding is quite close to my own. We share a border, between Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval and Beauport. I am very happy to work with him on various issues that affect our respective constituents.

I would like to wish a very merry Christmas to everyone in Beauport—Limoilou who is watching us right now or who might watch this evening on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. I wish everyone a wonderful time with their family, and I hope they take some time to rest and relax. That is important. This season can be a time to focus a little more on ourselves and our familes, and to spend time together, to catch up and to rest up. I wish all my constituents the very best for 2019. Of course we will be seeing one another next week in our riding. I will be in my office and out in the community all week. I invite all my constituents to the Christmas party I am hosting on Wednesday, December 19, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m, at my office, which is located at 2000 Sanfaçon Avenue. Refreshments will be served and we will celebrate Christmas together. Over 200 people attended the event last year. I hope to see just as many people out this year. Merry Christmas and happy new year to everyone.

Today I want to talk about Bill C-76. I think this is the third time I speak to this bill. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to speak at all three readings of the same bill, and I am delighted I have been able do so.

This is somewhat ironic, because we have every reason to feel nostalgic today. The Centre Block of the House of Commons has been the centre of Canadian democracy since 1916, or rather, since its reconstruction, which was completed in 1920 after the fire. We have been sitting in this place for over a century, for 102 years. We serve to ensure the well-being of our constituents and to discuss democracy, to discuss legislation and the issues that matter to our country every day.

Today, rather ironically, we are discussing Bill C-76, which seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act. This is the legislation that sets the guidelines, standards, conditions and guarantees by which we, the 338 members of Parliament, were elected by constituents to sit here in the House of Commons. It is an interesting bill that we are discussing on our last day here, but this situation is indeed somewhat ironic, as my NDP colleague so rightly said in his question to the parliamentary secretary. He asked why, if this bill is so important to the Liberals, they waited until the last minute to rush it through after three years in power. The same version appeared in Bill C-33 in 2015-16, and the Liberals delayed implementation of that bill.

Since we are talking about Bill C-76, which affects the Elections Act and democracy, I must say I find it a shame that only six out of the 200 amendments the Conservatives proposed in committee were accepted.

We have concrete grievances based on real concerns and even the opinion of the majority. I will share with the House some of the surveys I have here. I just want to take a minute to say to all those watching us on CPAC or elsewhere right now, that it has been my dream ever since I was 15 to serve Canadians first and foremost. That is why I enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces. That is why I dreamed of becoming an MP since I was 15. In 2015, I had the exceptional honour of earning the confidence of the majority of the 92,000 constituents of Beauport—Limoilou. I would like to tell them that, in my view, the House of Commons represents the opposite of what the Prime Minister said yesterday. He said it was just a room.

I did not like that because the House of Commons, which will close for renovations for 15 years in a few days, is not just a room, as the Prime Minister said. I find it unfortunate that he used that term. It is the chamber of the people. That is why it is green. The colour green represents the people and the colour red represents aristocracy. Hence the Senate chamber is red.

I hope I am not mistaken. Perhaps the parliamentary guides could talk to me about this.

It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister said that it is not the centre of democracy, because that is not true. I will explain to Canadians why it is wrong to say that Parliament is not the centre of democracy.

The Prime Minister was right when he said that democracy resides everywhere, whether in protests in the streets, meetings of political associations or union meetings. Of course, democracy happens there. However, the centre of democracy is here, because it is here that elected members sit and vote on the laws that govern absolutely everything in the country. It is also here that we can even change Canada's Constitution. The country's Constitution cannot be changed anywhere else or as part of political debates by a political association or a protest. No, it can only be done here or in the other legislative assemblies of the provinces in Canada. It is only in those places that we can make amendments and change how democracy works or deal with problems to address current issues. Yes, by definition, in a practical manner, the centre of democracy is right here. It is not, as the Prime Minister said, just a room like so many others. No, it is the House of Commons.

Just briefly, before I get back to Bill C-76, I want to talk about the six sculptures on the east wall. The first represents civil law; the second, freedom of speech; the third, the Senate; the fourth, the governor general; the fifth, Confederation; and the sixth, the vote. On the west wall, there are sculptures representing bilingualism, education, the House of Commons, taxation—it says “IMPÔT — TAX” up top—criminal law and, lastly, communications. Those sculptures are here because we are at the centre of democracy. The 12 sculptures represent elements of how our federation works.

With respect to Bill C-67, we have three main complaints.

First, Bill C-76 would make it possible for a Canadian to use a voter card as their only document at a polling station. To be clear, the voter card is the paper people get for registering as an eligible voter. From now on, the Liberals will let people vote using that card only. Currently, and until this bill is passed, voters have to present a piece of identification to vote.

There are risks in letting people vote without an ID card like a driver's licence, health card or passport. First, in 2015, the information on over one million voter identification cards was incorrect. That is a major concern. Second, it is easy to vote with a card displaying incorrect information. That creates a significant problem. It is serious. We need to make sure that voting remains a protected, powerful and serious privilege in Canada.

Our second concern—and this is why we have no choice but to vote against the bill and what upsets me the most personally—is that the government is going to allow Canadians who live outside the country to vote, regardless of how long they have been living abroad. There used to be a five-year limit. In Australia, it is six years. Many countries have limits.

Now, the Liberals want to allow 1.4 million Canadians who live abroad to participate in Canadian elections, even if they have not lived in Canada for 20 or 30 years. They will even be allowed to choose what riding they want to vote in.

Do the Liberals realize the incredible power they are giving to Canadian citizens who have not lived in Canada for 20 years? Those individuals could potentially choose a riding where the polls indicate that the race is very close and change which party is chosen to govern.

Our third concern about this bill is that the Liberals want to prevent third parties, such as labour groups, from accepting money from individuals or groups outside the country during the pre-writ period.

That is good, but there is nothing stopping this from happening before the pre-writ period. People will be able to take in money and receive money from groups outside the country before the start of the pre-writ period.

I thank all Canadians who are watching us for their trust. I look forward to seeing them in the riding next week.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bernadette Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I also saw myself as a member of Parliament from the time I was about 15 years old, so it is an honour to be here today speaking to this elections act.

The hon. member mentioned a couple of things I want to clear the record on. First of all, the Canadian charter guarantees Canadians the right to vote. It does not say that one has to live in Canada. It is a charter right to be able to vote. That is really important to recognize.

Second, he called it a voter identification card. It is not. It is a voter information card. All it is is proof of residence that must be used with another piece of ID. Those are really important things to make sure people understand. This is not a card we would get in the mail that could be used as identification. It would still have to be used with something else.

In the previous election, there were so many people who were not able to vote because they did not have something with their address on it. I am going to use as an example a senior woman who lives with her husband and does not get a bill in her name, because bills come in her husband's name. She does not drive and does not have another piece of ID. This would just be an information card that could be provided with another piece of ID so someone could vote. It is really important that we make those clarifications.

The hon. member had some great comments about the building, and that is wonderful. I really appreciate his speech on the history. However, I think it is important to make the point that when we are talking about bills we have put forward we actually stick to the facts.

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December 13th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to know the member opposite had the same dream as I did, starting at age 15. I am glad to see that she went all the way to realizing this dream. Good for her. Marvellous.

The Liberals speak about this bill as if it is something fundamental, so why did they wait three years? We are three years into their mandate right now, three years of failures. We have three years of failure on the border, where we have almost 100,000 illegal border crossings happening right now. There is huge financial pressure on provincial governments to deal with this crisis. We have three years of failure concerning deficits. They promised that they would run a small $10-billion deficit, and now the Parliamentary Budget Officer, an institution created by Mr. Harper, something we should never forget, who brings accountability to the government every day he acts, has informed us this week that the deficit is way larger than what was announced two weeks ago. It will be about $26 billion just for 2018-19.

I completely disagree with the member. Yes, the right to vote is fundamental. However, the responsibility of the government is to make sure that voting is respected and protected for everyone.

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December 13th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his reflections on this place. Democracy is an idea more than a location, but it definitely is a location when we look at this magnificent building we have been able to work in over the past 100 years. Some of us have been here almost that long. I am on my first term.

The member mentioned a concern about what happens at the voting stations themselves. In Guelph, in 2011, the Conservatives tried to physically take the voting station away from the University of Guelph while the election was going on. We were unable to prosecute because of the lack of powers the Chief Electoral Officer had. This legislation before us today would give the Chief Electoral Officer the power to prosecute. Does the hon. member think that is a great idea?

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December 13th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said, from day one we contributed to this bill. We proposed over 200 amendments, and only six of them were accepted. It is disappointing to see that now the Liberals will be going forward without the acceptance of all members. We are talking about a bill that would have an impact on future elections. We should require all members to stand behind such an important bill. We think it should have been a must for the government to accept many more of our amendments.

Yes, with respect to what the member just told us, if those kinds of situations happened during the last election, which was completely unacceptable, why not give more powers to the election directorate if we are able to? Why was the government so negative toward all the other amendments we brought forward?

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December 13th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, with whom I have had the privilege of sharing some good times in the House of Commons.

We just learned that there will be votes after question period. This is probably the last sitting day of 2018, and the last one in this chamber. As my colleague said, this is not just a room; it is a place that has borne witness to our democracy for more than 100 years. There was a fire here in 1916, but Parliament was rebuilt. I have a lot of appreciation for the institutions, so it makes me emotional, and I feel a twinge of sadness, as I rise today to speak to Bill C-76.

Two of my colleagues opposite said that they had dreamed of becoming members of Parliament since they were 15 years old, but my dream started at the age of six. I am following in the footsteps of my grandfather, who sat here. I feel a great deal of emotion speaking today. He was a member of a party, the Social Credit Party of Canada, which unfortunately no longer exists. I am proud to say that in 1962, Louis-Philippe-Antoine Bélanger was the member of Parliament for the Côte-de-Beaupré region.

It is no easy task to be a member of Parliament, and we take this very seriously. If you were to ask the 338 members of Parliament, they would say that they work very hard and make many sacrifices. With the holidays approaching, we will soon return to our ridings and our families, who share us with the Canadian people. I want to sincerely thank my wife, Isabelle, and my children, Charles-Antoine and Anne-Frédérique, for sharing me with the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. As a father, I say this with a great deal of emotion.

Now, let us get down to the business at hand, Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments. Yesterday, in her speech, the minister touted that her bill defends democracy. This morning, by moving a motion, notice of which was given yesterday, the government expedited the process and limited the speaking time of opposition members before proceeding. Is that democratic? On this side, we would say that it is muzzling people who have something to say and arguments to make with a view to improving the bill.

What we are hearing today is that the passage of this bill is being expedited. The Liberals have been in power for three years and suddenly decided to move quickly. What a surprise, 2019 is an election year. I will say no more.

This government is full of paradoxes. Democracy does not seem to be in the current Liberal government's vocabulary. In 2015, during the election campaign, this government promised a balanced budget in 2019. We—the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois—were campaigning against the Liberals and, in some ridings, people believed them. They believed their election promise that they would balance the budget in 2019 after incurring modest deficits in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who made some more adjustments this week, projects a deficit of roughly $100 billion, I repeat, $100 billion, over four years, even though we are in a favourable economic position.

These are extremely important elements, because this is about democracy. The Liberals asked Canadians to vote for them in the election, but now that they are in power with a majority of seats, they are not keeping their word. Is this democracy?

I can keep going. The Liberals promised that the 2015 election would be the last time the current system would be used, but they did not end up changing anything. Was that a calculated decision? I keep asking questions, but they go unanswered.

Did they decide they would be better off leaving the system untouched instead of keeping their election promise? This is another broken promise.

In addition, they promised to protect supply management. That is not what they did with the U.S. President and the Mexican President. They created a breach. Now almost 3% of the market is wide open.

We have stricter standards than the United States. I think that is a good thing, because Canadians' health is important. Our farmers are subject to standards that are much more costly to meet. The government opened up the market without requiring that the U.S. adopt the same standards as Canada, yet it sees no problem. Everything is peachy. How can the Liberals look their voters in the eye after this? In a few hours, we will be going back to our ridings. I wonder how they are going to look voters straight in the eye and be okay with what they have been doing for the past three years.

I would like to talk about an unusual little promise they made. This is another example of them not delivering on their promises. It is a small promise, but I think it is significant to the people involved. They promised to bring back letter carriers. They said they would undo everything the Conservatives did and they would bring back letter carriers. Where are the letter carriers? They are not back. We still have community mailboxes. Let us not forget that the mayor of Montreal destroyed a concrete slab foundation with a jackhammer. They capitalized on that, showed a lack of respect for voters, and they want to talk about democracy?

As I was saying, this morning we voted on a time allocation motion. That means limited speaking time. Since April 2016, I have voted against 35 time allocation motions on 25 bills. Is that what they call democracy? I am sorry, but we do not have the same definition of democracy.

Democracy is about respecting people, having differing opinions, allowing the opposition parties to present arguments in order to improve legislation. That is what our parliamentary system is about and what it allows us to do; otherwise, we are wasting our time. If our ability to speak is restricted, if members are not allowed to express their opinions, that is a dictatorship. That is unacceptable. When the members opposite talk about democracy and say that implementing Bill C-76 will improve the process, that raises some pretty big questions for me.

As for the ID card, it just makes sense that everyone should identify themselves in a way that is consistent. We have a social insurance system, we have a driver's licence system in each province, we have a passport system. Anyone who travels abroad must identify themselves. It is about monitoring, which is reasonable. All Canadians and all Quebeckers are proud to have a Canadian passport.

Meanwhile, when Canadians go to a polling station, they will be able to show up with just a printed card. If any mistakes are made when those cards are sent out, anyone could take the card and claim to have the right to vote. It is dangerous.

I have to say that I do not believe the Liberal government when it says it is acting in the best interests of Canadians. Who can tell me anything this government has really done in the best interests of Canadians since it was elected? I have not received an answer. I ask the question because, at some point, I have to wonder whether I am being a little biassed or partisan. I have asked my constituents the same question, for they are very sensible and intelligent people. Unfortunately, they have reached the same conclusion as me.

What we have is a rock star who goes around the world for his own personal gain, forgetting that the primary mandate of any prime minister and any responsible government is to look after the affairs of Canadians. I have a lot more I would like to say, but I am running out of time.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier health, happiness and a joyful holiday. Let's meet again in 2019 with a fair and equitable electoral system.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Bernadette Jordan

Madam Speaker, let me remind members of this House that in a democracy, voting is a fundamental right. Unlike the Conservatives, we believe our democracy is stronger when more Canadians, not fewer, vote.

I now want to touch on the amendments that official opposition members put forward at report stage. Simply put, their amendments would have removed accessibility measures, removed the Chief Electoral Officer's mandate to communicate with Canadians about voting, removed the ability for one voter to vouch for another, and taken away the right from over one million Canadians to vote. It is clear that the official opposition is opposed to more Canadians voting. Sadly, this does not surprise me.

The Conservatives will stand in this place and claim to be champions of Canadian democracy, but I wonder how they genuinely can say that when they have delayed and filibustered throughout the study of this legislation. Let us be honest. The Conservative members attempted to block this legislation purely for partisan purposes. Rather than strengthening our democracy in Canada, the Conservative members of the procedure and House affairs committee wanted unlimited spending ability for political parties in the pre-writ period.

We are levelling the political playing field with Bill C-76 to ensure that our elections are more fair, transparent and secure as a result of this amended legislation. However, the Conservatives insisted on delaying the important work of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and preventing good legislation, which will help more Canadians vote, from proceeding through this House.

Earlier this fall, the committee invited the Minister of Democratic Institutions to appear at the start of the clause-by-clause consideration, but rather than agreeing to set a time and date to begin clause-by-clause, the Conservatives filibustered throughout the minister's appearance during which she waited for, but never received, a single question. To be completely frank, I still cannot see what their reasoning was for these delays, apart from wasting the minister's time, delaying the important work of the committee and preventing good legislation which will help more Canadians vote from proceeding through this House. I just cannot imagine how Canadians could support these games and tactics.

Many Canadians choose to study or work abroad at various points in their lives. With the advancement in technology, Canadians are more mobile than ever before. As it has been said many times before in this House, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and regardless if an individual was born in this country or took the oath of citizenship recently, by virtue of being a citizen of this country, that individual is entitled and has the right to have his or her voice heard in our elections. It is puzzling that Conservative members in this House would attempt to prevent over one million Canadians from voting in our elections simply because they are living abroad. In spite of attempts from members opposite, Bill C-76, if passed, will ensure that Canadian citizenship entitles people to vote in federal elections regardless of where they currently reside. It is as simple as that.

During the consideration of this legislation at the procedure and House affairs committee, the Conservatives put forward amendments that would require parental consent for young people to participate in Elections Canada's register for future electors; lower the administrative monetary penalties for those who break election laws; restrict the capabilities and independence of the commissioner of Canada elections in performing his or her duties; and restrict the use of the voter information card to provide one's address. Those are just to name a few.

I will return to an amendment submitted by a Conservative member on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. It had to do with the requirement of parental consent for young people to participate in Elections Canada's register of future electors. Members of this House who are parents will know that parental consent is required for many memberships and to access various online platforms, and certainly for good reason, but to conflate a young person's interest in the democracy of our country and our electoral system with something nefarious is just another attempt by the Conservatives to create barriers to voting in the hopes to suppress the vote.

Members on this side of the House are not surprised by this. The Harper Conservatives attempted to build a case of fear and distrust in our elections through Bill C-23 with the removal of the use of the voter information card to prove address as they felt it was being used by voters to vote multiple times, which as we know, is simply not true. We now see the same fear and divisionary tactics by members of the former Conservative government now being used by the opposition with its proposed amendments.

It should also come as no surprise that the Conservatives did attempt to amend Bill C-76 to restrict the independence of the commissioner of Canada elections. After all, it was the Harper Conservatives who restricted the commissioner's power to investigate in the first place.

Members of the House will remember that through Bill C-76 we are reinstating the commissioner's independence and empowering him or her with the ability to better investigate possible violations of elections law. We are giving the commissioner the power to seek a warrant to compel testimony and the power to lay charges. We are doing this following the recommendation after the 2015 election where the Chief Electoral Officer stated, “The inability to compel testimony has been one of the most significant obstacles to effective enforcement of the act.” Following the Chief Electoral Officer's compelling argument, I find it deeply concerning that all members of the House would not support this measure in Bill C-76.

What is stranger yet is that Conservative members on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs did not support the amendments submitted by the hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, which would add additional punishment for third parties using foreign funding for regulated activities. Under this amendment, third parties who are found guilty of offences related to the use of foreign funds could be subjected to a punishment equal to five times the amount of foreign funds that were used.

The reason I find it surprising that they did not support this amendment is that it can also be found in Bill S-239, which was introduced by one of their Conservative caucus colleagues, Senator Frum. Given that the proposed amendment is the same punishment as set out in Bill S-239, I have to wonder if the amendment was purely not supported because it came from a member on this side of the House, or if it was not supported because it actually would strengthen the legislation. Either reason is completely unacceptable.

This fall the new Conservative critic for democratic institutions, the member for Calgary Midnapore, brought a new collaborative tone to our work and I want to thank her for that. Collaboration from all three parties at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has made this a stronger bill. Members will not always agree on everything in this chamber; in fact, it is disagreement and debate which can produce better policies for all Canadians.

That is why I want to highlight some of the amendments brought forward by opposition members that the committee was able to come together and agree on. These include more protection for information contained in the register of future voters; creating a better definition for third party activities in Canada; and expanding vouching so that any voter on the list in the same polling station can vouch for another voter.

This builds on other important amendments brought forward by the Liberal members on the committee. I would like to highlight just a few of the amendments presented by my colleagues on this side of the House that further strengthen this legislation. These include a complete ban on foreign money spent at any time, not just during the writ or pre-writ periods, for third parties; a new obligation on social media platforms to create a registry of all digital advertising published and paid for by third parties, political parties and nominated and prospective candidates during the pre-writ and writ period; and, as previously mentioned, allowing employees of long-term care facilities to vouch for residents.

During debate on the bill at report stage, we heard concerns from the member for Thornhill with regard to foreign funds in our elections. He said:

Bill C-76 would double the total maximum third party spending amount allowed during the writ period, and it would still allow unlimited contributions from individual donors and others, unlimited spending by third parties and unlimited foreign donations outside the pre-writ and writ periods....

In wrapping up, while there are, admittedly, some modest improvements made to Bill C-76, it remains a deeply deficient attempt to restore fairness to the Canadian election process.

Simply put, this bill, as amended at committee, would prohibit the use of foreign funding in all third party partisan activities and advertising regardless of whether they take place during the pre-election or election period. As a result, I am proud that this bill would ban all foreign money all of the time to further protect our elections from foreign influence. I must also note for the member's reference that this amendment was supported by all members of the committee, including the member's own caucus colleagues.

On the subject of pre-writ spending by virtue of the creation of these timelines during an election year, Bill C-76 has created a maximum writ period of 50 days. I have heard from constituents in my riding of South Shore—St. Margarets that while levelling the political playing field is important to keep our electoral system fair, they also think that the fixed election date rules cannot be abused again. The previous government rigged the system to its own advantage and many Canadians were frustrated to be in such a gravely extended campaign period.

Before I wrap up, I want to go into detail on one other aspect of Bill C-76, which is Canadian Armed Forces voting. The women and men of the armed forces make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our country and to protect our free and fair Canadian elections, yet they vote at a lower rate than the general population. This is likely in part because the Canadian Armed Forces' voting system is terribly outdated. Canadian Armed Forces members are required to vote on a base ahead of election day. Often they are required to vote in a different manner than their families. This system made sense when it was established, but it is no longer practical.

That is why we worked closely with the armed forces and the Department of National Defence to modernize forces voting. Under Bill C-76, Canadian Armed Forces members would be able to choose to use the civilian voting program. Those who wear the uniform face some of the most dire consequences of government policy. We have an obligation to ensure that their voices are heard during elections.

I will close by reiterating that this is important legislation. Bill C-76, as amended at committee, would make voting easier and more accessible to Canadians. It would make it easier for Canadians to run for office. It would make it easier for our women and men in uniform to vote. Bill C-76, as amended, would ensure that Canadians enjoy a democratic system that is more accessible, more transparent and more modern than ever before.

I encourage all members to support this important legislation, which would modernize our elections for future generations to come.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, in her speech, the parliamentary secretary had a lot to say about the Conservative opposition. I am disappointed that she would cast aspersions on the motives of the Conservatives in their opposition to this bill. No Conservative believes that a Canadian entitled to vote should not be able to vote in an election. Conservatives always believe that Canadians should vote, should be encouraged to vote and that all eligible Canadians should be able to vote in an election. It is absolutely untrue to suggest that any Conservative favours any kind of policy that would prevent eligible Canadians from voting. That needs to be clear.

A lot of the parliamentary secretary's speech was about the Conservatives. When Conservatives propose numerous amendments to legislation or insist on fully debating amendments, we are doing our job. We are not the audience. We are not elected to sit and watch a government propose and pass legislation that we oppose.

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

Bernadette Jordan

Madam Speaker, I find the comments of my colleague across the way interesting.

First, a Statistics Canada survey in 2016 showed that 170,000 people were not able to vote because of measures brought in by the former government. That shows that the Conservatives did not want Canadians to vote.

Second, with regard to amendments being brought forward, as I mentioned in my speech, we worked closely with the opposition. We accepted amendments from all parties. We made sure we were able to come to agreement on things. However, it was discouraging when amendments were brought forward that the Conservatives' Senate bill supported and they did not support.

This is strong legislation and we need to make sure it gets through the House.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I am surprised the friendship between the Conservatives and Liberals broke down. It was actually a deal between the Conservatives and the Liberals to raise spending limits that allowed the bill to get through. It is sad the relationship has fallen on rockier times now. The bar was quite low for the government. All it truly had to do was repair the damage done to our elections process by the Harper government, and it actually introduced the bill two years ago to do it.

What did the government do with that bill? Nothing. It just sat on it for two years. It then rolled it into a larger piece of legislation, could not figure when to call it so it was late, and then broke a promise, which the member for Winnipeg North will remember well. In the last Parliament, the Liberals spent a whole opposition day saying that election acts should never be forced through Parliament under time allocation. What is Bill C-76? It is an election bill. What is happening to it? It is under time allocation. Strange how the Liberals say one thing in opposition and another in government.

My friend quoted the Chief Electoral Officer a number of times, and how important that testimony was. He said that the one place this bill fails dramatically is on privacy. Why do the Liberals believe the Chief Electoral Officer sometimes, but when it came to protecting our democracy from cyber-attacks and foreign influence on the web they rejected every amendment the New Democrats moved to improve this bill and ensure our democracy is kept safe?

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

Bernadette Jordan

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his passion on this file. With regard to privacy, the minister has said that more needs to be done. We believe there are a lot of concerns around privacy about how our system is structured. There are studies that are going to be done through committees, and we look forward to seeing what those privacy suggestions are.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her comments on our negotiation process. It was nice of her to mention that.

I have to share that during the last appearance of the minister at PROC, we asked if her government would ensure major announcements, particularly spending announcements, could not be made during the pre-writ period. We asked the following questions:

Will your government ensure that government resources are not used to pay for campaign-style events—for example, town halls featuring the Prime Minister or other ministers, public consultations featuring elected politicians as opposed to [bureaucrats or other] public servants, or other publicly televised or streamed events during the pre-writ period?

Will your government ensure that government departments cannot release public opinion research, reports, or other documents that may influence public opinion, except those of course required by law during the pre-writ period?

Will your government ensure that no major announcements about policy intentions or budget projections can be made during the pre-writ period?

Given those requests so kindly made to the minister, I have the following question for the parliamentary secretary.

Does she have any good news to share about the questions we asked during the minister's last appearance?

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Bernadette Jordan

Madam Speaker, I can confirm to the member and this House that the government has updated its communications policy so the suspension of advertising activities now takes effect on June 30 in a fixed-date election year. This is in line with the proposed pre-writ spending period in Bill C-76. I also want to thank the hon. member for Calgary Midnapore for her work on this bill, and in particular for advocating for this change to the government policy.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I asked a specific question and referenced the Chief Electoral Officer. I can also reference the Privacy Commissioner, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and our European and American colleagues. The justice department in the United States even warned us that we need to dramatically improve our security regime.

There is a natural tension that sometimes happens around making the rules about elections between what the parties want and what Canadians need. The Liberals, the Conservatives and previously the NDP wanted to keep our privacy over how we collect data. The problem is there are no privacy rules that apply to the political parties at all right now. All the experts, including the Chief Electoral Officer, have said that cannot be done anymore. Foreign influences are looking to attack our democracy by hacking into the party databases, and unless there are rules governing and protecting that data, our democracy is made vulnerable.

The Liberals know this. We have already studied this. The ethics committee studied this, and came out with a recommendation Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats agreed with. For the life of me, I honestly do not understand. With all these warnings and being a year away from an election, where the threat is there and there is a clear and present danger to allowing Canadians to exercise their franchise in a free and fair way, the Liberals looked at all those warnings, had all that research already done and said that they would like to study it more. This is code for Liberals saying no. When Liberals do not want to do something, they say that we should study it some more. We did study this. We have the evidence.

Can the parliamentary secretary offer us one reason why it was a bad idea to include some protections for data and Canadians' privacy and some protections for our democracy?

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Bernadette Jordan

Madam Speaker, it is interesting when the hon. member said that to study something means no. This bill came with 87% of the recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer. We have taken into account 87% of the recommendations, so to say that we did not study it is disingenuous. However, the fact of the matter is that we have talked about privacy. This is the first step in—

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sure this happened unintentionally, but I believe that the member just used an unparliamentary term when she said that the hon. member had been disingenuous. I am sure she meant mistaken, or something like that, but disingenuous implies a deliberate attempt to distort things. The hon. member would never do that and I am sure she would never make that accusation. I am sure she will want to withdraw that word, and replace it with something else.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:40 a.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Bernadette Jordan

Madam Speaker, yes, I withdraw the word. I should have used the word, “mistaken”. My apologies to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

With regard to privacy, we know that this is something, and Bill C-76 is the first step. It is going to make sure we start a process that needs to be developed further, and we will make sure that we look more closely at privacy as we go forward.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill C-76, a bill that would take Canada backwards if its goal is to protect and enhance Canada's electoral processes. I spoke to this bill at second reading, and at that time I focused on the absence in this bill of meaningful measures to protect Canadians from a growing trend of foreign interference in Canada's elections, and I am going to return to that theme today. However, I first want to take a step back, and address the broad failure of the current government's track record on the democratic institutions file at large.

