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Evidence of meeting #54 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 mandate.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ian McCowan  Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Governance), Privy Council Office
Natasha Kim  Director, Democratic Reform, Privy Council Office

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

I would have to look at the record.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

You don't recall?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

I don't recall. I don't think I voted in favour of it, but I would have to double-check.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Okay. Some of your colleagues within the government ranks did. It was one of the recommendations.

What Chelsea was asking the Prime Minister about was his broken promise on electoral reform, particularly bringing in a fairer voting system.

We know from Equal Voice and from a lot of studies that proportional systems tend to elect more women. The Prime Minister has declared many times that he is a feminist and is interested in electing more women, but he rejected the proposal that the committee of all parties put forward to him, as you did, for a proportional system.

Here is another way of getting at it. As my colleague said, we have to find other ways. One of the ways is through the nomination process, encouraging parties to nominate women and discouraging them from nominating men and other overrepresented groups in our Parliament.

You've seen the bill. You've had a chance to vote on such a bill. You've seen the committee report recommending this. The Conservatives joined with the Green and the Bloc in recommending this. I know some liberals had some interest it as well.

Are you open to accepting such a proposal?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

I'm open to receiving such a proposal and other proposals. I think it's important that we do think about innovative mechanisms to engage women in politics.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you, Minister. Time's up.

Mr. Simms.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for being here.

I want to go to Bill C-33, if I may, and focus on the substance of it. I appreciate the other parts if it, including the tabling, as Mr. Christopherson brought up. I appreciate Mr. Christopherson's comments about that, and yours as well, but I do want to talk about what this is.

To me, there are two parts to it. There are things in there that we talked about when we campaigned and in terms of what we would do as part of the mandate letter. The other part, if I can try to describe it subtly, is to “untangle the tangly bits” that were left over from the unfair elections act from the last time. I've often described it as being a solution to a problem that never existed.

One of those is the voter information card. I am a huge fan for several reasons. The median age in my riding is high. We have a lot of seniors. It's also a rural area, so a lot of people lack the identification required for addresses and so on and so forth. I'm sure a lot of the opposition would say, well, you have to have a certain amount of identification to vote. A certain amount of identification is required. That I understand. But by doing that, and by creating so many barriers, and lifting these barriers, to a point where we violated a charter right, which is your right to vote....

The voter information card was essential. Perhaps I could describe it this way. Many seniors would take this card and put it on their fridge or somewhere in the kitchen to remind them about voting. They'd rely on that so much to be able to walk into the booth and say, “I want to cast my vote”.

I appreciate that, and I'm wondering if you could comment on that.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

I also agree with that. I think it is very important. That's why in Bill C-33 we are proposing measures within that legislation to make the voter identification card one piece that could serve as a piece of identification in future elections. I think it's incredibly important.

I'm sure many of us in this room and in this Parliament have stories to tell of people who were turned away at the polls because they didn't have proper identification. We know that about 120,000 Canadians cited their reason for not voting as the lack of proper identification.

I think it's one way to ensure that people who have the right to vote are able to vote, and can do it as efficiently as possible.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you, Minister.

The second part deals with what we talked about on the campaign trail, about what we would do as a government. This is what interests me. When I first came to Parliament in 2004, there was a debate about lowering the voting age at the time. The whole point of the debate was to engage young people in voting. My colleague Ms. Sahota talked earlier about getting young people to vote, to get involved. It was about the involvement of young people, as was illustrated in Daughters of the Vote.

Registering youth from the ages of 14 to 17 is a very intriguing idea. I believe other jurisdictions around the world have tried this, to engage voters in getting involved—not voting, but getting involved—in the registration process. Can you or your officials give this committee a sense of how this will translate into more involvement for people between the ages of 14 and 17?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Certainly. Thank you.

I think this is an important issue. I know that when I go to speak to high school students, I always ask them to commit to one thing, and that's to vote when they turn 18. At that point, at least, they all raise their hands and make that commitment. I hope they do follow through with that.

One thing we know is that when young people start voting early, they end up voting often. What I mean by this is that it becomes a habit. It becomes something they do continuously throughout their lives. The more we can do to make it easier for young people to be engaged, to be registered, to already be part of that process, I think the better it bodes for the future of participation and engagement in Canadian democracy.

Do you have anything you want to add?

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Governance), Privy Council Office

Ian McCowan

I would just say that studies from Canada, Australia, and the U.S. indicate that civic education has a positive impact on subsequent civic participation and voter turnout, etc. There's clearly a body of evidence out there in this area.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

The other thing too—sorry, Ms. Kim, I didn't mean to exclude you in this conversation—is that it also leads into the fact that one of the other things that Bill C-33 would do is to empower the CEO to be more involved with the educational aspect and publicizing some of the facts about voting. I guess that leads in well to allowing young people to register to vote. I commend you for that.

Ms. Kim.

12:35 p.m.

Natasha Kim Director, Democratic Reform, Privy Council Office

I was just going to add that one of the positive aspects of the pre-registration is that it could be used as a fairly concrete call to action when Elections Canada does conduct civic education activities with youth in high schools so that there's something they can do to be part of the process.

Then other aspects of the bill would then facilitate, for example, the receiving of voter information cards once you're registered, so you would have a piece of ID that you could then take to the polls at the same time.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Going back to the voter information card again, am I right in saying that's the only piece of federal identification—a thorough federal identification—that exists currently across the country?

12:40 p.m.

Director, Democratic Reform, Privy Council Office

Natasha Kim

The Canada Elections Act provides a number of options to prove your identity and your residence. If it were just one piece of ID, you'd need the name, address, and photo—and really that's the driver's licence, which is provided by the provinces.

There's another option, where you can have two pieces of ID that collectively would establish your name and address. There are various federal pieces that Elections Canada has authorized for that list, but it would have to be used in conjunction with another piece of ID.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you.

Minister, earlier you mentioned that you'd like some ideas and advice on certain issues. Here is one I would like to put forward for your evaluation. You don't have to answer yes or no, because it requires a bit of investigation. I do believe this exists now in Newfoundland and Labrador, where I'm from.

For the situation of vouching, one of the problems we have in rural areas is that a person walks in but has forgotten their ID. They've just driven about 20 or 25 kilometres to get to the poll, which is common in rural Canada. They get turned away for a lack of ID, or they forgot something—they didn't realize they needed a second piece—and as they were turned away, they don't come back because they have to drive long distances. It's hard when you're in a small town and you look at someone you've known for 40 years—

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Your time is up.

You're going to have to have a conversation with the minister at another time.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

That's very gracious of you, sir.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Reid.

March 9th, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I could tell that Scott was just warming up.

First of all, I want to thank you, Minister, for meeting with me on Monday afternoon. I thought it was a very informative and fruitful meeting. Likewise, thank you for adopting what I think is a business-like approach to the legislation that is necessary in order to act upon the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations. Again, that is much appreciated. Finally, thank you for the eight-page letter in which you responded to my questions regarding the MyDemocracy.ca survey.

I had some things I wanted to ask about on that, but I might hold off, given the exchange you had with Mr. Cullen and ask you this question instead.

Why won't you answer his question about the date on which you were given your mandate by the Prime Minister? What's the reason for not answering that?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Mandate letters are made public, and mine was made public on February 1. That's the day it was public, and that's the day it was official.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

It's not the date that it was official, actually; the date that it was given to you would be the date that it was official.

Let me ask you this way. You became minister on January 11 I think.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

January 10.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Okay.

Were you given your mandate letter at that time?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

At that time, I was sworn into cabinet and began to have briefings and to engage on the file.