Evidence of meeting #141 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

Stéphane Perrault  Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada
Stephanie Kusie  Calgary Midnapore, CPC
Linda Lapointe  Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Lib.

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Right. It seems to me then that one of the challenges we face with this whole conversation is that when we learn that, let's call it a crime, has been committed, or an attempt has been made to misdirect the voter intention, a government could have been sworn in, conducting itself for many months, passing budgets and declaring or not declaring wars. Then we find out that an incident took place. That is the scenario the Americans are dealing with right now.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Right. I would imagine that with the resources the Democrats and the Republicans have, which are more significant than any party's in Canada, they were unable and were not required to have certain protocols in place to protect them and their databases. We have the same situation in Canada.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Okay.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

Sorry, if I may, I would add that we at Elections Canada and the security establishments are engaging the political parties on this issue. This is something other countries did not have the benefit of.

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

No political party will be required to attain a certain level of security by Bill C-76 before the next election. You can consult with us, and the security intelligence community can consult with us, and advise us, but no party is required to do anything, other than stating a protocol on a website.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

February 7th, 2019 / noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Nor are social media agencies required to do anything under Bill C-76, or under this new protocol. This was a question we put to the government. We said that when it came to a whole bunch of the rules that are being established, there were the musts and therefores and shalls, but when it came to social media, the government had a set of expectations and hopes that Facebook, Twitter and others would conduct themselves in a certain way.

Those of us in politics have all experienced a lie spreading around about us, and once it's out, the genie is out of the bottle. Last year, I had a terrible headline about me on a major news network, and it took us four hours of talking to the news network saying, “That's not what happened.” The reporter admitted it, and then the headline was changed, but it didn't matter. They changed it, but it had already made its way around Twitter and social media, so much so that I spent the next five days trying to correct the false headline about what I had or hadn't done.

I'll take it to something that is in your purview: voting polls and voting stations. I remember an incident a number of years ago in which Jewish Canadian voters in a couple of Toronto ridings were contacted on the Sabbath, by people claiming to be with the federal Liberal Party. It didn't originate with the federal Liberal Party. It was somebody else doing it, trying to provoke anger in constituents in some ridings. They had somehow gotten access to the list of Jewish Canadian voters who were likely to vote Liberal.

One could imagine having access to that incredibly rich data, targeting particular Canadians with a particular message on voting stations, which we also saw: “Go here, not there.” You know that when a voter goes to line up at a voting station, gets all the way to the front and Elections Canada says, “I'm sorry, you can't vote here. You are in the wrong place. Drive across town and vote where you are supposed to,” many voters simply won't vote. It is a great tactic, or technique, for voter suppression. Is that fair to say about voters going to the wrong polling station?

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

It's certainly been a proven tactic in many countries.

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Sure, okay, let's say that, “in many countries” if you send the voter to the wrong place, and they wait for a few hours, they're unlikely to vote again. If they target voters of a political party, send them to the wrong polling station, would you have any power under that scenario, or the commissioner, to investigate?

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

If there's—

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

—disinformation.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

Absolutely, and there have been, as you know, investigations and prosecutions, so there are powers after the fact.

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Yes, after the fact.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

The real important thing is pushing out and rapidly responding with the right information.

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Again, I go back to my scenario about a bad story going viral. I'll take another party. If every New Democratic voter in Nanaimo is sent to the wrong polling station with disinformation, by the time it's identified and caught and investigated, voting day is over—

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

—and you can't declare that result null and void because of that investigation.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

There are three aspects. One is prevention. Another one is resiliency. The third one is sanctions. Those sanctions are the least thing—

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

They're the least effective because it's after the fact.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

Yes. Resiliency is the second thing. Resiliency is pushing out correct information—

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Right.

Noon

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

—and responding. The first thing is prevention. This is why on the privacy side parties have a requirement now to have a policy. Again, we will be engaging the parties on that. That requirement will be triggered shortly, and then they will have three months to have those policies. That should include measures to safeguard the data. That's where we are on this.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

This is my last point.

I think of a foreign entity that a current government has upset recently with advanced cyber communication and the ability to hack into systems. Let's just take China, for example. That said, not even doing it, but the threat of doing it, of saying, “We're going to contact every one of your voters and send them to the wrong polling station”, without the proper privacy protections is a legitimate threat. Our powers, as Elections Canada or the commissioner, to investigate afterwards, are all after the fact.