An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response)

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

Report stage (House), as of June 21, 2021
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment adds a new Part to the Canada Elections Act that provides for temporary rules to ensure the safe administration of an election in the context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The new Part, among other things,

(a) extends the Chief Electoral Officer’s power to adapt the provisions of that Act to ensure the health or safety of electors or election officers;

(b) authorizes a returning officer to constitute polling divisions that consist of a single institution where seniors or persons with a disability reside, or a part of such an institution, and to set the days and hours that a polling station established there will be open;

(c) provides for a polling period of three consecutive days consisting of a Saturday, Sunday and Monday;

(d) provides for the hours of voting during the polling period;

(e) provides for the opening and closing measures at polling stations;

(f) sets the days for voting at advance polling stations;

(g) authorizes the Chief Electoral Officer to modify the day on which certain things are authorized or required to be done before the polling period by moving that day backward or forward by up to two days or the starting date or ending date of a period in which certain things are authorized or required to be done by up to two days;

(h) provides that an elector may submit an application for registration and special ballot under Division 4 of Part 11 in writing or in electronic form;

(i) provides that an elector whose application for registration and special ballot was accepted by the returning officer in their electoral district may deposit the outer envelope containing their special ballot in a secure reception box or ballot box for the deposit of outer envelopes; and

(j) prohibits installing a secure reception box for the deposit of outer envelopes unless by or under the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer or a returning officer and prohibits destroying, taking, opening or otherwise interfering with a secure reception box installed by a returning officer.

The enactment also provides for the repeal of the new Part six months after the publication of a notice confirming that the temporary rules in that Part are no longer required to ensure the safe administration of an election in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

May 11, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response)
May 10, 2021 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response)

Bill C-19—Time Allocation MotionCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / noon
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Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Catherine McKenna LiberalMinister of Infrastructure and Communities

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response), not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-19—Time Allocation MotionCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 12:05 p.m.
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Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalPresident of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for his intervention and his question.

I understand that he is fully playing his role of leader of the official opposition in the House. However, when I was in the opposition and his party was in power during the Harper years, his government did not hesitate to use time allocation motions regularly, even daily on some occasions. I understand that my colleague has a role to play by expressing a certain degree of indignation, which I freely accept.

However, on the substance of the issue, we believe the time has come for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study Bill C-19 and make amendments if necessary. For the hours of debate that have been held so far, the members of the opposition have already made several suggestions for improving this bill, which, let us be clear, will only be in effect for the next election. I think therefore it is time for the House to refer the bill to the committee to be studied.

Bill C-19—Time Allocation MotionCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, for his constructive conversation with respect to this legislation. We have taken note, obviously, of his comments in the House during the debate at second reading.

The New Democratic Party has constructively and thoughtfully suggested, for example, some improvements around ensuring that campus voting can take place and potentially using Canada Post locations in small rural communities like those in my riding. The Canada Post office may offer an additional place where people, for example, could apply to receive a special ballot.

Those are precisely the kinds of discussions that we are hoping the procedure and House affairs committee can have around Bill C-19.

We would welcome working with all colleagues around amendments that would improve the legislation. However, we think the time has come for Parliament to take its responsibilities, study the bill in committee and offer Elections Canada the tools necessary should there be an election during the pandemic, and to do so safely and prudently in the interest of protecting everybody who works in elections.

Bill C-19—Time Allocation MotionCanada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, I would hardly call this a rush. The Chief Electoral Officer presented a report to Parliament on October 5. The government thought it would be important for parliamentarians to consider the legislation over the Christmas recess. That is why we introduced Bill C-19. We have called it for debate, and once again, as is always the case, the Conservatives show no desire to allow the debate to conclude, allow a vote to happen and allow the committee to begin its work on studying the bill.

Our colleague from Sarnia—Lambton seems to think that there is a rush to an election. Once again, it is her party that continually votes no confidence in the House of Commons. I think the Conservatives are the ones rushing to an election.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Thomas Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for Thornhill.

As I was saying during my last opportunity to speak to this bill, the pandemic has really exposed the true colours of the current government and where its focus lies. What I am talking about, of course, is the crafting of this legislation, Bill C-19. The Liberals have done this at a rapid pace and have done it without clear consultation, or I should say attention given to consultation.

It is undeniable that this bill was unilaterally constructed on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and that it is being pushed forward to the Liberals' benefit and not at all to the benefit of Canadians, which is very concerning to me. Our focus as parliamentarians should be on the Canadian people, on their health, their safety and their well-being. This bill does not take those things into account.

