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 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to an order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of the division on the motion to concur in the Senate amendment to Bill C-76.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to 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, and of the amendment.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 1:20 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.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

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.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to 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, and of the amendment.

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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.

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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 / 12:45 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 / 12:45 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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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 / 12:35 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 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, if you listen closely to my colleague's questions, you can see that they are not even remotely connected to Bill C-76, which is what we are debating. This is a matter of relevance.

Is it possible to check—

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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.