Perhaps, before I get too far along, I ask for consent from the House to share my time with the member for Calgary Midnapore.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues. I appreciate that very much.

Following the last election, the government, when its ministry was sworn in, claimed that it would be the most open and accountable government in history. Ministers were issued letters that instructed them to ensure that they conduct themselves in a manner that would withstand the greatest public scrutiny. The government gave a Speech from the Throne that contained a very clear and specific commitment on electoral reform.

The wheels came off all of these assertions almost immediately. Within the first few weeks of the government, it came to light that its ministers were fundraising from their own lobbyists and their own stakeholder groups, in secret, with the cash-for-access fundraising regime. We also saw how the promise of being the most open and transparent government in history quickly gave way to repeated assertions in this House, especially from its House leader, that it was acting in accordance with the law.

It went from the highest possible scrutiny to, “well, it is a loophole and it is not illegal, so what we are doing is okay”.

This is important because it goes to the heart of the principal problem, and there are many problems with this bill but I am going to focus on the one that I am most concerned about, and that is money. The governing party has demonstrated that it struggles to raise money from regular Canadians motivated by ideas and motivated by things that are simply important to them for the good of the country.

For its own reasons, the governing party relies on fundraising from lobbyists and stakeholders, people who have something directly in the game in their relations with the government. This has spilled over into the realm of third parties, and reliance on third parties to also act as proxies for the government and to help it win elections.

The first bit of business under this minister's predecessor was its promise on electoral reform. This was part of the Speech from the Throne. It was a campaign promise, although not one that the Liberals really led with in my part of Canada, in my riding. I do not recall my Liberal opponent bringing it up at all in the forums I attended with her. I do not recall hearing about it at the door. However, I know it was brought up, and the Liberals did campaign on it in other parts of the country.

The Liberals were deliberately cultivating support from the people who might be traditionally expected to vote for the NDP. These people voted for the Liberals and they helped elect them, and they expected that promise to be kept. We know what happened. Under the previous minister, the Liberals were surprised to find that opposition parties were not going to quietly roll over, let them rig the game to their advantage in the next election, nor was the Canadian public, for that matter, interested in doing so.

The government established a special committee, asked for its recommendations, and when it realized the committee was not going to tell it what it wanted to hear, it established a bizarre parallel rigged game of consultation. Finally, when the committee did make a recommendation that the Liberals could not accept, they buried that election promise and instructed the new minister to table a less ambitious bill.

In fact, there was already a bill at that time, which my colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley pointed out, that was tabled under the previous minister. It sat there for two years without anything happening on it, until this spring when we got into Bill C-76.

With this history on democratic institutions and electoral reform, I cannot imagine why any of my constituents would expect me to give credit to the government and to support the legislation before us. As far as the specifics of this bill and the current conduct of the government goes, there are still very serious problems with this bill.

There were some minor amendments that were proposed at committee that may have made some subtle improvement, but right now foreign, third party entities can still fund their Canadian proxies and participate in our democracy with foreign money.

The parliamentary secretary said it was an amendment that was dealt with at committee, but it is not so. There is no provision for audits outside the writ and pre-writ periods. A foreign third-party entity can give money to its Canadian proxy, which can advertise or conduct itself in opposition to a particular party or a particular issue. There is nothing to prevent the Canadian entity from using that money perhaps for administration or legal purposes, freeing up its other resources to participate in public discourse in politics.

I have real concerns about this, and it is not something we are making up. The Tides Foundation brags about how it influenced the last Canadian election. On its website, it takes credit for helping to defeat the last government. It sent millions of dollars into Canada. It sent money to LeadNow, which in its Harper report, talked about how it paid organizers to go out and campaign in the last election and how in 26 out of the 29 seats it targeted, Conservative candidates were defeated. It is not a secret. They openly boast about these activities and about the ability to influence a Canadian election.

Until we get this right out of politics and take a clear stand, with audit provisions that span the period between elections, we are going to be at risk of this type of activity. I used the examples of Tides and LeadNow and some of the groups they funded, because that is real and it happened in the last election. However, who knows, in the next election, which other organizations or governments might use the loopholes in this law? The government has very little credibility on this entire file, and I will not support the bill for that reason.

One other thing I want to point out in the minute or two I have left is that we saw this week that there was an expectation that four by-elections would likely be called this past Sunday, and in fact, only one was called. If the bill passes, the Prime Minister will not be able to call a by-election within the nine months that precede the fixed date that exists for next October.

Three seats are still vacated from the resignations of Peter Van Loan, September 3; Tom Mulcair, August 2; and Kennedy Stewart, September 16. If the Prime Minister does not call these by-elections soon, they will not be able to be called if this bill becomes law. That would be a real shame. Citizens of three ridings would go over a year without a member of Parliament. That nine-month prohibition against calling a by-election before a general election is scheduled, when added to the six months of flexibility the current Prime Minister has, will actually allow the non-representation of constituents for potentially 15 months. I hope that is not what is happening right now. I would hope that with the leader of a federal party nominated in Burnaby, the Prime Minister is not deliberately preventing this by-election from happening, but we will have to see how this eventually plays out.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I was elected in a by-election, and Stephen Harper waited six months before he finally called the by-election in Winnipeg North. I did not make accusations that the prime minister was trying to manipulate. The prime minister was doing what he had the right to do. He waited a full six months in Winnipeg North.

I want to recognize what the Conservatives are doing with this legislation. Let there be no doubt that the Conservative Party does not support this legislation. They will do whatever they can to defeat this legislation. We saw it with the Stephen Harper mentality in the previous government.

Will the member put aside the facade and be very clear to Canadians that the Conservatives have no intention of seeing this legislation pass, period?

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I am glad he was listening and heard the part where I said I do not support the legislation. That is true. I do not support this legislation.

If he had listened a little more carefully when I spoke about the timing of the call of a by-election, I was pointing out that under the bill, should the Prime Minister wait six months, as the previous prime minister did in the case of Winnipeg North, there will be no by-election. This is not about the timing of calling a by-election. My point is about preventing a by-election from actually happening.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just learned a new expression today. It feels good that we can still learn after all these years. My friend from Elmwood—Transcona just described the Liberal question as an “angry softball” that was just thrown to the Conservatives, because in his vehemence, my friend from Winnipeg North just asked the Conservatives, in an angry way, if they do not support the bill. No, they do not.

It was the Conservatives who mucked with our election process around vouching, the idea that a Canadian who has the ID and is on the records and rolls could vouch for another Canadian who is missing some of the ID requirements. My question is this, though. The Liberals claim that this is what they are trying to fix to allow Canadians to vouch for others. However, there is a strange piece in Bill C-76. A Canadian who is just one polling station over, voting in the same high school gym but on a voter roll that is different from a neighbour's, could not vouch for that neighbour. We thought that was just a technical problem. One can imagine that scenario happening, someone saying, “I know my friend from across the street. I would like to vouch for him. Here's my ID, everything is good.” Under Bill C-76, one would not be allowed to because of a tweak in the bill.

We tried to fix that mistake, and the Liberals voted against it. The parliamentary secretary leaned down and told her colleagues not to vote for it. I wonder if my Conservative friend can understand the Liberals' motivation, if what they are trying to fix is enfranchisement and allowing people who live in the same community to vouch for one another.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I certainly would never profess to ever get into the motivation of the member for Winnipeg North and what he might have meant by that.

I want to restate this, because I have heard it in debate, mostly from the Liberals but now from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. There is the assertion that somehow Conservatives do not want eligible Canadians to vote. Conservatives do want eligible Canadians to vote. We want systems in place that will facilitate all eligible Canadians being able to vote properly. Canadians want a system they can rely on and want people who are eligible to vote being able to vote.

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October 30th, 2018 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here today to again address this bill, Bill C-76. My colleagues and I have tried endlessly to intervene on the bill to improve it in an effort to provide true democracy for Canadians and to have integrity not only in our electoral process but, as my kind colleague, the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge, just indicated, in the legitimacy of the electorate. I think that is something integral to Canadians having confidence in the electoral process. It is for these reasons that our attempts at committee were endless, really limitless, in trying to bring close to 200 amendments to make this bill watertight in terms of democracy for Canadians, instead of what it has, unfortunately, become, which is a public relations exercise by the government to demonstrate that it is doing something to attempt democracy, when in fact, the holes are so large, one could drive a Mack truck through them.

My colleagues and I on the committee can certainly look at ourselves in the mirror and look at Canadians and say that we did everything we could possibly do to attempt to have a process that was truly democracy for Canadians and completely made in Canada.

I might add that something we have also attempted to avoid is the potential for foreign interference and influence. I again bring to the attention of the House that this is a public relations exercise, really, by the government. It is attempting to say that it modernized the Canada Elections Act and that it has a process that will absolutely ensure that there is no interference or influence.

I have only been in this position six weeks now, so there has certainly been a lot for me to catch up on. However, I have the great benefit of amazing colleagues and wonderful staff. I have certainly tried to move the process along for the benefit of Canadians. We certainly can look in the mirror and say that we did everything we possibly could to have the best electoral process possible for democracy here in Canada.

Before I talk more about this, I would like to use a specific case example, which I have in front of me today, which is based on a study and investigation done on behalf of the former member for Calgary Centre. I would like to use that as a case example to show that this bill would do nothing to fix the problems that were presented in this case.

However, I simply cannot proceed to that until I get to the two elephants in the room, or I guess it would be the donkeys in the room. That is a joke. The first one would be the by-elections. I simply cannot be here today without recognizing the fact that only one of the four by-elections has been called. This is incredibly unfortunate, because not only does it leave more than 300,000 Canadians without representation, as has been brought to the attention of the House by my colleague, but once again, it is unfortunately the current government's attempt to manipulate and politicize the political processes for its own gain.

I must admit that I was quite shocked last night in the House when I saw my NDP colleagues hooting and hollering over the joy of this bill being passed. They now have the potential of not having a leader sitting in the House for the next election. In fact, that is very possible and probable. I do not know how they can be completely overjoyed with something that potentially leaves them without their leader having a seat in the House of Commons. How can they possibly support a bill that would leave them on this front?

Beyond that affront to them, and who am I to speak up for them or have to defend their interests, I would merely like to point this out for their benefit since they did not seem to understand that in their joyous cries of support in the final vote last night. It sort of behooves me to mention that.

Then this morning, we had the surprise of the debate commissioner. I have to hand to our Liberal colleagues: They are very crafty in choosing the former governor general, sort of a kryptonite, someone selected by them to serve in this position, someone who was appointed Governor General by the former prime minister. However, it does not negate the process. Someone who is given the song sheet to anything, and it does not matter who it is, must sing the lyrics that are there. The rules we have seen for the debates have been laid out by the current government very specifically: two debates, one in English, one in French; participants meeting three of these criteria, one of which is so subjective. This is nothing new for the government, but it is again an affront to democracy.

My colleagues on the committee can verify whether we ever saw a shortlist or a name. I do not believe we did. Once again, it is an affront to democracy. The Liberal government is trying to rig the rules for its benefit. We will never accept that on this side of the House. We will fight for Canadians. Canadians have the right to say how they want to hear from the potential leaders of my nation. What could be more important than for Canadians to have the right to say what the format should be when they hear from their leaders. However, they are being denied that with the creation of this position and these rules. They are being denied their voice.

I would like to turn quickly now to Bill C-76 and this case study, which I am about to present, on how it does not address the problems at all.

This was a complaint brought forward by the Canada Decides group. The first point is with respect to regulation of third parties. It is unfortunate, because foreign interference is talked about significantly in this first part of the complaint. I can verify that the rules brought forward in the bill would do nothing to absolutely ensure that foreign interference and influence would not occur. We asked for this time and again in committee. In our amendments, we asked for the creation of the segregated bank accounts to ensure that third parties would not have the opportunity to receive a million dollars for administration costs and then, lo and behold, move it into election spending. We pushed so hard in an effort to limit the activities to ensure political activity was recognized and held to account. Unfortunately, because of the push-back from the government, this was not the case. Therefore, with respect to this case, I cannot confirm these things were rectified.

I mentioned, as well, the requirements before the pre-writ and the fact that they could receive as much money as they wanted and could do whatever they wanted before those times. I can verify that it does nothing to attempt to fix that. As well, there are no donation limits on contributions received externally, again, prior to the pre-writ period.

I would like to say this with an amendment. I move, seconded by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for the purpose of reconsidering clause 378 with a view to amending it so as to prevent a government from cherry-picking which by-elections to call when there are multiple pending vacancies in the House of Commons.”

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, let me give a real example. During an election, Elections Canada will send out to Canadians all across the country a voter information card. Many constituents, and I will use my own riding of Winnipeg North as an example, take that card along with another piece of ID to the polling station, believing they can vote using those cards. Members of the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the Green Party recognized that being able to use that voter ID card was a positive thing. Stephen Harper's Conservative Party opposed it. They said to Canadians and to Elections Canada that the card could not be used.

This legislation says that Canadians should be able to use it. All political parties, as well as Elections Canada, agrees with that. Only the Conservative Party does not.

Could my colleague across the way explain to the constituents of Winnipeg North, indeed to all Canadians, why Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party, which really has not changed very much, opposed the use of the voter ID card?

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, I feel so strongly that our party really is the party of electorate legitimacy. Canadians will never hold our efforts to ensure there is legitimacy within the electorate against us.

We absolutely feel that Canadians should have to present the proper identification to ensure they are entitled to the precious right to vote, perhaps one of the greatest rights of being a Canadian.

Not only was the government negligent with respect to the subject of identification, but it was also negligent with respect to the non-resident electorate. We pushed so hard for the legitimacy of that as well.

Canadians will never hold it against us for trying to hold our electoral process and the legitimacy of the electorate accountable.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I will speak to the amendment. The New Democrats certainly have no interest in delaying. We have been waiting so long, urging the government to get on with it. The reason the amendment makes sense right now is because of an unusual decision taken by the Prime Minister with respect to by-elections in Canada.

The practice for the last generation, if the Liberals care about democratic rights and Canadians having representation, has been that when a group of seats have been vacated, the by-elections take place as expeditiously as possible. The Prime Minister, very cynically I would argue, chose on the weekend to only have one out of a series of by-elections, the one that had to take place by law. However, the other ones are sitting there and citizens are waiting. The Prime Minister had said that those folks will have to wait.

On the amendment to section 378 in the bill, the New Democrats did not contemplate needing to improve this because we did not think the current Prime Minister, or any prime minister, would be so cynical as to not have by-elections on behalf of Canadians. This is a quick fix because this power needs to be limited. I do not think it should up to the Prime Minister to wait six months and then call a by-election that could go on for six or eight months more and deny Canadians that right. Is that not premise of the amendment and the fix that we need in our electoral laws?

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this debate because the Liberals have finally got on with it and introduced a bill to fix the work done by the previous government, and here I use the term “work” loosely, because that work made it more difficult for a whole series of Canadians to vote.

As the parliamentary secretary was saying earlier, this bill, in their terms, is a “generational overhaul”. Even in the name of the bill itself, that it is a modernization act, conveys that. It gives Canadians the clear sense that we do not do this very often. We do not renew the election rules by which we all participate in our democracy, the ways in which the parties and third parties participate and the ways that voters experience the election, very often.

There was a longstanding principle in Canada, that we would never change those rules in this place unilaterally, that doing so was bad practice and bad faith for one party alone, the government, to force through changes to our rules unilaterally. Canadians would then be left with the very distinct impression that maybe the ruling party of the time was putting in rules that would help that party in the next election.

That is a fair assumption to make. People do not even have to be quite so cynical as some folks in the Prime Minister's Office are to make that assumption.

The practice in this place, for generations, was that when we changed election rules, we did it together collaboratively. The previous government, unfortunately, broke with that tradition over a fight about vouching. It felt there were problems with the vouching system. The New Democrats fundamentally disagreed and the evidence supported them, because there was no massive fraud taking place in our elections and those changes were more about disenfranchisement than ensuring proper enfranchisement of our voting rights.

How we got here with the current government is an important part of this conversation. The Liberals said that the bar was quite low, that their aim was to fix Stephen Harper's unfair elections act. It was not going to be hard to do; it just had to undo a bunch of the damage that the Conservatives had done in Bill C-23 in the last Parliament.

The government introduced the bill. It took a year, but okay, it was a new government. Then for two years, it did not move the bill. The bill just sat there on the Order Paper. I can remember getting up in this place to ask the democratic institutions minister, “Hey, where is your bill? What else are you working on?”

At the time, we had been going through the whole electoral reform process, some of my colleagues will remember well. The committee was called ERRE. It was a special committee. We had participation from all parties, including a representative of the Bloc and the Greens. We toured around the country. We visited every nook and cranny. I see that the Chair is smiling in fond recollection of all of those days we spent on the road together. It was an incredible privilege, not just because we got to hear from experts in Canada about our democracy and how it could perform better, about voting and how to count votes in different ways, but also heard about how much of Europe and most of the world, in fact, had changed over time.

Also, and more importantly, we got to hear from average, ordinary Canadians. We had an online survey. Some 33,000, I think, people participated. We went around and held town halls, and heard from witnesses from each of the provinces, but we also just had an open mic where people could come up for a few minutes and tell us what they thought was needed.

As a parliamentarian, this is the very lifeblood, the very motivation of why we should be here, to have that open access to Canadians. They poured their hearts out to us, talking about voting reforms they wanted to see. They overwhelmingly supported proportional voting systems. That was the evidence that we heard, both from the experts and from the public who came before us.

Then, unfortunately, at the 11th hour, in a most awkward and quite cynical move, the Liberals kind of pulled the plug and, for months, they would not talk about what they wanted to do, what kind of voting systems they were interested in. The Prime Minister had hinted at one out of Australia that he liked, a ranked ballot. However, very early on in the committee process, we heard from experts who said that ranked ballots would not work well in Canada, that it would be a first-past-the-post system but on steroids. It worked very well for a traditionally centrist party, a party that borrowed a bit from all sides at all times. Good gosh, who could that possibly help out? Right, it was the Liberals. That idea was shot down out of the gate.

Then the disinterest of the Liberals in moving anything forward became obvious, to the final point where the then-democratic reform minister got up in this place and slammed the committee itself for failing to do its job. She then became the former democratic institutions minister, because that did not go over well.

Moving forward, we then saw the government taking so much time that it actually blew past the Elections Canada deadline, which was last spring. Indeed, Elections Canada came before our committee and said that if we were going to make any changes to the way elections are run, it needed legislation passed by the House and the Senate last spring. The Liberals said, “right”, saw the deadline and introduced the bill the day after the deadline had passed.

The committee began to work, the Conservatives started a little filibuster, and that took all spring and into the fall, and then the government blinked and they worked out a deal together. It is so nice to see parliamentarians getting together and working things out. The Conservatives and Liberals worked out that there would be more pre-election spending money, thus putting more money into politics. The Liberals were okay with that. Now they are upset again at the Conservatives and so things are returning back to normal, I guess.

We were just outside the House of Commons talking about the debates commission, which this very same committee had studied as well for quite a while and made clear recommendations, which I have here. The second and most important one is on the leaders' debate, which is an important part of our democratic process. A lot of Canadians watch these debates in French and English and make up their minds as to whom they want to support. However, it got a little tricky in the last election, with leaders not showing up and kind of screwing up the process a bit. Therefore, a debates commission was promised three years ago. However, for months and months, the new Liberal minister of democratic reform told us not to worry, that they were not really consulting with us because they were just going to use the report by the procedure and House affairs committee, PROC. We said, okay, if they followed what PROC studied and recommended, then we should be fine.

The second recommendation states that the leaders debate commissioner must be selected unanimously by all parties in the House. That seems like a good idea. We do not want the person who sets the rules over that important debate to favour one party or another, or to be chosen only by one party and not anyone else, because Canadians would then ask if it were not a partisan appointment, which is not right. It should not be a partisan appointment, especially by just one party, because then we would just watch the democratic reform minister step out in front of the cameras and say that the government has appointed a commissioner, that the government has decided alone and set the terms for who can participate in the debate and that the commissioner it has appointed will set the topics and all of the rules to follow. The Liberals say unilaterally, “Trust us”.

On democratic issues, the government seems to have some kind of fundamental twitch that comes up again and again, in that when it comes to the decision between collaboration and working with others versus unilaterally having all the power in its hands, the governing Liberals choose the latter again and again. I do not know why. It is actually quite stupid strategically, because when they make recommendations that are only supported by themselves, they are open to proper accusations of bias, of trying to rig the rules. For heaven's sake, I just do not know why. It is not just for the sake of the spirit of collaboration that we try to work together to try to strengthen our democracy, but if that is not motivation enough, then doing so just for the sake of political strategy is sufficient reason. However, the Liberals do not understand that when they work with other parties and have them support their recommendation, there is just much less controversy out the other end and that Canadians will trust the results more. Yet, time and time again, the Liberals choose to go it alone and then it blows up in their face again and again, and then they want to blame someone.

Here we are with Bill C-76, which is pretty flawed. I mean, 338 recommendations and amendments, a whole bunch of them, came from the governing party itself. They wrote the bill and then had to correct the bill, and then just last night, we voted on more corrections to the corrections of the bill. It is not great that it took them three years to get here, and there were so many fundamental problems in it, and a bunch of things remain uncorrected. I will give one example, and I think it is a good one.

Canadians would worry about someone trying to cheat or steal votes in an election and spending money illegally. Well, how would Elections Canada be able to investigate that? It needs to compel testimony, which the bill includes. However, what the bill does not include, which Elections Canada wanted, is the power to require receipts, cheque stubs, from all of the political parties, as it does for us as candidates. As candidates, if we claim to spend money, we have to demonstrate how the money was spent. Political parties do not.

Well, that is strange. How can Elections Canada do an investigation and find out if something went wrong or if someone may be cheating if it cannot get the evidence? It would be like passing criminal laws in this place where we would strengthen the laws to protect Canadians, but deny the police the ability to gather evidence. We cannot bring a person to trial if we do not have evidence.

However, the Liberals actually had a provision in the bill to require receipts and invoices, but took it out. We tried to put it back in and the Liberals said no. The Chief Electoral Officer said that he needed that ability to catch the bad guys. If someone working in some party office started to cheat and spend money in a bad way, Elections Canada is not going to know, because it will not have the evidence. In order to have an investigation, we need evidence.

Let us talk about getting more women into Parliament. We all remember Daughters of the Vote. It is an excellent program. The government just decided to fund it a little more. Under that program, young women, particularly from each of the ridings across the country, come and occupy these seats, 338 of them. They sit in these seats. Last year they got to question the Prime Minister. They were good. They were tough and fair, but mostly tough.

When we look at our parliamentary situation and whether Parliament reflects what the country looks like, if we were to stand out on the front steps, the first thing one would notice is that there are not a lot of women. They represent 26% of members in this Parliament. In the last Parliament, they were 25%. It went up by one percentage point. At the current pace, we will have gender equity in Parliament in 83 years. The Daughters of the Vote said, “That is not a sufficient timeline, Mr. Feminist Prime Minister. When are you going to get on with this?”

One of the ways we can all get on with this is to encourage more women and more people of diverse backgrounds to run. That is a good way of doing things. However, like many things in life, we have to follow the money. Therefore, one of the changes we proposed was included in the bill by our former colleague Kennedy Stewart. The Liberals said they liked that bill, but then voted against it. How typical. What it proposed was that when we reimburse parties for spending, which the public very generously does, we should reimburse to 100% those parties that try to present candidates that reflect the country, those parties that have candidates close to parity. The parties that just want to present 100% pale, male and stale candidates would get less money back from the public. It is a form of encouragement to not just mouth the words but go out and try to recruit diversity so that we can have diverse views here. How radical is that? The Liberals voted against that. Instead, they said they were going to allow women to claim child care expenses for 30 days as part of their election spending. They could fundraise on that and get child care for 30 days, as if that were the barrier holding women back from running for office, those 30 days in the 35 days of the actual writ period.

Come on. For an allegedly feminist prime minister—and I say “allegedly” because I do not have a lot of evidence to show that he is—one would think that if he had a proposal in hand that would result in more women over time getting into office, that would be good, unless he is happy with 26%. That seems to be be the case, because he recently decided to protect all of his incumbents from nomination races. He just said, “They're all protected”, which is essentially saying that he would like to have the status quo. I know this because I think there is a Liberal riding association that does not want to have its current incumbent MP represent them again, and the Liberal Party recently told it to step in line or walk out the door. That is love of the grassroots if I ever saw it.

Privacy was a huge part of the conversation that we had with Canadians. New Democrats believe in people's right to have their personal data private. As we move deeper into the social media world, the Internet based economy, privacy and the protection of privacy become incredibly important in commerce but also in politics. Here is what the rules in Canada say right now with regard to how the parties manage huge databases of information about the Canadian voter. They say nothing. Canadian law says nothing. Therefore, if this is a modernization bill, a once in a generation attempt to make our elections free and fair and to protect our sacred democracy here in Canada, one would think that because it is 2018, we would have something in here about that data and protecting Canadians' rights.

Here is the threat that we have seen exposed. It is not an imagined threat. Has anyone heard of Cambridge Analytica? People from Cambridge Analytica approached a number of MPs in the last Parliament, me included, and said that we should hire them because they could help us harvest data from our social media sites, from Twitter and Facebook. They said they would find out their associated email addresses, something one cannot normally do. If someone likes us on Facebook, then they like us on Facebook. That is no big deal, However, we cannot find out their email address. They said they would get us those people's friends as well, that they would be able to micro-target folks who might be be associated with them and of interest to us.

For political parties, that is red meat. That is interesting. That opens up whole new worlds. What we can do now with social media is to hyper-target people. The old days of putting out political ads with a sort of scattered approach in appealing to voters are gone. Micro-targeting is where it is at.

The Liberals up until last year prided themselves on being able to micro-target. They said that is how they won the last election. In fact, they hired Cambridge Analytica. They gave a $100,000 government contract to do what? Has anyone seen the contract? No, because the Liberals will not put it out. They hired the guys who were caught up in a thing called Brexit.

Folks will remember Brexit. Britain certainly remembers Brexit because it is going through it right now. Voters in England were hyper-targeted. Databases had been harvested. Facebook likes and share groups had been manipulated and were only being sent a whole bunch of myths and disinformation about what Brexit meant. The British Parliament has been trying to unravel this thing ever since Brexit happened as to how that referendum vote happened.

I want people, particularly from Quebec, to imagine if in the last Quebec referendum we found out after the fact that the referendum had been tampered with by outside groups and agencies, that a foreign government had gone into the data profiles of Quebeckers and targeted them one by one and spread misinformation about the effects of their referendum vote, and we found out after the fact. What would the reaction of Quebeckers be in what was ultimately an incredibly close vote as to whether Quebec would seek to leave Canada? Would anyone cast aspersions on the results of the vote whether they won or lost, that whoever had lost would say that the vote was not done fairly? That is what is being said in England.

The U.S. justice department has said that the last U.S. election was tampered with and the current U.S. mid-terms are being tampered with right now through Russian and Chinese online hackers. The threat is real and the threat is now. When we look at this modernization bill and say what protections are we—

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

That is very interesting. The vote was on October 30, 23 years ago. That is fascinating. I wish I had known that before I started talking because that would have made the point even stronger. It was 23 years ago today.

