Evidence of meeting #103 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was process.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Stéphane Perrault  Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Thank you.

I would like to get a little more of your opinion on the voter information card. There has been a lot of talk about it, and I believe some misinformation is already starting to spread about the use of voter information cards as a piece of ID for your residence. I know it was one of the CEO's recommendations, and I couldn't help but think about it during your intro as well, when you talked about making it simpler for all people to engage in the democratic process regardless of their background or where they live. This includes young people, indigenous people, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Can you tell me a little bit about your views and how you see this being implemented once the legislation passes?

11:50 a.m.

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

For the vast majority of Canadians, proving their identity is not a problem. Proving their address is a bit more challenging but for most Canadians it's not a problem. However, 14% of adult Canadians do not have a driver's licence. For these people there is no widespread document available that has their name and address on it, so it can be a challenge. If you are looking at utility bills in a household, they are often under one name and not the other. Having the voter information card as proof of address, when the name on the voter information card matches the name on the other piece of required ID, is of assistance to those voters.

When we talk about that, we talk about it in terms of accessibility, but I think there is another aspect that is also important and that is the aspect of dignity. I think for voters, the ability to vote independently is a profound matter of dignity. If you have an elderly couple where one of the spouses does not drive and does not have utility bills in their name, having to rely on their spouse to be allowed to vote in an election, to me, is a matter of fundamental dignity. It goes beyond the simple issue of accessibility.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

You've mentioned it and we're well-versed on the topic but I think, because we are televised today, that it could be helpful to people to understand how the voter ID card is used and to clarify that it is not something that would be used alone. Could you get into a little of the details, the technical details about that?

11:50 a.m.

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

Correct, the voter information card would, under the proposed legislation, be allowed to be used in combination with another piece of identification. This is the case where someone comes to the poll with a piece of identification that does not have their address on it or does not have their current address on it. They also have their voter information card—and their name on the voter information card must match the name on their other piece of ID. The fact that they are coming to the poll with these two documents together suggests very strongly that they received it at their home, so the level of integrity in that process, to me, is very high.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

How many people would you say—since you've been in this role pretty much for 18 months now—were precluded from voting because of issues that came up with not having the proper identification during the last election?

11:50 a.m.

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

We do not have data on the by-elections. What we know from the labour force survey, which is a high-quality survey done independently by StatsCan, is that about 152,000 Canadians were unable to prove their identity and address during the last election, and 50,000 were turned away. For most of these electors, the voter information card would be of great assistance.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Where would you place your level of concern when it comes to fraud with voter ID cards and the balance of allowing people to exercise their right to vote?

11:50 a.m.

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

There is no indication of any fraud. We used the voter information card as a proof of address in 2011. There was no indication of any concerning or fraudulent use of that document in that general election. What was shown in the general election was that there were record- keeping problems. There were people who were vouched for, for example, and the process of recording the vouching was not properly done. When you look at the voter information card as a piece of identification, it reduces the requirements to rely on vouching. In terms of integrity, I much prefer the voter information card in combination with another piece of ID to the vouching process.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

How can the record-keeping be corrected this time around?

11:50 a.m.

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

There are a few things, and one is automation. A lot of the forms will now be automated, and you need to populate those fields in order to move forward to complete the form. The system will assist poll workers to make sure they fill out every part of the form. If it isn't, it will not process. That's one thing.

The other thing is that we've done a complete review of the forms to make sure they're easier to fill out and easier to train on. Whether you're having a manual process or an automated process, we think we'll see improvements.

We have, as you know, an external audit of compliance with the procedures at the polls. That's at every election since the last general election, and by-elections. That provides a benchmark that we'll be able to use to assess improvements in record-keeping, using the poll books at advance polls, and the improved manual process otherwise, vis-à-vis the traditional process that we used.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

Thank you, Ms. Sahota.

Mr. Reid.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

How long do I have?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

You have five minutes.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Okay, thank you.

