Evidence of meeting #144 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 signatures.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Vice-Chair  Mrs. Stephanie Kusie (Calgary Midnapore, CPC)
David Natzler  Clerk of the House, United Kingdom House of Commons
David Christopherson  Hamilton Centre, NDP
André Gagnon  Deputy Clerk, Procedure
Jeremy LeBlanc  Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications
Linda Lapointe  Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Lib.
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon

12:15 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

No, we can't, but there are suspicions.

Quite honestly, it would only matter in the case of a petition that was very close to the 25-signature threshold. Once you pass 25 valid signatures, whether there are 26, 226 or 2,026, it doesn't make a huge difference in terms of certification or not.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I have one final question on the electronic signatures.

Who receives the signatories' data? When somebody has signed a petition, who is going to have access to that data?

12:15 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

Staff in the Journals Branch are the only ones who would have access to it, and as André mentioned, it's destroyed at regular intervals. We have access to it for the purpose of validating or verifying if there's something suspicious about it, but outside the staff who are managing the process, nobody does.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

The members who have actually contributed the petitions won't have access to that data either.

12:15 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

They do not.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Just before we go to Mr. Reid, can you tell me how you go back a screen from the one you have up now? If you go to the start, do you click on the petitions website thing at the top?

12:20 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

To get to the portal on the petitions website, if you're logged in as a member of Parliament, there's a button that appears at the top that says in green either “Member of Parliament” or “Député”, en français. Clicking on that button will bring you to the MP portal from the petitions website.

Also, whenever there's something that appears in your portal, you'll also get an email alert and you can click on a link that will bring you there.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

On that opening screen, if you click on “Create”, is that where you get the choice of paper or electronic?

12:20 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

That would be for creating an electronic petition. There's information available to people in the “About” section that has templates for creating paper petitions, but the “Create” link—

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

You would go to the “About” section first.

12:20 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

There are links to a guide on paper petitions that gives you templates and information there. “Create” would really be for creating an electronic petition.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

This is just an idea, but don't you think it might make it clearer on that opening screen if it were to say “Create Paper” or “Create Electronic”, or something? It's something to think about.

Mr. Reid is next.

February 28th, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Thank you both for being here. I congratulate you on these very thoughtful improvements. I particularly like the idea of keeping a running count of the number of signatures that have been accumulated so far.

There's a process that goes on at Parliament Hill that I think is ultimately frustrating. If I get a petition with several thousand signatures, I divide it up into the minimum number of pages possible and distribute it as widely as possible. Anybody who sits through the petitions period in the House knows that the same petition will be mentioned over and over again, presumably for the purpose of creating the illusion that there's a greater level of support for this concern than for the other competing concerns that are being expressed in other petitions.

In a type of tragedy of the Commons, similar to what happens when fishing grounds get overfished, we see people wasting a bunch of the House of Commons' time reiterating the same item over and over again. This change helps to perhaps get around that by showing how much actual support there is for each topic, so congratulations on that.

By the way, I'm as guilty as anybody else of participating in that type of thing in the House of Commons.

I want to ask some questions regarding a couple of technical areas.

If a petition is submitted in one official language, it's then translated. Does the originator of the petition get the opportunity to see the translation prior to it going up, or is it simply assumed that it is...?

12:20 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

Are we talking here about the e-petition, or the—

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I'm sorry; it's the e-petition I'm referring to.

12:20 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

In neither case would we send the translation back for validation unless we received a particular request from the petitioner to validate it in advance. Typically, we don't.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Let me ask something slightly different. If you get it in both official languages—I'm speaking of e-petitions, not paper petitions—do you confirm to make sure that it says the same thing in both languages? The obvious question is that if it doesn't, how would you deal with that?

12:20 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

If it is an e-petition, the user doesn't have the opportunity to enter it in both languages. The screen doesn't allow them to enter the text in English and in French. It's whatever—

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

They must choose one language.

12:20 p.m.

Principal Clerk, Chamber Business and Parliamentary Publications

Jeremy LeBlanc

They choose the language that they submit it in, and there are rules prohibiting people from having two petitions open simultaneously that are on the same topic. If you tried to enter the same petition in another language, that wouldn't be allowed because it's the same petition, so they're stuck submitting it in one language.

However, as I say, if a petitioner expresses an interest in verifying the translation or wants to have a say in what the translation looks like, we can certainly co-operate with them. There's an email address that they can send questions to, and we get back to them.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

This committee held extensive hearings and published a report on the use of indigenous languages in Canada, and there has been considerable interest in the House in particular in the use of indigenous languages in the proceedings of the House of Commons.

As a practical matter, I've expressed my own reservations as to how easy it actually is to achieve a utopia in which a member of Parliament can pop up and begin speaking a non-official language in the House and expect to be understood. Although we've done our best to find a workable solution, the reality is that there are limits to what can be done.

When it comes to the issue of submitting a petition or having a petition available in one of our indigenous languages, is that an option that exists at the moment? If it doesn't exist, is it the sort of thing that could be made to exist if you got appropriate direction from the House?

12:25 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

Clearly, today the only two languages that can be used in a petition would be French or English. That said, when a petition is tabled in the House, nothing would prevent an individual from speaking in an indigenous language.

In terms of having it appear on the website, if we're talking about—

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's what I'm asking about.

12:25 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

—having it in another language, that would probably necessitate a change to the Standing Orders and certainly in practice, and also the different languages that would be permitted would need to be identified.