Elections are happening right now in the U.S. The Democrat and Republican databases had been hacked in the last election. We saw the emails that were being spread about, in that case by Russian agents. The U.S. has warned Canada. In fact, our own secret service agency, the CSE, has warned Canada. The Minister of Democratic Institutions asked our spy agency to look at our democratic process and make recommendations. It reported last summer and said that on privacy, we do not have sufficient protections to protect our democracy. The report the minister commissioned from a Canadian agency said that things are not sufficiently strong.

The Liberal response was to reject every single recommendation that New Democrats put forward to make things better. The recommendations were based on the evidence we heard from the Chief Electoral Officer, from the Privacy Commissioner, from the BC Civil Liberties Association. In fact, there was not a single witness who came forward and said, “Please do not do anything.”

Here is what the Liberals offered up in Bill C-76. Every party must now have a statement on its website about privacy. It does not say what the statement is or whether the statement is enforceable or there are any consequences for breaking a promise to Canadians. Whoa, Canadians are quaking in their boots. What strong, tough Liberals they are. We are to put a statement on our website that is not enforceable, that is virtually meaningless. That is what Liberals think is protection of our democratic institutions. My goodness. Come on, they should be serious for once on this.

There was not a single witness at committee who said the status quo is acceptable. In fact, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada said that if there is one area where the bill failed, it is privacy. The Privacy Commissioner said that this bill contains nothing of substance in regard to privacy. These are the experts. These are the watchdogs. These are the people who we trust. We should trust them.

Last night when we voted on these amendments to make things better, to encourage more women to participate, to allow for better protections of our privacy, to allow more enfranchisement, the Liberals rejected them again just as they did at committee. For the life of me I really do not know why. We are meant to work together in this place. We are meant to not have real fundamental disagreements about the rights of Canadians to cast a free and fair vote in our elections. I sure wish the Liberals would back up some of their rhetoric with action.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the member's speech, but I am not sure which conspiracy theory I want to deal with first.

In terms of the choice of the debates commissioner, I fail to see how David Johnston, a former governor general, is a partisan appointment. He is someone who has even moderated debates before.

On the timing of the bill, the member must know that even if a bill has not been passed, something he would know from the hearings at the electoral reform committee, Elections Canada begins preparing in advance of a bill passing. The commissioner even said that during the hearings on electoral reform.

Now I would like to shift to the official opposition's continual focus on electoral fraud. I would like the member's comment on a quote from the book One Person, No Vote, which of course is a play on the famous phrase. It is a book by Professor Carol Anderson, who writes, “The most common tool, though, [of voter suppression] are laws around identification: Crackdowns on what can be used as proof of address are often an indicator of suppression.”

I would like the member's comments on that quote.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, particularly in the U.S., we have seen the most dastardly forms of trying to suppress certain votes. Sometimes it is done through identification and sometimes it is done through gerrymandering. There are all sorts of tactics that politicians there use, and I would say sometimes politicians here have used. Briefly, around vouching, it has certainly targeted folks who are homeless; younger people, who are more mobile and may not have those pieces of identification readily available; and particularly indigenous voters. Where I live, 40% or so of folks are indigenous, and there is less availability of ID for indigenous Canadians, particularly in rural Canada.

I would caution my friend though on the conspiracy theory comment, because I was very careful with the examples I brought forward. Unless he wants to say that the U.S. justice department is promoting conspiracy theories, or the European justice department is into conspiracy theories, or the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada or the Privacy Commissioner of Canada are into conspiracy theories, that language around this content is not deserving of the debate we are having.

Elections Canada had to make some of these modifications on the fly because the government was so late bringing the bill forward, but the Chief Electoral Officer said that this was not ideal. It is better to have a bill passed in its final form and then act upon it. Imagine if the police were to start enforcing things that were not yet passed into law. This is not good practice. He was forced to do it. Clearly, it was not the first choice.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always very interesting, enjoyable and exciting to hear my NDP colleague speak. Although we do not generally agree, it can still be inspiring. Indeed, much like the NDP member from British Columbia, I had the privilege of sitting on the electoral reform committee led by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

Before I ask my question, I would like to remind the House that the 1995 referendum in Quebec took place exactly 23 years ago today. As everyone knows, that vote profoundly divided Quebeckers. Perhaps there are people here who voted yes back in the day, but have since changed their minds.

Just a few minutes ago, the Liberal government announced a unilateral decision to appoint someone to oversee televised debates. We do not dispute that individual's expertise in any way, shape or form, but would it not have been better to make that announcement following consultations with the federal political parties?

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. I also have fond memories of that committee and I like to think that we did good work.

As far as the debate commissioner is concerned, we do not take issue with the person who was selected or his credentials. We take issue with the process. The government selected a name from a list and then asked if we were happy with that selection. It is ridiculous. Even if the candidate were Ghandi, it is not about his qualities or performance, it is about the process.

In fact, the minister promised me and others that she would respect the work of the committee, which recommended that all parties discuss the selection. At the very least there should have a been a shortlist of two, three or four candidates. Otherwise, the government has all the say on something as important as the leaders' debate.

This seems to be a pattern with this government. Their principles and morality fall short when it comes to our democracy. This pattern is a threat to everyone because this government is obsessed with power.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member was in the chamber when I posed a question to the Conservative Party about wanting to kill this bill. An opposition party will often vote against legislation, but it does not necessarily mean that in all circumstances it will go out of its way to kill the legislation. The Conservative Party would like to filibuster the debate on this bill and kill this legislation so that it never becomes law. Surely to goodness, the member across the way, with the experience he has, understands that.

On the other hand, New Democrats say we should never use any tools at all in order to pass legislation such as this. Would the member not recognize that if we do not look at the tool box, with the Conservatives committed to never allowing this bill to pass, there is a certain element of hypocrisy or lack of transparency on the part of New Democrats to be arguing that they want the legislation to pass even though it might need some improvements and then say, at the same time, never to use any of the tools that would ensure the legislation does pass?

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, normally when it comes to hypocrisy, I would tend to defer to my colleague because he is a bit of an expert on that. I have a whole series of quotes from his lips in this place, saying that the tactic they are taking right now should never be done.

The question is: How did we get here? We got here because the Liberals took so darn long to bring forward the legislation in the first place. Then when they are up against the wire, they are surprised when there is a six-hour filibuster, and they cut a deal with the Conservatives to get it through, and then they apply time allocation. Those are all choices made by members of the government. No one put a gun to their heads telling them not to bring the bill in for three years. They just chose to do that, and one wonders why. I think they invoke the panic and the deadline. Then when they are past the deadline, they panic and rush it through without debate. They do it again and again. It might be hypocrisy, actually, just from a lack of incompetence. I will let everyone decide.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I will start by agreeing with my colleague that Liberal incompetence does breed a certain sense of urgency, but for the Liberals to use that as a tactic is quite wrong. There are a lot of things that need to get fixed and we are worried about them, but to purposely delay, then present something complex and insist that we need to run roughshod over the complexities because of their delay is not a tactic becoming of this place.

On the question of the new debates commissioner, one of the things I find interesting about the process, or lack thereof, is that the government appropriated $745,000 this year for a process to develop and implement a new debates commission. Presumably, the Liberals included the word “develop” because there was going to be some sort of substantive process that clearly required substantive funds.

I am wondering if the member can speculate as to how that money might have been spent given what appears to be a serious lack of process around appointing a new debates commissioner.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, why three-quarters of a million dollars is being spent on the process to pick the commissioner, I have no idea. I would have paid for the coffee if the minister wanted to come and talk to us, because we do not know the criteria by which they picked the new debates commissioner. We do not know who else was on the list. We do not know what job description they negotiated with the new commissioner. He is a very nice guy. He is smart and has done a lot of work. However, the fact that the Liberals spent three-quarters of a million dollars to unilaterally pick the former governor general, who was kind of just down the road at the time they started this, also begs the question of the $5.5 million they have attributed to running debates, one English and one French, with podiums, glasses of water and a bit of a backdrop. The sum of $5.5 million seems to be what the Liberals think that should cost.

The process is messed up. They know it is messed up. The Liberals do this again and again. They delay for two years, three years and sit on their hands on something. Then in the panic and the crisis, they say they would like to work with parties, but they cannot because there is no time available. It is getting weak.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Surrey—Newton.

I recall when the whole issue of amending the Elections Act first arose under the previous government. Ever since that time, the notion of amending the Elections Act seems to have revolved around the issue of voter fraud. All we heard about in the previous Parliament was how new rules needed to be brought into play in order to prevent voter fraud.

Then during debate on this bill, Bill C-76, what has mostly come from the official opposition is again a focus on voter fraud. I wonder if this kind of discourse does not breed an unfortunate misperception on the part of the public as to how our electoral system works. That has been the tack the official opposition has taken. Essentially, their discourse is focused on the issue of the voter identification card.

Ironically, voter fraud is not a problem. It is really a bogeyman.

The only recent incident of voter fraud that I am aware of is the robocall incident in which case a Conservative volunteer, Michael Sona, went to jail for his role in that. I remember campaigning on the last weekend in 2011 when my campaign manager called me in a bit of a panic saying that we were getting calls in our office from people who had gotten calls saying that the location of their voting station had changed. I do not know how many calls were made in my riding but some were obviously made and they were made across the country as well.

I would like to focus on an article in The Globe and Mail on the issue of voter fraud. It is an article by Denise Balkissoon, in reference to the U.S. experience, which is relevant because our systems are comparable in many ways. She stated that:

Meanwhile, the threat of voter fraud has always been manufactured. One study that focused on impersonation found 31 provable instances between 2000 and 2014, during which time more than one billion American votes were cast. This August, a Department of Justice investigation into the 2016 election process in North Carolina found that, out of almost 4.8 million ballots, 500 had been cast by ineligible voters. Most were people with criminal records, who didn’t know their records prevented them from voting....

Therefore, those people in North Carolina were not attempting voter fraud. They just thought that they had the right to vote, which I guess they did not in that circumstance.

Meanwhile, the focus on voter ID is really motivated by a desire to dissuade voting, to suppress voter participation. I read a quote before, which I will read again, from Professor Carol Anderson, who wrote a book, One Person, No Vote, a play on the well-known phrase. She states that, “The most common tool [of voter suppression] ... are laws around identification: Crackdowns on what can be used as proof of address are often indicators of suppression.”

By not allowing the voter identification card to be used as ID, the so-called Fair Elections Act made it just a little bit harder to vote, tilting the balance away from voting for some because we know that in some cases people get frustrated if they feel that somehow there is an impediment to going to vote or a minor inconvenience. Some people will decide not to vote in that election. We know that is some of the thinking that occurs sometimes. The Fair Elections Act's prohibition on the Chief Electoral Officer's ability to run programs to encourage voter participation is another example of this attempt in the previous amendment of the Elections Act to discourage voting. Bill C-76, I am glad to say, moves in the opposition direction, in the direction of increasing democratic participation, of expanding rather than reducing the franchise. I will give some examples.

Bill C-76 encourages voting in the following ways.

First of all, it allows the use of the voter identification card once again. It does not mean that individuals can just go to the polling station and show the card and get to vote. They have to prove who they are with identification. It usually requires a second piece of identification.

A second example of how we are proposing to expand the franchise to vote is by allowing employees of long-term care facilities to vouch for multiple residents, which makes sense. In a long-term care facility there are usually one or two people attending to a number of residents. They know who these people are. They know their families. They know quite a bit about them. It makes perfect sense to allow that person to vouch for multiple residents. It is a common-sense change.

The bill proposes to allow the Chief Electoral Officer to sponsor voter awareness campaigns. To think that somehow the Chief Electoral Officer is advocating for one party over another is one of the conspiracy theories that have been born around the issue of amending the Canada Elections Act.

The bill proposes to create a national register of future voters to get youth engaged in the electoral process early, long before they reach voting age. That makes a lot of sense. I just met an hour ago with students from St. Thomas High School in my riding. They must have been about 15 or 16 years of age. I told them about that aspect of the bill and they seemed quite excited, as did their teachers, around the possibility of registering ahead of time before they reach voting age.

Another example of how we propose to expand the franchise is by expanding the right to vote of one million Canadian expats abroad. It would no longer be required to reside outside Canada for less than five consecutive years nor would it be required that a person intends to return to Canada to resume residence in the future in order to vote.

Last but not least, the bill proposes to make voting quicker and easier by allowing voters to vote at any table in the voting station rather than wait at a specific table.

Expanding the current use of mobile polls during advance polls to better serve remote, isolated or low-density communities is just another example of how we want to make voting easier. We want people to vote. We want to expand their democratic franchise.

We would be making it easier for people with disabilities to vote, which of course is the right thing to do. For example, assistance at the polls is currently only permitted for persons with physical disabilities. Bill C-76 would make assistance available irrespective of disability, in other words, whether it is a physical or an intellectual disability. An elector would be able to be assisted by a person of his or her choosing. Currently that is not possible.

Many people with disabilities have a particular caretaker whom they know and trust. They would be allowed to have that person help them with voting as opposed to arriving at a voting station and being told the voting station will assign a person to help them out, which can be intimidating to some individuals.

Currently, a transfer certificate is only available for people with a physical disability when the polling station is not accessible. Bill C-76 would make it available irrespective of the nature of the disability and irrespective of whether the polling station is accessible. Further, the Commissioner of Elections Canada would have the flexibility to determine the application process for the certificate in a way that is less challenging for an elector seeking accommodation because of a disability.

The current process for persons with disabilities to vote at home would be extended irrespective of the nature or extent of the disability.

Finally, Bill C-76 proposes to establish a maximum reimbursement of $5,000 per candidate and $250,000 for political parties that take steps specifically to accommodate electors with disabilities and reduce barriers to their participation in the democratic process.

I am personally proud as a Canadian of the progressive values in Bill C-76, when it comes to implementing the rights of people with disabilities to participate in the electoral process.

Bill C-76 would strengthen the electoral system against fraud, including in the context of the new digital technologies that we are now seeing can disrupt election results based on the influence of false information and manipulation. In other words, the bill would empower the Commissioner of Elections Canada to seek judicial authorization to compel testimony in order to ensure timely and thorough investigations and it would authorize the commissioner to lay charges.

We are strengthening the bill to protect against voter fraud and we are expanding the franchise. I am very pleased and proud of that as a member of Parliament and as a Canadian.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to attend the electoral reform committee meeting in Regina and had the chance to get to know my hon. colleague across the way a little better. I want to make two comments with respect to two disappointments in this bill and ask for his comments.

Many of us would say that young people came out to vote, especially young New Democrat and Liberal voters, on the promise by the Prime Minister that 2015 would be the last election to use first past the post. I think that many of those voters, although they would be pleased to see some of the changes within this bill, would be very disappointed to see that the changes do not include that very explicit promise made by the current Prime Minister. I am wondering if my hon. colleague did not also expect more from this bill, given the fact we have waited three years for that change.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, likewise, I enjoyed chairing the committee with the hon. member present in Regina especially.

I will address the issue around electoral reform. I chaired the committee. I obviously was at all the hearings. I was part of the process from beginning to end. I entered the process with a very open mind with respect to what kind of system could possibly replace our current first-past-the-post system. What emerged over the course of that process was a realization that there was no consensus in this Parliament, in this House, as to what a best replacement system would be. Indeed, the Liberal Party favoured a preferential ballot. It is no secret that the Conservative Party did not want any change. We know that the New Democrats and the Green Party preferred proportional representation. I remember the Chief Electoral Officer saying that we could make a change without a referendum if the majority of the parties in the Commons agreed on a particular system. However, that was not the case. That I think is really the reason why we did not move ahead with this particular issue.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, as we put legislation in place, we know that the responsibility of parliamentarians is to protect our democratic system in Canada. It is a system that we hold very dear to our hearts. It helps us to function as the society we enjoy, as the country we enjoy and call home and invite others into to also call home with us. Protecting that democracy means that elections must be fair. They must be set up in such a way that one vote counts equally to another.

Under the changes put in place by the Liberals, there would be the ability for someone to come and present an identification card as a form of ID. In the last election in 2015, we know from Elections Canada that 16% of these cards were sent out in an incorrect way. They went to the wrong address, they went to the wrong person, they went to a non-citizen or an individual received multiple cards at one location. Therefore, being able to use those cards as an identification mechanism by which an individual is able to vote actually degrades our system, because it means that 16% of those votes are not valid. I would like to hear what the member opposite would say in response to that.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, this is the point I was making at the beginning of my speech, which is that the party opposite has branded the amending of the Canada Elections Act as an issue of voter fraud. We know that when people get to the polls they have to establish their identity and a voter information card by itself would not suffice. However, if there was such a problem with voter identification cards, we would see cases of voter fraud. We have not seen any. The only cases of voter fraud we have seen have involved the robocall scandal that took place under the previous government. I reiterate the quote that I read before, which is that a billion American votes were cast between 2000 and 2014 and there were only 31 instances of impersonation or the belief that someone was trying to impersonate someone else. It is just not a problem.

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October 30th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, a good way to start is with something I put in the form of a question earlier today. The Government of Canada has wide support for many of the initiatives in this legislation, whether from New Democratic members, the leader of the Green Party or Elections Canada. We have listened to what Canadians have had to say on the importance of our electoral system in every region of our country. I believe that the minister has done an outstanding job in bringing things together and presenting to the House what is a modernization of Canada's elections laws. We want to see additional strength.

Today, around the world, Elections Canada is recognized for the strong leadership role it plays. In many countries throughout the world, we are often looked to as a country to go to for a better understanding of how we can have independent elections and how well we have done overall as a nation through the independent office of Elections Canada.

The minister brought in the legislation. A healthy debate took place. It went to committee. Unlike under the previous administration, when there were no opposition members listened to and when even Elections Canada was not listened to, we had many amendments. Amendments came from the Conservatives and the New Democrats. We had a great deal of input from the leader of the Green Party. Members on the government side listened to what the stakeholders, in particular Elections Canada, were saying, which led to many government amendments at the committee stage. We now have an even better piece of legislation as a direct result of having gone through that process.

The New Democrats will say that they had a lot more amendments that were rejected. Not all of their amendments were good. Not all of them were rejected. Some of them actually needed further study, and so forth.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, wanted to bring it back to the way it was, and we did not support that, and we believe that Canadians do not support that. The best example I can give was just referenced, and that is the voter card. Canadians across this country are sent in the mail or delivered a voter information card, which has their name and address on it. It tells them where they are going to be voting. A lot of Canadians, including me and my household, retain the card. Many people believe that they can take that card and use it as a form of ID. Why not? Elections Canada does not have any problem with that. Members of the Green Party and members of the New Democratic Party do not have any problem with that. It is only Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

Even under the new leadership of the Conservative Party, there is no difference. What is the difference between Stephen Harper's party and the new leader's party? I do not know, especially when it comes to some of the legislation. The Conservatives have a problem with Canadians using something that is supplied by an agency, Elections Canada, which is recognized around the world as an independent body. The Conservatives, for whatever reason, do not believe that should be allowed for Canadians, because they do not trust it. Shame on the Conservatives for not recognizing what is a very obvious thing and an important part of democracy.

This legislation would do a great deal in terms of making changes to modernize the process. We are making the electoral process more accessible for Canadians with disabilities, caregivers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are restoring voting rights to the more than one million Canadians living abroad.

What I find interesting is that we have the Conservatives, who are very transparent, and we have the New Democrats, who are trying to hide their real political objective. Let me explain that. The Conservatives have demonstrated today, as they did in committee for many hours and days, that not only do they want to vote against this bill, they will do whatever they can to prevent this bill from ever seeing the light of day. It does not take a genius to filibuster a bill. Give me 12 or 14 members, and I could hold up a bill for weeks. It does not take a genius to do that. The Conservatives have made the decision that under no circumstances do they want to see this bill passed.

The New Democrats say that they support the legislation, but under no circumstances should the government use any of the tools to ensure that it is passed. If it were up the Conservatives, this bill would never, ever pass. We would be debating it until after the next federal election. I will give the Conservatives credit. At least they are being transparent. The New Democrats are trying to come across as great democrats, when they have no intention of trying to ensure that this legislation passes. They should be embarrassed, because they consistently try to give an impression that is just not true.

It is not the first time the New Democrats have done that. In their statements, they imply that I have advocated that time allocation should not be used on motions. What the New Democrats are not saying is that on many occasions, when I was in the third party, I stood up and said that at times time allocation needs to be used as a tool. Otherwise, if there were an irresponsible opposition, the government would be prevented from getting the business done that is important to Canadians.

The New Democrats and the Conservatives are asking why we waited so long. We did not wait long. This has been in the process for a long time. We finally got it out of the committee stage. There are other pieces of legislation. The government has had a fairly significant agenda, starting from day one.

On day one, the legislative agenda was the tax break for Canada's middle class, something that both parties in opposition voted against. Today we are talking about giving additional strength to our democratic institution, Elections Canada. In fact, that is what this is doing. I believe that over 80% of the recommendations from Elections Canada are in fact being acted on.

As opposed to recognizing the legislation for what it is, legislation that is very much reflective of what Canadians want to see in terms of electoral changes, legislation that gathers the vast majority of the recommendations from that independent agency, the official opposition wants to go back to the days of Stephen Harper and prevent this legislation from passing at all costs.

We have the New Democrats playing a game, as if they want to see the legislation passed, but they are prepared to join the Conservatives in supporting a filibuster that would ultimately take it all the way past the next federal election.

I believe that Canadians deserve better. If members want to support and see a healthier democracy, they should not only support the legislation, they should support the idea of getting it passed in a timely fashion.

Elections Canada was very clear on being able to act on the legislation, as we went through the many hours and days of the procedure and House affairs committee dealing with this legislation.

There was a solid commitment by the government to ensure that we modernized the Elections Act. Whether the Conservatives want it or not, we are going to do it, and we hope to continue to receive the support of the Green Party and my New Democratic friends.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary said that Canadians deserve better, and he is absolutely correct. They deserve better than this mangled bill.

In the past, when parties won elections, they actually had a level of statesmanship and magnanimity in the way they approached things like this in dealing with opposition parties so that they could actually produce a bill that would be fair and beneficial for all Canadians. Instead, the Liberals produced a bill that would basically benefit them.

At the expense of sounding like I am defending my NDP colleagues, and I do not mind doing that on occasion, the member mentioned that they were not transparent. I have actually heard some words from NDP members today that were very transparent.

The member did not mention at all the fact that the bill does not deal with the security of our elections or the fact that our own security agency has warned the government about the ability of foreign interests to manipulate our democratic process. He did not mention the fact that the bill would impede the opposition parties from using the money Canadians have freely, lawfully given to them to use in an election. He did not mention either one of those things. I wonder who is not being transparent.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will not reflect on the individual who posed the question personally, but I will address what he just said as directly as I can.

The Conservative Party, under Stephen Harper, brought in legislation that had no support from other political parties, and when brought to committee stage, the Conservatives did not listen to any opposition, not only from opposition members but from other stakeholders, including Elections Canada, in making the changes they made. I made reference to a specific one that Canadians can really relate to.

Members need to get away from the speaking points and realize that what the member was describing was Stephen Harper when he was the prime minister and the changes the Conservatives made. We have been very—

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am astounded by the parliamentary secretary's speech. When he was in opposition, he said dozens of times that gag orders should never be imposed on members for any bills related to electoral reform, our elections and citizens' rights.

Today, he has changed his mind and done a complete 180°. If this bill is so important, why did the Liberals leave it on a shelf to gather dust for two years and bring it out only at the last minute? That is completely irresponsible.

The Liberals promised to consult all of the other parties before appointing a debates commissioner. Why then did they decide to impose their choice and make a decision on their own, a Liberal decision?

I would like the member to explain what the word “hypocrite” means to him.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what the member fails to tell people is that at times it is necessary to use the tools to get legislation through, because sometimes we get opposition parties that will, at all costs, prevent legislation from passing.

The member across the way has to explain why his party would be prepared, which is what we are hearing from New Democrats today, to never see this proposed legislation pass, because that is what the Conservative Party wants. The Conservative Party does not ever want this proposed legislation to pass.

If we do not follow the advice I gave when in the third party, that at times we need to use the toolbox to get the legislative agenda passed, it would not pass, and we would not be able to modernize the Elections Act.

The member across the way and the New Democrats need to look in the mirror. Do they want it modernized or do they not? I believe, if they want to be consistent, they should support the actions of this government on this issue.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the sake of novelty, I thought I would do my entire speech without yelling or screaming, even once. Let us see if that helps to set the tone for the rest of the debate. I thought it was going pretty well until the last intervention and then we sort of went off the rails.

I want to start by dealing with a couple of things that have nothing to do with Bill C-76.

The first is to draw attention to the poppy on my lapel. There has been a developing tradition here the last couple of years where members will be wearing poppies that are different from the traditional ones put out by the legion. Sometimes they are an aboriginal poppy. Sometimes they have some other significance. The one I am wearing is done by the women's axillary at the Perth legion and the funds go directly to the local legion.

I also want to take a moment to deal with a matter that is near and dear to my heart, as I was unable to do so in any other spot. It is the issue of freedom of religion and the right to worship safely and peacefully. I am speaking of course of the tragedy that occurred last Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I chaired an all-party parliamentary committee dealing with anti-Semitism and, subsequently, along with the Liberal MP, co-edited a book about anti-Semitism. This is the very worst example of anti-Semitism we have seen in recent years on our continent. Like all members, I speak in solidarity with that.

I want to mention one other thing before I move on from this topic. I learned of this tragedy because I was informed of it by an email sent out by an Islamic group called LaunchGood, which raises money to assist people who face tragedies of this sort. Typically, these are tragedies within the Muslim community. A year ago, I and a number of other people, including some MPs, contributed to the LaunchGood effort to raise money for one of the survivors of the Quebec mosque shooting. This time, it is raising money on behalf of the victims of the synagogue shooting. That is indication of the kind of generosity and spirit we see among the great religions of the world and those who truly believe in their faith.

None of that is germane to Bill C-76, which I will turn to now. I will be splitting my time with the member for Battle River—Crowfoot, who like me is a survivor of the class of 2000. His riding name is more appropriate with time, as all of us who have been here since 2000 are developing deeper and deeper “crowfoots” at the corner of our eyes. It has been a great pleasure to serve beside him and the other veterans.

In dealing with Bill C-76, I will delve into a number of the issues relating to the way the government has pushed all too little on the bill until the last minute and now is in a panic to get it done in time to go into effect for the next election. This has been an unnecessary delay. I will return to that theme if there is time.

However, I want to start by talking about an issue that arose today, which is the proposed amendment to the motion before the House. That is the amendment introduced by my colleague and my New Democratic colleague calling for us to return it to committee so we can deal with the issue of by-elections.

There is a by-election under way now in the riding to my south, where my esteemed late colleague Gord Brown served. He sat in the seat near me. He passed away earlier this year. The Prime Minister took the maximum allowed period of time before calling a by-election for that riding. This means that the people in Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes have gone without representation far longer than is appropriate. Shame on the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has failed to call several by-elections for several vacancies, including the one in Burnaby South, where the New Democratic candidate is the current leader of the New Democrats, Jagmeet Singh. There can be only one purpose in delaying that by-election. It cannot be because the Prime Minister was caught off guard by this or because there is some kind of impediment keeping him from doing this. The former member for Burnaby South, Mr. Kennedy Stewart, our former colleague, resigned on September 14. However, he made public the letter to the Speaker in which he announced his intention to resign on August 2. He made it clear back in May that he intended to resign. That is now four months in the past. The by-election should have been called immediately.

There can only be one purpose for delaying this by-election. Take account of all the insincere posturing about being a friend of democracy we hear from the Prime Minister of Canada right now. The reason for delaying this by-election is to ensure Jagmeet Singh does not get to take a seat in the House until the last second.

Why would the Prime Minister do this? Because this is an extraordinarily effective tactic for neutering the leaders of opposing parties. We saw an example of just how this works the year I was elected. It was also the year my colleague from Battle River—Crowfoot was elected. We were elected November 27, 2000. The election was called, a snap election, in mid-October of 2000. Our former leader, Stockwell Day, was newly elected in a by-election on September 11, 2000. He came to the House, began speaking here, was beginning to bite and have some effect so the prime minister called an election to essentially neuter him before he could become effective.

