Mr. Speaker, I made my first address in the House yesterday. You were not in the chair at the time, so I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election. I wish you well in your position and I wish you the best in terms of dealing with the stress that the job creates.
With regard to the legislation before us I wish to make several points. We are in support of the thrust of the bill to provide party status to those groups that can muster 12 members to run on their behalf.
Our concern is much more with the inadequacy of the bill on a number of other points. Recognizing the time I have, I wish to address the lack of updating the permanent enumeration list from the perspective of the experiences I have had. I have now ran on three occasions, and on each occasion I was confronted with similar problems that resulted in the inability of people in my riding to vote on election day.
I will use one example. As a result of the unfortunate death of Shaughnessy Cohen, there was a byelection in my riding in 1999. There was construction going on at the time in the town of Tecumseh in one of the suburban areas.
When I ran again in the November 2000 election, I happened to be canvassing door to door in that area. I was knocking on doors of some people that I had met in the previous two election campaigns, but then I crossed the street and I began consistently running into residents that had clearly not been put on the voters list. I was with a couple of supporters and we decided to cover the whole area to see who was not on the list. It turned out that it was a new subdivision and well in excess of 100 voters were not on the voters list.
The point I suppose I should emphasize is that at this stage it was only about seven or eight days before the election and all these people had some significant difficulty voting on November 27. If a regular enumeration had been conducted prior to the vote and during the election period, these people would have been easily picked up and they would have had minimal or no difficulty on election day.
I should make a point that the returning officer in our area was not somebody who neglected her responsibilities. In fact I thought she was quite positive in the way she did her job. She did it as effectively as she could but was hampered both by the shortness of the election period and by the other tools that she did not have.
There were other areas where we had trouble. The one of particular concern to me was with immigrants to Canada who had only recently achieved the ability to vote under the Canada Elections Act. We have had a major in-migration in my riding, particularly from the Middle East. There are some difficulties with language. As a result a number of people in two areas of my riding where they tended to settle were not on the voters list. If an enumeration were conducted we would have been able to identify those people, get them on to the voters list and facilitate their ability to vote.
In many cases, when these individuals did go to the polls, they had particular difficulty because of language. Often they spoke English or French but they had difficulty with the language. They needed extra support in order to work their way through the system and had to bring the proper identification in order to vote on election day. Again, a good number of them ended up being disenfranchised.
There are certain areas in my constituency with people who are of low income. We have, as is the case in a number of other major municipalities, a housing problem. These individuals often have difficulty affording housing and are moving on a regular basis. The lack of enumeration of these individuals during the election period again tends to disenfranchise them. They end up being disenfranchised almost on a class basis because they are forced to move often due to the cost of housing. We are caught in a situation where we disenfranchise them.
A number of these people often have difficulty with their identification and are not able, even if they are determined enough to go to the polls on election day, to produce the necessary identification.
In one area of my riding it is a financial issue. If people show up at the poll and do not have their identification with them, they have to actually take a bus, because the poll is so large, go back home, get their identification and then come back. Those few dollars that it cost them is often enough to dissuade them from voting on election day. So we disenfranchise them.
The University of Windsor, although not located in my riding, has a number of students who come in from outside to vote in the riding where they may be residing while they go to school. The lack of enumeration restricts a number of them and they often have difficulty on election day producing identification that would make it possible for them to vote. They end up being disenfranchised.
We all know the figure that has been publicized, the one million plus voters who were not on the voters list on election day on November 27, 2000. That, by any standards, is unacceptable in a democratic country.
We would ask the government to reconsider the legislation and to provide additional amendments that would make it possible to have enumeration conducted during the course of the election.