Evidence of meeting #114 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 recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David Moscrop  As an Individual
Sherri Hadskey  Commissioner of Elections, Louisiana Secretary of State
Victoria Henry  Digital Rights Campaigner, Open Media Engagement Network
Sébastien Corriveau  Leader, Rhinoceros Party
Chris Aylward  National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Pippa Norris  Professor of Government Relations and Laureate Fellow, University of Sydney, McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Harvard, Director of the Electoral Integrity Project, As an Individual
Angela Nagy  Former Chief Executive Officer, Kelowna - Lake Country, Green Party of Canada, As an Individual
Leonid Sirota  Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology, As an Individual
Morna Ballantyne  Special Assistant to the National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Kevin Chan  Global Director and Head of Public Policy, Facebook Canada, Facebook Inc.
Carlos Monje  Director of Public Policy, Twitter - United States and Canada, Twitter Inc.
Michele Austin  Head, Government, Public Policy, Twitter Canada, Twitter Inc.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

I call the meeting to order.

Good afternoon, and welcome to the 114th meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, as we continue our study of Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments.

We are pleased to be joined by David Moscrop, who is appearing as an individual by video conference from Seoul, South Korea, and I don't know what time it is there; Sherri Hadskey, the Commissioner of Elections, Louisiana Secretary of State, who is appearing by video conference from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Victoria Henry, digital rights campaigner from OpenMedia Engagement Network, who is appearing by video conference from Vancouver; and Sébastien Corriveau,

leader of the Rhinoceros Party, who is also appearing by video conference from St-Donat-de-Rimouski, Quebec.

Thank you all for making yourselves available.

I just want to say something I'd forgotten to say. We have made the clerk's job quite interesting over this study so far, so I think we should really give our appreciation to the clerk and his huge staff for getting all these witnesses on short notice.

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

It's been a mammoth job, and you've done—

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I think it's 4:30 in the morning in Seoul, South Korea. I think it's 8:30 in the morning in New Zealand.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

It's 4:30 in the morning in Seoul, South Korea.

Maybe we'll have David go first.

You each have an opening statement, but David, seeing as it is 4:30 in the morning there in South Korea, you could go first.

3:30 p.m.

David Moscrop As an Individual

Thank you.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

The floor is yours. Can you hear us?

3:30 p.m.

As an Individual

David Moscrop

Yes, I can.

Well, good morning from Seoul, South Korea, and thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee.

I just left Vancouver the other day, so I was closer to a much nicer time zone, but I am so pleased to be here. I know there is a lot to cover, so I'll get right to it.

The goals of any election legislation should be to protect the procedural integrity of how we choose our representatives during and outside the writ period, and to support a vibrant, diverse, egalitarian, and inclusive public sphere in which citizens can make informed political decisions.

With those ends in mind, I am pleased to see that this bill introduces a few measures that facilitate those goals, including stricter spending limits and regulations on third parties, as well as constraints that further constrain foreign actors. I think these measures will help level the playing field.

As others have testified, the limits are more than reasonable, although I would argue that it might be good to extend the pre-writ period covered under the legislation to perhaps as long as a year if the goal is to curb the permanent campaign.

I am also pleased that changes introduced by the Fair Elections Act are being amended or removed. The Chief Electoral Officer should be able to play an active role of promoting elections and educating citizens.

Also, because elections should be as successful as possible, I am excited and encouraged to see that vouching is reinstated, the use of a voter card as identification is brought back, and certain restrictions on limitations for voting for Canadians overseas or living abroad have been removed as well. That will free up a little bit of capacity for folks to turn out.

I think the bill is weaker when it comes to encouraging turnout vis-à-vis younger Canadians. A voluntary registry for those approaching voting age is fine, and I support that, but I think the voting age should be lowered to 16, full stop. Sixteen-year-olds have plenty of capacity, and the idea that we could get people voting younger and forming that habit earlier in life, I think, is a good one. However, if we really want to get serious about turnout I think we should think about mandatory voting.

Finally, on the weaker side, I think the privacy provisions in this bill don't go far enough. A policy for parties that they make public is fine, but when was the last time you read the terms of service on any service you signed up for? That is often inadequate. Parties should be run under stricter privacy legislation. There should be regular auditing of data and strict enforcement of privacy standards, and someone with some teeth who can do that.