The Prime Minister can no longer easily affect the date of the election, but he has the ability to delay and delay the calling of a by-election in order to ensure Jagmeet Singh will meet with a similar fate, that he will be unable to come here, advocate effectively for the causes he believes in and start nibbling into Liberal support from the left, just as our leader has been very effective in doing so from the right. That is an affront to democracy.

I do not care how many sincere looks the Prime Minister gives the camera while he explains whatever his ostensible motivation is. The fact is that he is stripping away a vital aspect of parliamentary democracy. There is a real need to deal with this sort of thing, to prevent this sort of misuse, especially when it comes to the election of party leaders to the House of Commons.

We have always had a practice of showing a kind of courtesy. I thought Jean Chrétien was egregious in his abuse and violation in turning away from that practice when he called a snap election in 2000. However, he really does not hold a candle to a prime minister who seems to simply want to hold off the by-election forever. It is wrong, it is always wrong and it is wrong when the Prime Minister does it.

Let me talk a bit the urgency of getting this bill through and the need to use time allocation. The Liberals introduced legislation dealing with elections changes, Bill C-33, in November 2016. Then they never brought it forward. Over a year later, they came out with the replacement for Bill C-33, containing most of what Bill C-33 contained plus some new additions. That is the current legislation, Bill C-76.

The year-long delay is not the fault of the opposition; it is the fault of the government. The government likes to say that the opposition was constantly filibustering in committee and it could not get anything done. The procedure and House affairs committee, on which I sit, met in the spring to deal with the bill and then it met again mid-September when the House resumed.

An entire summer went by during which this committee did not meet. It could have met. There is nothing stopping a committee from meeting over the summer. Indeed, a couple of years ago, another committee I was on, the committee on electoral reform, met all through the summer. This past summer, a number of committees met. Some of them met several times. This committee could have done that. That is not the fault of the opposition parties; it is the fault of the government.

Going back yet further, the government could have started dealing with this legislation much earlier. Instead, it chose to deal with its electoral reform that would change our electoral system, and there were hearings on it. It delayed that for the better part or a year in order to consume enough time that only one electoral system could possibly be put forward and implemented in time for the 2019 election, which is preferential voting because it does not require redistribution.

At this point, there has been a delay of about two and a half years out of the three years that have gone by so far. All of it is because of the government's own delays. The government has tried to say that it ought to impose closure, limiting debate on a 300-page bill, because we dragged our heels. My response to that is that the government's mismanagement ought not to constitute my crisis nor ought to constitute a crisis for the people of Canada.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to my colleague's closing reflections on the mental gymnastics of the member for Winnipeg North.

The member for Winnipeg North was quick to point out that there may have been times in previous Parliaments, when he was in opposition, that sometimes time allocation needed to be used. However, I will not repeat the quotes, because we put a number of them on record. In the last Parliament, he was very clear that with special respect to bills having to do with modifications to the electoral system, it was a no-go zone. Even if he said that in other cases the use of time allocation might be appropriate from time to time, he was very clear in the last Parliament that on the issue of making changes to the elections process, it was not permissible to use time allocation and that a government unilaterally ramming through changes was not on. There is a little revisionism going on here.

I know the hon. member was in the last Parliament. I wonder if he might offer us the benefit of his experience to provide some reflection on this manoeuvring on the part of the member for Winnipeg North.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, frankly, I am not sure I can add to what my colleague just said. Maybe I should let those comments stand.

However, it lets me draw attention to another matter that I know is very important to my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona as a New Democrat. That is the justification by the member for Winnipeg North and the defence he gave on delaying the by-election, saying that other by-elections had been delayed in the past.

First, I am not sure if the by-election delay for Leeds–Grenville–Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes was legitimate. I do not see how the people living directly to my south in that riding deserve to be unrepresented for six months. I do not see how it benefited them or the issues that exist in their riding.

This is a special case. This is a matter dealing with the leader of a party and allowing that party to function fully in the House of Commons. To withhold that by-election is utterly unjustifiable and cannot be justified on any precedent based on any riding in which the candidate will not be the leader of one of the recognized parties.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Bill C-76. I will have a speaking slot later for which I am very grateful.

The timeliness of the intervention from the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston is very helpful for me. I was unable to pose a question earlier for the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, who did a spectacular job as the chair of our parliamentary committee on electoral reform on which both the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston and I both served.

However, I think the member for Lac-Saint-Louis misspoke when he said that everyone knew the Liberals favoured preferential voting and ranked ballots. Our committee was tasked with making a recommendation for replacing first past the post.

I wonder if my friend from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston could confirm my memory, that the Liberals on the committee never put forward to our committee the proposal for preferential voting. They did not put forward any proposal at all.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is my memory as well, but it is very clear that preferential voting was the preferred option for the Prime Minister at the start. There is no doubt about that. I wish he had said so openly. It would have led to a very different reaction in the 2015 election, when many voters fled the New Democrats and perhaps the Green Party as well for the Liberals, especially in British Columbia where this was a live issue for the Liberals. When he said that we would move to a different system, the assumption they made was that the different system would be some form of proportional representation. We can get some idea of the legitimacy of preferential voting for a parliamentary system, where every riding tends to replicate the results in every other riding, from the fact that it is not one of the items on the ballot in British Columbia.

Preferential balloting need not be a bad system in the right circumstance. We use it for electing Speaker of the House. I designed that system. I note that in the city of Kingston, through a referendum, which is what we should do before changing a system, the people have agreed to change to a preferential system for municipal elections. Again, there is no party labels in municipal elections. In that situation, it is a good system. I congratulate the people of Kingston on that decision.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act.

Today has been one of those days on Parliament Hill. We just had a committee looking at parents who have lost newborn children or during pregnancy. As we sat listening to the stories of those individuals, it brought, I think, most of the committee to tears.

However, this afternoon we are looking at a bill to amend the Elections Act. It shows the broad range of things that happen in Parliament. This morning we saw people who were genuinely affected and now we are seeing a bill brought in place that really, for all intents and purposes, will just give an advantage to the Liberal Party.

I should say, though, that I sincerely regret the fact that many of my colleagues are denied a similar opportunity to speak, given the Liberal government's decision to move time allocation on this bill. Having an opportunity with an appropriate amount of allotted time for MPs to express the views of their constituents is a fundamental principle of democracy upon which the House of Commons is founded. This opportunity is being denied.

It is for this reason that we on this side of the House adamantly oppose the Liberals' blatant, disrespectful manoeuvre. Shutting down this debate is disrespectful to MPs and, more importantly, disrespectful to those Canadians who want to be heard on this issue.

I am confident that Canadians will justifiably punish the Liberal government for silencing them on this very important issue of electoral reform. At the very crux of our democracy are elections and how we facilitate those elections is key, and yet Canadians have had their voices silenced on this.

I am equally confident that Canadians will take great exception to the bill before us today, which leaves our elections wide open to foreign interference. It does so to the benefit to the Liberal Party. It is widely suspected that in the 2015 federal election, Liberal candidates defeated their opponents in several key ridings due to foreign interference.

The speed the Liberals are trying to ram this legislation through Parliament a year before the 2019 election clearly shows their eagerness to once again win with just a little extra help. I firmly believe that every vote cast by a Canadian citizen matters. I will therefore continue to work with my Conservative colleagues to keep foreign entities from undermining our democratic institutions, especially through the very fundamental exercise of elections.

As my honourable colleague from Thornhill pointed out last Friday, Bill C-76 would double the total maximum third party spending amount allowed during the writ period and would allow unlimited contributions by individual donors and others, unlimited spending by third parties and unlimited foreign donations outside the pre-writ and the writ periods. Effectively, this loophole would allow foreign charities to give millions of foreign dollars to Canadian charities, and those millions, as my colleagues stated, can be disbursed as Canadian dollars to third party groups to support and oppose parties and candidates.

Canadians deserve to know where the money for elections is coming from and it is up to the Liberal government to ensure that third-party entities are being fully transparent and there is no undue and outside interference. Bill C-76 fails miserably in this regard.

It is also up to the government to ensure that non-resident electors are not treated the same as full-time residents, residents who are impacted in their daily lives by the regulations, decisions and economic realities and red tape of government. The individuals who are living here deal with all of these regulations. Allowing non-resident electors the vote, regardless of how long they have lived outside of Canada or whether they intend to ever return, is simply wrong.

Most non-residents were unable to vote in Canadian elections until 1993, when expats living outside Canada for fewer than five years and who intended to return were granted the right to vote by mail-in ballot. I wholeheartedly agree with the less-than-five-year rule, but obviously the Liberal government does not. Again, I believe that they do not agree because, for all intents and purposes, they are looking for ways to gain an advantage.

As a result, the legislation before us today goes further than simply restoring voting rights to short-term expats, because the Liberals feel it is to their advantage. Under Bill C-76, anyone who has ever lived in Canada would be able to vote. Following the introduction of Bill C-33, Bill C-76's predecessor, as noted in a November 2016 South China Morning Post article, “They would theoretically include most of the 300,000 Canadians who live in Hong Kong, most of whom are returnee emigrants and their children. Huge numbers of Hong Kongers emigrated to Canada ahead of the 1997 handover, but many have now returned as dual citizens.”

The article gives the example that when Hong Kong was returned to mainland China, many people came to Canada and other countries. Now, many of them have returned. The same article goes on to express the divergent views of two Hong Kong residents. One, a civil servant close to retirement who spent 11 years in Canada before leaving in 1995, said:

Having the right to vote is an honour, this will motivate me to pay more attention to their political news because I still have family members living in Canada and I will spend more time over there after I retire.

In that article, he said he would vote in Canada at the time of an election if he were allowed to.

The same article made a comparison with a 39-year-old high school teacher in Hong Kong, who was born in Canada, but who said he would not vote, because he said:

I only lived there for 10 years when I was young. I do not know that much about Canadian politics and have not been following closely of their news, so I believe it would be irresponsible for me to vote.

I would agree with that. It would be irresponsible, as it is irresponsible for the current Liberal government, to lift the less-than-five-year voting restriction and thereby open up the system to abuse. It is irresponsible for individuals who have no idea of the issues, no idea of the candidates and no idea of what is really happening, to put an X when their country and their passion is where they are residing, as was the case with this 39-year-old, for some 29 years.

Another measure in Bill C-76 that would leave the Canadian democratic process open to abuse is the use of the voter identification card as acceptable voter ID. In the last election in 2015, nearly one million erroneous voter identification cards were given out, creating huge potential for voter fraud. I cannot support a bill that has the potential to undermine our highly respected electoral system as a result of voter ID cards being taken as a valid form of identification when we know that out of the 16 million or 17 million people who were eligible to vote in the last election, more than a million of them were given erroneous cards.

What the government is trying to enshrine in this bill works against fair elections. It works against the very principles of democracy. When anyone is willing to take away the rights of someone else to advance his or her own, I would warn Canadians, because if Liberals are willing to take that from someone else, what will they be willing to take from Canadians in the future?

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on a theme of today's debate, which is the denial by the member for Winnipeg North that he was very committed in the last Parliament against the use of time allocation on bills that modify the Canada Elections Act. I would ask my colleague what he thinks of the remarks made by the member for Winnipeg North in the previous Parliament, when he said, “We need to recognize that the Canada Elections Act is like no other. It defines the rules that apply when we knock on doors and ask for votes, when we ask Canadians to get engaged and vote. This legislation should be designated such that time allocation cannot be applied to it.”

In the context of his remarks today, that sometimes time allocation can be used, I want to know what the member thinks about the fact that we are under time allocation on a bill that has to do specifically with the Canada Elections Act, when the member for Winnipeg North specifically said in the past that bills that amend that act should not be under time allocation. Why does the member think the member for Winnipeg North is trying to justify the government's use of time allocation on this bill today when he very clearly said that bills that amend the Canada Elections Act should never be put under time allocation?

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the member. It is hypocritical to be on both sides of the issue, depending on which side of this place one is sitting. It really undermines the value of Parliament and what we do here. We bring forward facts that we hope will convince the government to make changes or to study at committee, but we debate these issues, we question the government and we expect the government to allow every member of Parliament to speak on these things.

I will say this. When we knock on doors or rub shoulders with our constituents, yes, they understand the issue of the legalization of cannabis, the legalization of euthanasia and the immigration issue right now, but they get this, too. Any time we change the way we conduct elections, Canadians are moved by it. There were a few constituencies where we know foreign money was spent and made a difference in an election. Do members not think those constituents were frustrated? Now we have a government that is shutting down debate on it, trying to bring this cone of silence over almost the whole issue of what it is trying to accomplish. It is a sad, sad thing.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:40 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, a very good story is that we have a government that is actually listening and responding to what Canadians in all regions of our country want, namely modernization of the Canada Elections Act, changing many aspects of the unfair elections act that Stephen Harper brought in. The biggest difference is that there is wide support for this legislation that goes beyond one political party, whether it is the NDP or the Green Party. The vast majority of recommendations from Elections Canada have been incorporated in this bill. I will contrast that with Stephen Harper's legislation any day, as I believe Canadians are very supportive of this bill.

I would suggest to my friend across the way from Elmwood—Transcona that if he read further, he would find that I have always indicated that there are times when we need to use the tools we have to advance the government's agenda. We have an opposition party that does not want this legislation to ever see the light of day. If it were up to the Conservatives, this legislation would be debated after the next federal election, and that is not good enough for Liberals. We want to modernize this legislation. Canadians deserve a healthier elections process.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member just contradicted himself. He said Canadians should put all their trust in the Liberal government, the Government of Canada. Then he said that Canadians just have to accept that the Liberals know what Canadians want, that the Liberals have consulted to some degree and they know what Canadians want. Then he turned around and asked a colleague in the NDP did he not believe that the government has these tools to advance the government's agenda. That is exactly what he is doing here.

All the consultation can be thrown out the window. The Liberals have not listened to Canadians. Some Canadians may think parts of this legislation are all right, and I imagine we could find certain parts of it that Canadians would agree with, but when we consulted with Canadians, we found out how bad this bill is, and Canadians want no part of it.

The member said that his government uses closure because it is a tool that it has to advance the government's agenda, and I would probably agree with him.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame.

I am proud to rise today in support of Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act.

We are fortunate to live in one of the strongest democracies in the world. We are a nation that is respected for the strength of our human rights, equality and freedom. However, what makes our democracy so robust is the fact that we are willing to continuously look at ways to make it stronger, which is what this bill does.

After a careful review of the Canada Elections Act, the Chief Electoral Officer made over 130 recommendations on ways to improve how our democracy functions. Both the House and the Senate committees have studied these measures in detail. Along with input from experts from across all of Canada, our government has introduced this legislation to modernize the Canada Elections Act. This legislation will bring Canada's electoral system into the 21st century. Bill C-76 will make it easier for Canadians to vote, make elections easier to administer, and protect Canadians from individuals and organizations who would seek to influence their vote.

A key element of this bill reverses the changes made by the previous Harper Conservative government that weakened our elections and made it harder for Canadians to vote. Our open democracy and the right to vote underpin the strength of our country. When attempts are made to weaken our electoral system, it also weakens our nation. What we need is a more engaged electorate, high participation in elections and a fair election process so that the decisions we make in this House are truly reflective of the entire country, and so that voters will have confidence in our electoral institution.

The Conservatives repeatedly made attempts to put their ambition for power ahead of protecting and strengthening the rights of Canadians. This bill will bring an end to that.

As I said earlier, this bill follows over 130 recommendations that the Chief Electoral Officer made after the last federal election, as well as the extensive studies that were done at the committee level. I would like to briefly share what some of those changes are.

First, we are making several important changes that will strengthen our democracy and the faith that Canadians place in these institutions by banning all foreign donations and prohibiting foreign groups to advertise in our elections. We will also extend the pre-writ period so that these outside groups are less able to impact voters closer to elections. There will also be new measures to prevent the publishing of false statements to affect election results and stop political bots from interfering as we have seen happen in other countries.

Second, we are taking action to make more young Canadians participate in our elections. This bill will create a national list of pre-electors so that Elections Canada can pre-register youth aged 14 to 17 to vote.

Elections Canada will administer the list and sign up young people to receive information about voting until they reach voting age. In fact, this week, my son, who is 14 years old, was asking me questions regarding the electoral process. He and his classmates were debating two different issues. His entire class is very well engaged with what is happening on the federal scene and also on the provincial scene. This will help individuals like Arjan to participate more and to be prepared, when they turn 18, to vote.

This is a common sense change that all members should support. Our youth are our future. We need to do everything in our power to support and encourage them to vote, and this will do that. There has been much work and study done that clearly indicates if we educate the youth about voting at an early age, they are more likely to vote when they reach voting age. From that point onwards, they will be more inclined to continue to vote.

Third, we are going to eliminate the barriers that the Conservatives put up to prevent Canadians abroad from voting. The previous Harper Conservative government removed the rights from over one million Canadians. We believe that every citizen has a part and role to play in this country, and we need to make sure their voices are heard.

Fourth, on the issue of increasing participation and making it easier for Canadians to vote, through this bill, we will allow Canadians to use their voter information card as a legitimate form of identification at the polls so that individuals are not turned away from voting because of troublesome rules that seek to suppress voters.

Last, this bill will provide a complete modernization of our elections laws, including increasing the time advance polls are open and allowing for special ballot kits to be made available electronically. Advance polling locations will be required to stay open for a period of 12 hours during the four advance voting days.

Making special ballot kits available electronically will allow electors to receive their ballots electronically with instructions as to how to return the printed ballot in a way that will guarantee the integrity and secrecy of the vote.

This bill will also allow electors to vote at any of the tables in a polling station rather than wait at the specific table assigned to their polling division. This will require Elections Canada to introduce a minimum level of technology in polling stations to manage the list of electors.

It will enhance the electors' experience by making voting more convenient and significantly reducing the wait time on election day, as well as during advance polling days.

We believe these changes are important. We are a government that encourages Canadians to participate in the electoral process and seek to build consensus because, as the Prime Minister, the member for Papineau often says, there is more that unites us than divides us.

I hope all members of this House will join me in supporting these common sense reforms that will strengthen our democracy, make our elections more fair and accessible, and in doing so, make our country much stronger.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I greatly respect the member, but I have to say that his argument about broadening the franchise to Canadians so that it would be easier for them to vote is a little interesting in his case. The fact is, under the previous regime, he lost in 2011, but under the dreaded Harper regime, he won in 2015. How could it be so terrible if that was the case?

I want to ask him specifically about what the bill would not do. What it would not do is defend Canadian democracy against foreign intrusion. I wonder what he thinks of the fact that many amendments at committee instructed the government to take that into consideration and make that part of the bill. The government decided not to deal with it when, in fact, our own security apparatus, CSIS, said it was a great danger to our democracy. Why is it not included in the bill?

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I get to the second part of the question, the hon. member asked how I got elected in 2015. There were two strong, different, stark visions in that election. One was the Harper Conservative right-wing philosophy. On the other hand, there were the progressive policies that the member for Papineau, now the Prime Minister, brought his vision. That is the key why Canadians were able to vote Liberals into a majority government and why I was able to get elected in Surrey—Newton.

On the second part, a Canadian citizen is a Canadian citizen, and I can give a perfect example. My brother, who is a Canadian citizen and committed to always make a difference, is working for a Canadian company overseas. He should be allowed to vote, irrespective of whether he is there for five or 10 years serving the Canadian company.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting debate in the House and an honour to participate in that debate. Of course, there were great debates in the last Parliament just as in this Parliament about the nature of the Elections Act that governs our elections. The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, in the course of those debates, had been very critical of the Harper government and the changes the Conservatives brought.

We are always in the market for good ideas about how to improve our democratic system and the Elections Act. One of the ideas put forward by the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader was that the Elections Act should be amended so that time allocation could not apply to it. I wonder if the member agrees with the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader or not.

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October 30th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I take pride when I stand in this House of Commons. When the first election happened, it was a mid-term election for Winnipeg North. I have seen the member for Winnipeg North working day in, day out to represent the desires and hopes of Canadians who live in Winnipeg North, and not only in Winnipeg North. I have had the opportunity to travel with him to India when he was fighting for the rights of his constituents, when he was talking to the consulate general there. In fact, he was in Surrey—Newton recently talking to voters to see how things could be done differently so that we have democracy and work progressively to make a difference in people's lives.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how I am going to follow that. It was quite blistering, intelligent and if I do say so myself, something I must surpass. I will try. I do not know if I will have any success, nevertheless we know the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is well represented.

I want to thank my colleagues for bringing forward their thoughts on this. We are into third reading on Bill C-76. We are just about to hand it over the Senate. I hope it gets the acceptance.

For me, this is a journey that has taken place for quite some time. It started for me with Bill C-23 in the last Parliament. At the time, it was called the Fair Elections Act. There was much to-do about the title, of course, and a lot of people made fun of the title. A lot of us felt that it was not fair in many respects. Some changes were made that were certainly acceptable, but for the most part, it was a bill that was troubled in the law. In my humble opinion, here we are now winding back some of the mistakes made in Bill C-23.

There are four main themes in Bill C-76. We are talking about amendments to third party spending, which is very important because third party spending has come up quite a bit in politics throughout the world. The United States grapples with this issue every year, not just every four years. Throughout Europe it is the same sort of situation, where one has to track the third party spending looking at how they plan to affect elections. This bill would substantially address that issue, far more substantially than what has been done in the past.

One of the things being encapsulated in this legislation is the fact that the activities around politics and the things we can spend on are being described. Right now, there are all sorts of ways of communicating with the people. With the onset of polling years ago, now we have push polls, pull polls and all that sort of thing, as well as the fact that we also have social media to contend with. In the past, advertising was held to newspapers, radio and television. Through social media, now there are all types of advertising, and ways to track advertising spending have become much more difficult as well. Therefore, encapsulating all of that in this legislation would go a long way.

For example, in the past we always talked about the advertising issue. Right now, there are three elements in this legislation we must address: election advertising, as I have mentioned; political activities, election activities such as rallies and those sorts of things that must be addressed; plus surveys, finding out the information and bringing it back to the candidate and the campaign, and the expenditures surrounding those.

The second part of Bill C-76 is reducing barriers to participation and increasing accessibility. To me, the accessibility measures in this legislation are essential. I will get to those in a moment. However, part of this bill would be reducing the barriers to participate, in particular the voter information card, which is something that has come up quite a bit. I will also address that a little later. In terms of modernizing voting services, I mentioned the advent of technology. We are using technology a lot more in all facets of life, not just when it comes to election campaigns. Another element is amendments related to privacy and protecting personal information.

When it comes to third parties, what we would be doing here is broadening the scope of third party activities. A third party would have to register with a CEO, which we feel is necessary. If they spend more than $500, then they would have go forward, be registered and would have to be tracked in light of that. We are also talking about spending on advertising, as I mentioned, partisan activities and election surveys.

Now, we would be defining two periods to measure this. There would be a pre-election period and the election period, when the writ is dropped until election day. It is very important to capture what would be happening in the pre-election period in this legislation, because we want to track how it affects the election itself. Third party spending is a big part of that. Foreign prohibition also came up. I have been here 14 years, and this issue comes up substantially when talking about foreign participation in our elections. Now, it is not prolific to the point where it is a major problem, but it could be. The language in this legislation would curtail a lot of that activity.

To be precise, it would be people who do not reside in Canada. It would include corporations that do not carry on business in Canada or are not formed in Canada and groups where the responsible person does not reside in Canada. It defines the entity by which third party spending is done.

I want to move on to another subject that is also encapsulated in the bill that is a step ahead. It is called the register of future electors. There are many jurisdictions around the world, and even within Canada, that look at voters younger than the voting age of 18. They go through the process of registering them so that when they turn 18 it becomes a simpler measure. However, what it really does is incorporate younger people to get involved in the election itself. It is not like when one takes part in an election in school. What they are doing is enumerating themselves to be registered so that when the election arrives they will be far more ready and far more aware of the situation of how one registers to become involved. Let us face it, it is a right to vote. We have a right within our charter, and therefore, to exercise their right these people get to the point where they work up to the age of 18.

There are jurisdictions in Canada that do this right now. They are: Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Ontario and Yukon. Around the world, U.K., New Zealand, Australia and Argentina all partake in registering of younger voters before the age they are eligible to vote.

That is only fair. Within the major political parties in the House one can vote for a leader at 14 years of age. Therefore, if the parties recognize they are incorporating people at this age to vote, then certainly it is incumbent upon Elections Canada, which they agree with and seem to be as excited about this as much as I am. They too are now involved in the process. That is also something in the bill that was overdue. Now we are embarking upon that.

On accessible voting, amendments to make it easier for those needing assistance to vote need to be improved. We are looking at assistance by friends or relatives to make the process of marking a ballot easier. Vouching in seniors residences would also become easier. The right to vote and the access to vote is an inalienable for Canadians and must be enshrined in legislation. The access to vote must be improved through the Canada Elections Act.

The other part of the disability involves when it comes to spending and how we do this. Money spent on those with disabilities can be included for election expenses but is not part of the cap. Therefore, we can be reimbursed for expenses for those with disabilities, but it does not go toward the overall spending cap. This is the type of legislation that could go a long way. It may seem like a small measure to many of us, but it is not if one is campaigning for someone with a disability.

Clause 5 restores the broad-based authority of the CEO to educate and inform the public. This was an egregious error in Bill C-23, the former Fair Elections Act, when they took that power away from Elections Canada. The problem with it was that Elections Canada was not able to inform the public about voting, the process and the democracy of it. It was basically pigeonholed to one particular part, which was only to youth. There is nothing wrong with that, that will continue, but now Elections Canada would have the ability to go beyond this and bring to the public information about democracy and voting. It would help promote to Canadian citizens above the age of 18 who have not taken part in democracy, and therefore is essential.

The other part is on the voter information card. How many times would I go around and see people with the voter information card on their refrigerator or on the door, waiting for election day? They would take it down to the voting booth as part of their ID and be turned away because it is not ID. To me, that was just wrong. Therefore, I am glad to see we are restoring the voter information card as valid ID. In the past, with Bill C-23, the problem with that legislation in many respects was it was a solution to a problem that did not exist. The problems around the voter information card were so minuscule that they felt it was unnecessary to use. To me, that was an egregious error so I am glad to see that back in all its facets.

Finally, I would like to say I am glad to see that the commissioner of Canada elections has returned to Elections Canada and has been taken out of the public prosecution office.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that we have people with good memories around here. There was an opposition day motion tabled on April 10, 2014 requesting that Standing Order 78 be amended by adding the following, “No motion, pursuant to any paragraph of this Standing Order, may be used to allocate a specified number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of any bill that seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act”, and that Standing Order 57 be amended by adding the following, “provided that the resolution or resolutions, clause or clauses, section or sections, preamble or preambles, title or titles, being considered do not pertain to any bill that seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act”.

The member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame was the sponsor of that motion. Although the Liberals waited two years to table this bill in this House, I wonder why he completely changed his mind about his own opposition day motion. What happened?

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, if I recall, the debate was about changing Bill C-33, doing exactly what it is we are doing right now. That is the whole point of this. The point is to walk back what was done by the former Conservative government.

By the way, members of the NDP agreed with what we were doing at the time. I am assuming they are voting for this legislation for that reason alone.

There are so many egregious things that we wanted to fix and it is all done right here in Bill C-76. The whole point of the thing, as I said before, is that it was the making of a solution to a problem that did not exist. Right now, we are working it back because we truly believe it is an inalienable right for people to have access to vote in our democracy if they are above the age of 18 and a Canadian citizen. That is their right.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague always has intelligent and engaging things to say on this subject and, indeed, on all the subjects which have come across our table at the procedure and House affairs committee. I always find his comments to be a source of insight. It is always a great pleasure to work with him.

