House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-31.


Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the answer should be fairly straightforward. Number one, when we bring forward legislation and we look to new laws, we have to bring forward witnesses, listen to witnesses, question witnesses on the veracity of their viewpoints, and we have to show basic respect for the fact that these witnesses have come forward.

I would like to speak about Ms. Tina Bradford who is a labour lawyer who tried to speak to the committee and she got all of 11 sentences in her statement. She was told by the chair that the committee was running out of time and that was the end of it. This is about whether or not someone should be allowed to vote and she was cut off after 11 sentences. This was an embarrassment. It was like a kangaroo court.

I asked her in questioning because I was the only one asking questions of witnesses who had taken the time to prepare briefs and the time to study. These were people who had come from the legal profession to provide the numbskulls that were looking at this legislation with answers. I cannot say it is anything else but numbskulls. If people are not going to do their homework, if they are not going to ask questions, then how can they say that they know what they are talking about?

I asked her specifically about the issue of voter fraud and enfranchisement. I asked, “Is what we're suggesting in Bill C-18 workable?” She told me that from her experience with working on enfranchising voters, that it was a ridiculous provision. That was her word. She said, “I've only been able to use this vouching system on one occasion and it's a ridiculous provision. It provides nothing to people who vote”.

I asked her again about the issue of voter fraud from her experience as a lawyer working on the street. She said, “In all my time volunteering at polling stations I've never experienced any voter fraud. What I do experience is that people are turned away voting for the first time in their lives, people who really want to vote and they are often being turned away”. That is what she gave us as testimony.

If people disagreed with it, they should have asked her questions. They should have had it on the record. To allow her 11 sentences, as a statement, shows that we simply are failing in this role in Parliament. As I said, I think it is a very dismal trade when such events are allowed to take place.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise to speak to this bill. I am actually delighted that we are getting it before the break because it is a bit disappointing in a way that, as the chair of rural caucus, it is an amendment that is specifically for rural Canadians and is coming so late in the game.

That being said, I am delighted that the entire House is cooperating to ensure that this important amendment gets through, so that rural Canadians are not disenfranchised through some administrative mistake. If not, then somehow we would all have been involved in making something that would have disenfranchised a majority of the voters in the next byelection in the prairies. A majority of voters north of 60 could easily not have been able to vote if we did not make this important amendment.

There are a number of other election provisions that I will speak to today, a few that should and could be made, but of course that is not the topic. The topic today is to primarily deal with these rural Canadians who otherwise could not have a vote.

Therefore, we have to make these administrative amendments. These provisions are to ensure that these Canadians will again be able to vote in a coming election, which could be soon, and certainly in the event of byelections.

I want to reassure rural Canadians that if for some reason this did not pass, they would still be able to vote because the Chief Electoral Officer has the authority to deal with such a crisis as this and to enfranchise people through whatever mechanisms are necessary. However, that is not really the way to run a navy, it is not the best way to solve this. We in Parliament who create these laws should, when we make an error, make these amendments even if it is an administrative error and fix the law so that all Canadians have the appropriate ability to vote.

That is why during the process of this bill I, too, as some others have mentioned, have urged the committee, Elections Canada and the department drafting the bill, to ensure that homeless people could vote. There are a number of homeless people across the country and we have to ensure that there are enough people who can vouch for them, and people working in the shelters who might know of their locations. There should not be a limit on the number who can sign for these people.

That is why the best solution is to get these people out of poverty. That is why I am very excited that a few weeks ago our leader made a great announcement for a first-ever comprehensive anti-poverty strategy in Canada that would take 30% of these people off the poverty list in the next five years. It would certainly reduce the problem.

We also have other efforts related to homelessness. We have one of the most successful social programs in history, I think, the SCPI program, which everyone I think in the House has eventually championed after seeing its results. It puts these homeless people in specific good shelters for a time until we solve the ultimate problem. Of course, we should be dealing with the root problems and hopefully getting them back into proper affordable housing, and regular housing, as they again get jobs et cetera.

However, until that time if they are in good shelters, we will have them with workers who can then enfranchise them and get them to vote. In particular in my area, I urge the government on this, we need a shelter for teenagers. We have one under that SCIPI program that we put in place for adults. There were none at all before that, particularly for men. We would want one for teenagers, so that we could segregate them. It would be much safer for them.

In the north homelessness is also a particular issue in that we do not want people lying in the streets at 60 below. They have to go somewhere and unfortunately, they are going into places where they should not be, where they have to offer sexual favours for shelter or they are crowded in, impugning on children where they should not necessarily be crowded in. All these things could be solved and hopefully some of it will be solved with this anti-poverty strategy that we have announced.

Today we are talking about the disenfranchisement of rural voters. I cannot imagine anyone in the House being against a provision that would ensure all rural Canadians are not stuck with this mistake. It should be fixed, so they can vote under the normal process as they did before.

I am talking particularly about individuals with no street address. Those of us who live in rural areas know many people who do not have a street address. We also know that there are entire communities without street addresses. When I lived in the north I did not have a specific street address. It was R.R. #1, Site 2, Comp 3. Some people live near the highway.

