Yes. Thanks, Chair.
Thanks, Chris, for the comments.
Let me preface this very briefly by saying I don't blame anyone around this table for the circumstance we're in. Clearly, on the government's side, I don't think the timing of the bill and the study was of the choosing of any of the committee members—certainly not you, Chair, and certainly not the opposition—yet the bind that I feel myself in is that I have a similar objection because I don't like some of the rules that exist right now on voting reform. Bill C-76 addresses some of those things that we've talked about openly, vouching and whatnot.
As a parliamentarian, I also see and feel the responsibility of getting whatever we do to Bill C-76 right—amend, reject, whatever those options are—simply because in my experience if you rush legislation, particularly omnibus, it's inevitable you'll make some mistakes. The question is how grievous those mistakes are, and you realize them too late. Elections Canada tries to handle something voters experience at the election and it doesn't work the way that we were told and the way we hoped. I feel myself in a bit of a bind.
I'll start with the witness list and work backwards to the travel proposal. Mr. Christopherson is back and re-engaged, and I just got a witness list from him and, yeah, it's exhaustive and exhausting to look at. We're going to spend tonight whittling some of that down because I have a few thoughts. I was borrowing a little bit from the electoral reform experience, because I think through those many long months of study we found some witnesses who don't immediately pop to mind who I think would be very helpful on this.
I appreciate the efforts in terms of the travel component and the way the motion is worded. As we know, in urban and rural experiences voting is different, and particularly first nations people have a different experience as well.
The initial proposal for travel makes sense. I would hope we would talk today about what a day would look like, because sometimes committees travel and it looks a certain way and other times it looks another way. We had raised the issue of talking to young Canadians when we're out on the road. We had raised the issue of potentially having.... When we go to towns sometimes we go to Halifax or Toronto and we see only experts, so-called experts, people implicated by it, but we have no access to average Canadians who don't have a Ph.D. behind their name. I think we're made more poor for it if we do that. I would advocate some small version of an open house, if we go places in the evening, and then in the daytime we give over to the experts who have lots of opinions about this.
In terms of the rest of the meetings, I remain very open to what we're doing right now. I know it's not always comfortable and it's hard to schedule with extended hours and sitting, simply because we've been given a Sisyphean task here and we ought to try to do as much as we can to get it right.
Other than that, my only other reservation, which I expressed to Andy before, was the proposal of doing clause-by-clause all in one day. We have a philosophical objection to the custom that, if there are more than 80 amendments, suddenly we go on the clock, and that reduces us to five minutes per party per clause, I believe. I've seen from both sides, government and opposition, bills just brutalized because you're hammering through clauses by the end, by the evening sittings. Committee members don't really.... I think we stop doing our jobs at some point. It gives me angst to see a day of clause-by-clause on a bill that's 250 substantive pages. That's a lot.
The last I'll say is that the government talks about different numbers, but 85% of the bill was prestudied or 85% comes from Elections Canada. That's fine. The percentages are fine in terms of public relations or media, but I don't want to suggest that simply because 85% of the bill has been looked at, the 15% is going to be fast. It may not be 15% of the effort because of the stuff the government has added into this bill on top of the previous legislation. It's not simple or obvious things. We're talking about freedom of speech and some things that are potentially complicated. I don't have a pre-opinion as to what that will look like.
All that said, I think the travel is short, but it will work. If we can reconsider the clause-by-clause, that would be good, and we should talk about what a travel day looks like. If we go to Halifax, what does it look like? If we're in Toronto, what does the day look like? That will inform my feelings toward getting out on the road.