I want to ask my colleague about a matter that is not contained in the bill itself but that has been up for discussion today. It is the subject of a proposed amendment to the motion before us today. That is the issue of the by-election in Surrey South which at this point is being delayed, I think unnecessarily. I want to find out if he agrees with me that it is not really appropriate for the Prime Minister to hold off on a by-election in a seat that we knew would be vacant as far back as May when a party leader is a contestant. Does this not effectively strip away the ability of the New Democratic Party to participate fully in the debates of this House and to function as a potential alternative to the Liberals and the Conservatives? His thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have never been in a position where I had to make a decision as to when a by-election would be held. I do not presuppose anything of that nature by saying what I would do as opposed to what someone else would do. I think there is a due process for by-elections and I think it is being followed, as it always has been. I even say that in regard to during the time of Stephen Harper and going back to Paul Martin and so on and so forth.

As far as the party leader is concerned, it seems to me that would be his or her decision, as the case may be, as to when to run. There have been ample opportunities since then. I would only assume that it is a question of timing. It is not one for us to make sure that the timing is good for someone who wants to run in that particular election. Our goal is to make it due process by which the by-election follows when it is ready to be called.

I also want to thank my colleague for his kind remarks. I too feel the same way about him. His insight has always been beneficial. I have read his works as well.

Also, I look forward to the next round at the procedure and House affairs committee.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I am splitting my time with the member for Perth—Wellington.

Fair and free elections are the bedrock of our democracy, something which all Canadians can and should be proud of. We all know that every Canadian citizen is entitled to vote and ensuring the fairness of the system is a civic duty that all parliamentarians and Canadians have an interest in. That is why Bill C-76 is so troubling, because instead of strengthening the integrity of our electoral process, it actually weakens it.

What is especially concerning is the proposal to allow voter information cards to act as acceptable voter identification. In the 2015 election, there were serious issues with voter information cards with some one million voter information cards having inaccurate information. That included cases of voter information cards having the wrong name or directing voters to the wrong polling station. There were even cases of voter information cards being mailed to people who were ineligible to vote, which is a very serious matter.

The 2015 election was also not a one-off problem. According to Marc Mayrand, the then chief electoral officer of Canada, these problems were normal and they were in accordance to past history.

More recently, the Toronto Sun reported that a female asylum seeker who has been in Canada only 18 months was urged by Elections Canada to register to vote. The Elections Canada letter told the woman to register by October 23, saying that registering in advance will ensure she is on the voters list. The problem is the woman should not be on the voters list because she is ineligible to vote. Her husband, who is also not a citizen, said that this is not an isolated incident. He told the Toronto Sun that some friends of his here on work permits have also been urged to register to vote even though they too are ineligible.

Elections Canada continues to have serious issues in ensuring that its information is accurate. It makes absolutely no sense to rely on voter information cards as acceptable identification especially considering there are multiple alternative sources of identification that are readily available and that are not prone to such errors.

Under the current system used by Elections Canada, there are more than 30 acceptable forms of identification. One can use as the sole source of identification a driver's licence, a provincial or territorial ID card, or any other government issued photo ID with an address. In combination, a person could use a health card, a passport, birth certificate, certificate of Canadian citizenship, a bank statement, government statement of benefits, income tax assessment, residential lease or sublease, a utility bill, a label on a prescription container, or a letter of confirmation of residency from a school, shelter, seniors residence or first nation. Those are just a few of the possible options.

This legislation also fails to deal with foreign interference in Canadian elections. All Canadians can agree that foreign influence in any democratic election is a serious concern and we must absolutely forbid it. It is really disappointing that the government would leave such a large omission with respect to its legislation.

Ironically, Canadians probably have heard more about allegations of interference in the 2016 U.S. election than the very real foreign influence that happened in the last Canadian federal election. During the 2015 federal election, left-wing lobby groups, one by the name of Leadnow, with the support of the U.S.-based Tides Foundation, targeted 29 federal ridings and spent scads of money to influence the outcome of our election. The Tides Foundation also provided support for more than 14 other registered third parties.

The problem is that under the current rules this is somehow acceptable due to a loophole in the law. But again, according to former chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand, “Once the foreign funds are mingled with the organization in Canada, it's the Canadian organization's funds. That's how the act is structured right now, and they can use those funds between or during elections.”

What this ultimately means is under the current rules, third parties have no limitations on the use of foreign funds during elections. I assure the House that everyday Canadians in my constituency do not think this is acceptable in any way.

I am left wondering why my hon. colleagues across the way are leaving this loophole in place at all. I have a funny feeling this loophole would be a much higher priority for them if the money had not directly benefited them in the last election.

If a registered third party would like to intervene in a Canadian election, it should do so only with money raised by Canadians. This is especially important because of the marked increase in registering third parties and their role in Canadian elections.

Comparing the 2011 and the 2015 elections, registered third parties more than doubled from 55 to 115 organizations and third party advertising spending increased sixfold from $1.25 million to $6 million. Instead of tackling this issue, Bill C-76 would actually make the problem worse in several ways.

Under the legislation, third party spending limits during the writ period will be doubled for each registered third party. That also means there is more foreign money that could be used in Canadian elections.

This legislation is also silent on unlimited contributions from individual donors. Donations to political parties now, as we are all aware, are limited to $1,575 a year. Corporate and union donations, as we know, are banned entirely, as they should be. However, there are no limits whatsoever to donations to registered third parties outside the pre-writ and writ periods and that seems totally wrong. During those periods they can receive unlimited amounts of funding from individuals, corporations and unions, whether foreign or Canadian.

If the purpose of the limits to political donations is to ensure all Canadians can have an equal say in elections, should those contribution limits not be equally applicable to registered third parties? One would think so. By not limiting donations to registered third parties, some donors, even foreign donors, will be able to have significantly larger voices than other Canadians, and that is simply not acceptable.

To put it simply, Canadian elections should be about Canadians, by Canadians and for Canadians. Bill C-76 would not further that goal and should not be supported.

Canadians deserve and demand fair elections.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to let the hon. member know that the allegations that were just made on the floor of the House relating to the organization Leadnow were investigated and dismissed. I was just searching for all of the details. There was an investigation under Elections Canada which found that no foreign money whatsoever was used in the Canadian election by the organization Leadnow.

That is a finding of fact. The member may not like to hear it, but those are the facts.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is entirely because there is such a big loophole and it is going to remain a loophole. We know that this money was spent, and it is just wrong.

We hear all the time about the foreign influence in the U.S. election and so on, but this was a wake-up call. There was an editorial in the Liberal-leaning Toronto Star that decried foreign influence in Canadian elections. When the Toronto Star starts getting up on a soapbox and decrying, we know we have a problem. That problem still exists under the legislation and it is not going to be fixed.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Sherry Romanado Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I had the great pleasure of sitting on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform with some of my colleagues in the House. During that time, we heard from many witnesses that, unfortunately, the civics education in Canada is not where it should be in terms of enticing young people to be involved in politics, whether it be participating in politics by voting or presenting themselves as candidates in elections. I did not hear anything in the member opposite's speech with respect to increasing voter participation and interest among our youth in our democratic institutions.

I would like the member's opinion on whether he feels that increasing the registration of young people to prepare them to vote would help increase the presence of younger people here in the House of Commons.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, that would be a target market for all political parties. We would all like to have more youth involved, and I believe that they are getting more involved. I go to campus clubs all the time, and they are starting to get involved.

The matter at hand is that the act, as presented, is not going to help youth or seniors or any Canadians. It is still going to allow foreign interference in our elections, and that is a very serious concern. That is a very serious concern that would undermine our absolute democracy. That is far more troubling.

Of course, we would all love to have more youth involved. I would love to see the voting turnout percentage be 90%, which we can all work toward. It starts with education in schools. If there were a more balanced education in schools that considered the right, left and centre arguments instead of merely the left arguments, youth might get more engaged and come out to vote.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will ask for a quick clarification on the first part of the member's speech, when he spoke about voter cards. I am wondering if he believes, the way the legislation is written now, that a voter card would be the only piece of identification the general voter would need to vote.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is not the understanding, but the voter card is a very powerful piece of identification. As I pointed out, even Elections Canada says that there have been serious issues in the past with it, so why should we continue to go down that path, when it is so unreliable? It is a major issue. Let us face it. Do we not all want a system that is perfect, with less of a chance for fraud? I certainly want that. I assume that the party across the floor wants that as well, but from the legislation that has been tabled, it does not appear that it is quite as keen on that.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, free and fair elections are a fundamental part of our Canadian democracy. Unfortunately, the entire democratic institutions file has been a failure since the Liberals took office.

One of the greatest promises they made in the last election was that the 2015 election would be the last election under first past the post. There was no asterisk. There was no disclaimer. There was no fine print that said it would be the last election under first past the post unless, of course, they did not get the type of electoral system they wanted that would benefit them, “them” being the Liberal Party.

There was no such asterisk. There was no such small print. Nonetheless, the Liberals walked it back, and they blamed everyone else for their failure. They blamed the opposition. They blamed the committee itself. They blamed the multi-party committee, which came to a general consensus. They blamed that committee, which included Liberal members, for its failure. They blamed the general public for not having a clear consensus on what an alternative electoral system ought to be. However, the failure rests with the Liberal Party. It is, and it continues to be, the Liberal Party's failure.

While the Liberals were failing at the electoral reform committee, they also introduced Bill C-33, which they claimed would implement many of the recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer following the 2015 election. Here are the facts. Bill C-33 was tabled at first reading on November 24, 2016, nearly two years ago. Today that bill remains at first reading, unmoved and unloved. We have to question the motivation of the current Liberal government in introducing that bill, then allowing it to sit at first reading and never once bringing it forward for debate in this august chamber.

In testimony at committee, when the eminent political science scholar, Dr. Paul Thomas, questioned the very motive of the Liberal Party, he said:

The government's management of this file has been very poor, in my opinion. If [Bill C-33] sits on the Order Paper for 18 months, it says something about the commitment of the government to get this moving ahead

However, that is exactly what has happened. The Liberals introduced legislation for window dressing and allowed it to sit idly by.

There are other failures in the democratic institutions file. Take cash for access, for example, and the ethical lapses of the current Liberal Party when it comes to fundraising. The Liberal government had barely been sworn in when it was already using its ministers to fundraise, using lobbyists who were registered to lobby their own ministers to fundraise from them. Rather than admitting that they were wrong to be fundraising from access to federal ministers, the Liberals tried to legitimize this practice by introducing Bill C-50. Of course, being Liberals, they left a great big loophole, what we call the Laurier Club loophole, allowing their well-funded Liberal donors to continue to have unfettered access to Liberal decision-makers, as long as it happened at Laurier Club events. They might as well have named that clause the Laurier Club loophole, because that is exactly what it is. Rather than dealing with the issue, rather than dealing with the unethical nature of selling access to senior ministers of the Crown, the Liberals simply used legislation to try to legitimize their bad practices.

The Liberals' failures do not end there. The Liberals even failed in the appointment process for the Chief Electoral Officer, the person in charge of ensuring that our elections run smoothly and appropriately, free from all interference.

The former chief electoral officer, to his great credit and foresight, announced that he would retire early from his position. He announced this in the spring of 2016 to allow whoever succeeded him as CEO to have enough time to get familiar with the job and to prepare for the 2019 election. However, at the end of December 2016, when he formally resigned and retired as chief electoral officer, there was no replacement in the offing. In fact, there was no replacement until this spring, nearly two years after Mr. Mayrand announced his retirement.

Even when they finally replaced the Chief Electoral Officer, they could not do it without failing. The media reported that a new Chief Electoral Officer had been chosen on April 4, 2018. They noted that someone had been selected, that the consultation had been done with the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party.

Lo and behold, weeks later, we found out that the original name circulated in both the media and to the opposition was in fact not the new Chief Electoral Officer. Rather, the very competent interim Chief Electoral Officer was appointed as the permanent replacement. I have to wonder how the Liberals could have waited nearly two years to appoint the person who was already doing the job. It is yet another example of the Liberal government's failing on the democratic institutions file.

That brings us to this bill itself, Bill C-76. Both the former and current Chief Electoral Officers were very clear about the need to have this legislation tabled and implemented early so that they could be prepared for the next election. In fact, when the acting, now permanent, Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, appeared before committee, on April 24, 2018, he stated:

When I appeared last February, I indicated that the window of opportunity to implement major changes in time for the next election was rapidly closing. That was not a new message. Both Monsieur Mayrand and I had previously indicated that legislative changes should be enacted by April 2018. This means that we are now at a point where the implementation of new legislation will likely involve some compromises.

What did the Liberals do? They sat on their hands for nearly three years and then finally tabled Bill C-76 on April 30, 2018, the same day the Chief Electoral Officer said he needed legislation fully enacted, with royal assent. The Liberals only introduced it on April 30 and then expected the opposition and the third party to simply roll over and allow this legislation to pass expeditiously.

We cannot ignore the fact that this very debate we are having in this chamber is under the guillotine of time allocation. Frankly, I am shocked, because it was the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister who introduced and supported a motion that would have amended Standing Order 78 so that:

No motion, pursuant to any paragraph of this Standing Order, may be used to allocate a specified number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of any bill that seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act.

Here we are with a bill that has 401 clauses and 352 pages. It is a bill the Liberal Party itself accepted as being flawed by introducing 65 amendments during the committee analysis, because it recognized that despite waiting nearly three years, it was rushing at the last minute to try to get some legislation on the books, and it tried to correct its own legislation this past summer.

We see that work has yet to be done in the Senate, in the other place. I am intrigued to see what amendments it will be relying on to fix some of the concerns expressed about this piece of legislation.

This legislation is flawed, and we will be voting against it.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the member opposite. I think he is more knowledgeable about the bill than a vast majority of people in this Parliament. He expressed this very accurately and cogently, and he cannot use this in his election material.

Therefore, I am disappointed with his speech. He is one of the few people who knows the details, yet he spent his entire speech not making one substantive comment on what was wrong with the bill. It was more crying over spilled milk about past schedules, which is fine.

However, it would be great if he could use his answer to say something substantive about what is wrong with the bill. I know he has a good appreciation of both the positive and negative things in the details of the bill.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Yukon chairs the procedure and House affairs committee. I have to give him credit. He is an exceptional chair when it comes to a very difficult file and ensuring the committee remains on track, especially during clause by clause. Therefore, I thank him. and I say that legitimately. It is a tough job.

The member asked for a specific example. I will use the issue of foreign financing. We heard recommendations at committee from none less an authority than Dr. Lori Turnbull, who was at one point a senior adviser to the Privy Council Office on democratic institutions. She recommended that there be segregated bank accounts for third parties to ensure that every dime spent in Canada by third parties would be from domestic sources, from Canadian sources that were legally entitled to donate to Canadian political entities, including third parties. The Conservative opposition introduced that amendment and it was voted down. It would have ensured a high degree of transparency and an appropriate usage of funds by a third party to ensure foreign actors would not unduly influence Canadian elections.

That is one major concern. If I had 20 minutes to talk, I could list off a number of amendments that were not approved but ought to have been approved.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important work on the issue. I want to follow up on his comment about foreign influence in our elections. Working in the foreign affairs area, I find that the government is often dangerously naive about the kinds of threats we see around the world.

I hear from Canadians, from cultural communities especially, about the number of foreign governments trying to influence the direction of debates on politics in Canada. It is a regular concern and it connects with the reality we see in other countries, where authoritarian regimes and other powers with particular interests want to try to shape the direction of our discussion. At one point, the government seemed to verbally acknowledge this problem, but it failed to put in place some obvious concrete mechanisms that would protect Canada from this kind of influence.

The member spoke about a segregated bank account so money could not be transferred before an election and would then be used during an election. Could he talk more about the naivety of the government when it comes to foreign policy and foreign interference in our elections and what Canada can do to respond to that?

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, a little know fact is that I and my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan went to university together. We were classmates at Carleton University back in the day. Therefore, it is an honour to now be a colleague of the hon. member.

The member talked about the very important issue of foreign influence. We do not want to see the challenges we have seen in other countries around the world being brought to Canada. We would have hoped that the Liberal government would have taken the issue of foreign influence seriously. Our Conservative opposition introduced a number of amendments that would have dealt with this, including one that would have had an outright ban on all foreign funding to third parties that were acting in our electoral process. Unfortunately, those were denied.

However, the government needs to take this issue seriously. It needs to realize that this is not a problem that will go away on its own. In fact, this problem will get worse. A number of amendments introduced by the Conservatives were voted down. The would have added safeguards for things like foreign influence with respect to social media financing and funding to third parties. It is unfortunate, but that was the reality. Now it falls to our opposition to hold the government to account and ensure that there are meaningful safeguards to prevent the foreign influence of Canadian elections.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:45 p.m.
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John Oliver Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-76, the elections modernization act.

I would be remiss if I did not highlight the importance of the legislation to my riding of Oakville. One of the most significant issues that was raised at the doors in 2015 was how voters felt disenfranchised by the unfair changes to the Elections Act made by the Conservatives. Voters were unhappy with the additional complications and requirements for voting. My office still hears from expats who cannot exercise their civic duty from abroad.

The proposed legislation delivers on the promises our government made to strengthen our democracy. I am proud to stand in support of legislation that would make voting more convenient and more accessible for all Canadians. Our democracy is stronger when we see the participation of as many Canadians as possible.

The bill includes proposed legislative changes that will reduce barriers to participation for specific groups of Canadians. That includes members of the Canadian Armed Forces and more than one million Canadians living abroad. We are changing the rules for Canadians living abroad by removing the requirements set by the Harper government that non-resident electors must have been residing outside of Canada for fewer than five consecutive years and that non-resident electors intended to return to Canada to resume residence in the future.

It is astounding to me that some Canadian citizens remain unable to vote in our current system despite being fully eligible. It is high time these changes are made to the Canada Elections Act to bring our electoral system into the 21st century.

In my remarks today I would like to focus particularly on the measures contained in the bill, which I believe will help in reducing barriers for Canadians with disabilities and those individuals caring for a young, sick or disabled family member who would like to run for public office. Our legislative process is stronger when we have a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds present in the House of Commons. These measures would help encourage the participation of new voices.

Running for federal office, as I think everyone in the House will agree, is an incredibly challenging effort. On top of the intense demands of a campaign, some of our colleagues from all sides of the House ran for office while raising young children or caring for sick or disabled family members. The additional pressures of this kind of responsibility may make running for office out of the question for many qualified, smart and passionate Canadians. This is a great loss to the House and to our country. By helping Canadians with the cost of care for young, sick or disabled family members, we can help ensure that every Canadian has more opportunity to put him or herself forward to represent his or her community at the federal level.

I look forward to seeing how these changes will bring new and under-represented perspectives to the House of Commons. We as parliamentarians are responsible for creating laws for all Canadians. It only makes sense that the House of Commons is comprised of people who represent the diversity of experiences Canadians face.

I would remind the House that in 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. One of the obligations of the convention is to ensure that people with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others. That includes the right to vote and the right to be elected.

In his report on the 2015 general election, the Chief Electoral Officer noted that electors with disabilities were a growing percentage of the voting population and faced particular hurdles when seeking to cast their vote. Working with an advisory group for disability issues, Elections Canada has developed and researched various tools and procedures to help electors with disabilities cast their vote in secret and as independently as possible. The Chief Electoral Officer has also reported on ways to increase the broader participation of Canadians with disabilities in democratic life, such as attending debates and running for office.

The report of the Chief Electoral Office on the 42nd election was studied very carefully by the committee on procedure and House affairs. Many of its recommendations, agreed to unanimously by the standing committee, are reflected in the bill before us.

Currently, the act provides that assistance to voters by an elections officer is only available to persons with physical disabilities. The act states, for instance, that “The deputy returning officer shall, on request, provide a template to an elector who has a visual impairment to assist him or her in marking his or her ballot.” This bill would make assistance available to electors no matter the nature of their disability, whether it be visual, intellectual or cognitive.

The current act uses the term “level access” to define accessibility at polling stations, for example, providing ramps for wheelchairs. This concept addresses the needs of the mobility impaired. Under the bill before us, “level access” would be replaced by the concept of accessibility, which would include a broader range of difficulties, including vision impairment.

The act would continue to allow the use of venues which would not be accessible, if the returning officer were unable to secure suitable premises. In these cases, electors with disabilities could take advantage of a number of measures. For example, transfer certificates could be made available for electors with a disability. These would enable electors to change the polling station where they would be able vote. Under the current law, transfer certificates are available for people with a physical disability when the polling is not accessible. The amendment in this bill would make the certificates available no matter the nature of the disability and irrespective of whether the polling station would be accessible.

Further, the Chief Electoral Officer would have the flexibility to determine how the process would be applied. People with disabilities would also have an option to vote at home. This bill would expand that option to include any elector with a disability no matter its nature or extent.

The Chief Electoral Officer sometimes undertakes pilot projects to explore better options for providing service to Canadians, such as greater accessibility to the polls. With this bill, we would return to the process in place prior to the Harper government's Fair Elections Act, when pilot projects required the approval of appropriate committees of both the House and the other place rather than the full chambers of both.

The bill would expand the assistance which could be provided by a person of the elector's choosing. Under the current law, the elector with a disability may choose a friend or family member to help him or her at the polling station. The same support is not available if the elector wants to vote at the office of the returning officer. Under this bill, when voting at the returning officer's office, an elector with a disability could rely upon the assistance of the person of his or her choosing.

Finally, the bill would implement the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendation that would give Elections Canada a more explicit mandate to explore assisted voting technology for the use of electors with disabilities.

I have been detailing the measures designed to remove barriers to voters on election day, but this bill goes further by introducing measures that would help people with disabilities participate more broadly in the democratic life.

Political parties can play an important part in helping persons with disabilities play an active part by making their campaigns accessible. Sign language interpretation could be provided at campaign events, for example. Campaign material could be provided in Braille. A ramp could be installed to access campaign headquarters. However, these come with costs. To encourage political parties and candidates to make these accommodations, the bill would reimburse the cost to make campaign materials and events accessible, up to $250,000 for political parties and $5,000 for candidates.

There are other measures in the bill that would encourage more candidates with disabilities or candidates who must care for people with disabilities to run for office. Currently, the additional personal expenses associated with these disabilities must be treated as campaign expenses. Under the bill before us, candidates would have the option to pay with their own funds, including child care expenses and other relevant home care or health care related expenses. The reimbursement rate for these expenses would be increased to 90% and be exempted from campaign spending limits.

I want to commend the Minister of Science and Sport for her work, in partnership with the Minister of Democratic Institutions, to see these important provisions included in the bill.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on a question I asked one of my colleagues earlier. It was about the issue of foreign interference in elections. Seeing news around the world, all members should agree this is a concern and something we should take seriously. In fact, it is something the Minister of Foreign Affairs herself has raised with respect to various issues, for instance, things which have been said about her and her family in messages put out by other governments.

Why did the government not accept a simple fix to this issue, which would ensure there would be segregated bank accounts? If foreign funding is coming in for political activity, then it cannot go into the same bank account that will then be used during an election for third party campaigning type of activities. If we have money from abroad, perhaps from another government with its own hostile or simply distinct interest from Canada, putting money into a bank account that is then to be used during an election period will surely create all kinds of opportunities for foreign influence. A simple meaningful fix would have been to require that separation.

Why did that member's party oppose a meaningful measure to prevent foreign interference in Canadian elections?

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Lib.

John Oliver

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is committed to strengthening Canada's democratic institutions and restoring Canadians' trust in participation in the democratic process. We believe the strength of our democracy depends on the participation of as many Canadians as possible.

By undoing the unfair aspects of the Harper government's elections act, we are making it easier and more convenient for all Canadians to vote, but we are also strengthening our laws, closing loopholes and bringing more robust enforcement regimes to make it more difficult for bad actors, such as those to which the member referred, to influence our elections.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate for quite some time and hearing the opposition talk about time allocation and the issue with having the Chief Electoral Officer in place at a particular time.

I am hoping that my colleague from Oakville could speak to this and remind hon. members and all Canadians that we used 87% of the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer. We heard witnesses' testimony that amounted to over 100 hours of study of this legislation, where Bill C-23, the unfair elections act, only had less than 50 hours.

I am wondering if my colleague could speak to the dedication that we have put into this piece of legislation.

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October 30th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Lib.

John Oliver

Mr. Speaker, Canadians want an electoral process that is more transparent and more accessible, that modernizes the administration of elections and that makes the electoral process more secure. As was commented on, this legislation addresses the work done by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs following the Chief Electoral Officer's report after the 2015 election, as well as the study by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on third party spending in Canada. This is a very comprehensive bill following extensive consultation.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in debate at this point on Bill C-76. I want to take the occasion to start with a bit of a broad historical sweep, albeit going back just to 2014. It is important for Canadians to know what is being accomplished with this legislation and what remains to be done. It is not perfect. I want to stress that, but I will be voting for it. I am also gratified that at least some of my amendments were accepted in the committee that studied the bill.

I want to go back to 2014, when the current hon. member for Carleton was the minister of democratic institutions. He brought forward a bill in that Parliament, Bill C-23, that was given the unlikely title, given its content, of the Fair Elections Act. I was a member of the opposition at the time, as leader of the Green Party, but I struggled with other members of the opposition, the New Democrats and Liberals, to try to stop that piece of legislation because it clearly had less to do with fairness than with trying to create favourable conditions for the governing party, the Conservatives at that time, going into the 2015 election.

Therefore, it is with a great deal of irony that I have heard a number of times Conservative members say that the Liberals are just trying to change the terms to make them better for their party.

We cannot forget the circumstances in 2014 when the member for Carleton introduced his bill. I hope that this will now be fixed by the changes to Bill C-76.

Going back to what the so-called Fair Elections Act did, it was consumed, as some members of this place still are, with a fiction—and I want to underscore the word “fiction”.

It is completely untrue. I want to stress that Canada does not have a problem with election fraud.

We do not have a problem of people disguising themselves, taking voter cards or any number of things that have been hinted at in the chamber in the last debate on Bill C-76. We do not have a problem of Canadians voting more than once under assumed identities. We have a problem of Canadians voting less than once. That is a serious problem, and that is why we needed the things that the so-called Fair Elections Act got rid of. These were things like being able to vouch for someone and being able to provide one's voter card as a piece of ID when going to the polls.

None of this would have been necessary if it were not for changes that the former Harper Conservatives made back at the very beginning of their first mandate. For the first time, they made it a requirement that Canadians produce a piece of government issued photo ID in order to vote. That, again, hinted darkly at the idea that people were voting more than once because we did not have enough checks on this problem. It was a non-existent problem then and does not exist now. It never existed. That is the evidence of several chief electoral officers, including Marc Mayrand and Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who both testified to the PROC committee that it was a non-problem.

Bill C-23 did a few other things. It took away some of the abilities of our Chief Electoral Officer to speak to us as voters when we needed information. One of those critical moments was, for instance, the election in 2011. The Chief Electoral Officer sent out a press release and got on the phone and radio. Robocalls were going on. Canadians were being misdirected, being told that their polling stations had changed. None of that was true. We had an investigation. I do not think it was ever adequately investigated. We know it took place, but we do not know who did it. That is a mystery that remains unsolved, but I think we know there was a gun lying on the floor, it was smoking, and several people standing around appeared to have used it. We have no conclusion, but we know for sure that voters who did not intend to vote Conservative were being told to go to polling stations that did not exist.

The Chief Electoral Officer then had the power to get on the radio and say “If you get a message on the phone that tells you it's Elections Canada on the line and your polling station has changed, ignore it. We have not changed any polling stations”. That was important.

What Bill C-23 did in 2014 was to take away the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer to do exactly that. It took away the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer to reassure Canadians that their polling stations had not changed.

There were a number of other things that the so-called Fair Elections Act did. One was to say that if there were a particularly long writ period, more spending would be permitted. That meant that the really big parties, like the Conservatives or the Liberals, and this was certainly to the advantage of the Conservatives in that election, could spend more money if the writ period were longer. They spent a lot of money. In that election, they spent just shy of $42 million. The people of Canada gave them half back, because of the way the so-called Fair Elections Act operated to their benefit.