Provinces, territories and municipalities are trying to legislate an end to this problem because street addresses are needed for the fire department and for 911, so people can be found in an emergency. Thousands of people still do not fall into that category. That correction has not been made, and unless we amend the provisions in this bill today, they will not be able to vote.

Santa Claus and I visited a small community in my area on the weekend. This community is spread out along the highway and in rural bush areas where there are no addresses. Many people just have general delivery. A truck goes to the community every couple of days and drops all the mail at the post office. This legislation would not solve this problem.

In my community there are many people who live out in the bush. I remember going down roads in the middle of virtually nowhere and coming upon cabins. These people do not have a particular street address. Some of them have to fly in like they do in Nunavut. All sorts of people only have access to their communities by air and not by road. This may be a surprise to a number of southern Canadians, but there are many areas where there is no road access. In these cases it would be very difficult to have a defined street address as we in southern Canada understand it.

There are other people who could also be affected, such as first nations. I have urged in previous speeches that we make sure these people are not disenfranchised either through this bill or through further amendments to the Canada Elections Act.

Many first nations are in fly-in communities or they live on reserve. They may not have the same type of street numbering system that we are traditionally accustomed to. It is important that these people are not disenfranchised.

Fourteen first nations live in Yukon and a number of these are traditionally nomadic. They do not stay in one area for an entire year. They move around because of the various types of game harvesting or plant harvesting they need to do during various times of the year.

It is important that we take into account the nature of all Canadian lifestyles when we are developing an electoral system. This is not impossible to do.

A Mongolian delegation recently visited here. The Mongolian people, unlike Canadians, have many herds, many cattle, sheep, horses and goats, but they do not have fences or private property the way we do here in Canada. When they need to rest an area for the environment, they simply move their herds over to another steppe, or another mountain, or another valley.

Obviously, they do not have specific street addresses while they are moving around. I questioned them when they were here a couple of weeks ago and they said they had no problem in coming up with solutions to enumerating all their people and making sure that they have a very high percentage of voting, I believe higher than we do. That is great for a country in that part of Asia where democracies are not prevalent, particularly with the sad situation today in Burma.

The provisions were put in with the best intent. There are people who have come to members of Parliament with numerous examples suggesting the occurrence of fraud when identification is not available. Not very many cases could be prosecuted or taken to the final stages. Various people have alluded to many problems that would not be in the existing system if we changed the provisions so that they were similar to the provisions in a number of other countries.

I do not think anyone in the House would be against improving the integrity of the voting system in Canada. Certainly the hallmark of our democracy is one person, one vote. That people would try to circumvent that really strikes at the heart of our democracy, but in that sense, as I urged earlier in my speech, we have to make sure that in doing this, we do not disenfranchise people. That principle must apply to everyone.

I have mentioned several groups, such as the homeless, first nations people, and people in the rural areas who do not have a street address, but there are other groups in my constituency that I have mentioned in previous speeches on this bill, for example, students.

North of 60, there are no universities, so all our students make a grand migration to universities or colleges in the south. We do have excellent colleges in the north, such as Yukon College, which has some university credit courses, but many of the students in the three territories go to the south. I can say that as the northern critic. The students would be away at election time and would not be residing at their permanent street address. If for some reason they were not properly enumerated, they could fall into the trap of being disenfranchised.

This reminds me that I wanted to speak about the enumeration lists, as I am speaking about things that need to be corrected. I am speaking now to Elections Canada. I do not imagine there is a member of Parliament here who would not suggest that there have been some disastrous situations with the present idea of the permanent enumeration list.

Personally I am quite supportive of a permanent enumeration list, if it is kept up to date. I am sure all members of Parliament have gone to houses in recent elections where 20 or 30 people lived in the house according to the enumeration list. After people moved from the house, they were still listed as living in the house. The list had not been updated.

In my riding, there is a relatively high degree of mobility. There are all sorts of people who change their address, such as students and young people who move in and out with other people. Somehow they just do not show up on the enumeration lists and are therefore lost, or there are too many eligible voters. I am sure that accounts for part of the low degree of voting in Canada. If there are 20 people listed at one address where only three people live, that is going to show up as 17 people who did not vote. It will make it look like Canadians do not vote. Of course, they are not people who really live at the address; they are phantom residents. They have moved somewhere else and are double listed.

I encourage Elections Canada to modernize the enumeration lists to solve that problem. It is a good system to have a permanent list, but Elections Canada has to get a handle on who lives where so that when enumerators go door to door, the list is relatively accurate and the number of people who are enfranchised is more realistic, so we do not have to make amendments and we can spend our time debating ideas and policies.

There are other groups that we want to ensure are not disenfranchised. One of them is not specific to the north and that is the military. It has to do with the street address requirement for people who move around. The military has a unique way of voting. As I said in previous speeches, I want to make sure that members of the military are in no way disenfranchised by the amendments to improve the integrity of the voting system.

