Thank you very much.
I thank my esteemed colleague for his intervention. However, I do take issue with a number of things he said. Primarily, he mentioned that in his opinion at least, there's no way the government would have changed any portion of the original bill had it not been for the public pressure.
I take issue with that, because from the outset, even though our government...and the minister responsible for this bill said he thought it was a very good bill, he also said that if there were useful suggestions that came out of committee, he would certainly listen and entertain amendments based on that testimony, and that's exactly what has happened. We have introduced approximately 45 amendments based on the testimony we've heard. I think that's a good thing. I think that certainly illustrates that the government is listening.
With respect, however, to the overarching motion and the request to withdraw this bill, clearly that's an implication, or at least a direct inference, that the bill is not worthy in its current state or as amended in that process we're going through now. I take great issue with that, because I would argue that Canadians think this is a pretty good bill. I'll buttress that statement with a few facts, or at least a few pieces of information, for the benefit of all those who are perhaps watching.
The two most contentious issues that we have heard from witnesses and from members of the opposition with respect to this bill have been identification requirements and vouching. Yesterday I mentioned to members of this committee that in the most recent Ipsos Reid poll, it showed that 87%...or at least I stated that the Ipsos Reid poll demonstrated that 87% of Canadians felt it appropriate that before being allowed to vote, Canadians show identification.
In a subsequent intervention, Mr. Scott, on behalf of the opposition, said I was mis-characterizing that poll, because the exact wording said that 87% of Canadians felt it appropriate that Canadians prove their identity and their residence. The direct implication there was that you don't need ID to prove who you are and where you live. I can only suppose that this means he felt that vouching would be a form of proof. What he failed to inform the committee, however, was that in that very poll, at a later point in the poll, it showed that 70% Canadians disagreed with the concept of vouching.
So if you want to connect the dots, if you have 87% of Canadians feeling that you need to prove your identification and residence, and 70% didn't want that to happen via vouching, what's left? What's left is what we've been advocating from day one: you have to prove your identity through proper ID presented at the time of voting. That's exactly what Canadians feel.
I would also point out that also included in the poll is a breakdown by political support. It found that 66% of people who consider themselves to be supporters of the NDP felt that vouching should be eliminated. So not only in the court of public opinion does the general public disagree with the NDP position on vouching; their own members disagree. Their supporters disagree with the NDP position on vouching.
That's why I continue to say that in the court of public opinion, we are on the right side, and in this argument the NDP has lost badly in the court of public opinion. Canadians expect voters to present ID. They don't like the concept of vouching.
The best analogy I've heard comes from one of my colleagues, so I have to attribute this to him, the Honourable Ed Holder. He put out a piece to his constituents on the concept of vouching. The analogy he gave was this. Let's say two guys walk into a bar. One clearly looks middle-aged and the other one looks much younger. The bartender comes up and says to the younger-looking gentleman, “I'm going to have to see your identification.” The older gentleman says, “That's not necessary, bartender. I'm going to vouch for him.”
Would that be acceptable to anyone? Of course not. It's not acceptable to the laws of the Province of Ontario or any other laws in any other province that have usually the age of 18 required. That's because Canadians expect people to show proper identification in order to do just about anything these days.
Both on the question of identification requirements and on the question of vouching, we believe we've addressed the views of Canadians very appropriately in this bill, and on many other issues where we heard dissenting views from either Canadians or those who chose to join us as intervenors in this committee, we have listened and responded. I think the amended version of Bill C-23 will be a bill that does what it is intended to do: improve the Canada Elections Act.
Again, I notice with great interest my colleagues opposite have not mentioned many other attributes of the bill that were lauded, approved, and applauded by people who came before this committee. Coming in with a robocalls registry, for an example, to stop fraudulent robocalls, was very well received. They talk about the movement of the Commissioner of Canada Elections from Elections Canada to the DPP. Yes, the opposition disagreed with that, and yes, there was some disagreement, but quite frankly it does make the Commissioner of Canada Elections far more independent. Even Sheila Fraser said she would not have a problem with that as long as there was adequate and full communication between Elections Canada and the commissioner. One of these amendments ensures that this will happen.
Without taking too much extra time—and I thank my colleague Mr. Scott for being brief and succinct in his comments, and I'll try to do the same—I think the final, amended package, which we are dealing with today, is a good piece of legislation supported by the vast majority of Canadians. We're very proud as a government to be able to present that to Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.