It's the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada.
Esteemed members, I'm very happy to be here.
I'll start by saying I'm quite familiar with the election law, and I have been since about 1991 when we had the Spicer and the Lortie commissions, the last time that any really serious study of the electoral law was done.
We also have a lot of experience being on the receiving end of the unfair and undemocratic aspects of the law since 1972, when we started participating in elections.
In our opinion, Bill C-76 is a missed opportunity. It missed the opportunity to uphold democratic principles and to contribute to alleviating the perception we have today that party governments don't have the consent of the governed. It did nothing to address how the electoral process and electoral results themselves don't inspire confidence that a mandate that is supported by the majority of Canadians has actually been achieved.
I'd like to highlight just two problems today, because of the brief amount of time we have. One is the right to an informed vote and the need to have equality of all those who stand for election. The other is the matter of privacy.
The unequal treatment of candidates results from the privileges accorded to the so-called major parties, and it violates the right to an informed vote. We're told that we have political equality because of an even playing field that is supposed to be created by the fact that everybody has to meet the same criteria. For example, everybody has to do exactly the same things to become a candidate. Everybody has to respect the spending limits and so on. On top of this, we're told that public funding mitigates the inequalities we have.
All of this is meaningless when privileges are accorded to some, and the rationale is presented that only the so-called major parties are considered to be contenders for government, and that therefore, only they deserve to be heard. Others are dismissed as being fringe or incidental. This is not democratic by any standard. The only ones who see these arguments and don't see that they're undemocratic are those who are passing laws.
Canadians see it for what it is: a violation of fundamental democratic principles that exacerbates the crisis of credibility and legitimacy of both the electoral law and governments.
I'd like to give just one example of how this time around we could have taken the opportunity to address this problem. For over 17 years now, the Chief Electoral Officer has been recommending that the allocation formula in the law be removed from the privileged status now in the formula that's in the law, and instead that allocation be on an equal basis, particularly the free time. I sit on the advisory committee of Elections Canada, and I attend the broadcast meetings, and this very simple recommendation that the free time should both be increased and allocated equally has been rejected repeatedly for 17 years because, as has been said, it needs to be referred to study.
In the next election, we'll face the same situation in which, first of all, the parties in the House will have the majority of time, and within that, the Liberal Party—the ruling party—will have the lion's share of that time, while the smaller political parties get a token, not to mention all the complications with the airing of it.
The second point I'd like to make relates to privacy. We stand with the Privacy Commissioner in believing that political parties should be subject to the law. We see no reason why they shouldn't. I want to highlight the hypocrisy in this, because even if political parties are subject to the privacy law and PIPEDA, the election law itself, in our opinion, violates the right to privacy.
The election law does not recognize the right to informed consent, in our opinion. In 2006, the Conservative Party, when it was in the vanguard of micro-targeting with its constituent information management system, used the power that it had at that time, although all the parties agreed, to introduce unique, permanent identification numbers for electors, and to introduce bingo cards, the practice of Elections Canada workers that replaces the work that was once done by scrutineers to inform the political parties as to who has voted when. They don't tell them how they voted, but with data analytics, we're very close to that situation.
The Conservative Party wanted the ID numbers so as to make data integration and micro-targeting easier. The bingo cards were designed to address the problem of not having enough volunteers, which is a problem that all political parties are facing. In our opinion, again, this violates the principle of informed consent. It is just wrong. Electors should have the right to not have their unique ID numbers handed over to political parties to facilitate uploading their information into elector databases. They should also have the right to opt out of having their names put on the bingo cards, so that parties know whether they've voted or not voted.
Finally, I want to make a different point about these developments. Privacy is one concern, but the significance of this development in campaigning, which involves tracking electors and building profiles about them, is of greater concern to us. In our opinion, it does nothing to raise the level of political discourse in the country. It's not enhancing the involvement of people in the political process. The privacy debate, which is focused on things such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal or Facebook and how it's being used, clouds precisely how micro-targeting is impacting the process and particularly how it relates to political parties fulfilling their purported role of being primary political organizations and being the organizations through which people are involved in debating and discussing the problems facing the society, and in deciding the agenda and policies the society needs.
Our conclusion is that these developments, along with the fact that there hasn't been a serious study of what's going on in the electoral process since 1991-92, requires that we have public deliberations on all the fundamental premises of the electoral process to renew it once again: how mandates are arrived at; how candidates are selected; the use of public funds; and the fact that all people and all members of the polity, regardless of whether or not they belong to a political party, should be treated as equals.
How do we achieve this? Our position is that funding the process should take priority and should replace funding political parties. We think political parties should raise funds from their own members and not be recipients of state funding. So long as state funds are allocated, they have to be allocated on an equal basis. Otherwise, we have a situation where power and privilege are influencing the outcome of elections.
Those are the opening remarks I wanted to make.