I'll wrap up really quickly. Elections must be accessible and fair, but more importantly, folks must believe that they are accessible and fair. This bill takes some encouraging steps toward that end, but it could go further and probably should, especially in light of growing concerns about the sustained decline in voter turnout, as well as data rights and privacy.

Thank you.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much.

Now we'll go to Sherri Hadskey, Commissioner of Elections for Louisiana.

3:35 p.m.

Sherri Hadskey Commissioner of Elections, Louisiana Secretary of State

Hi, it's nice to be with you. I'm honoured to be able to speak with you today.

Louisiana has such a unique election system. I believe we have more elections than any state in the United States. You were speaking about voter fatigue, and that is a big problem in Louisiana. Generally we have four scheduled elections a year, but we always end up with special elections, and it's the ripple effect. A senator runs in the fall, wins a different seat, and that opens the first seat. Our legislature would like these people to be seated for each legislative session, so a special election is called, and we're looking for a better turnout for those types of elections.

We too are trying to find things to prevent voter fatigue and trying to get good turnout consistently. We have an 87% registration number, which is amazing. I'm so proud of that, but to have only 16% turnout in a [Inaudible—Editor] election cycle is saddening, because with the registration that we have, we would like to have the turnout match.

I'd love to be able to provide the answers to any questions you may have, and I'm just happy to be here.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much. We're happy you're here too.

Now we'll go on to Victoria Henry from OpenMedia Engagement Network.

3:35 p.m.

Victoria Henry Digital Rights Campaigner, Open Media Engagement Network

Hi there. Thanks so much for having me here to discuss this issue.

I'm Victoria Henry. I'm a digital rights campaigner specializing in privacy issues with OpenMedia, which is a community-based organization committed to keeping the Internet open, affordable, and free of surveillance. The revelations stemming from the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal have highlighted the extent to which our privacy laws are failing to protect the privacy of ordinary people in Canada and how this can influence elections.

While Bill C-76 makes some positive steps to protect the integrity of elections and safeguard our democracy, the omission of political parties from privacy legislation is a concerning gap, and that's the issue I'd like to talk about today.

People around the world are increasingly concerned, of course, about how their personal information is gathered, used, and stored. More than 10,000 people in Canada have recently signed on to a letter asking for reform of our privacy laws. The key demand in that letter is for Canada's political parties to be subject to federal privacy laws.

The existing privacy exemptions for political parties have left many Canadians convinced that the current system is not working in our best interests. We need guarantees that our government's political interests will not take precedent over our privacy and our security.

A national online omnibus survey conducted from May 7 to May 14 of this year revealed that a large majority—72% of Canadians—supported changing the law so that political parties follow the same privacy rules as private companies. In fact, only 3% support the status quo policy of fewer restrictions for political parties. This polling also showed that support for extending PIPEDA to political parties has broad support from partisans of all stripes. I can provide the full polling results, as well as the letter from Canadians, to the committee members with my notes.

These views are supported by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada in his testimony to this committee. The commissioner stated that information about our political views is highly sensitive and therefore worthy of privacy protection. Because of this, simply asking political parties to have their own privacy policies without defining the standards that must be applied is not enough.

For example, the standards set by Bill C-76 do not include measures such as limiting collection of personal information to what is required; obtaining consent when collecting, using, or disclosing personal information; or collecting information by fair and lawful means. Because of this, the Privacy Commissioner calls for internationally recognized privacy principles, not policies defined by parties, to be included in domestic law, and for an independent third party to have the authority to verify compliance. We support this call as well as the recommended amendments put forward by the commissioner's office.

The recent scandal clearly demonstrates how weak privacy safeguards can have serious effects that go beyond the commercial realm. With federal elections due in 2019, we need to safeguard our democracy and protect against undue influence stemming from online privacy violations. Many ministers have indicated that they're willing to strengthen our privacy laws. The status quo is at odds with the wishes of most people in Canada, whose confidence in our political processes is undermined by the singling out of political parties when it comes to privacy.

On behalf of the vast majority of people in Canada who support stronger privacy rules for political parties, I'm asking you today to strengthen the protection of our democratic institutions and to make these changes now.

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much.

Now we'll go to Sébastien Corriveau, of the Rhinoceros Party. Bienvenu.

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

We can't hear him.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We can't hear you. Hold on a second.

3:40 p.m.

