Evidence of meeting #77 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 petition.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Charles Robert  Clerk of the House of Commons
André Gagnon  Deputy Clerk, Procedure

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It would go to the second chamber. Okay.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

They're sorted by a committee first; they're not a direct.... My earlier suggestion was that it automatically trigger a debate, but in fact in the U.K. they're sorted by a backbench committee first, which we could also talk about in another session.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Fair enough.

My only other question is this: of the one-point-something million people who have signed this petition, do we know how many are repeat customers? Is it 1.1 million people or 1.1 million signatures from 300,000 people?

12:30 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

I'm sorry. I'm not sure I understand.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

You said that there are over a million signatures, right?

12:30 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Is it the same 100,000 people signing over and over again, or is it really a million people who have signed?

12:30 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Charles Robert

You can't sign the same petition twice.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

No, but you can sign all the different petitions.

12:30 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Charles Robert

Well, anyone can do that.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

My point is, is it the same people who are signing petitions every time, or are we constantly bringing new people into the process? Do we have any idea?

12:30 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

I don't think we would have the tools now to answer that question.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

All right. Thanks.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Are there other comments? I actually have a comment...Ruby, go ahead.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

You were stating that you can't sign the same petition twice. Are you certain of that? Has anyone ever tried something like that? Has there been suspicious activity? Have there been any hacks into the system? You said you had a secure system. I'm coming from another committee that was—

12:30 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

—talking purely about technology, so my mind is there right now. I'm just wondering how secure it is, whether there have been some threats, and how you've dealt with those kinks, if there have been any.

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

If you want to talk about the threats, if there were any, the threats were exactly the same ones as for the rest of the websites. That would answer that part.

In terms of being able to sign the same petition twice, we have systems in place to identify either the email address or the IP address. As you will remember, this committee decided to propose that there shouldn't be any IP addresses from the Government or Parliament of Canada, and to also make sure that there wouldn't be any email addresses from the government or Parliament.

Moreover, when you have duplicates, if it's a regular citizen and the same citizen tries to sign twice, we will get that in our analysis of the data.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Today people have multiple devices and multiple email addresses. We all do. We all probably do. We're all sitting around this table—

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

That's where you need to find a balance between the tools you have and the information you gather, in terms of making sure that those electronic signatures are valid. Clearly, if you go through both processes, the paper and electronic process, you could probably end up concluding that the electronic process is much more sophisticated and authentic than the paper petitions were. As you can imagine, sometimes the information there is very hard to demonstrate.

November 7th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Don't get me wrong, because I do think the benefits outweigh some of these issues. Overall, I simply wanted to get an understanding.

You think the e-petition program has been successful, from your perspective, and if anything were to be amended, it would be this particular rule. You shouldn't have to wait 120 days, because if you gathered the required number of signatures, you should be able to proceed with the process.

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

That certainly has come out. A lot of members, as you're probably aware, try to present petitions regarding a bill that will be debated in the House for second reading. If there are petitions coming to the House at that time, being tabled in the House, and your e-petition is stuck in that 120 days, you won't be able to table that petition with good timing.

Yes, this120-day maximum could be re-evaluated so that members could present the petition earlier in that process. That could be an item.

We have found that it has been cumbersome for some citizens not to gather supporters but to write in the information and all those things. Is the number of supporters still good at five? Should it be fewer? Should it be only one, or should it be no supporters at all? What could be looked at is the validation of the petition. The process we have right now is that the petition is validated at the end of the process, before it goes online. It's at that time that we sometimes find mistakes or find that adjustments need to be made. If significant adjustments need to be made, the person needs to contact all of their supporters, because it's essentially not the same petition that's being proposed.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

It must be embarrassing for the member to be putting their name on something and supporting it, and then—

12:35 p.m.

Deputy Clerk, Procedure

André Gagnon

The good thing about it is that at that point in the process, it's not yet public. It is still a discussion.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I have one final question.

What was the thought process behind not allowing the member who supports the petition to be able to see all the signatories? What's the idea behind that? In a paper petition, you would be able to see everybody who is signing on. You can see what region they come from. Maybe a lot of them are your constituents.

Why do we not have access to that information?