Moving quickly, we had two pieces of legislation tabled in this 42nd Parliament to deal primarily with fixing all of the things that had gone wrong or were perverse under Bill C-23 in the 41st Parliament. In December 2016, we got Bill C-33. I was thrilled to see it, but it never got to second reading. Everything in Bill C-33 was added to Bill C-76, which emerged this year.

Let me just go through the great things that were in the original Bill C-33 and are now before us in Bill C-76. It gave the Chief Electoral Officer back the powers to warn people, to talk to Canadians, and to educate people in a non-partisan fashion. It got rid of the extended period in which parties could get more money out of the whole system. That is now in Bill C-76. It actually shortened up the period and restricted how much money big parties could spend, which means that the taxpayers will reimburse them less at the end, which is great.

The first part of Bill C-33, which has now come forward within Bill C-76, brought back the basics, namely that people are allowed to bring someone with them to the polls to say, “I know Joe. He's my brother-in-law. We live in the same neighbourhood. He's missing a driver's licence because his driver's licence has been taken away from him. I am here to vouch for him.” Students voting at university have a very difficult time proving where they live and thus that they have the right to vote.

Far too many people were denied their constitutionally enshrined right to vote in 2015. The Conservatives said that voter turnout went up. Sure it did. Voters were desperate to get rid of Stephen Harper, and they showed up in large droves. However, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of Canadians were denied the right to vote because of the changes to the Elections Act that we are now getting rid of.

What is also really good and entirely new is the concept that the Chief Electoral Officer, that is, Elections Canada, can go into schools and try to encourage 14-year olds to register to vote for when they turn 18. They can start, right away, knowing that they are registered so that they can begin to think about their civic duty to vote.

The lack of voter turnout among our youngest citizens is a real problem. I would love to see us reduce the voting age to 16. That is not in this bill, but a good first step is allowing Elections Canada to go into the schools to talk to the young people when they are in high school. Their civics education will feel far more real when they are personally registering to vote. It is not that they have the right to vote, but they are pre-registered for when they turn 18 and do have the right to vote.

Bill C-76 does a number of other things. I do not think we will ever do enough to deal with the threats to social media, things like Cambridge Analytica, the way that Facebook information can be mined, the way that Facebook ads can be targeted, and the use of fake news. Bill C-76 attempts to deal with this. I think we are going to have to come back to it and do more. I certainly support what they have done in this bill.

I certainly support having pre-writ election spending limits. This was a big vacuum in our laws. I think it is because the last time we looked at the Elections Act, no political party was spending money pre-writ. They kept their money and started spending it after the writ fell. It was not until Stephen Harper's attacks on Stéphane Dion in January 2007 that we started having attack ads outside of a writ period with no spending controls at all. Now we have spending controls.

What is missing? Here is the big gap. This was our opportunity to put political parties under our privacy laws. This legislation says that political parties must develop privacy policies and table them, but that is a far cry from having them under our privacy laws. It is a voluntary scheme. We need to put political parties under our privacy laws.

Back when Bill C-23 was going through the House in 2014, during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, I did try to get an amendment passed that would make political parties subject to the Privacy Act. No party supported that then. I really want to thank the New Democratic Party for supporting my amendment, which did not succeed, to set out that parties must adhere to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA. We did not succeed, but I thank the NDP for being with me on that.

We need to keep working for fair elections in Canada. Bill C-76 gets us a long way toward them.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the member's comments in the House, as they are very well reasoned.

I do not want to debate, but to add some facts to make sure that people are clear about them. One is related to the voting card. That card is only a proof of address, so the person has to have identification anyway. If I were to pick up a voting card in Toronto that said “John Smith” and tried to vote with it and then showed my personal identification, obviously it would not say I am John Smith. That is why the Chief Electoral Officer said there was no fraud.

The second point is related to the robo scandal case that the member brought up. One of the measures in the bill is to withdraw the commissioner from the Public Prosecutions Office and to make him independent again, including giving the commissioner the ability to compel testimony. If there were such cases in the future, the commissioner would not only be independent, but could also compel testimony and actually research those mishaps or inappropriate actions during an election.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the hon. member for Yukon's wonderful work as chair of PROC. It is a tough job and I am not a member of PROC. I am in a strange situation as a result of every committee having passed a motion that if I have amendments, I am required to show up there instead of exercising my rights at report stage. Nevertheless, I really enjoy appearing before PROC during clause by clause, as well from the discretion of the chair in allowing me to ask questions when I show up and it is not during clause by clause.

In the debate today, I have heard ridiculous claims made about the risk to voting and the security of voting if voting cards go astray. The member for Yukon is absolutely 100% correct. There is no threat of someone showing up to vote using a voting card to gain an erroneous privilege.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, toward the end of my friend's speech, she talked about an issue that the committee heard about in great detail from the Chief Electoral Officer and from the Privacy Commissioner. We have seen reports out of the United States and the U.K. about elections or referenda or anything in which a democratic society these days goes through a vote. I say “these days” because what is significantly changed from a generation ago is the existence of the Internet and social media. Time and time again from the Chief Electoral Officer on down, the recommendations were clear that Bill C-76 did not do much of anything on privacy. My friend moved an amendment. It was strong. We moved one that we thought was not quite as strong but that might be more acceptable to the Liberals, and they voted both of those down.

Can the member describe for us what the risks are if the political parties as they are constituted right now have no obligations to protect the private data they collect from Canadians or have no obligations not to then leak that data to nefarious actors or to be stolen. The only thing the Liberals have left in Bill C-76 is that each party must have a non-enforceable statement on their website somewhere. That is the sum total of all the privacy requirements in this bill.

Having watched Brexit and the last U.S. presidential election and all of the threats described by our own intelligence agencies about the risks to our fundamental rights as Canadian citizens, I wonder whether Bill C-76 does enough to address these serious concerns.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my hon. colleague and friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his diligence on this matter. There is a fairly chilling level of information about Canadians that is kept by political parties. Of course, we do not know all of it.

I remember the former Conservative member Garth Turner who published a book called Sheeple about his experience as a member of Parliament. He referred to the database held by the Conservative Party as FRANK, standing for friends, relatives and neighbour's kids. He related in the book how they collected data by going door to door and found out if someone hated a certain party and made note of that. If they found out that a person subscribed to a certain magazine, that information was kept. Canvassers tried to find out as much as they could about everyone, but that was just typical data collection taken to a new level, because now we are also looking at a new capacity to slice and dice the information and computer records. Then parties are able to start targeting riding by riding where the swing voters are.

Add to that the use of Facebook, the ability of the social media providers and others who are hacking into those systems to say they can tell us exactly who responded with likes to Facebook posts and use that information and post fake news that gets people to think they have to vote a certain way to protect something we know they care about. In other words, targeting voters with lies is made possible by keeping political parties from being subject to privacy protection.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Lethbridge.

The first thing I want to say is that the Conservative Party believes democracy is an important institution. Democracy is important because it is how the people hold the government to account for its decisions. Democracy safeguards citizens' rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote, and other democratic rights. Members on this side of the House believe that each and every Canadian should be empowered to exercise their democratic rights.

We also believe that we must protect our democratic institutions by ensuring that foreign entities do not interfere with our elections. As we have seen elsewhere in the world, such as in the United States, foreign entities have tried to interfere with democratic institutions.

The Liberal government's bill does not include a single clause to prevent foreign entities from interfering with our democratic institutions. For example, even if this bill is passed, foreign entities will still be able to send money to Canadian entities before an election, and that money can be used to influence election outcomes.

Last Thursday, I asked the Minister of Democratic Institutions why the government had not included this type of provision in the bill, but she did not answer.

In addition, the Liberals complained that we had proposed too many amendments. Apparently, the Liberals are okay with introducing a mistake-ridden bill of more than 200 pages, but not with us proposing so many amendments. That attitude shows that the Liberals do not take democracy seriously and that they do not want to take the time to follow the parliamentary process properly and ensure that we make the right decisions on this important issue.

When it comes to protecting our democratic institutions, we cannot limit debate. On the contrary, when we debate an issue as important as this, we must have as many amendments as possible and more time to debate them.

Moreover, Elections Canada will not have enough time to implement the changes stipulated by this bill. In fact, on April 24, 2018, the acting Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, said that in order for Elections Canada to have enough time to implement these changes, the bill would need to have royal assent in April. We are now October.

If the Liberals were really serious about addressing this issue, they should have introduced the bill much sooner. That way, we could have examined the bill more thoroughly, and we would have had time to present more amendments and study the amendments.

Instead, the Liberals decided to wait until the last minute before introducing the bill. Now they are trying to make up for their mistake by limiting debate on an incredibly important bill.

We seem to cycle through this process over and over again. The Liberal government tables an incomplete bill and then complains when the Conservatives try to make significant amendments to it.

I hope Canadians are aware of this process and see how the Liberals flout their duty to protect our democratic institutions.

We see with this bill so many problems in terms of the way that the Liberals approached these issues, their hypocrisy and the substantive problems with this legislation. I want to make a number of points in response to some of the things that have been discussed thus far.

First of all, we repeatedly hear this trope from the other side about how Conservatives want lower turnout allegedly and they also say that the changes that were previously made prevented Canadians from voting in the last election.

The government goes on and on about the data and evidence-based policy, though, so let us look objectively at the evidence. Let us look at Canadian elections over the last 60 years. If we consider a 60-year time horizon, a 40-year time horizon and a 25-year time horizon, and compare the elections won by Conservatives and won by Liberals, we will consistently see on average the elections Conservatives win involve higher turnout. As a bright-eyed staffer when I came to Parliament Hill, I was told that Conservatives want more people to vote because it is the right thing when more Canadians vote, but that there is also a practical reason. If we look historically, when more Canadians vote, Conservatives are more likely to win those elections. Anyone who disagrees can look at the numbers and do the averages. It is very clear.

Unfortunately, there is a downward trend in terms of turnout over the last 50 years in Canadian elections, but there are some aberrations to that. What we saw in the last election was actually a significant increase in voter turnout. If the government wants to claim that people were prevented from voting, it would have a hard time making that case since in the last election, after the changes that were made, there was a significant spike in turnout.

When the government says that somehow the Conservatives were trying to disenfranchise people, that people were prevented from voting, I would like to know what evidence it has to support that claim, and if it can find any indication of who those people are and what that situation would be. It talks about the issue of ID, and it does not seem to understand the reality that there are so many different options people can use for ID. What about a student? Maybe a student can use their student card. What about a person who is homeless? A person who is homeless can get a letter from a shelter. What about a senior? A senior using medication can use a prescription label as part of their ID. There are so many different options.

If there are Canadians out there who have none of these ID options available, then I would suggest that a better fix would be for us to look for ways to help those Canadians get access to ID. Even outside of voting, there are many benefits to having identification. There are many things that are very difficult to do if one does not have identification. If the government really thinks there is a population with none of the IDs we have listed, then I welcome a strategy from it on how we can ensure everybody in Canada has some means of ID, some ability to identify themselves. That is a much more logical solution. One listens to the speeches from the government, and it is clear it has a very difficult time identifying who could not have one of the IDs mentioned by Elections Canada. Again, if somebody does not, let us fix that issue rather than calling something ID which very clearly is not. I am referring to the voter information card, which we know is full of errors.

It is important to underline the failure of the government to address the issue of foreign interference in our elections. I am repeatedly frustrated by how naive the government seems to be in terms of its engagement in the world. Top of mind is a recent meeting between this Prime Minister and the leader of Turkey discussing the issue of how journalists can be protected. There are real issues in many countries that need to be addressed, but the pretense now seems to be to pretend the Turkish government is a champion of the rights of journalists, which is obviously pretty far off the mark given the realities happening in Turkey today.

There are so many different countries and actors around the world that want to influence the direction of Canadian policy and are actively trying to do so. This is something I hear about repeatedly when I talk to Canadians in cultural communities. They see and hear about efforts by other governments or by other foreign entities to try to influence the direction of policy in Canada, and yet there are no meaningful measures in this bill to address foreign interference in our elections. The Conservatives proposed those amendments, but unfortunately they were rejected. There are many problems with this bill. The government needed to do better, and we are opposing this legislation on that basis.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech. I have to give him credit for being able to see the upside in everything. He has a talent for always finding the silver lining. I also want to compliment him on his French, which keeps improving.

It is funny that he started his speech by talking about democracy and voting rights, since we know that 1 million Canadians were unable to vote because of something called the Fair Elections Act. I thought it was really interesting that he would bring this up.

He went on to say that some amendments had been accepted. He should give our government the credit, because we accepted a total of 70 amendments, including 16 from the Conservative Party.

I would like my colleague to tell us about two areas where this bill will have a positive impact. First of all, the bill will make the electoral process more accessible for people who had trouble voting in the past. Second, it will give members of the Canadian Armed Forces more flexible voting options, in accordance with the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations.

Could my colleague comment on accessibility for Canadian Armed Forces electors?

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and his compliments on my French. I am practising hard.

He spoke about some of the aspects of this bill, which is obviously an omnibus bill because it touches on so many different things. This is interesting because the Liberals were certainly against omnibus bills when they were in opposition. When they find themselves back in opposition after the next election, they will be able to once again oppose such measures.

In his question, the member spoke about important aspects of the bill that I agree with, such as the flexibility the government wants to give soldiers to participate in elections. However, I want to point out that we were able to get more Canadians to vote, in the last election. That means that we have very effective tools. The results are clear. There was a significant increase in the number of Canadians who voted in the last election.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for practising his French. That is to his credit.

In 2014, the previous government changed the Elections Act and did away with voter information cards. All of the parties opposed that. Bill C-76 would bring back the voter information card. All of the parties agree that that is a good idea, except my colleague's party.

Why are the Conservatives opposed to this measure, when Canadians have always liked getting voter information cards?

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I spoke at length about ID cards in my speech. We are the only party that is defending the integrity of Canadian elections. That is the reality, and Canadians will choose their preferred party after realizing this.

Clearly, there are several options that allow voters to prove their identity. Whether it is a student card or a letter from a soup kitchen or shelter, there are several options that allow people in different situations to prove their identity.

If the government believes that some Canadians are unable to obtain an identification card, we could address the problem directly by implementing measures to ensure that Canadians have an identification card. However, whether they use a library card or a credit card, Canadians have many options.

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October 30th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House today in order to speak in defence of Canadians and the democratic system that we hold dear.

The Liberal government is doing all that it can to ram Bill C-76 through the House of Commons and into full effect before the next election. In ramming it through, it is shutting down debate and not allowing us the opportunity to engage in a thorough discussion. It is also ignoring the testimony that was brought forward at committee. There was much testimony brought forward from expert witnesses whose backgrounds are on this subject. Instead, the Liberals are ramming the bill through. In doing that, they are actually rigging the system in their favour for the next election. My Conservative colleagues and I are committed to holding the government to account and, of course, we will engage in this discussion as much as we are allowed.

For Canada's democratic system to function properly, every Canadian citizen over the age of 18 must be granted fair and equal access to the voting process. Under our current leader, Conservatives will continue to hold the government to account with regard to these things. We watch as the government acts in its own self-interest and fails to protect Canada's democratic institutions. It needs to be held to account in this regard. Multiple measures introduced in Bill C-76 will prevent Canadians from engaging in a free and fair election and it is our responsibility to highlight those concerns here today.

As important as it is to ensure that all Canadian citizens have equal access to voting, for our democracy to be upheld, we must also ensure that voters can cast only one ballot, that they are citizens and that they are over the age of 18. These are our laws and this is what helps protect our democratic system.

Our entire system is undermined when individuals vote in the wrong riding, when they vote more than once or when they vote under a false identity. In fact, it undermines our electoral system so substantially that it is actually called a crime if one engages in fraudulent behaviour like that. Contrary to what the Liberals are trying to make Canadians believe, if Bill C-76 is passed, it will actually increase the opportunities for these crimes to be committed.

Instead of working to prevent voter fraud, Bill C-76 actually amends Canada's current voter identification rules to create a loophole by which non-citizens will be able to vote and some citizens will be able to vote more than once. Bill C-76 would make it acceptable to simply produce a voter information card received in the mail as some form of acceptable ID. There is a problem with this because, according to Elections Canada, the cards have an error rate of about 16%. This means that in the 2015 election, approximately one million Canadians received an incorrect card. Those cards had a name illegitimately attached to an address, or an address illegitimately attached to a name, or they were sent to someone who was not even a Canadian citizen, or to someone who was not over the age of 18. One can quickly see how this would threaten the integrity of our electoral system.

It is easy to see that once Bill C-76 is in effect, there is a good chance that voter fraud will take place at a greater rate than it does currently. The Liberals make it seem like the current requirements for identification are unnecessarily burdensome, but in reality, there is a broad range of already accepted documents that make it possible for every eligible Canadian to vote.

Most people over the age of 18 likely have a driver's licence or a provincial or territorial identification card. Most have a passport, an Indian status card, a band card or a citizenship card. However, let us just say that some people may not have one of those, which is correct and I will acknowledge that. However, Canadians need not worry as there is a second option. Voters are also able to bring in two separate pieces of ID as long as one has the voter's current mailing address. These IDs can range from a person's blood donor card, a hydro bill, a rental agreement, a credit card statement, a library card, a public transportation card and the list goes on and on. However, let us assume that there is a chance that voters still cannot produce any one of these options. There is a third option. Voters can bring in two pieces of identification and individuals who know them are able to vouch for them that they are in fact who they claim to be and live at the address that they claim to live at.

With all of these options available to voters, why would the government add the voter information card which Elections Canada acknowledges has a high error rate?

Canadians need to show legal identification when buying a case of beer or a package of cigarettes or to board a plane. It should be all that much more important for Canadians to show proper identification when they vote, when they participate in Canada's democracy that selects the women and men who stand in this place and represent Canadians. It matters and an identification card must properly be shown for that.

When this is not the case, it dilutes the value of ballots that are cast legitimately. It demeans our democratic system. Bill C-76 is an attack on our parliamentary system as we know it. It is an attack on our democratic system altogether and, therefore, a direct attack on Canadians.

I am proud of the previous Conservative government and the work that was done to create the Fair Elections Act in 2014. Our legislation upheld the democratic right of each and every citizen to vote while also protecting this country against voter fraud. In fact, in 2015, under the new Fair Elections Act, there was a record turnout of voter participation, one of the highest percentages in Canadian history. With knowledge of increased participation under the current system then, why would the Liberals rush to pass legislation that enables an increase in voter fraud and risks undermining the integrity of our current democracy?

After the 2015 election, the current Prime Minister tried to change Canada's election laws to benefit the Liberal Party. It was the Canadian people who pushed back time and time again over a series of months in a tremendous way to try to stop what the current government was trying to push through. Again the government is trying to push through this legislation, trying to make this change to the system, which will ultimately act in its favour and against the well-being of Canadian citizens.

In addition to creating an opportunity for voter fraud, the second issue I want to draw attention to today is foreign interference. Now more than ever in recent history, we must be vigilant. We must. We must be vigilant about protecting the authenticity and independence of our elections. Sadly, under this legislation, the Prime Minister has failed to take the necessary steps to eliminate the possibility of foreign interference.

Bill C-76 allows for, and I would say even encourages, creating loopholes for foreign interference in Canadian elections. This legislation would allow unlimited foreign donations outside of the pre-writ and post-writ periods and would double the total amount of third party spending that is permitted during the writ period. Bill C-76 would allow foreign money to be funnelled into Canada and then disseminated to numerous advocacy groups during a new pre-writ period. The money donated by foreign entities would be used for the purpose of influencing Canada's elections outcome. We have to be concerned with that.

An example of this practice occurring is the Tides Foundation. This is an organization based in San Francisco that is totally opposed to Canada's energy sector. In the 2015 election, this organization funnelled $1.5 million to Canadian third parties and is currently under investigation by the CRA. Many allegations like this are still circulating and are yet to be investigated. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister wants to do nothing to prevent these things from happening in the future.

A government that puts Canadians first would be doing all that it could to protect elections from being hijacked by foreign investment groups. If the government were really concerned with the integrity of Canada's democratic system, it would be fixing the problem by closing these loopholes rather than creating more of them. The Conservatives tried to put forward a number of amendments at committee, but each and every one of them was shot down. Instead, these loopholes were safeguarded. I have to ask a question in that regard. Why safeguard these loopholes? Why allow foreign investment in our electoral process here in Canada?

With the election less than a year away, the Prime Minister is choosing to turn a blind eye to this. Canadians deserve a government that will protect the integrity of our elections. The Prime Minister is failing to crack down on foreign influence and voter fraud while, arguably, encouraging these practices in the legislation as it is outlined in Bill C-76.

As an elected official, it is my responsibility to hold the government to account and to insist on integrity within the voter system. It is clear that Bill C-76 undermines the very basic principles of democracy, so I urge members of the House to vote no to this legislation.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague.

She said that we must protect Canadians and the integrity of elections. However, one year before the election, the previous government abolished the voter card as a valid piece of identification for voting. People were confused. Everyone wanted to keep voter cards, except for the Conservatives.

For that reason, Bill C-76 will re-establish the voter card as a valid piece of ID for voting. Why are the Conservatives opposing this?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. member already knows this, or at least I hope she does. It is quite common knowledge to the rest of us in this House that after a period of time, about 10 years, it is up to Elections Canada to redistribute our ridings.

In other words, as members of Parliament, we are here representing approximately 120,000 to 125,000 Canadians. That is our responsibility. Over time, of course, the population grows, which means that we end up representing more than that number so there needs to be a redistribution process. That means the boundaries for our ridings adjust. Of course, they are adjusting so that Canadians are properly represented by their member of Parliament here within the House of Commons.

Therefore, yes, when we were in government under Stephen Harper as the prime minister, those electoral boundaries did change in order to make sure that Canadians are accurately represented within the House of Commons. We are not ashamed of that. That is due process. That is protecting democracy.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:05 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, maybe I could illustrate the difference between Stephen Harper's approach and this government's approach to changing election laws.

When it came time for the Conservatives to change the election laws, they did not have the support of the Liberals, the Green Party or the New Democratic Party, and they were very offensive with respect to Elections Canada.

Today, the legislation we are debating is supported by the Green Party, by the NDP and by Liberals. Yes, they would like to see some amendments, but they are going to be voting in favour of it. There is consultation that takes place with this government and there is wide support for the changes that are being made.

Perhaps the member could explain the difference to Canadians. Why is it that the Conservatives could do it without any consensus at all among the parties, and she feels that was fair? Could the member reflect on that?

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the bill that is before this House went to committee. The hearings were cut short, arguably, with regard to the number of witnesses who were given the opportunity to testify.

In addition to that, my colleagues put forward 200 amendments and only six of them passed. They were good amendments. They were amendments that would prevent foreign investment in our country. They were amendments that would protect democracy. They were amendments that would be fair to each and every party represented in the House of Commons. Those were all shut down, with the exception of six small amendments that were accepted by the government.

I would highlight one more thing. Right now, we have the opportunity to call four by-elections in this country, and the government has chosen to call only one of them. For the Canadian public, that means there are three ridings that could have a member of Parliament here in this place representing them day in and day out and speaking on their behalf, but the Prime Minister is refusing to give them that democratic right.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, regarding the information cards containing mistakes, I received a card in a past election. I went to the polling station the card indicated but it was wrong; the address did not match. I was sent to another polling station, supposedly where I was to vote, but because the card identified a different one, I was not allowed to vote at that one. Due to my recognition as a mayor of the city I was in, I was able to find the elections officer, who made some changes so I was allowed to vote. However, the information card was wrong, and that is part of the problem of using it as identification.

The member has referred to the problems with the information card and the zillions of other things that could have been used in that place, but because of a wrong information card, I was being denied the right to vote, until I found somebody who allowed me to vote.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly what I highlighted in my speech. The information cards are sent to the electorate. Most of them are accurate, but some of them are not. We know that in the last election 16% of them were not, which equals about 1.5 million electoral cards that did not land at the right address or did not go to the right person.

It means that those individuals are put into a situation where, potentially under this new legislation, they are able to vote when they actually should not be able to vote. They should have to show proper identification such as a driver's licence or a passport. They should have to prove that they do in fact live within that area and are able to vote there.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, when I spoke earlier, I talked about the voter card. I never mentioned boundaries or maps. In my question, I was actually referring to the voter information card. The translation is very important. It seems that that is not what the translator heard. When I asked my hon. colleague the question, I actually spoke about voter information cards. I want to point that out because I was not talking about boundaries at all.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Humber River—Black Creek.

We are talking about Bill C-76. I had the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to participate in the debate on this bill and to better understand the review of the Canada Elections Act.

I join members in support of Bill C-76, the elections modernization act. Later on I will talk more specifically about the changes this bill makes to the rules governing political party spending.

All Canadians have concerns about the undue influence of money in the democratic process. According to existing rules, political parties must, in accordance with the Canada Elections Act, disclose the source of their money, so that the political fundraising and spending process is fairer and more transparent.

Political parties started to declare their expenses in 1974, after the Election Expenses Act was passed. Since 2004, riding associations, nomination contestants and leadership candidates have also had to disclose where the money comes from and where it is spent. Since 2007, companies and unions have been banned from making political contributions.

In 2014, contribution limits were raised for both parties and candidates, and rules were introduced around increasing spending limits if election campaigns were expected to last longer than the 37-day minimum mandated by law.

The time has now come to take the next step in addressing campaign spending limits for political parties and third parties. These changes are being made in response to the impact of fixed election dates on spending. After all, it is now much easier for political parties and third parties to plan their spending on political ads and ads about specific issues. Election campaigning can start well before the writ is dropped.

Canadians want to know elections are fair. That is why the Prime Minister mandated the Minister of Democratic Institutions to review the limits on the amounts political parties and third parties can spend during elections.

The bill before us would limit the length of the campaign, eliminate the proportional spending limit increase during the campaign, and limit pre-writ political ad spending. By limiting the writ period to 50 days, this bill will provide parties with greater certainty and enable them to better manage their spending.

Everyone here remembers the 2015 election, which lasted 78 days. Under the rules in effect at the time, for every day beyond 37 days of campaigning, the spending limits were increased by one thirty-seventh of the basic limit. In 2015, the national parties therefore had an upper limit of roughly $55 million.

No party reached that limit, but the last electoral marathon resulted in significant reimbursements. During the 78-day electoral period in 2015, reimbursements for all the political parties and candidates totalled roughly $102 million. By comparison, during the previous period in 2011, reimbursements totalled only $61 million. That is a big difference.

Taxpayers might ask the following question: what was the added value of the $41 million paid back to the political parties? They might also ask whether such high electoral spending had an undue influence on our elections. For example, does this give an advantage to the party in power? Under the current rules, the party in power can manipulate the duration of the electoral period according to the size of its financial reserves relative to the reserves of the other parties.

The bill removes the prorated increase in the spending limit for all political participants. This will help save taxpayers' money. Perhaps more importantly, this will help allay concerns over the influence money has on our elections and the perception that the prorated increase unfairly benefits the party in power.

I will now talk about the pre-writ period. Under the current rules, outside election periods, political parties are subject to limits on individual contributions but not on spending.

Establishing fixed dates for federal elections has allowed political parties and other political entities to plan their spending during the pre-writ period, so as to avoid some of the constraints associated with the election period.

This raises concerns about the undue influence of big money. We want to ensure that the voices of political parties or other political entities with the most cash flow do not drown out other voices as Canadians turn their attention to electoral issues.

For the pre-writ period, which begins June 30 in a fixed-date election year, the bill sets a $1.5-million spending limit for political parties. It also proposes spending limits for third parties during that period.

The June 30 date was chosen because Parliament is unlikely to be sitting at that time. In a fixed-date election year, the business of Parliament is likely to have been completed by June 30 at the latest in preparation for an election in mid-October. That is when campaigning really begins in earnest. That is when spending limits should apply. Voters can therefore feel certain that the voices of those with bulging coffers do not drown out the other voices. This is fair and vital to our democracy.