We need to see an economic recovery plan, not a Liberal election plan, which again is exactly what—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is good to enter the discussion on this important subject. We are seeing a debacle of epic proportions on Bill C-10, a bill that the minister obviously does not even understand. There are a lot of questions that Canadians have around Bill C-19 and its effect on what is one of the key things that the House is required to do, and that is to be the custodian of Canada's democracy.

Are there any parallels between the debacle that is currently unfolding with Bill C-10 and what is possible with Bill C-19, especially if the bill goes to committee, and now that the Liberals have limited debate and discussion on Bill C-19?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Thomas Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member points out something really important, and that is, first, that we need to acknowledge the fact that the Liberals just moved time allocation, which means they are trying to rush this legislation through without fulsome debate. That is very problematic because it is chipping away at democracy.

The second point the member raises is with regard to Bill C-10, which has to do with government censorship of the information that we post on our social media platforms. This is a huge overreach on behalf of the government and something that is not properly researched.

Interestingly enough, Bill C-19 is one and the same, where, again, I believe it goes too far and ignores the voices of witnesses and those who have expertise in this area. It is shameful.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to finally have the opportunity to rise to speak to Bill C-19, if in the shadow of time allocation. I will get to aspects of the bill that I consider worthy and a number of provisions that I believe should be amended in committee, in a moment, but first I will address a number of the underlying issues that have affected the way this bill was mismanaged in its creation, as so many other pieces of legislation have been similarly in this Parliament.

The crux of the problem is not the COVID pandemic. The crux of the problem is the arrogance of the current government to approach virtually every practice and procedure as though it won a majority in 2019. The Liberals refuse to recognize the range of realities, most importantly the pragmatic humility a minority government must practise to govern effectively. The current Liberal government, as in the last Parliament, has ignored committee studies, reports and recommendations in the creation of legislation dealing with critically important issues, such as privacy, foreign affairs, the digital charter, regulating the Internet, medical assistance in dying, and now Bill C-19, an amendment to the Canada Elections Act, provisionally, for a possible general election in this pandemic, a pandemic that will last much longer because of the government's inability to properly procure vaccines and to accept Conservative advice when the pandemic first struck and at every stage since.

The Liberals, with selfish impatience, introduced Bill C-19 last December, not waiting for the completion of a long and thorough study on essential amendments to the Canada Elections Act to protect public health and democracy during a possible pandemic election. An interim report by the committee was, at the time, within days of being presented to the government. That report was pre-empted by Bill C-19, ignoring the suggestions of the exhaustive study and disrespecting not only opposition members on the committee and the many expert witnesses who testified during the study, but the Liberal chair and Liberal committee members, who had worked collegially with the opposition to develop comprehensive recommendations for such an important study.

The Liberals clearly intended then to rush the legislation through Parliament, as they have done with so many other flawed pieces of legislation from the beginning of the pandemic, but in this case the rush was not to help Canadians still in the grips of the pandemic, and it was not to prepare a plan for economic recovery to get Canadians back to work; it was in the political self-interest of preparing for the snap election they were thinking they might get away with. In doing so, they not only disregarded the work of parliamentarians, but wasted the valuable time of health officials and elections experts who appeared during the thorough procedure and House affairs committee study.

In doing so, they ignored the reality that an overwhelming majority of Canadians did not want then, and do not want now, a general election in a deepening pandemic crisis. If the Liberals had any doubts, that was surely driven home in the subsequent cycle of spiking infections and death across the country and the provincial elections conducted under pandemic conditions, most notably the profoundly disrupted Newfoundland and Labrador election.

The interim report of the committee contained extensive, reasoned advice based on the testimony of expert witnesses that would have improved Bill C-19 before it was tabled, but the final report of our committee, submitted to the government in February of this year, provided even more important advice. Most important, the committee advised the government and recommended unanimously, every Liberal member on the committee as well, that the federal government commit to not calling a federal election during the pandemic, unless defeated on a vote of confidence.

Further, Conservative members of the committee wrote a supplementary report, which reiterated the recommendation against holding a pandemic election and elaborated, noting that Bill C-19 was uninformed by the extensive content of the committee report and stating very clearly that the government has a moral obligation to refrain from triggering an election or orchestrating its own downfall, as the Prime Minister has already tried to do a number of times.