Sébastien Corriveau Leader, Rhinoceros Party

No, it's me. I'm stupid. I forgot my button.

3:40 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Okay. Allons-y.

3:40 p.m.

Leader, Rhinoceros Party

Sébastien Corriveau

Okay. Take up your headphones. I will speak French also.

Ladies and gentlewomen, please turn on your cellphone and play Candy Crush; call your husband; reheat your dinner; text your lawyer; take a nap; take an emergency exit; close your eyes and stop listening: here comes the Dealer of the Rhinoceros Party of Canada. Hello.

Mr. Chairman, the Honourable Larry Bagnell, do you know that you used to be my member of Parliament? That was for three months in the summer of 2009, when I spent my summer in Whitehorse.

Dear committee, merci for welcoming me ici and now.

This is my first time appearing before a parliamentary committee and I think it is very appropriate to invite the leader of the Rhinoceros Party. Thank you. The members of the party and I do have good ideas at times.

It's always great to share them with you.

I would like to draw your attention to the public funding of political parties.

There is nothing about it in this bill. That was removed. The public funding of political parties was removed by the Stephen Harper government because he does not believe in corruption inside political parties.

It was Pierre Elliott Trudeau who established public funding for political parties in 1974. The purpose was to fight corruption in political parties and in the awarding of public works contracts. Abolished by Mr. Mulroney, the public funding system was reinstated by Jean Chrétien after the sponsorship scandal.

I would like it back.

The Prime Minister of Canada lied to Canadians when he said 2015 would be the last election with the first-past-the-post electoral system.

Our nation still has an archaic electoral system inherited from when Great Britain was our overlord, MPs listened to their local populations, and political parties had no party line that it was mandatory to follow.

In 2008, the Green Party of Canada received almost one million votes, yet they had no elected MPs—zero, nobody. At the same time, the Conservatives got 5.2 million votes, which is only five times more votes, and they elected 143 members of Parliament.

You call Canada a democracy? How cute. Five members of Parliament were elected with less than 30% of the vote, 69 members of Parliament were elected with less than 40% of the vote, and, 60% of the members of Parliament—206 MPs—were elected with less than 50% of the votes in their ridings.

Bill C-76 is off the track: you forgot to talk about what really matters in our democracy.

I agree that we have to make sure no interest groups will buy advertisements right before the election. You are right when you say that no other countries should interfere in our electoral process—except Russia: I would like money from Russia.

You can't tell me that you lack time to implement an electoral reform that is right—and right now.

I know that is not true, however. You have decided to set aside this change. When the time came, you decided not to go ahead with it. It is the same as with climate change: one day we will wake up and it will be too late.

I know that the only thing I can really change today by coming here is the public funding of political parties. Let me end with that.

In the report of the Special Committee on Electoral Report tabled in December 2016, entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform”, the committee recommended in chapter 7, section G — g like government — that the per-vote subsidy and funding of political parties be reinstated.

It had been eliminated in 2015.

That same report states that: “ [...] the current system of individual donations to political parties is less equal, as donations vary greatly between Canadians of different socio-economic levels.”

Public funding makes Canadians feel that their vote counts.

Appearing before the committee, Ms. Melanee Thomas stated:

[...] internationally, most countries do have some form of public financing. It's broadly seen to be a good thing, because the political party is a key institution linking representative institutions and the voting public.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the former chief electoral officer of Canada, recommends that it be reinstated.

Thank you.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you very much.

Thank you, everyone, for being here and for your wise counsel.

We'll start the round of questioning with Mr. Simms.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Chair, they say that one of the best things you can do is to always be transparent, and I always strive for transparency. Mea culpa to all my colleagues. I'd just like to put my cards on the table: from 1989 to 1991, I was one of the chief organizers for the Rhinoceros Party of Canada.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Floor-crosser.

3:45 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

June 7th, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Actually, if you recall, under the old guard Rhinoceros, 1990 was their last election, under Bryan Gold, if our guest can remember that, but probably not. He's a bit young. I ran that campaign. We came last, by the way. I've since crossed the floor, and things have been better since then.

That being said, Mr. Corriveau, you talked about many things, but can we go to Bill C-76 for just one moment? You believe in the limitations that we're putting on for third parties to get involved. By how many rubles would limitations be in your world?

3:45 p.m.

Leader, Rhinoceros Party

Sébastien Corriveau

How many rubles?