Evidence of meeting #30 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was elections.

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 Directorate, Elections Canada

12:10 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Yes, I understand.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Reid.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I'm assuming that we've passed the motion.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

On unanimous consent, yes.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

All right. Good. So I'm not talking to that.

I wanted to ask some additional questions, if I could.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Reid, we have finished our list, and if I give you a question, I'll need to give more.

I know that he hasn't had one—nor has Madame Latendresse—but we have gone through the full normal scope. I'm at the will of committee. We're not at our time yet.

I'll certainly entertain Mr. Reid for four minutes, and then we'll find a way of getting one for each party.

Go ahead, Mr. Reid.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you. That's ideal, actually.

I think part of what has been going on here is that we're asking ourselves if what we've heard is an indication of some kind of alligator under the bed. Is there something bigger going on or not? The assertion has at least implied that there's what is either widespread fraudulent voter suppression or impersonation of Elections Canada or something of that sort.

But what strikes me is that if there's really an alligator under the bed, I wonder if the alligator under the bed isn't simply a widespread problem with trying to figure out where people actually live in order to contact them in a way that.... You can see that there's a distinct problem here.

On the normal voters list, the normal number of voters put in the wrong location is 16%. You indicated that after you go through it and issue the final voters list, it comes down, I think you said, to a 12% error rate. Is that correct?

12:15 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

March 29th, 2012 / 12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

That's still millions of Canadians.

I know from experience.... In the last election I picked up that final voters list myself for my riding. First of all, I had to drive across the riding. It's a two-hour drive in each direction, so it took all day. But on top of that, it was about 48 hours or 72 hours before voting day, so you can understand that it's hard to get that data and input it and all that sort of thing. Any kind of actual.... In our case, we do more print communication. You can't get that out with the list.

As a final note, this is not something that Elections Canada has done, but I'll make the point from the last provincial election. Elections Ontario put my wife and me—we live in the same house—in two different ridings. So things like this occur all the time. It is, as a practical matter, very difficult to overcome that problem.

I think there is a widespread problem here that leads to many of the kinds of complaints you've heard. You've heard people saying, “I was asked to vote in riding X, and I don't live there”. That can be explained by this ongoing database problem that we all have as a joint problem.

12:15 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

The list is not perfect. I don't know that it will ever be, because the minute you produce it, it's already outdated. People move all the time, and all sorts of things happen. That being said, I still can't reconcile the idea of people pretending to be Elections Canada and trying to misdirect people.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

There's no doubt about that. Put simply, it's illegal. But I think I'm right in saying that the number of instances you're going to find of that, as a proportion of the total number of complaints people are raising, will be very, very small.

12:15 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Again, that's why one of my key messages today is that we need to let the investigation unfold. We shouldn't draw conclusions. There may be all sorts of reasons for the certain things that have been alleged.

That's the responsibility of the commissioner: to determine what actually has happened. As for whether it was deliberate or an unfortunate error, that's the job of the commissioner. In due course, he will complete his investigation, and I will be happy to report to the committee on the outcome.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Mr. Reid. You're under your time.

Mr. Garneau.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Thank you very much.

Mr. Mayrand, can you tell us whether there are any other call centres—other than RackNine, which we've heard a lot about—mentioned in any of the 800 complaints?

12:15 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

No. That's part of the investigation. That's a matter with the commissioner. I will not comment on any specifics, especially not names.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

I believe Elections Canada looked into a claim in Saanich—Gulf Islands in 2008 where there was an allegation of NDP calls that were made that affected the outcome there. Can you tell us what the final ruling or report was from Elections Canada on that particular matter?

12:15 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Yes. Again, the plaintiff in that case did receive the ruling or the finding of the commissioner that basically determined that he was not able to gather enough evidence to support the allegations that were made at the time.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

So the allegations of falsely claiming to be the NDP were not....? You didn't have enough—

12:15 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

He couldn't find the evidence to support the allegations.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

As my final question, there appears to be a bit of a disconnect. You told me that people can proceed with a court challenge and then go ahead, but in some cases, obviously, the information that the elections commissioner may be collecting over the course of the next year might be instrumental in the judge's ruling, but that judge will not necessarily have that information.

Do you automatically sort of feed into the...? If you know that a court challenge is being issued and you come up with something, do you feed that information to the judge so that it may assist him or her in their...?

12:20 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Again, as amicus curiae, we will provide information that the court would find useful, information that we can gather that the court would find useful in its hearing of the matter. I shouldn't speculate at this point in time. I don't know if the court will be asking for information that is under investigation.... I don't know how the court will manage that.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

So the way it's done is that the court, in looking at it, will sort of automatically call Elections Canada and say, “Do you have any light to shed on this?”

12:20 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

We've been served by the proceedings, but it's mainly driven by the applicants. The applicants will have to set what the evidence is to support their proceedings, and they will determine what they need in terms of information and witnesses. Again, it's a traditional court process. They will serve subpoenas and ask witnesses to bring information with them.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

Madame Latendresse.