Because of the government's inability to manage its own legislative agenda, the bill before us has had precious few hours of debate.

A key element of Bill C-19 involves the change of the usual designation of an election day to be an election period of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, rather than just Monday, to provide more time for voting, social distancing and the precautions necessary to provide safe voting places. The bill also provides for the extension of voting hours of polls, if necessary to midnight, on any polling day, but not to exceed 28 hours for the three-day election period.

The bill also changes the maximum writ period to 53 days because of the many challenges anticipated for in-person voting or involving mail-in ballots. With regard to mail-in ballots, the bill allows electronic applications to be made with proper security protocols, of course, for mail-in ballots. They are very detailed provisions, which I believe would secure the safety of those ballots. There are also provisions for the safe casting of votes in institutions, in facilities where seniors and persons with disabilities reside.

I will support all of those provisions in the bill, on the condition that they expire automatically, completely and absolutely six months after the pandemic period is considered to have ended.

However, there are a number of elements in this legislation that I strongly oppose and believe should be amended. I believe they must be amended at committee, our procedure and House affairs committee, which was so ignored and so disrespected by the original tabling of this legislation in December.

First and foremost, there is a provision for counting mail-in ballots after the end of the official three-day election period. Given the new powers granted the Chief Electoral Officer for early mail-in ballots and extended poll hours, there is absolutely no reason, no excuse, for any ballots received after polls close on election day to be counted. Election day must be decision day.

As well, while I accept the extension of pandemic powers to the Chief Electoral Officer, I oppose the provision that would expand his determination of “satisfactory proof of the elector's identity and residence”. Pandemic protocols should not enable greater voter fraud than already exists in non-pandemic elections.

In conclusion, I want to remind all members of this House of the unanimous recommendation of the procedure and House affairs committee, each and every Liberal member included, that the federal government must commit to not calling a federal election during this continuing pandemic, unless it is defeated on a vote of confidence.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Laurent.

It is an absolute honour for me to rise today on behalf of my residents of the riding of Davenport to speak in favour of Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, COVID-19 response. It would provide a temporary new part to the Canada Elections Act that would ensure the safe administration of an election should one happen during the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also provide for the repeal of this temporary new part, the six months, as was just mentioned, as determined by the Chief Electoral Officer once it is indicated the measures are no longer necessary in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The notice would be issued only following consultation with the Chief Public Health Officer.

As my colleagues know, in a minority Parliament, an election could actually happen at any time. We have seen elections at the provincial level take place during the COVID pandemic. We have also seen elections take place in other countries, including the United States. We have seen the major challenges that these types of elections bring.

In the United States we saw that huge numbers of voters chose to send in a mail-in ballot, which made counting ballots slower in a number of states.

In British Columbia and in Newfoundland and Labrador, we saw historic numbers of voters going to advance polls or using mail-in ballots. We also saw, in these provinces, historic low voter turnout. It was probably because many people decided it was much safer to stay at home and were not quite sure about whether it was safe enough to go out and vote. We could expect that—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, as I was saying, we could expect if we were to hold a federal election in Canada, especially without passing Bill C-19, voters would face many of the similar challenges we have seen across our country over the last year and a bit since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some Canadians would probably choose not to vote rather than go to a public place to cast their ballot.

During this devastating third wave, the last thing our government wants is an election. I, for one, always say that the only election date I want to talk about is the one in October 2023, which is four years after the last one. I know many would see an election during a COVID pandemic as a public health risk and would limit Canadians' access to their democratic right to cast a vote. As such, in my opinion, it is really important for us to advance this bill swiftly so that in the unlikely event of an election, we can improve the conditions and opportunities for Canadians to safely vote as well as protect our democratic process.

Why have we introduced the legislation? Elections Canada realized there could be an election during this pandemic, as we did as the national government, and after much consultation has proposed some temporary rules in the unlikely event an election should occur.

Elections Canada has been following the provincial elections in our country and the various different elections that have taken place around the world. It has monitored contingency planning that has been developed both by international and various electoral management bodies. It has engaged with Canadian public officials, heard about best practices from various bodies and learned from recent elections held during COVID. Elections Canada has also established an internal working group to determine how it can be as prepared as possible for an election held during COVID-19.

Out of this work, on October 5, the Chief Electoral Officer suggested the study and adoption of a new temporary law.

