Thank you, Minister, for being here today.
Minister, you'll appreciate that in the making of laws there are two main components. One is the actual substance of the law being proposed and the implications of the changes. The second one in a parliamentary democracy is the process that we use to amend our laws. There's the substance of the law and then there's the process.
I have to say, Minister, that on process, you already have a democratic deficit. You did not consult with the Chief Electoral Officer beforehand, notwithstanding your little “Welcome. Nice to meet you. How are you doing?” meeting. To the best of my knowledge, I'm not aware that you had any kind of consultation, private or public, with groups across Canada. This was all done from within the Conservative world, and then sprung upon the people, rammed through the House, and then said, in justifying ramming it through the House, that the reason it's okay to do that is that we do all the real hard work here at committee.
We have asked, given the importance of this bill, for some cross-country hearings to get outside the political safety of the Ottawa bubble and let people have their say about their election.
Minister, and Chair, this is a substantive piece of legislation. It has significant implications for our democracy. We have serious concern that there may be around 120,000 Canadians who could lose their right to vote as a result of these changes. We're very concerned that these changes will bring big money back into Canadian elections. We're concerned, seriously concerned, about the apparent muzzling of the Chief Electoral Officer, among other concerns.
You call it the fair elections act. We're looking for a fair process. It looked like we might have some sunlight on this subject. Negotiations started, but they abruptly ended and the government said, no, they're not interested.
Given the fact that this Parliament felt that it was important enough, and we agree it was, in 2012 for the foreign affairs committee to go all the way to Ukraine to study their democracy, it's equally important here in Canada that we take the time and the money to study our own democracy. Not only that, in terms of arguing that it's too much money, the committee just approved the other day, notwithstanding our refusal to allow it to go through the House, travel for the trade committee to go to 10 cities across Canada and the U.S.
Minister, my question for you is a very simple one. Why are you refusing to consider hearings outside the safety of the Ottawa bubble? Why are you denying Canadians an opportunity to have a say about their election process in the communities where they live?