Canadians can be proud of the measures taken here in Canada to limit the influence of big money on our electoral process. This system continues to evolve as our democracy evolves. Establishing fixed election dates has presented new challenges in terms of maintaining fairness and transparency in our electoral system, and Bill C-76 will help us overcome those challenges.

I urge all members of the House to join me in supporting this bill.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the influence of big money in elections. When we talk about democracy, everyone's vote needs to count the same. One of the real flaws in the bill is that the Prime Minister is not taking the necessary steps to eliminate the possibility of foreign influence. In other words, where does the money come from? Could the member comment on whether the bill could be strengthened, especially in regard to foreign money influencing Canadian elections?

Also, the member knows there will be certain by-elections happening. The Prime Minister is stopping 300,000 Canadians from having a representative voice in the House. Considering the bill is about elections, does she not think there should be something in it to acknowledge the fact that by-elections should be called in a timely manner and equally across the entire country?

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in his question, my hon. colleague mentioned people who are abroad. Bill C-76 will make it possible for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces who serve their country abroad to exercise their right to vote.

However, there are more than one million other Canadians who work abroad, not to mention Quebec's snowbirds, who may have already left the country in October, when we have fixed-date elections.

Bill C-76 will make it possible for all these Canadians to exercise their right to vote and to have the time to vote.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about a part of the bill recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer, which was in the original bill, but the Liberals stripped it out of the bill. We tried to put it back in last night in a vote, and the Liberals voted against it. It is the part that would require political parties to provide receipts for their spending. As MPs, any candidate who has ever run for office here knows if an election claim expense is made at their local riding level, for example, $50 on food or $100 on rent, it has to be proven with a receipt. However, political parties do not. The reason the Chief Electoral Officer wanted this is there would be new powers for investigation in the bill, but those powers would not mean anything if the Chief Electoral Officer did not have the evidence, often with money, to track where the wrongdoing might have happened. This was something the Liberals agreed with then stripped out of the bill. The Chief Electoral Officer wanted it in the bill.

What exactly are the Liberals afraid of? They say that they trust the Chief Electoral Officer, appreciate him and think that he is the greatest guy, except when he makes recommendations like that one or that there should be privacy laws that parties have to abide by. Then they choose to ignore the Chief Electoral Officer and do not like his advice so much. Some would call that hypocrisy or inconsistency, people can choose the term because I do not want to imply one, but it is certainly wrong.

Why did Liberals deny these two important pieces: one, the protection of Canadians' privacy and of our elections, and two, a basic requirement the Chief Electoral Officer recommended, which would give him the investigative powers and evidence needed to catch people who are cheating in an election sponsorship scandal?

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in fact we were both on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs when the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the committee. He came to talk to us about what should be in the bill. The Chief Electoral Officer recommended 100 changes to the Canada Elections Act. Committee members agreed to 80% of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to add a few comments to the discussion and debate on Bill C-76. It has been a long time coming. I think it is important for us to ensure we all have the chance to make comments on it as it moves forward because it will have a huge impact on democracy and how Canadians function and move forward. Therefore, I am pleased to talk about Bill C-76, which of course we call the elections modernization act. I think there are many clauses in here that do just that.

The Government of Canada of today is 100% committed to the strengthening of Canada's democratic institutions and restoring the trust of Canadians and their participation in our democratic processes. All too frequently, in every one of our elections, we end up with fewer people turning out to vote. I think that is a real disservice when we talk about democracy. We need to be encouraging more people to get out, and I think Bill C-76 will be helpful in that way. We believe the strength of our democracy depends on the participation of as many Canadians as possible, both young and old.

My daughter was a candidate in the recent City of Toronto election. Of course I was very involved in that election, especially on election day, and viewing how things were functioning. I can say that there were many people who were turned away for a variety of reasons. Seniors had much difficulty being able to get their vote in. They had three days to get in touch with someone, and then had to go down to city hall to try to facilitate their getting a chance to vote. I hope those are some of the barriers Bill C-76 will eliminate. By undoing the unfair aspects of the previous government's Fair Elections Act, we are making it easier and more convenient for all Canadians to vote. I am sure after the 2019 election we will come back with some other suggestions as to how we can again improve the turnout and make it easier for people, especially those who are disabled and seniors, to be encouraged to participate.

Clearly, we are making the electoral process more accessible to Canadians with disabilities, caregivers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are restoring voting rights to more than one million Canadians who live abroad, a restoration that is truly needed.

We are strengthening our laws, closing loopholes and bringing in more robust enforcement regimes to make it more difficult for the bad actors that we have out there to influence our elections. If we watch any of the U.S. channels in particular, I do not think a day goes by that the Americans are not talking about their last election and the amount of foreign influence that clearly was there. No doubt, we probably had foreign influence in ours, but not to that extent. Hopefully, with Bill C-76 we will be able to ensure that is kept to a minimum, if any. We are requiring greater transparency from third parties and political parties so that Canadians can better understand who seeks to influence their vote.

The importance of people exercising their right to vote in today's society has never been so important. A large number of youth today feel as though their voice does not matter. I hope Bill C-76 will show them that we need their participation, we need their vote, the future is theirs, and it is imperative that they get involved and exercise their vote. I was quite surprised last week to see the number of young people who, when asked if they had voted today, responded that they had not and they would not be voting, wherever I happened to be. I have never been involved in an election where so many people were saying they simply were not voting, they did not know who to vote for or they had no interest. Municipal elections are different from federal, but the fact that people would make the specific comment that they had no interest in voting, and were not going to be, I think is a very serious issue. We need to be doing everything we can to encourage people the other way, for them to realize the value of their vote and not to put democracy in danger. Their voices do count. Therefore, it is up to us to convince them of that. This misconception could not be any further from the truth.

When I am meeting with constituents in my riding of Humber River—Black Creek, knocking on doors, I always emphasize to the younger voters that this is about their future, not mine. This is about them and it is imperative that they participate and that their voice be heard through their ballot being cast at the polls. Bill C-76 is making it easier for that voice to be heard. The youth of today will be the shape of our future and our country of the future, a future that will be much brighter when we see more and more youth exercising their right to vote.

There is still a discussion about obligation to vote and some people ask if we should put in law that people have to vote. Canada is not at that point. I would hope we will not get to that point, but that we make sure that people understand the number of individuals around the world who die for the right to vote while here we have people saying they are not going to vote. It is not that they do not know who to vote for, they are just not interested. It is a very sad system that we have right now, at least at the municipal level.

Our government made a commitment to Canadians in the last election and Bill C-76 delivers on that commitment. This is important to the residents of Humber River—Black Creek because when a promise is made, they expect a promise to be kept. Honesty is something that most people think all governments lack, so I am pleased to see that we are attempting to meet the commitments that we made in the last election, but not for any reason other than it is the right thing to do to make sure that our democracy is playing out properly. That is what I hope it is going to do with Bill C-76. I strive to ensure that I combat that misconception with my hard work every day and the hard work of all of my colleagues here in the House of Commons. We come here every day to make a difference in the lives of all Canadians, no matter whether they are 15 years old or 90 years old. Our work is to make a difference in the lives of Canadians.

Bill C-76 delivers on our government's commitment to protect, strengthen and improve our democratic institutions. It delivers on an important election commitment made by our government, but it also goes further and provides Elections Canada and the commissioner of Canada elections with new powers and tools to help enforce our rules, something that was very much lacking in the previous legislation. It is important for us to give the commissioner of Canada elections the powers needed to enact whatever rules are there to be enacted and to move forward.

Modernizing our elections should be a priority for all members in the chamber and I believe it is. It may be after the next election again that we bring forward amendments that will continue to strengthen democracy in Canada. Currently, one issue is that the staff of Elections Canada are ineligible for consideration for appointment as commissioner. Elections Canada offers an obvious recruiting ground for personnel who are very familiar with the issues that arise in our democracy. Bill C-76 restores Elections Canada's status as a source of candidate recruitment.

Not only in Humber River—Black Creek, but getting people to work on elections everywhere is difficult and getting people to work in the leadership as returning officers and so on has become more and more difficult. People's lives are busy and they do not have the commitment to understand how important the role is. It takes a lot of time. Returning officers are underpaid for the amount of work that is required and it comes out of pure dedication.

There are a variety of things in Bill C-76 that are very positive as we move forward to the future and I am happy to have had a few minutes to comment on it.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have known my colleague and friend for some years. We have been in this place for a while and have seen a couple of ups and downs. I too share one of the concerns she has raised, which is the participation of young people and the growing sense of cynicism.

I would offer her party and leader this compliment. In the last election, they tapped into that sense of desperation and fear about our elections. A great number of young people supported her and her party with a sense that the current government would be different. Clearly, that was the promise.

When the Prime Minister was a candidate, he made some significant promises around our democracy that were quite captivating, particularly to young and progressive folks. One of them, of course, is the now infamous promise that 2015 would be the last election under first past the post. A number of my colleagues on her side got to share the experience of what that betrayal was like once the government said no.

Specifically on this, in general, a lot of people now get much of their news from social media. That is a leading way of distributing information. One of the risks to politics is the spreading of what is called misinformation and disinformation. We are combining that new power with the power of large, significant and complex databases. That is information that all parties gather on individual voters, not groups of voters, as she well knows, from the 1990s and early 2000s. The information we now have on individual voters, voting preference, voting history, age, telephone number, religious affiliations, sexual orientation, all sorts of incredibly personal information is gathered by political parties, yet there are no rules in place right now that say the parties have to keep any standards in protecting that privacy or what they do with that data. We are combining the great power of social media and being able to target individual voters.

On Bill C-76, the Chief Electoral Officer recommended strengthening privacy rules. The New Democrats put forward amendments to do that and the government rejected all of them. Why?

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the great work of my colleague. Sometimes I think we have all been here a little too long, but he has done some great work. It was terrific to work with him. I look forward to maybe another four or five years in the House of Commons, working together on issues that matter to Canadians.

Yes, that is a concern. Bill C-76 attempts to strengthen that as much as possible as we move forward. However, we have the challenge of social media, protecting individual rights and privacy rights. I note the bill stipulates that parties have to keep a list of all individuals called, with their phone numbers. There is a variety of things in Bill C-76 that attempt to strengthen that.

There will always be areas we can improve on and I expect there will be other changes after the next election on ways to continue to meet the current challenges that face us all.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have risen the House a few times to talk about the 2011 election, when Guelph was targeted as a centre for robocalls and what that did to the people working on behalf of Elections Canada, whether they would volunteer again knowing that the ground was shifting under their feet.

Looking at the strengthening of the position of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada and the ability to prosecute crimes that occur during elections, we have come a long way with Bill C-76, trying to undo the unfair elections act.

Could the hon. member comment on how important it is for us to have a strong regime with respect to the Canada Elections Act and the implementation of our elections?

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the 2011 election was very discouraging to the people who worked on the elections. Candidates were also very discouraged as a result of finding out that a lot of irregularities were happening, but not a whole lot was being done. Strengthening services for the Commissioner of Elections Canada is important in order to provide the ability to give serious penalties to people who violate and interfere with our democracy. It is too important a treasure for us. Anybody who interferes needs to receive a very stiff penalty so it does not happen again.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my great friend and colleague, the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

I am looking at the clock right now and I see that we have little more than half an hour left in this debate. It is a sad state of affairs for a bill that really covers such an important law in which every Canadian has so much vested, not the least of whom are members of the House, that we have to debate it under the yoke of time allocation.

The rush is all the making of the Liberals. We have heard repeatedly about Bill C-33, the first attempt by the Liberals at amending our election laws. That bill was introduced on November 24, 2016, and it is about as far as it got. It stayed at first reading. The member for Perth—Wellington called it a very unloved bill because it seemed to have been forgotten by the Liberal government.

Bill C-33 languished for many months and then finally on April 30 of this year, Bill C-76 was brought in, which swallowed up Bill C-33 but added a whole bunch more.

Then the sense of urgency came. The Liberals suddenly became aware of the timelines they had to deal with this. The Liberal government has a clear majority. It has commanding control over the agenda of the House. The Liberals came to power with an ambitious election agenda, and they are making us pay for their laggardness.

The bill came back to the House for report stage last week. On Thursday, October 25, the government moved time allocation. We really only had a few days to debate the bill, which started on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, the Dutch prime minister was here, so it was not a full day. We debated the bill on Friday afternoon. On Monday, the government decided to debate Bill C-84 and Bill C-85. We had the votes at report stage last night, Here we are on Tuesday, the final day to debate the bill at third reading.

It makes a mockery out of the Prime Minister's promise to treat this institution with respect when he rams the bill through, especially when the amendments that were looked at in committee and at report stage were backed up by such solid evidence. The Liberals have demonstrated time and again that it is their way or the highway.

We have to place all of this within the context of the biggest promise the Liberals made with respect to electoral reform, and that was that 2015 would be the last election held under first past the post. Why does this matter? When the hon. clerks at the table read out the tally of the votes, we do not approve a motion with 39% support, yet that is precisely what happens in this place. The Liberals do have a majority government, but it was elected by 39% of the people.

If we truly believe that every vote should count equally, then the House of Commons should reflect how people voted. I certainly wish the Liberals had followed through on their promise, that they had listened to the evidence that was gathered by the special committee on electoral reform and at least had progressed.

If the Liberals want to see how it is really done, they need to look no further than the province of British Columbia, where a B.C. NDP government, led by my friend Premier John Horgan, who is also a constituent, is following through with a promise.

Right now B.C. is having a referendum on electoral reform. I was happy to cast my ballot last weekend in support of proportional representation. This is a great opportunity for the province of B.C. to lead the way on electoral reform. It is a great way to show Canadians that on this issue, if they want progress, if they want a government that keeps its promise, they will vote NDP. John Horgan and the NDP are showing that.

I want to move on because I do not want to be entirely negative. There are some important things in the bill that we support. Many of the changes in Bill C-76 are just simple reversals of the Conservative bill from 2014.

For example, Bill C-76 would reinstate vouching for identity. It would restore the voter ID card. It would remove restrictions on how the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada could communicate with voters. These are all good things and we support them.

On a personal note, the government has incorporated the idea behind my private member's bill, Bill C-279, which I introduced in 2016. That bill sought to limit the length of elections. I think all members, and indeed Canadians, would be very happy if we did not have to go through a 78-day marathon campaign anymore. Seriously, there needs to be a limit on the length of elections, especially with the changes the Conservatives brought in under its government. It greatly expanded how much political parties could spend every day we went past 36 days. I do not think anyone could argue in favour of Canadians needing 78 days to make their decision. Therefore, I am glad to see there is a hard limit of 50 days on the length of elections.

I am also happy to see that Elections Canada would now be able to access information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. One of the great things I do as a member of Parliament, pretty much every month, is I get a list of new citizens who recently acquired their citizenship. I get to write certificates, congratulating them on acquiring their citizenship and welcoming them as future electors of Canada. If Elections Canada is able to update its registry in co-operation with another government department, all the better. I think every party in this place wants to see more people participate.

The early registration of teenagers, age 14 to 17, is a great step forward. One of the other things I really enjoy doing as a member of Parliament is visiting all the high schools in my riding. When we make efforts to speak to students, especially grade 11 and 12 students, they are actually a very thoughtful and engaged group. They care very much about their future. They care about climate change, about very progressive ideals. I have really valued my exchanges with them. With early registration as voters, it gives them another impetus to get the buy-in to the system so when they turn 18, they can actually go and cast their ballot.

I was fortunate enough to turn 18 in 1997, an election year, and I got to cast my ballot. I can remember doing that with a lot of pride.

Removing the ban on public education by the Chief Electoral Officer is also a great thing, as well as extending the hours of advanced polls. These are all positive measures in my view.

That is not to say that there are not problems. One of the biggest gaps, and it has been clearly identified by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who has been doing yeoman's work on this bill on behalf of the NDP, is the privacy rules covering political parties. Every political party in this place gathers a lot of information on Canadians. We know generally how many people live in a household, what their ages are, their genders and, in some cases, what their professions are.

We live in a time now where information warfare is a fact. Hacking is a fact. We need look no further than the examples of the Brexit vote and the recent election in the United States. It would be absolutely foolish of us to pretend it will not to affect Canada. Unfortunately, despite all the evidence that was heard at the procedure and House affairs committee, not only from the Privacy Commissioner but a whole host of experts, the Liberals cynically ignored this important provision. They decided not to strengthen privacy laws covering political parties. Also, nothing was really done with respect to election ads on social media and the Internet.

One of the big things is this. I remember the Liberals amended their own bill at committee to remove the requirement of political parties to keep receipts for their spending. This is the Liberals at committee amending their own bill to take that out. Last night, through report stage amendments, we tried to insert that back in, through vote no. 12. It was voted against. The Chief Electoral Officer has been calling for this since the 38th Parliament. For a party that likes to sing praises of the Chief Electoral Officer, to repeatedly ignore his recommendations and his calls to action on so many occasions makes a mockery of the Liberal statements in this place.

We also tried to move the voting day to Sunday, which I think would have encouraged more participation. On a Monday, I know everyone is entitled to get those hours off, but it sometimes does not always work out.

We tried to be constructive with the bill. Despite the many flaws that exist, we will vote to send it to the other place. However, I will be reminding Canadians of the opportunities that were lost, the opportunities that we attempted to address and the Liberals' flagrant attempts to ignore all of those constructive proposals.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 4:50 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, at the very start I recognize that the NDP members had a series of amendments they were proposing at the committee stage, and they were not alone. There were also many more amendments from the Conservative Party. As well, there were many suggestions and recommendations from the presenters, including Elections Canada.

What was really encouraging in what came out of that committee stage was that we had many amendments accepted. There were amendments from all parties, in fact. Even the Green Party had direct input in making sure there were some amendments brought forward. Today the legislation is healthier as a direct result. I realize that maybe not everything was accepted that members would have liked. Some of it, no doubt, could be very easily justified.

I just wanted to provide more of a comment than a question.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much accept what the hon. member said. Many amendments were moved. Some were accepted, some were not.

The problem is that we are not having enough time to debate. Report stage is already over and we are now at third reading. The Liberal government has not given this House enough time to deliberate what happened at committee. It goes right against what the Liberals themselves proposed on April 10, 2014.

The member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, the member for Malpeque and even the member for Winnipeg North have stood in this place repeatedly to argue that time allocation measures should not be used any time this House is deliberating on our election laws.

That is the big issue I have, not so much with the amendments but with this House's ability to democratically deliberate on those measures.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was just wondering if my colleague for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford could comment on two things for us. He highlighted some of the hypocrisy of the current government. It is always good to criticize there, but how can we make it better? As well, his party is going to vote to send it to the other place.

I was wondering if my colleague would be supportive of strengthening things in this bill to keep foreign entities from undermining our democratic institutions. It is one of the things we are worried about, and it is a reality today. There are other governments that want to influence the Canadian process with big money being brought in here, and there is not enough in this bill to address that.

Also, however, with regard to by-elections, it seems the government is cherry-picking when they should be taking place. It is stalling three really important by-elections in which Canadians should have a voice.

I was wondering if my colleague could comment on those two issues.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I once substituted at the ethics committee when they were looking into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. There are some great concerns about data harvesting and the foreign influence that goes through that. I know the ethics committee is doing some great work peeling back the layers of the onion to discover how deep the rot goes. It is something we absolutely have to be on guard against in this time and age.

I agree with the member with respect to by-elections. The Liberals, let us face it, do not have a good excuse for delaying the calling of those by-elections. It is no secret that 300,000 Canadians who would vote in those remaining by-elections are without representation in this place. Our leader announced that he was going to run on August 8. It was very clear.

We look forward to seeing the Liberals actually live up to their promises to call those by-elections, making sure those unrepresented Canadians get members of Parliament in this place. That is the right thing to do.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I can accurately answer that. It is a question I will be posing to my constituents, and maybe to the Liberal candidate for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford during the next election. What was his political party so afraid of that it will not produce receipts for what it spent on advertising?

If the Chief Electoral Officer is going to have these investigative powers, it makes sense that the political parties should be compelled to not only store the receipts but hand them over to the Chief Electoral Officer. We are really talking about transparency, openness and making sure political parties play by the rules. That seems to me to be an easy fix.

I will let the Liberal candidate explain that in my riding in 2019.

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October 30th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in this place and speak to the Liberals' attempt to fix the Harper Conservatives' unfair elections act. The bill we are debating today is Bill C-76.

How did we get here? The 2015 election campaign and the lead-up to it were certainly full of people's very legitimate and impassioned opposition and protests against the ransacking of the Elections Act. The dismantling of many of our electoral and democratic processes is certainly well documented. Whether it had been the New Democrats or Liberals who were elected to government, there was a very clear mandate from the electorate that the new government was to repair the Elections Act and roll back the unfair elections act that the Harper Conservatives had brought in.

What happened next? First of all, there is no other way to say it, the Liberals ragged the puck on their commitment to fulfill their election promise to make every vote count. Moving to a proportional representation system would have brought Canada in line with 90% of the democracies around the world, which do not use first past the post as a way to choose their members. Under such a new system, a party that got 39% of the vote would get 39% of the seats in this place.

I believe it was an election promise made by the Prime Minister 1,500 times. He was slow to establish the committee. I am very glad he took the advice of my New Democrat colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who proposed forming a proportional parliamentary committee. The Liberal government did not get the majority of the votes, nor did it have the majority of the seats on that committee. Also, for the first time ever, the committee included representation from members from the Bloc and the Green Party.

Nevertheless, there were 33,000 submissions from around the country, including some very innovative online submissions from people who used Twitter and other social media to get their comments and questions to the committee. There were hundreds of experts. The broad consensus was not to use the Prime Minister's preferred alternative, which was ranked ballot, but instead to move to a proportional form of voting.

Rudely and abruptly, it was pulled by the new democratic reform minister and cancelled entirely by the Prime Minister, bailing on a serious election promise.

That was one chapter in our attempt to fulfill the government's mandate. We tried to help but the government did not take up our offer. As my colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, has just pointed out, British Columbia is voting in a referendum right now on whether to make every vote count. It is being done by mail-in ballot. I hope everybody will do their research, through Fair Vote Canada and the other organizations providing information to help people make the right choice. I am certainly going to be voting yes in the mail-in referendum, and hope others do too.

As for amending the Elections Act, the government took a year to do anything about it. The government introduced a bill, then sat on it for two full years. It then brought in this most recent version of the bill, on which we have had zero debate at this point. It brought in a new version of the bill, which was again stalled over the summer. Finally, it was up for debate in the House, and the government promptly invoked closure and stifled debate on the bill at every stage. Therefore, here we are in the final moments of the debate.

Deadlines have been missed. The Chief Electoral Officer said there had to be a complete, fully adopted bill in his hands by April 30, 2018, which was six months ago. Instead, the day after the deadline, the Liberals tabled this new bill. It is not enough time to get the job done.

Here we are. This is vitally important work. We have an election less than a year away, and yet we still do not have an adopted bill. The New Democrats have proposed one amendment after another and tried to be constructive in this process. I am very discouraged that the government failed to take our advice and that of the Chief Electoral Officer in a number of important areas.

For example, to be able to investigate spending, the Chief Electoral Officer needs to be able to see receipts provided by political parties when they spend in elections. As candidates, we are required to do that. If I buy a box of Timbits, I have to show that receipt and have it available for public view. It is not so for political parties. How can that evidence be compelled in a case where an investigation is needed?

The Liberals originally had that in Bill C-76. They then removed it from their bill. The New Democrats brought a motion forward to bring it back in, and the Liberals voted it down. The Chief Electoral Officer says he wants this amendment, yet it is still not in this bill. This is a lost opportunity to strengthen our democracy and transparency, things the government says it is all about.

Another failure of this bill is that it does not do enough to regulate advertising on digital platforms. Between Russia, Trump and Brexit, there have been ample examples of the ability for digital platforms to interfere with election results. There was a missed generational opportunity by the government to bring in legislation that would deal with that adequately. A year from now, arguably, our election will be vulnerable to deceitful messaging and disinformation at election time.

Another failure is that this bill, in the words of the Privacy Commissioner himself, “adds nothing of substance in terms of privacy protection.”

Right now, there is no oversight for political parties and how they store and manage data. There are no privacy rules applying to political parties right now. The Privacy Commissioner, the Chief Electoral Officer, the BC Civil Liberties Association and witnesses testifying from our counterparts in Europe all said our election process needs data protection.

The minister herself asked Canada's spy agency for advice. They said this bill is not strong enough, yet the Liberals rejected every amendment the New Democrats brought forward. There is only an unenforceable statement that political parties are meant to put on their website, but that is certainly not enough. Every witness at committee said that the status quo is not acceptable, and that this bill failed to provide the strength we really needed in this reform.

Another disappointment is a piece that I am personally very invested in, given that it is 2018 but this House only has 25% women elected. I am proud of my own party, the NDP, because we have extra measures built in to our nomination process, and 43% of New Democrat candidates offered for election in 2015 were women or members of equity-seeking groups. As a result, our caucus is 40% women.

It is not so for the Liberals and not so for the Conservatives. They do not have the same measures. My colleague, former member of Parliament and now mayor of Vancouver Kennedy Stewart brought forward a bill proposing incentives to parties that offered the public more gender-balanced candidate slates. The government voted it down. In the past few months, when the NDP tried to insert the same measures into the bill at committee, again our members were voted down.

This is taxpayer money. For example, taxpayers paid back the Conservatives $21 million in election spending rebates for 2015. Less of that would have gone to the Conservatives given that they only elected 17% women to their caucus. It is a great disappointment that that incentive did not move forward.

There were a few pieces that worked. I am very glad the private member's legislation by my colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, was bundled into the bill. That legislation proposed a shortening of the election period, so that we do not have to go through the same suffering we did in 2015. We are glad the government did that.

We are glad this bill reinstates vouching for identity. We are glad it restores the voter ID card. However, to go back to vouching, we still have a big hole. I could be in a gym on election night with my neighbour who lives across the street but is not actually in the same poll. If I asked him to vouch for me so that I am able to vote because I do not seem to be on the voters list, that would not be possible, even though we are in the same gymnasium with the same volunteers.

For the government to not go all the way and take all the advice it received to make this bill as strong as it could have been represents another failure in Bill C-76. It is a disappointment and, again, a generational opportunity lost.

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October 30th, 2018 / 5:05 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, the legislation provides a wonderful opportunity to modernize the Canada Elections Act. We have seen significant amendments. Elections Canada had well over 100 recommendations and more than 80% of them have been incorporated in the legislation. We have made many changes to reverse what Stephen Harper did when he was the prime minister, when he took away things like the voter information card. There is a lot of good news in this legislation.

We appreciate and recognize that the New Democrats and the Green Party will vote in favour of the legislation, and no doubt there will be ongoing discussions and debates in the future on things that we might be able to do. However, at the end of the day, I believe we have good, sound legislation. It was first introduced by the department, went through the committee process, and ultimately will pass. It is important to recognize that.

Moreover, I recognize that most parties, with the exception of the Conservative Party, would like to see this legislation enacted before the next election. Does the member not see that as a positive thing?

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October 30th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find this to be another area where the Liberal government has entirely failed to use the power of its majority and the good mandate given to it by the people of Canada to go all the way and repair the damage done. I am in good company here.

Marc Maynard, the former chief electoral officer, said, “How can they pretend to impose all sorts of rules on Facebook and Google and all other social media when they are declining to have them apply to themselves?”

Teresa Scassa, the Canada research chair in information law at the University of Ottawa, called it “an almost contemptuous and entirely cosmetic quick fix designed to deflect attention from the very serious privacy issues raised by the use of personal information by political parties.”

In the all-day debate the Liberals chose to bring to this place on April 10, 2014, the member for Winnipeg North said, “This legislation”—relating to the Elections Act—“should be designated such that time allocation cannot be applied to it.” His government, under his leadership, has brought in time allocation again and again. He should be ashamed.

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October 30th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to wish my colleague well with her planned transition to provincial politics. She is a formidable debater in this place. I know she will be a formidable opponent to the provincial Liberals and to the Alberta NDP.