Some of the key changes the Chief Electoral Officer proposed was making Saturday and Sunday voting days, increasing voting hours from 12 hours on one day to 16 hours over two days; granting authorization for the Chief Electoral Officer to determine how and when voting could occur in long-term care facilities and other similar settings; and adding more flexibility to adapt the act to emergency situations to make it easier to respond to the pandemic. Bill C-19 builds on these recommendations and adds other special measures to ensure Canadians can vote safely.

What are some of the additional measures we have proposed in the bill?

First, we would give the Chief Electoral Officer more flexibility to adapt the act to ensure the safety of election officers and voters. It would also give the Chief Electoral Officer the power to set days and hours for polling divisions established in long-term care homes.

Our government recognizes that vulnerable populations like seniors have very specific needs in this pandemic. We also know we need to protect their right to participate in the Canadian democracy and ensure Elections Canada has a way to safely collect votes from them. This bill would provide a 13-day window to safely deliver the vote to long-term care facilities and similar institutions. This period would give election staff enough time to engage with those facilities and to determine a safe time for them to deliver the vote.

Bill C-19 would also extend voting hours, giving Canadians more opportunity to vote in a safe way that works for them. It would create a three-day polling period which, to me, is awesome. People could vote Saturday, Sunday or Monday. It would help spread the voters out, reducing crowds in voting places, and would give people who might not be able to vote on the weekend, maybe because of a religious observance on Saturday or Sunday, the option to vote on Monday. It would also add more advanced polling days, four days of 12 hours each, for voting since we would anticipate more Canadians to vote early in a pandemic election.

Bill C-19 would grant the Chief Electoral Officer the authority to respond to emergency situations like local unexpected outbreaks of COVID-19. It would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to modify the day on which certain things would be authorized or required to be done before the polling period. The Chief Electoral Officer would also be able to move a deadline a day backward or a day forward by up to two days, or the Chief Electoral Officer could also move the starting date or the ending date of a period in which certain things would be authorized or required to be done by up to two days.

Finally, the bill would make mail-in voting even more accessible. If Canadians did go to the polls in the pandemic, we anticipate that many more would want to vote by mail. Of course, we know that this would be a whole new way of voting in Canada, other than in the provinces that have already seen such elections. We know this is an option that many Canadians would want to see.

With Bill C-19 passed, Canadians will also be able to apply online to register to vote by mail and cast a ballot from the comfort and safety of their home. It will also allow for secure drop boxes at polling stations so that those who do not have time to send their ballots through the mail can instead drop them off. It makes voting more accessible by allowing voters to register to vote by mail using an ID number, like a driver's licence number, rather than a full copy of their identification. Finally, it gives voters the flexibility to choose to vote in person instead if they have already registered to vote by mail. If they do, they would have to return their mail-in kit or sign a declaration at the in-person voting location that they have not yet voted.

There is a clear need for the bill as indicated by the Chief Electoral Officer, but it is important to note that there are some limitations of the bill. The primary one is the need for a preparation period for Elections Canada. This means that Parliament needs to move swiftly to get the bill to committee. I have heard a number of amendments and recommendations that my colleagues would like to propose, and they should be genuinely considered. Then it still needs to come back to the House for a third reading. Elections Canada then needs 90 days to implement the bill after royal assent. The longer we wait, the greater the risk of a possible election during a pandemic with no safety measures for Canadians.

I want to reiterate that the special legislative measures that are being proposed would cease to be in effect six months, or at an earlier date determined by the CEO, after a notice is given by the Chief Electoral Officer that indicates the measures are no longer necessary in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This notice would only be issued following the consultation with the Chief Public Health Officer.

With such a limited scope, I see no reason for disagreement or delay on the bill. All parties should be able to unite to quickly get these common-sense protections for voters into place.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the importance of Bill C-19 and why it should be passed quickly.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2021 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I am not quite sure I understood the question. I believe the member is saying that the provision of us being able to count the ballots after the election date and that the bill would allow for that to happen is not necessarily needed.

I really trust that the Chief Electoral Officer has done some consultations and that he has talked to a number of groups, both nationally and internationally, about some of the best practices and provisions that should be contained in this bill. I have a lot of confidence in the recommendations that have been made and are now included in Bill C-19.

This is why I am anxious to get this bill to committee. If there are some things that we might want to modify, they should be considered at committee. I know I would be open to any provisions that might make this bill clearer and ensure the safety of any—

HealthOral Questions

May 10th, 2021 / 2:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned that the government is imposing a gag order to amend election rules in the middle of a pandemic.

