Evidence of meeting #106 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 elections.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Andre Barnes  Committee Researcher
Allen Sutherland  Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office
Manon Paquet  Senior Policy Advisor, Privy Council Office
Jean-François Morin  Senior Policy Advisor, Privy Council Office
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Stéphane Perrault  Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada
Anne Lawson  General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Elections Canada

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

What could we do? It certainly is a concern to me. If it were a concern to the majority of the committee, what could we do in terms of amendments to strengthen this, so there would be a better ability to enforce that and make sure that isn't occurring and there isn't this, wink, wink, “Well, we'll give you money for something else and you can spend the rest of it on the election”?

5:10 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

Allen Sutherland

My role is to talk about the bill as it is. I would tell you that it does make some important steps forward by creating the pre-writ period, by establishing the limits, and by expanding the scope of the activities that are covered by third parties, and also requiring the bank account—

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I'm sorry to interrupt. You can't make any suggestions to us in terms of how we might amend, can you?

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Okay. Have you any suggestion on who might be a good person to ask that question?

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

Allen Sutherland

Your colleagues.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Okay.

Now I'll move to the privacy of the future registry of electors. When I asked this question of the acting minister at the time in the House, he indicated it would not allow this information to be given to political parties. Can I just confirm with you—

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

Allen Sutherland

That's correct.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

—that the legislation absolutely forbids that from being shared?

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

Allen Sutherland

That's correct.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I just wanted to confirm that.

In terms of the expat voters, they have to prove their last place of residence. How is that done?

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

Allen Sutherland

I'll turn to you. Go ahead.

5:15 p.m.

Lieutenant-Commander Jean-François Morin Senior Policy Advisor, Privy Council Office

Currently, the voters who vote under division 3 of part 11 of the Canada Elections Act have to fill out an application for registration and special ballot. They have to provide sufficient proof of identity, but not sufficient proof of residence. That is the current state of things in the Canada Elections Act.

Bill C-76 doesn't change that. However, Bill C-76 eliminates some options that were available to expats. Currently, they have the choice to determine as their place of ordinary residence the place of ordinary residence of a person whom they would be living with if they were in Canada. Bill C-76 is changing that. Expats will only be able to choose their last place of ordinary residence in Canada and once they are registered on the register of international electors, they cannot change their place of ordinary residence anymore.

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

Allen Sutherland

They'd have to move back in order to change it.

May 28th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

This is just a follow-up to make sure that I'm clear on what you're saying.

They simply declare it. I get that you're saying that once they declare it, the declaration is once and for all time, unless they move back to Canada and then have a different residence. How is it demonstrated? Is it simply that they declare it and there's no verification done of that?

5:15 p.m.

LCdr Jean-François Morin

Yes, it's only a declaration. That being said, of course, the bill opens up the right to vote to about a million Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years and who did or did not have an intent to return. It could be very difficult for some of these Canadians who have been away for a long time to prove their last place of ordinary residence in Canada, so yes, they have to declare it, and they don't have to show a paper evidence of it.

Of course, there are offences related to voting—

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Of course. Although if there's no way to really verify it, then how do you enforce it?

Is it correct that they don't actually have to declare any intention to ever return to Canada with this legislation either?

5:15 p.m.

LCdr Jean-François Morin

That's correct. That's why we are in this situation.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thank you.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you, Mr. Richards.

Now, we'll go to Mr. Bittle.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Thank you so much.

In terms of Mr. Richards' line of questioning, is there any reasonable way—I see where he's coming from—to ensure that these million individuals living abroad provide some type of identification or previous form of residency? If you're living abroad for five years, ID expires, is lost, and you don't keep mail, such as a phone bill, from five years ago.

Was there any discussion of that possibility?

5:15 p.m.

LCdr Jean-François Morin

Again, as I answered to Mr. Richards, currently there is no obligation to prove residence for people who are registered on the register of international electors. They only have to provide satisfactory proof of identity. Therefore, it would be very difficult for people who have been away from Canada for many years to show documentary evidence of their last place of ordinary residence in Canada.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Can you explain how the bill would make it easier for members of the Canadian Armed Forces to vote?

5:20 p.m.

LCdr Jean-François Morin

Absolutely. Currently, Canadian Forces members must vote in their military unit between the 14th and the ninth day prior to polling day. Only a small proportion of Canadian Forces electors are able to vote at civilian polls on polling day. These rules were designed at the end of the 1950s. They haven't changed much ever since.

Bill C-76 opens the voting opportunities for Canadian Forces members, and therefore, all Canadian Forces members will be able to choose whether they want to vote at ordinary polls, advance polls, at the office of the returning officer, or by mail from Canada or abroad. When they do vote using one of these opportunities, they will have to comply with identification requirements, including proof of address. Bill C-76 in maintaining the military polls in military units. This is the flexibility that the Canadian Forces needs given the wide variety of contexts in which they operate in Canada and around the world.

In those military polls, Canadian Forces electors will now be required to prove their identify and their service number. As the minister said in her presentation, Canadian Forces members who are on exercises or operations in Canada or abroad often cannot wear a document that would prove their address. That's for maintaining their personal safety and the safety of their family. We're also making it easier for Canadian Forces members to register on the national register of electors. Currently, they have to fill out a paper form that is called the statement of ordinary residence. Now the statement of ordinary residence is being repealed, and they will be able to register on Elections Canada's website on the national register of electors and change their address in order to vote with their families in the communities they serve and where they reside.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Perhaps this is an unfair question, because the number will go up and down, but do we know how many members of the Canadian Armed Forces are typically abroad who are dealing with this situation, or perhaps how many there were in 2015?