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Evidence of meeting #9 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 formula.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Matthew Lynch  Director, Democratic Reform, Privy Council Office
Marc Mayrand  Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Reid.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you.

Actually, I was going to follow Mr. Comartin's point, so with any luck he will get the answer he was looking for.

If the law hasn't changed prior to February 1, I think there's a statutory obligation for the Speaker to appoint two people to the commission from each province, and for the chief justice of each province to appoint one person to chair the commission. That has to happen. That can't be stopped, so inevitably, if we pass that for February 1, we have to undo some of their work, reappoint them, do some kind of undoing, presumably more as time goes on. The moment it's February 1, they are under an obligation to move forward, and therefore we cannot avoid but to upset some of that work.

Would that be a correct statement?

12:35 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Yes. The commissions would have to restart their work if the royal assent is given to Bill C-20 any time after February 8.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

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

Okay.

Following Mr. Christopherson's observations about how things work in the Senate, I think his statement on the Senate ought to be set aside as more aspirational. I know it's the longstanding position of the New Democrats, but it's of course not the way the law works here. Failing some kind of unanimous consent in the Senate to simply pass the bill in all its stages at one sitting, I actually don't think you can rush things through the Senate with the kind of alacrity that Mr. Christopherson is suggesting. This makes me think that if we're heading in the direction of saying we need to have a larger number of witnesses, and we want to accommodate them, I think the better direction would be not to try to have special sittings in January, but rather to have extra sittings in November, right now, either in the evenings or on days we don't normally sit, something of that sort.

I think that's the best way of accommodating these things, so we can still meet that kind of deadline. It's only a suggestion I'm throwing out here. Of course, that wasn't meant for you, Mr. Mayrand. It was meant for our colleagues here. But I wanted to use your comments as a jumping-off point, so thank you very much for that.

12:35 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Thank you.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

I have Mr. MacKenzie.

November 15th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

I have only a couple of questions. They're not so much on all of these things, but you did indicate the need to appoint new returning officers. I know that one of the things that occurred...and I think in your document you indicated that prior to 2006 it was certainly more, if you will, at the local political level in appointing returning officers. That's now an independent role fulfilled by your office, which I believe is light years ahead of political interference. But when you do that appointing, is there a time limit? Is there an agreement that someone will be appointed? Is it an appointment for life? Is it an appointment for 10 years?

12:40 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

The appointment is for 10 years, provided that the returning officer continues to perform according to expectations. In the case of redistribution, however, if there's any change in the riding, the act requires that there be a reappointment process. There's an important provision in Bill C-20 that would facilitate the reappointment of well-performing returning officers.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

If Bill C-20 passes, we move into that. You're going to have to appoint 30 brand-new people.

12:40 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

It's a little bit more than that. Our estimate is that by that time we would have to reappoint 120 returning officers. There are always 30 or so who resign each year. Currently, we have suspended appointments in light of the redistribution process that will be taking place. There is no benefit in appointing ROs right now. We expect also that there may be, as a result of various circumstances, a number of ROs who will not be reappointed. So overall, we estimate that even with the change that's provided in Bill C-20, we would have to reappoint 120 ROs following the redistribution.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Would I be right or wrong in assuming that as of 2006, when you began the process, the people who were already returning officers...under what circumstance? Were they appointed for a limited time?

12:40 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

They were appointed for ten years.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Was this the case even prior to 2006?

12:40 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

In 2006, following the changes in, I believe, the Accountability Act, the ROs started to be appointed on the basis of merit. To facilitate the transition there was a provision requiring the Chief Electoral Officer to consult with leaders of political parties to say whether they had any reason not to continue those ROs who were already in place. There was a bit of a transition there.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

If there are people at home who are interested in that position, after the bill is passed, obviously Elections Canada will be going through a process.

12:40 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Oh, yes, and it will be a public one. There will be advertisements in the riding's paper to draw the attention of interested candidates.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

And should those folks contact Elections Canada, not their local member? That's my point.

12:40 p.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Yes. It would be nice to refer them to us.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Thank you.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you. We've used our time for today.

We thank you for helping us with this process. We know we will be seeing you some more during this process, hopefully at the launch of the commissions. We know you're there to advise us when we need you on this bill.

Thank you very much.

We'll suspend so that our witnesses may leave. We will then go in camera for committee business.

[Proceedings continue in camera]