The government introduced Bill C-19 four months ago. We have had four months to debate it, but the bill has suddenly become important today. The government is waking up. All of a sudden, there is no time to debate or even reflect. The government quite simply wants to use a gag order so that it can impose its election rules.

This bill sat around for four months, so why is it suddenly so urgent to use a gag order now? Is it because the government wants to call an election in the middle of a pandemic?

Economic Relationship between Canada and the United StatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 10th, 2021 / 4:05 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, to say whether I am surprised or disappointed, the short answer would be no. I am not surprised that the Conservatives would move a motion of concurrence on a particular report. They have demonstrated in the recent months that they have really lost focus on the pandemic. I am trying to be nice in my criticism here, but I do believe at times that I need to be bold and to say what I believe the Conservatives are actually doing, which is not focusing at all or giving the attention that should be there from the official opposition in dealing with what is a very important issue to all Canadians.

The Conservatives continue to want to play partisan politics, and that is why I am not surprised, because they have been doing this for a while now. I am disappointed. I am disappointed again, and ongoing, because as the Conservatives insist on playing games on the floor of the House of Commons, they are filibustering whenever they can in an attempt to encourage a dysfunctional House of Commons and discourage important legislation from being debated so they can ultimately say that the government cannot even get its legislation through. If we look at the behaviour of the Conservative Party, it does not take a genius in a group of 12 to cause a lot of frustration on the floor of the House of Commons, and we get the official opposition choosing to do that.

Today is an excellent example. Earlier today, I was on a Zoom call with the Prime Minister, my Manitoba colleagues and a hundred nurses in the province of Manitoba. We were listening to what nurses in Manitoba had to say. That is the priority, and has been the priority, of this government from day one. I contrast that to what we have witnessed day in and day out over the last number of months coming from the Conservative Party of Canada. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The member for Chilliwack—Hope tries to give the impression that I do not care about Line 5 or the jobs and the other indirect and direct things related to Line 5 and that is why I do not support having us debate this motion we are debating today, the concurrence on the report. That is balderdash. It is just not true. Like all Liberals in the House of Commons, I am very much concerned about Line 5 and the impact it is having, not only on Canada, but also on the U.S. We understand and appreciate the importance of the issue. The Minister of Natural Resources, whether in question period or other debates, including the emergency debate, has been very clear on the issue.

The Conservative Party, surely to goodness, would recognize that we just had an emergency debate on the issue, just last Thursday. Members should listen and read in terms of what was actually said then. It started off with Conservatives just bashing Ottawa and saying how bad we are in regard to Alberta, to try to perpetuate more misinformation, as if this Prime Minister and this government do not care about the province of Alberta. Members can look and see what kind of ideas came from the Conservative Party in the emergency debate. There was not one Liberal who said “no” to having an emergency debate.

I had a chance to speak during that debate, and I am going to share some of the comments I made on Thursday night, but even with the emergency debate that took place, the Conservatives came up with this concurrence motion on a report that has absolutely nothing to do with Line 5 or a relationship between Canada and the U.S. For those who are listening or participating, or who care about what is taking place in the House, that is not the real motivation here. The Conservatives can say whatever they want and try to come across as meaningful as they want, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with frustrating the government's legislative agenda, the things we want to accomplish in the House of Commons.

They continue to push, saying that the House of Commons is dysfunctional. The Conservatives try to do two things. The first is character assassinations, and I understand I was one of them earlier today in an S.O. 31. The second is the ongoing filibustering taking place in the House of Commons so that important legislation cannot get through.

We should look at some of the debates and frustrations that have been sensed on the floor of the House of Commons because of the irresponsible official opposition. Those who might be sympathetic to their terrible behaviour should look at Bill C-3, as an example, and the hours and hours of debate on the education and training of judges in the future on sexual assault and so forth. It was a Conservative bill. It passed everything and is coming back. We introduced it as a government bill so we could put it in place. Everyone agreed to it, even in the Senate. It got royal assent very recently. The Conservatives debated that for hours and hours on the floor of the House of Commons. Was that really necessary? No.

What about Bill C-14? The economic statement was released in November, and the legislation was brought forward in December. No matter when we called it up, the Conservatives attempted to filibuster that through concurrence motions, too. In that legislation, there were important things to subsidize and support Canadians, individuals, families and small businesses. One would think the Conservative Party would have cared, but it had no problem filibustering that one, too.

