Evidence of meeting #110 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 political.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Taylor Gunn  President and Chief Election Officer, CIVIX
Duff Conacher  Co-Founder, Democracy Watch
Henry Milner  Associate Fellow, Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal, As an Individual
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Lori Turnbull  Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, As an Individual
J. Randall Emery  Executive Director, Canadian Citizens Rights Council

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

They're citizens of Canada who have never lived in Canada, because their parents are Canadian, and this bill does not address their right to vote.

Does that not mean we're still in a situation where—

12:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Citizens Rights Council

J. Randall Emery

Yes, because you have to come back and live in Canada.

We would like it to go further, I think, but given the system we have now, given the looming timeline for Elections Canada, this is a very positive step forward. I think that is a practical application, because we don't have MPs for citizens abroad right now. Maybe that will develop at some point in the future, I don't know, but—

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Maybe we would have to have the system that they use in France and Italy of having constituencies that represent overseas people. I would contend that it's probably unconstitutional in Canada to have a seat that is not considered part of a province or territory, but you could, one assumes, come up with some kind of system whereby you say that their parents' last place of declared residence is regarded as their place of residence or something like that. I think a workaround that is constitutional could, in principle, be found.

12:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Citizens Rights Council

J. Randall Emery

Perhaps. We support this bill because it takes care of the vast majority of Canadians abroad.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Are you sure it's the vast majority of Canadians abroad? For people who have left Canada and are living outside of Canada, who have been there for more than five years, as opposed to those who are children of people in that situation, are you sure it's the majority? I'm not sure. I'm genuinely not sure. I have no idea.

12:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Citizens Rights Council

J. Randall Emery

We have to remember that there have been, since back in 2009, limits on citizenship by descent.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I concur, but that's a separate thing. If you are a citizen, you have a right, full stop.

Thank you. I was putting you in an unfair spot. It wasn't to poke holes in you; it was to poke holes in the argument that this is a highly principled as opposed to pragmatic measure, which has been the way the government has been marketing this side of things. I think it's a pragmatic move, a perfectly defensible pragmatic move, but it is not the point of high principle that it is being marketed as being. That was the point of questioning that way.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

Now we'll go to Ms. Tassi.

June 5th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Professor Turnbull, my first question will be for you. It's clarification on something you stated earlier in your testimony today.

Clearly with social media, we're in a whole new world with how people communicate and the ability to communicate. You mentioned different people receiving different messages. I want to be clear. Do you have a problem with different people receiving messages that are pertinent to them or is it just the accuracy of those messages that you're commenting on? For example, if we had someone who was a youth, so a party wanted to give parts of their platform that were related to youth, do you have any problem with that targeting or is it just with inaccuracies in what's being communicated?

12:55 p.m.

Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, As an Individual

Dr. Lori Turnbull

I'm more concerned with potential inaccuracies, but I think there's also a concern overall with micro-targeted messaging.

I think historically in Canada, political parties, particularly successful ones, have played a nation-building role and have provided messages and ideologies, perspectives that you sort of put it out there and people unite around it and seek commonality. It's no surprise that political parties would, especially now that we have the technology, become more responsive to individual voters or prospective voters or prospective supporters. I think it could potentially come at a cost if political parties—and not just to put it all on political parties but third parties, too—are using that sophisticated messaging to tailor. It's a responsiveness that can be seen as positive, but we're not necessarily spending enough time building those big messages and big ideas that everybody can come to.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

With respect to this bill and the voter information card and the vouching, as well as the commissioner's enhanced ability to enforce the Canada Elections Act, can you talk about those three points and how you feel about them in Bill C-76?

12:55 p.m.

Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, As an Individual

Dr. Lori Turnbull

It was the vouching and—

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

It was the vouching, the voter information card, and the commissioner's ability to enforce.

Previously you've gone on record as having concerns with respect to the Fair Elections Act. Some of those things you've talked about. You had concerns with respect to the lack of vouching and the taking away of the VIC. How important is this to you in this legislation?

12:55 p.m.

Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, As an Individual

Dr. Lori Turnbull

It's important to the extent that it increases accessibility and ensures that voters are able to participate. It provides an opportunity for people who want to vote and who are legitimate voters to vote. In that way, I think it serves an important purpose.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Emery, with respect to the third party spending limitations, would you consider your organization a third party? Would it fall under that? If so, how would you be impacted by this legislation?

12:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Citizens Rights Council

J. Randall Emery

I'm not certain that we would be, because we're not engaged in anything related to political campaigns.

I would be concerned on the foreign influence piece that Canadian citizens are always free to be part of the process. That's what we would like to see in any legislation pertaining to foreign money. There are certainly legitimate concerns to be accounted for, but we would want to make sure that there would be something to say that a Canadian citizen is always free to be part of the process. I'm not aware of anything contrary to that, but that's what we would hope to see protected.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Professor Turnbull, we just spoke about accessibility.

My focus now is on a question for Mr. Emery.

There are provisions in here that I am proud of with respect to enhancing access for people with disabilities. Included in that is the expansion of the definition of what disability means beyond physical disability. Can you speak to the importance of the provisions that you see in the bill and how you feel about their inclusion in Bill C-76?

1 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Citizens Rights Council

J. Randall Emery

The biggest benefit that we see out of this bill is that it would eliminate one remaining instance in law where different citizens have different rights. That's very important to us, not just as individuals, to strengthen the Canadian community as a whole. Second, it would clearly establish an MP who is accountable for every citizen. As I mentioned before, there are instances now where citizens look for help, and they don't know where to go. I would say those are the two key benefits of this bill.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Thank you.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much for coming. We certainly appreciate your being here and your wise counsel. It's been very helpful.

Mr. Cullen, I understand you have wording now.

1 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I have it under good advice from the clerk and others. The issue of the summons is pretty dramatic, and I want to be careful with it. We've had these groups testify before, and we've heard from just about every witness we've had so far that social media has an important role, so it is not casual that we're doing this on two important witnesses.

Some language that was offered I think is helpful to sort of do it in two stages. One is to invite again, essentially. We're sitting tonight, and if we don't hear a response, then we'll be more forceful tonight.

The motion would read, “That the clerk invite representatives from Facebook to appear before the committee on either June 6 or June 7, and if they fail to respond by 6:30 p.m. today, Kevin Chan from Facebook and Michelle Austin from Twitter be summoned to appear on” and then we can specify date and time tonight.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

And Twitter?

1 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Did I not say that? “Facebook and Twitter to appear before the committee on either June 6 or June 7”.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Reid.

1 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I find that timeline a bit tight. I would say it's reasonable to give them 24 hours. I'm aware of the problem that we have, that it's June 5, but the choice of June 6 and June 7 is a deadline that was imposed on a basis for which Twitter or Facebook or anybody else can scarcely be blamed. It's the government's haste to get things through. If I saw this at the receiving end, I would genuinely think that's unreasonable. In all fairness, we have to contact them. It is now a little past 1:00 p.m., and 6:30 is after business hours. I have no idea what people in this industry work, probably crazy hours. You know what I'm getting at. I'd say to give them 24 hours. That's a reasonable thing. If I may suggest, it's reasonable to ask them to appear June 6, June 7, or sometime next week.