I want to ask about Bill C-76 and the demands it will be placing upon Elections Canada. The act contemplates a reduced maximum-length writ period, but it also anticipates a new pre-writ period. We have a situation in which some of what we would normally think of as being associated with a writ has been moved forward to June 30, 2019, which, by my math, is 13 months and eight days from now.

The question is whether that puts a new administrative burden on Elections Canada that kicks in at that point, as opposed to the other things for which you have an extra month or two. Is that the case, that you'll be facing some systems that will need to be in place by that time?

11:55 a.m.

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

It certainly requires us to redo all of our manuals, and in particular the manual for third parties. That regime is completely being redone.

We need to do those manuals, and we do the manuals, as you know, in a consultative process, which I think is excellent. We involve the parties. That means that we provide a draft and parties get to respond. We publish that in both languages, and we publish our responses to those drafts. We have to redo all of that well in time for the third parties, and the parties, to be aware of the new requirements.

In that case, it's less of a systems change because we will limit systems impact, but it's a training and guidance change.

May 22nd, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's true. I remember going through a similar discussion with you, and also your predecessor, Mr. Mayrand, regarding some of the timeliness we would have faced if we had attempted to have a referendum on electoral reform and then proceeded with that new electoral system by 2019. I remember that training came up as being the first of the goalposts that had to be met chronologically.

I want to ask you about the issue regarding rebates to parties. One of the worries I have had—and you'd know this from previous conversations we've had at this committee—is that I'm very concerned with the unintentional destabilization of our system if one of the parties finds itself impoverished, for example, by being engaged in very expensive litigation involving Elections Canada.

Another area that concerns me with regard to rebates is this. I can imagine a situation in which we have a minority government following the next election, and we find ourselves going into a second election within 12 months. These things have happened, not frequently, but they have happened in the past. I know you want to expedite rebates as much as you can.

Is there a danger that you could have a situation in which rebates go back to one party faster than to others or, in a riding, to one campaign faster than another, all things being the same? Having identified this problem, is there any way of trying to ensure there's always as level a playing field as possible?

11:55 a.m.

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

There are a few elements to answer there.

Apart from parties, which of course we do party by party as there's no other way of doing it, for candidates, we don't do party by party. We take them by region, and we don't prioritize based on party affiliation. It comes in and, if you file earlier, then you will get your audit done faster. There are candidates who get their rebates faster than others, but that would not be across party lines.

I do think we need to improve the timeliness of audits. I think that in today's world, timeliness of information is critical. People talk more and more about real-time reporting of contributions. We're not there yet, but I'm pretty confident we'll get there soon enough. As soon as the election is done, people want to see the returns and they want to make sure that they're audited.

We will need to make some improvements on how we do audits of candidates. It may not be for the next election, but we need to reduce that timeline, both to increase the transparency and to make sure that reimbursements are done in a timely fashion, and if there is a minority, for example, that candidates have that reimbursement to fight the next election.

Noon

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Right. I recognize the other side of the equation, as you don't want to reimburse expenses that are not legitimately claimed. I suspect that once one is reimbursed money, it's hard to undo the reimbursement as a practical matter, whatever the law may say.

I had the interesting experience after the last election of getting reimbursed for more than I'd actually spent, and I subsequently had to—

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Tell us more, Scott.

Noon

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

What happened was that you are reimbursed at a rate. Is it 15% of the allowable limit?

Noon

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

Correct. There is a percentage of upfront reimbursement.

Noon

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Right.

Noon

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

Because of the uniqueness of the last election, because the spending limit was pro-rated to the length of the election and those spending limits were so high, first, very few candidates spent to that limit, and second, many candidates got an initial reimbursement—which is designed to help them pay off their debts—that was greater than their end reimbursement. We had to chase a fair amount of money after the last election.

Noon

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Yes, you described the situation that happened to us. That's an interesting problem.

My greater concern is simply money being reimbursed at different times to different parties in the event that there is a writ very shortly after the election. I suppose what we can do is maybe just think about that, and then this may or may not prove to be an issue. We won't know until then.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.