We just had to bring in time allocation on Bill C-19. It is a minority government. We have to ensure, as much as possible, that Elections Canada is best prepared, enabling it to do a little more on a temporary basis. However, the political spinners within the Conservative Party do not want to go that way. They say they want to remain focused. Being focused to them is to push for a dysfunctional chamber and character assassination. That is what they are all about. It is—

Economic Relationship between Canada and the United StatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 10th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to enter into debate on this concurrence motion.

However, before I go any further, I want to recognize the fact that this is National Nurses Week throughout our country, and we have so much to be grateful for, for the nurses out there on the front lines right now, particularly over the last 15 months or so. The incredible work they do is truly remarkable. We have asked so much of them during regular times, and more recently the demands that are being put on nurses throughout the country are truly remarkable, but they rise to the challenge and they are there to take care of Canadians.

This morning I got my first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a clinic not too far from here, which was so well run. I walked in, went through the check-in and got to a gentleman by the name of Renault, who was administering the shot. He told me that he had worked at that clinic for 30 years and came out of retirement in order to help with administering vaccine shots. Nothing, in my opinion, is more patriotic than somebody who rises to the call of that profession once in retirement in order to come back and take care of Canadians. Indeed, I want to extend a huge thanks to all the nurses and frontline workers out there who are taking care of us and keeping us safe.

We are here today to talk about this concurrence motion. I find it very interesting that we are having this discussion in light of the fact that the Conservatives knew that what we wanted to talk about today was Bill C-19, which is proposed legislation on how we would deal with an election during a pandemic. It is a piece of legislation that was crafted in response to the Chief Electoral Officer, who pointed out that, as we are in a minority Parliament, there is always a chance of an election coming up at any moment and maybe it is a good idea to have some plans in place in the event that it does happen. Despite the fact that nobody might want an election, we do know that in minority governments elections can happen, and it is really not controlled by any one particular party, because there is no majority.

One of the fascinating things about what the Conservatives have done today is that they have taken a really interesting route in bringing forward this concurrence motion. We had an emergency debate on this issue last week. We stayed here until midnight debating the issue. The Conservatives did not offer anything, did not offer any solutions and did not talk about the recommendations that came from the committee, which I will talk about. All they did was sit on the other side of the House and criticize the government.

The role of the opposition, believe it or not, is not just to criticize, but to actually try to improve upon policy and push the government to do better. Now, I do not know how much experience Conservative members have in trying to encourage people to do things, but I can tell members that there are different approaches that one might take. For example, when I want my four-year-old to do something for me and to work with me on something, if he takes the approach of yelling and screaming at me and telling me how horrible of a parent I am, it might not be the best approach if he is genuinely trying to get something out of me. Likewise, I can say that the opposition members, if their strategy to encourage the government to do better is just to yell and scream at it all day long, they are certainly delivering on their—

Economic Relationship between Canada and the United StatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 10th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do have the recommendations here with me. I would wager a guess that the Conservative members who are participating today do not even know how many recommendations there are in here, let alone what they say.

I will get back to what I was saying. Here is the interesting thing about the scenario we are in right now in concurring in this report. I do not know if the Conservatives just did not plan this out properly in moving concurrence in this report. I think this is extremely germane, especially to those who are watching this and might not quite understand how we got to this point. During our routine proceedings, there is an opportunity for members to move a concurrence in a report. We can do only one of those per sitting, and it will take up to three hours of debate. Quite often, what the Conservatives do, and they have done it a number of times in this session, is move to concur in a report because it burns three hours of the day, usually on stuff they do not want to talk about.

However, I do not know if those who were deciding that filibuster strategy had really thought out exactly what they were doing, because the time allocation motion that came in this morning said the debate on Bill C-19 will adjourn after one more day, so they are not filibustering anything, because they are not preventing that legislation from actually being voted on tomorrow. All they are doing is literally replacing discussion on BIll C-19 with this motion to concur in an issue that I would remind members we spoke about in an emergency debate only two or three days ago.

Yes, it is extremely germane to this discussion. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council indicated earlier, this is just a tactic by the Conservatives, but the irony is that we are still going to be voting on the bill tomorrow. If we do the math and factor in that they will burn through the whole 15 minutes of petitions when we finally get to that part of orders of the day, we will literally talk about Bill C-19 for about 20 minutes, and then we will be forced to vote on it.