My colleague from Guelph has talked many times about the problems of robocalls in Guelph. I am sure he has discussed this with former MP, Frank Valeriote. I found the CBC story on this from 2012, which reads:

Liberal campaign in Guelph fined for robocall violations.

MP Frank Valeriote's team sent automated phone calls to voters without identifying the source.

I want to join my friend from Guelph in deploring the conduct of Frank Valeriote's campaign in that respect, and we really need to see, finally, some integrity from Liberal campaigns. If members are skeptical about this, it is a CBC story.

I want to ask my colleague for her perspective on the debate commissioner who was announcement today. There was no consultation from the government on this, and yet the Liberals appointed an eminent person, a former governor general. However, the point remains that a legitimate expectation was created around consultation on that, and yet there has been no consultation.

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October 30th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is quite a serious development that happened just yesterday. It is expected and understood that whoever will adjudicate the election process, or in this case the debate process, is not put in place with the support and consensus of all political parties, the party in power who appoints that person may well be seen, rightly or wrongly, to be making a partisan appointment. Of course, our hands are raised today to Johnston, a good man, but the repeated commitment made by the Minister of Democratic Institutions to the House committee overseeing and reviewing the process for the leaders' debate was that “I will take this committee's advice”. The committee's advice was to adhere to that tradition of having a consensus view.

The government taxed people three-quarters of a million dollars for a process to establish the new oversight person for the leaders' debate. It failed to talk with the parties. It failed to do the process and present a consensus view. To announce it out in the front hall, to the great surprise of everyone, is a disappointment.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker,

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

I am very happy to have the chance to speak at last on Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canadian Elections Act.

I remember meeting time and time again citizens from my riding, from my city, and more generally from my province of Manitoba in 2015 who were absolutely sick of the Harper Conservatives. They were sick of a government that was trying to take away their democratic right to vote and putting in place an ideology of winner takes all. The Harper Conservatives did everything in their power to bend the electoral laws to their ideology and ignored the concerns of others. They used voter suppression, but people stood up in true Canadian fashion to fight for their rights.

I met young people in my riding from the University of Winnipeg who went out on the day of the election to vote en masse. Even though sometimes they did not have identification, they went out of their way to get the identification to ensure that they could vote. I met homeless people who raised enough money by begging on the streets to get enough money, the $20, to get voter identification from the province to be able to vote on that day. I met indigenous people who lined up around the street.

However, I still met people who were not able to vote and were turned away from the polls, because they were not allowed to exercise their democratic right. Other young people, other indigenous people, and some from the inner city of Winnipeg were told, unfortunately, that they did not have the proper ID and could not vote.

While some people were able to vote, others were turned away. This was voter suppression, because the Harper Conservatives were afraid of the public. They were afraid of others coming out to exercise their democratic right to vote. The Harper Conservatives spent a lot of time attacking the Chief Electoral Officer and non-ideological, non-partisan, non-political role of defending Canadians' rights to a proper democracy.

Lastly, when election time comes, it is up to Canadians to stand up for their rights and to use every chance to exercise their democratic right to vote. We all benefit from voting in our elections, and never again will a government take away our right to vote and to exercise our inalienable right to our democratic and human rights.

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October 26th, 2018 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I will pick up where I left off before the Liberals imposed a legislative guillotine to cut off debate.

My greatest concern about Bill C-76 is the Liberal claim that it would combat and control third-party spending. It would not properly address a problem that could have been easily solved if, and this is a big if, the current Liberal government had actually wanted to solve it.

At first glance, it appears that the legislation might contain foreign financial interference by setting some spending limits and requiring third parties to have a dedicated Canadian bank account. However, Bill C-76 would double the total maximum third-party spending amount allowed during the writ period, and it would still allow unlimited contributions from individual donors and others, unlimited spending by third parties and unlimited foreign donations outside the pre-writ and writ periods.

Some of our Liberal colleagues claim that foreign financial interference has been adequately blocked, but the reality is that a huge loophole, exploited in recent elections with increasingly larger amounts of foreign funding of third parties, still exists. Foreign charities, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York or the American Tides Foundation in San Francisco, can give millions of foreign dollars to Canadian charities such as the Tides Canada organization, Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative or the Sisu Institute, and those millions can be disbursed as Canadian dollars to third-party groups to support parties and candidates of their choice and to oppose parties and candidates of their choice. Elections Canada can do nothing without new legislation.

Bill C-76 would do nothing to stop these, effectively laundered, American dollars from being used, as they were in 2015, to work to defeat a Conservative government, or next year, to attempt to re-elect the current Liberal government. In fact, the Canada Revenue Agency, before the 2015 federal election, had been working to audit 42 registered Canadian charities for political activity. There is research, accumulated by the skilled investigative journalist and researcher Vivian Krause, that indicates that 41 of the 42 audited charities were not fully compliant with the law and that the CRA would have recommended that at least five of these so-called charities be disqualified and shut down completely. However, in 2016, the CRA shut down those audits without reporting, coincidentally after the revenue minister was issued a mandate letter that directed her to “Allow charities to do their work...free from political harassment".

Ms. Krause testified last week, before the ethics committee, that she spent six months in 2016 writing a report, which she submitted to Elections Canada. Elections Canada sent investigators to Vancouver to meet with Ms. Krause, and she testified that after extensive discussion, it became clear to her that Elections Canada cannot do anything if the Canada Revenue Agency allows charities to Canadianize foreign funds.

The Income Tax Act is very clear that charities are to operate for purposes that are charitable as defined by law. While charities have been able to get away with it by pointing to language that permits a limited amount of political activity, the original intent was that the political activity was intended to further a charitable purpose. If that political activity does not support a charitable purpose, the allowable political activity should be, as Ms. Krause pointed out very clearly before committee, absolutely zero.

In wrapping up, while there are, admittedly, some modest improvements made to Bill C-76, it remains a deeply deficient attempt to restore fairness to the Canadian election process. It is a testament to the current Liberal government's deliberate decision, as with Bill C-50 before it, to leave loopholes the Liberals believe will enhance their efforts to save their political skin in 2019.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Bernadette Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments today on Bill C-76, a bill we think will strengthen the ability of Canadians to vote that was taken away by the party opposite.

One of the amendments that was accepted at committee was to add additional punishments for third parties that are found guilty of offences related to the use of foreign funds. It is interesting that the Conservatives are saying that we are not doing enough, but they voted against that in committee. This was an amendment put forward by the hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. It is also one supported by Senator Frum in her legislation. However, the Conservatives felt that they had to vote against it.

Did Conservatives vote against it because it was put forward by a Liberal, or did they vote against it because it strengthened the legislation?

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October 26th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, that was a deflecting question.

I believe the larger question comes back to the fact that the government, in its mandate letter to the Minister of National Revenue, gave her pretty clear direction on the CRA audit of questionable Canadian charities that were Canadianizing American charitable dollars to be used by third parties. The donors of these original American dollars basically bragged that they were sending them to Canada to be used to defeat the sitting Conservative government.

That is the larger issue we are addressing here today. The fact is that Elections Canada should have been enabled by this deficient legislation, Bill C-76, to allow, and to ask, the Canada Revenue Agency to make clear exactly where the money trail leads, from American dollars through American charitable agencies to Canadian charitable agencies, and then disbursed to third parties. Third parties, as Ms. Krause reminded us, can throw mud in an election campaign while the party, the Liberal Party in this case, can claim to take the high road.

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October 26th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I have been sitting with my hon. colleague at the ethics committee, where we have been studying the ability of third-party operators to monkeywrench the electoral process.

We see that Europe is warning of a digital electoral arms race. We have seen the effects of Brexit and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, yet the government has refused to take the all-party consensus regarding the necessity of putting political parties under a credible privacy regime to limit the potential of political parties to use the new dark arts of the digital manipulation of voters.

What does my hon. colleague think about the credibility of the Liberal government's supposed electoral reform if it is ignoring all-party consensus on the need to have political parties accountable, as well, in protecting data and making sure that we are not manipulating voters through the kind of monkeywrenching that went on in the Cambridge Analytica scandal?

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October 26th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it has indeed been a pleasure to work with my hon. colleague in these recent months on the ethics committee on the study of Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ here in Canada, which revealed the huge vulnerability of the Canadian democratic electoral process through new media.

The member is quite correct that the interim report of our committee in June, before the House rose, recommended to the government, among a number of recommendations, probably a dozen, that electoral activity in Canada, particularly activity by third parties in elections, be brought under the purview of the Privacy Commissioner, not for the Privacy Commissioner to regulate or interfere with political activity by political parties but to protect the privacy of Canadians from third-party interference and attempts to manipulate and contort the election results.

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October 26th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada has heard what Canadians have to say.

We are very proud that the majority of the all-party amendments to the bill are among the amendments the committee adopted.

When the bill was introduced, the Government of Canada introduced it as an initiative to modernize our electoral process and make it more transparent, accessible and secure for all Canadians. One of the proposed amendments was to require all electors to be Canadian citizens when exercising their right to vote.

Even though that has always been a requirement for eligibility to vote, Bill C-76 revealed an error in the wording of the new Canada Elections Act, which came into force in 2000.

It was possible to interpret the French version of the act as stating that a person who expected to obtain Canadian citizenship prior to voting day could vote in an advance poll before being granted citizenship. Of course, there is no way to know for sure that a person will become a Canadian citizen until that person has taken the oath of citizenship.

The amendments made by the committee to Bill C-76 correct this error and clarify that only Canadians can cast a ballot in a ballot box. This would help ensure the integrity of the entire electoral process.

Former chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has applauded the Government of Canada's efforts to modernize our electoral system and make it more accessible. However, he also mentioned that additional amendments should be made to facilitate the identification of electors who live in seniors residences or in long-term care centres, because it could be difficult for seniors to prove where they live with an ID. I think this is a great amendment, a great suggestion, because in a riding like Edmonton Centre, with so many towers and so many seniors residences, I have seen that this particular voter ID difficulty for seniors is prevalent.

The committee also adopted amendments to Bill C-76 that would make the electoral system more accessible for our seniors. From now on, seniors centre employees would be allowed to cast ballots for senior citizens living in their place of work, provided they themselves can vote and live close to the seniors centre. I know that the seniors at St. Andrew's will be happy to hear this. They live about a block away from my house, and when it comes time to vote, they will be able to make sure that their voice is counted.

Bill C-76, the elections modernization act, includes measures to ensure that political parties and third parties play by the same rules in exercising their right to participate in political electoral activities.

From now on, third parties that intervene in the electoral process in any way would have to clearly explain their advertising messages. Also, third parties that spend more than $10,000 or that receive more than $10,000 in contributions would be required to submit financial reports to Elections Canada every two weeks, starting on September 15 in a fixed-election year. Elections Canada would publish these financial reports on its website. These transparency measures would help Canadians better understand who is trying to influence their vote and why.

This bill will also protect our democratic institutions from foreign attempts to influence outcomes. Elections Canada representatives and the commissioner of Canada elections appeared before the committee and recommended further enhancing a number of protective measures. The government agreed to several of those recommendations.

Bill C-76 also contains additional tools that would make it easier for Elections Canada and the Canada elections commissioner to prevent or limit the effects of third-party influence on Canadian voters. For example, the new third-party funding section of the act would prohibit the use of foreign funds at any time to obtain or broadcast partisan advertising, to fund partisan activities or to conduct polls. New anti-avoidance provisions would also forbid all attempts to sidestep these rules.

Bill C-76 created a new offence to prohibit the fraudulent use of a computer to influence election results. A new offence added during the committee's study will henceforth prohibit all attempts to influence an election and strengthen that prohibition.

We would also make it a criminal offence to publish material made by anyone attempting to impersonate the Chief Electoral Officer or a returning officer.

Finally, on the recommendation of the commissioner of Canada elections, our government would reinforce the ban that applies to all persons and entities that sell advertising space. It would now be forbidden to sell advertising space to foreigners that would allow them to broadcast election advertising.

The results of Canadian elections should only ever be determined by electoral votes made by Canadians. Bill C-76 already contained numerous amendments to the act to amend the Canada Elections Act that were important to Elections Canada's recommendations.

During the committee's study, the Government of Canada listened to independent experts whose only job is to protect our democratic institutions. I am proud of the comments we heard from those experts because they helped strengthen the bill.

Therefore, I invite all colleagues in the House today to voice their support of the third reading of the act to amend the Canada Elections Act and modernize our electoral process and make it more transparent, accessible and secure for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

When we take a look at the facts, 56 witnesses were heard in committee on Bill C-76, there were 24 hours of committee time and there were 36 and a half hours of study time of CEO recommendations by committee. For bill C-23, the hours of study for the Fair Elections Act was 49.5.

Bill C-76 would encourage Canadians to participate fully in the electoral process, and that is exactly what we intended.

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October 26th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I have only one concern from all the debate and information I have received about Bill C-76. We saw multiple examples where asylum seekers coming in received letters saying that they should register to vote. I am concerned to understand what mechanisms would be in place with Elections Canada to verify people's information. My understanding is they are not Canadian citizens and should not be able to vote. If we go with a voter ID card only, then how would we make sure we do not have illegal voting?

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October 26th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her concern about the safety and security of the Canadian electoral system. It is quite clear that permanent residents and landed immigrants do not get to vote. Canadian citizens get to vote. Voter ID cards are exactly that: demonstrating a person is a Canadian citizen. That is what we want to make sure takes place in this country, and that is what Bill C-76 would ensure.

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October 26th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, one of things that really concerns me in this House is the reality that we have time allocation again put on this. It is the second time this has happened, and we are actually talking about our elections and how they work. It is really important we have that meaningful debate. I appreciate the work that has been done in committee, but to put time allocation on this particular bill is absolutely shameful. I would just like to hear the member's response to that comment.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, the amount of work the committee has done on this particular bill is exemplary. We have had great debate here in this House. If we take a look at the amount of time that was spent on Bill C-23, it is a fraction of what we have been able to spend on Bill C-76. It is important to let members of this House know that a voter identification card is information, and that information is important. Only Canadian citizens can vote in a Canadian election and that is the way it should be.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Madam Speaker, the amendments made by committee and throughout this process would allow for persons with disabilities to have better access to be able to vote. We know our democracy is only improved when we allow access, as my colleague just mentioned, to Canadian citizens who are allowed to vote, who have the proper voter information and who could subsequently provide either their own identification cards or have someone with the proper documents vouch for them. The number of amendments made that would ensure persons with disabilities are able to vote is really impressive, because it would allow for more inclusivity. Could he speak to other measures within this piece of legislation that would allow for a more inclusive part for Canadians to play in our democracy?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to spend a moment reinforcing what my colleague is talking about, the great work of the committee and of the government on Bill C-76 as it pertains to making sure Canadian elections are inclusive and barrier-free. If we take a look at our government approach as a whole when it pertains to persons with disabilities, we are trying to make the federal workplace barrier-free through Bill C-81 and are trying to make sure our elections process is inclusive and fair. This is a process that should be inclusive to all Canadians and should prevent foreign interference in our Canadian elections system, and that is exactly what Bill C-76 would do.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I still do not understand why, when it comes to making sure that people who should not be allowed to vote are voting, Elections Canada is sending notices to asylum seekers who do not have Canadian citizenship and telling them to register to vote. Who is doing the verification that they are Canadian citizens?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I would say this to my hon. colleague across the way. Let us be really clear. The voter information card shows proof of address, not proof of identity. Voters have to show proof of identity. They need to show that they are Canadian citizens. That is what it takes to vote in the Canadian election. Everything else is a frivolous and vexatious attack on the Canadian electoral system from the other side.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, it was interesting to listen to my colleague across. I was going to start my speech off by talking about foreign financing, but when we are talking about voter identification we recognize there are 39 pieces of identification that were approved under the Fair Elections Act. We have to talk about that, because we just got through a municipal election in Ontario a few days ago where we heard about voter cards being left in the lobbies of apartment buildings rather than being secured in people's mailboxes. Of course, that was a bit of a threat as well, because there were issues with the fact they had a PIN that could be used online. We recognize that most Canadians are not going to do things that are fraudulent. However, there are those who, at times when they are so passionate, may choose to do something that sometimes is illegal to basically better their cause or do something they think is really important.

It was great to hear my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton question what we are going to do about voter identification cards. Can voters could go in with voter ID cards they received in the mail and show their Costco card to prove they are Canadian? For many years I worked as a campaign manager and worked in an office talking to different people about what they needed. Also, I worked in a constituency office where I was working with Canadians who were applying for the Canada child benefit, Canadian citizenship and all these things. It is peculiar how our departments need some sort of identification to prove who people are and where they live to receive a variety of different benefits through the Ontario disability support program or Ontario Works. However, the biggest thing a Canadian citizen can do is vote, yet somehow we do not say that they need those documents. Therefore, after listening to my friend from Edmonton, I am really concerned that the Liberals think that proving Canadian citizenship is going to be that easy by saying people can come in with their driver's licence and voter card. This is a reminder. Permanent residents can drive too. I see them drive all the time. I think that is one thing we have to really look at.

However, I want to focus more on foreign financing. That is where I want to go with this, because we saw a number of third party campaigns in the 2015 election. I saw that not only with respect to the provincial election and the federal election, but also with the recent municipal election as well. On TV I cannot see that the campaign was authorized by the campaign manager for x, as a lot of the time it is authorized by a third party campaign.

For many people like myself, contributions to run a personal campaign come from individuals. There were I believe approximately 241 individuals who donated to the EDA during the window of the 2015 election. Those were all individuals. We did not have any third parties working around us. We were on the ground working. However, some of my colleagues who were in ridings such as London North Centre know that there were huge campaigns going on that were really focusing on anything but Harper. That is the concern I have, because this was not money going to the Liberal Party, the NDP or the Green Party, it was money that was being used for people to go out and campaign on. Therefore, I started looking at my returns for the 2015 election to see how much money I had fundraised compared to my colleagues. I am talking about a $40,000 to $50,000 difference in fundraising, yet they ran very strong campaigns as well. Where did they get their money from? Where did they get their advertising from? They did not necessarily have to go out there and do that. They did not actually have to pay for it from their campaigns, because we know how many third parties were out there doing that.

This is where it goes into the next step. Where is that money coming from, that is going to these campaigns, these third parties? I would like to continue that conversation by the member for Thornhill. We talk about things like the Tides Foundation, located in San Francisco and New York. The Tides Foundation funnelled money through Canadian groups and charitable organizations, which then put that money into Canadian elections. It is really that simple. It is so easy to look at the fact that money from the United States was filtered into Canadian campaigns through a third party. We have to recognize what some of those restrictions and regulations are.

What is great is that, within the Senate, Senator Frum was talking about some of these contributions. There was a lot of discussion about contributions coming from third parties and how people can donate to a party. We have to look at this hypothetically, because this entire conversation is really hypothetical: what if, what if? That is what we really need to do here. When we are talking about the Government of Canada, it should be black and white when it comes to the rights of people to vote and give to a party.

What happens if somebody donates $10,000 to a foundation, a not-for-profit, six months prior, and then that money goes into a campaign? It does not matter. Bill C-76 would increase the amount they can spend.

It is not as if I am saying that Conservatives are the only group beaten up on. I recognize that all of us have third parties that support us, and that is fine. However, “101 reasons to vote against Harper” and “Voters Against Harper” are two organizations and I can tell members the money that was funnelled through those parties was not supporting Conservative candidates but instead there was now a new war chest for the NDP, Green, Liberal or Bloc candidate. We have to recognize that we are now, and not just as individuals, fighting another source. We are not fighting among political parties. We have actives out there doing this. Therefore, foreign funding is a critical piece.

The organization that TIDES is involved with, the Dogwood Initiative, is an interesting case. The Dogwood Initiative is a Canadian not-for-profit public interest group based in Victoria, B.C., and I will read a little about it.

The organization works to increase the power of British Columbians over government decision-making. They were instrumental in the fight against Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, introducing a tanker moratorium on B.C.'s north coast and the province's campaign finance reform. The organization currently works to stop Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tanker and pipeline expansion in B.C., ban U.S. thermal coal exports through B.C. ports[5] and restore accountability and transparency to the province's democracy by calling for a Corruption Inquiry.

Researchers and pundits have come back and criticized it, because Dogwood has been funded from outside Canada, and so there is foreign investment coming in. The U.S.-based funders provided money through the TIDES Foundation to Dogwood.

Now, we have these groups working as a third party. Therefore, if I am allowed to spend $78,000 on my campaign, and my colleagues are allowed to spend $78,000 on their campaigns but they actually have a third party, we are now talking about spending $156,000 on their campaign if they invest properly in some of these things. It is not just about one group. We have to recognize that in the last federal election there were 115 organizations that were third party.

This is all hypothetical, but that is why we need to have this debate. If we get one group or one person who decides that they do not like what a party is doing, they could set up 100 different organizations and put $10,000 into each of them, and then that money could be filtered. Yes, there is a cap on how much money can be spent within a certain constituency, but at the same time, if that is done 100 times over, it is unfair, and this is where, when I look at this, that it is absolutely not the right thing to do. We have to be very cautious on foreign investment coming into Canada that is focused on the policies of Canadian politicians.

We hear about fake news all the time, and I do not want to talk about what is happening in the United States, but I do not think we should kid ourselves. There are people here in Canada who also have an agenda and are speaking to our government officials. This week, we have talked a lot about Vice-Admiral Norman and the lobbyists that were working for Irving and how the Davie shipyard lost something. There are all of these things, and so please, let us not kid ourselves, lobbyists and third party groups are very important in Canadian government. Now, when they are part of our elections as well, we have to have caution on that. Therefore, it is a really big concern.

I will go back to an editorial written by our former colleague, the Hon. Joe Oliver, who was a fantastic minister of finance and continued the great job that Jim Flaherty did. This is something I think most Canadians need to understand, and we have to bring this back to the dining table so that everybody can understand it.

Canadians can only donate $1,550 to political parties and candidates. Union and corporate donations have been banned completely, and yet in the Senate hearing, Commissioner Côté said that as long as foreign money is donated to a third party six months prior to the election writ being dropped, the amount that can be donated is endless.

These are things that we have to be aware of. I thank everybody for listening. Let us have this conversation and really talk about what is happening in Canadian elections.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the beginning of the member's speech and make some very clear distinctions around the voter information card.

To be clear to anybody who is listening or who inadvertently received a card frm Elections Canada, the voter information card is not a piece of ID and it is an offence under the Canada Elections Act for a non-citizen to vote or for a non-citizen to register to vote when they know they are not able to do so.

I know that we are talking about this in the context of the cards being sent out, but we should be telling individuals that it is an offence and something that cannot be done under Canadian law. I would hope that in this conversation it becomes clear to all permanent residents and non-Canadian citizens that it is not something they can do.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, as I was doing my research for this speech, I was looking at information regarding the election going on in Surrey, B.C. There was concern with voter fraud, people who were non-Canadians voting in the municipal elections.

We recognize as Canadians that it is our right to vote. However, we also have to recognize that everybody in Canada is not always honourable. It may be 1%, or 0.5%, but it does matter. Canadians have the privilege to vote because we are Canadians.

Just on that list, what the member has said is incorrect. The voter card can be used as one piece of ID. It indicates the address of a person. Now a Canadian health card or an Ontario health card can be used as identification. That does not prove a person is a Canadian citizen. Another example would be a social insurance number. Only a few of us know that the number “9” means a person is not a citizen of Canada.

There is a lot of information. Therefore, unfortunately, I cannot agree with that.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to voice some of my comments and concerns regarding this very important discussion this morning.

There is a level hypocrisy from members of both the Liberal government as well as the Conservative Party when they say that all Canadians are equal. Where I come from within the Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River riding, even obtaining a photo ID is a challenge.

Both parties are making it difficult for indigenous voters and people who are struggling. They are making it difficult to go out and vote. How can they improve that for all Canadians?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, we recognize that there are challenges when we talk about poverty reduction strategy, when we talk about all of those things.

One of the greatest challenges for a person is actually getting identification, whether it is a health card or things like that. The Canadian government needs to work on that. Provincial and territorial governments need to ensure that people have those. All people should be able to have a health card. If they have the right to health in Canada, they should have that health card.

We do need to work with our first nations. I totally appreciate that comment. Let us work harder to do more.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bernadette Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.

Madam Speaker, every entity, every individual who is not a candidate, or an EDA, or a political party is a third party.

I would like the member opposite to tell me this. Is it her position that any individual who wants to engage in topics that matter to them should have to register and report to the government?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a really unique question. At the end of the day, the government can give to a not-for-profit organization or things like that.

We have to be very cautious when we talk about interest groups outside of the country funnelling their money into Canada so they can do things, like stopping our pipelines so they can build pipelines and extract oil in their own countries. We have to be aware of this.

If people are not giving to a political campaign or to an EDA, they are more than likely giving to a church or a not-for-profit organization. However, a lot of times we have to be cautious on what these organizations are doing when it comes to political duties.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Gary Anandasangaree Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism (Multiculturalism), Lib.

Madam Speaker, I am glad to speak this morning in support of Bill C-76.

The goal of Bill C-76, the elections modernization act, is to modernize Canada's electoral system and to strengthen its integrity by making it more transparent, accessible and secure. It would do so, among other things, by establishing spending limits for third parties and political parties during a pre-writ period by increasing transparency regarding the participation of third parties in the electoral process and by expanding the powers of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

The commissioner's new powers would include the imposition of administrative monetary penalties for contraventions to key parts of the act, including those governing political financing and third party activities.

In recent months, we have heard a great deal of news about the influence of foreigners, fake news and the impact of emerging technologies on elections around the world. The Government of Canada has already included in Bill C-76, right upon its introduction in the spring, a number of measures aimed at preventing foreign influence or the malicious use of technology. However, new details about undue influence attempts in the electoral systems in western democracies are brought to the public's attention almost weekly.

Amendments to the Canada Elections Act only represent one tool at our country's disposal in its fight to protect our democracy. Members of Parliament, political actors, academics and Canada's civil society at large also have important roles to play, for example, in the area of civic literacy.

I would like to focus my remarks today on the improvements brought to the elections modernization act during its study in committee, which the Government of Canada sees as a great tool aimed at increasing the transparency of political advertising practices.

In 2017, Statistics Canada estimated that almost every Canadian under the age of 45 was using the Internet every day, while approximately 80% of Canadians aged 45 to 65 were using the Internet every day.

As of April 1, Statistics Canada estimated Canada's population at just above 37 million. This means that roughly between 22 to 23 million Canadians between the ages of 18 to 65 access the Internet and online platforms virtually daily.

Given the impact of new technologies on the lives of Canadians, the time has come to require more transparency from online platforms during election periods.

Online platforms, whether they are smart phones, applications or websites, which sell advertising space on a commercial basis during the pre-writ and election periods, will now be legally compelled to maintain an online registry of all partisan and election advertising messages that they publish.

This new requirement will apply to those online platforms having a medium to high reach to persons present in Canada, no matter where the platform is actually located. Each online platform will be required to maintain this registry on the platform itself and to make it fully accessible to the public. The registry will include at least a copy of each partisan and election advertising message that has been published during the pre-writ and the election period respectively, as well as information about the person or entity that authorized the publication of the message.

Traditional media, such as radio, television and newspapers, offer political ads to Canadians in plain view. They allow all political actors to be held accountable for the information they share and for the promises they make. In comparison, online platforms allow advertisers to target a very precise segment of the population. Without a registry of political ads, it is impossible for Canadians to know how their neighbours, their families and their co-workers might be targeted.

The new online platform registry of political ads in Bill C-76 will help Canadians better understand who is trying to influence them and how. For example, even if an election advertising message was targeted to only 50 Canadian electors, a copy of the published advertisement would need to be published in that registry. Along with that copy would be found the name of the financial agent who authorized its publication, whether it was the official agent of a candidate, the chief agent of a registered party or one of his or her delegates, or the financial agent of a third party.

The Canada Elections Act will require online platforms to maintain public access to the new registry for a minimum period of two years after the polling day. This will ensu