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Evidence of meeting #24 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was candidate.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marc Mayrand  Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada
Stéphane Perrault  Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Monsieur Mayrand.

First of all, I'm very thankful for what you've done in organizing your recommendations. There were many in the report, and I found myself flipping back and forth to see if I had already seen them. This will help us with our study and with looking at your recommendations.

I'll leave it now to questions from members. We'll do a seven-minute round to begin.

Ms. Foote, would you like to start today?

October 7th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

I would, thank you.

Thank you to your team for being here today. It's a pleasure to have you here and to hear about all the work you've been doing.

It's not every day you get access to the Chief Electoral Officer, so I have a question. I don't know if you're aware of or read an article in the Globe and Mail on August 20. It quoted a Mr. Brian Patterson. As I read the story, I thought that there was something not right about this, but then I'm not the Chief Electoral Officer, so I wanted to get your take on it.

Just to put it in perspective, Mr. Patterson was actually the chair of Tony Clement's provincial and federal leadership campaigns. He was also the chief of staff to Mr. Clement at four ministries in the Ontario government, and he was the election-day manager for Mr. Clement in Parry Sound--Muskoka in 2006 and 2008. That's just to set up for you where the comments came from.

According to the Globe and Mail story, he was asked by a municipal candidate how to obtain federal voters lists. I understand that the Conservatives manage a program called CIMS. This is what Mr. Patterson said, and I just want to read this, then I want to read what the act says and get your take on whether this can be avoided.

Mr. Patterson said to a municipal candidate:

But if someone gives you a copy of CIMS in your local campaign, we can’t stop you from calling up your local guys that you work [with] on the executives of [riding associations] if you can get it off them. You know, “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil,”.... [Y]ou never heard me say this—and I’ll deny it in a room full of lawyers—that if you can somehow get it, you know, we don’t care.

Now, section 110 of the Canada Elections Act prohibits sharing the voters lists with anyone other than MPs. In fact, it states that parties and members or candidates of other levels of government may not use federal lists of electors for their own political purposes. The lists of electors can be used only by the federal political entity for communicating with its electors and/or for a federal election or referendum.

I guess it doesn't matter whether you saw the story, but I'm interested in whether comments like that concern you. Is it a violation of the Elections Act? How do you guard against something like this happening?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Well, as you all know, every year you get an annual list of electors for your riding and with it directions and guidance as to how it can be used, how it needs to be protected, and what procedures should be used in your offices to ensure the security, integrity, and proper use of the list, as such. The same guidance is provided to political parties when they receive the national list. So there are several reminders regarding the proper use of the lists and the care that has to be given to those lists.

Again, I point out the legislation that requires that it be used only by those who receive it and only for the purpose described in the Canada Elections Act.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Would you consider such actions to be a violation of the Canada Elections Act and the Privacy Act?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Well, I'm not aware of them. I can't comment on whether there's been an offence.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

I'm sorry, I know you can't, if you don't know about the particular case. Given the scenario....

11:30 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Sharing a list with those who are not entitled to receive it is not consistent with the acts, to say the least, and using the list for a purpose other than the one described in the legislation is also inappropriate and could lead to or constitute an offence. Again, it all depends on the circumstances.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

If you're aware of circumstances like this, what action do you take? Do you pursue it? Do you follow up on it to ensure that it doesn't happen again or....?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

It may happen. It depends on what is being raised, the sources, and whether there is enough information to warrant action. That action would be taken by the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Would it be taken by getting in contact with the parties or individuals concerned?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

It would be if the circumstances warranted it. Again, it's at the discretion of the commissioner.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

How many minutes do I have?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

You had five minutes, so there are two minutes left.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Welcome. I'm new to the committee, so I looked at the recommendations, and I have some questions. I am with you in terms of getting an effective, efficient, and citizen-friendly election system.

In your recommendation 1.2, on the electoral process, you have said that the candidates should not be appointing deputy returning officers; it should be the party. What happens if I belong to one party through being elected and then I switch parties? Have you given thought to that?

11:35 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

I believe it's whoever is incumbent.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

So the incumbent is the one--

11:35 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

The party to which the incumbent--

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Belongs.

11:35 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Okay. Fair enough.

Secondly, you have in recommendation 1.8, “Protection of Electors’ Personal Information”. You say that you would remove the date of birth. But what happens if there are people with the same last name, first name? If you remove the date of birth, how does it protect the prevention of fraud?

11:35 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

With the new legislation now, electors have to provide proof of identity when they vote. They have to provide documents that establish their identity and their address. And it's very strict.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

But it doesn't do citizenship. Right?

11:35 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

It doesn't do citizenship. What we're saying here is that given there's already a requirement to provide documentary evidence of who you are and where you live, we don't really need the date of birth on the list.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Thank you.

I'll come back in the next round.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you very much.

Mr. Lukiwski.