Mr. Chair, honourable members, it's a privilege to appear before the committee once again. Thank you.
I believe that I understand the objectives set out in the bill, in light of the court's decision in Frank. I have read the presentation of the Chief Electoral Officer and reviewed members' input, all of which I appreciate.
Consequently, I would like to propose alternatives aimed at achieving the same ends as the bill, all the while unburdening the process in light of the right of Canadians to vote.
The first one would be that a further advantage of the fixed election date would allow the start of the registration process 30 days before the issuance of the writs, therefore allowing reasonable time to process the required documentation and to overcome difficulties, if there are any. In the case of a minority government, the Chief Electoral Officer could initiate the process, and if no election is called within three or four months, let's say, it would have to start again. Registrants would be advised that this had happened.
Second, under Bill C-50, the passport would now be required, as has been the practice until now. That's how people got on the list, essentially. It will serve automatically as proof of ID, as it has your picture and your name. For proof of a last address in Canada, should it coincide with the data in the register of electors, no other proof would have to be required.
Driver's licence data, I remind you, is provided every two or three months for updates to the register, thus making it essentially the same information, and we're asking people to provide proof of a driver's licence amongst one of the documents. If you're already on the register at the address that you're claiming to be your last address, that would be it. If the address differs, the alternatives in the bill will then prevail. You must provide proof of address, as the bill requires. I noted that the register will be purged of non-Canadians, and I think this helps the acceptance of the measure that I've just mentioned.
With respect to the third proposal, the list of those electors would be kept for the subsequent election and not incorporated in the register. Canadians still living abroad would need to reapply, which is what the bill asks for, and would be verified against this list. It would be used by the CEO for registry quality control purposes as well, something that we all aspire to.
I wanted to make a comment as well with respect to military personnel. It's important to remember that they may change their address in Canada annually. That's their right. Spouses and elector dependants do not have that right. Military personnel will receive their voting package automatically. Spouses and dependants will not. They have to reapply one way or the other.
There's a fifth point that I wish to make with respect to proofs of ID and address. A further measure would be to recognize the VIC as proof of address. Another proof of ID would still be required.
I will add as well, as a personal comment, that it is completely incongruent to me that the Canada Elections Act, which is a federal statute, does not recognize the VIC as proof of both when it is the only federally issued document that contains both. A federal law says that you must have these two things, but no federal agency except the Chief Electoral Officer has it, and Parliament says to the Chief Electoral Officer, “You can't use that.”
By the way, my comments are for both proofs, but my recommendation is that it be used as proof of address at this stage, in order to make the recommendation somewhat acceptable. Any resulting confusion with the new terminology on acceptable documents—and I saw the debate on this—should in my view result in a provisional ballot, to be resolved before the official results are announced. We have seven days after polling day for official results.
If a deputy returning officer is not satisfied that the proof of ID or address that's been provided to him is acceptable, he could not reject that elector if the elector said, “I want you to provisionally put that aside and check with the Chief Electoral Officer.” There would not be that many, and therefore, they could be easily controlled after the event.
That also raises, though, the interesting phenomenon of electors not having sufficient ID and proof of address, if we introduce the concept of provisional ballots; and that is that they could vote provisionally, go home and bring the proof that is missing, not having understood what was required when they went to the polls initially and therefore adding to the substitute for vouching, which was introduced in Bill C-23, I think.
Mr. Chairman, those are the comments I had to make with respect to what I considered to be concrete proposals on how to build upon the objectives of the proposed statute and at the same time facilitate this for Canadian electors, and not change the basic tenet, which is that electors living abroad must exercise initiative to get on the list to be approved for that election, and they then must vote. All of that requires initiative beyond what is required here.