There are two other groups in my area. One is what we call snowbirds. A number of northerners, mostly retired people, go south for the winter, where there are lower heating costs and they can enjoy their retirement in a warmer climate. If they do not have an official street address and cannot vote, they would be unduly disenfranchised. I would urge the people in committee, in the department and in Elections Canada who are studying and improving the elections process to make sure they do not disenfranchise those people.

Another group is people who have to move quickly because of a medical emergency. I visited a hospital in the last election and there were people who had been brought to the hospital from out of town. Therefore, they were not in their poll and they could not vote. I want to make sure that in those cases, people can vote.

In conclusion, since we are breaking for the holidays, I would like to say meilleurs voeux, seasons greetings, auguri di buone feste, felices fiestas, peace, pax, paz, mir, mira poki, frieden.

Please support this bill so that rural Canadians are not disenfranchised. Let us get this bill through as quickly as possible.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Yukon still has two minutes left in his allotted time, plus the period for questions and comments.

We will move on to statements by members.

Mary Olson
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, this past week the town of Edson mourned the loss of long time community activist Mary Olson. She passed away at the young age of 53 during her second term as city councillor.

She was a devoted community organizer who was committed to giving back to the people of Edson. She was a founder of the Edson Women's Association and the Edson Youth Justice Committee and was instrumental in establishing the Edson and District Victim Services group.

If she had a passion, she brought it forward and she stood by it. She learned that determination after spending some time living on the streets with her single mother, Dorothy, as Dorothy struggled to finish university.

Through Mary's dedication to the community, her love for the people and her willingness to serve, she was an example to all of us.

Today, I honour Mary and her life of selfless giving to her family and her community.

Heritage Railway Stations
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Pacific Railway station in Fredericton has fallen into a state of total disrepair.

I am calling on the federal government to amend the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, which would close a major loophole.

The York Street site was designated in 1991 as a historic railway station under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. Unfortunately, the site has been neglected for years and its future is in question.

Under the act, a property owner cannot sell, demolish or renovate a site without the approval of the federal government, but it does not speak to inaction, neglect or abandonment.

Built in 1923, the CPR station in Fredericton was designated because of its historical and architectural qualities.

The federal government, through Parks Canada, must correct this flawed legislation and ensure that heritage sites are properly maintained and celebrated.

Book on Quebeckers of Haitian Origin
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour to attend the official launch of a book edited by Dr. Samuel Pierre for the Association des ingénieurs et scientifiques haïtiano-canadiens (AIHC), entitled Ces Québécois venus d'Haïti, Contribution de la communauté haïtienne à l'édification du Québec moderne.

This book takes the reader through the past 40 years of Quebec's history, telling the stories of 52 Quebeckers of Haitian origin. It is a touching tribute to these men and women who have formed close ties to our society. It is also a source of inspiration for younger generations and offers them models of determination, perseverance and excellence that encourage a positive outlook on the future.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I are happy to highlight the contribution of the AIHC and of all those whose time and energy went into the production of this unique book, which tells how members of the Haitian community have integrated into and contributed to Quebec society.

The Environment
Statements By Members

December 13th, 2007 / 2 p.m.


Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, immoral, dishonest, misleading; surprisingly, those are not the words of committee members delving into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. They are the words of the international community as it condemns Canada's refusal to commit to deep emissions reductions to fight global warming.

This week marked the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto protocol. World leaders are gathered in Bali trying to negotiate a global agreement on the second post-Kyoto phase. Why? Because, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pointed out, climate change is the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century.

However, under the stewardship of successive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada's greenhouse gases are now almost 33% above Canada's Kyoto target. We should be with the leaders of the world, not the laggards.

It is an abdication of leadership to suggest that the world can only sign a climate deal if the U.S. does. Canadians expect the Prime Minister to act in our interest, not in the interest of George Bush.

While climate change has been rapid, it is devastating that Canada's response is not.

Female Elected Officials
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations are in order for Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township Mayor Janice Visneskie on her recent acclamation to a second term as warden of Renfrew County.

Long before it became politically correct to demand gender equality among politicians, the smart voters of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke recognized the benefit of balanced representation to lead their local government.

As the first female elected to upper level government, I am joined by Warden Janice Visneskie, Mayor Ann Aikens of the Town of Deep River, Mayor Sandi Heins of the Town of Renfrew, Mayor Mary Campbell of McNab/Braeside Township, Mayor Raye-Ann Briscoe of Admaston/Bromley Township, Head, Clara and Maria Township Reeve Tammy Sonnenburg, and Town of Renfrew Reeve Audrey Green.

There is no higher calling than an elected office. I congratulate citizens of both genders who answer that call.

I look forward to working with Warden Visneskie and all members of councils in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke as we work together to improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

Joseph Zatzman
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the remarkable life of Joseph Zatzman ended this week. He was 95.

Born in St. John, he chose the community of Dartmouth as his adopted home. He opened a grocery store on Portland Street, moved into real estate, and became one of Nova Scotia's most significant landlords, most admired business people and prominent public citizens.

He was elected to town council and in 1963 was elected mayor of Dartmouth. He is our only Jewish mayor and is widely regarded as one of the best mayors in Dartmouth's proud history.

His most significant achievement, and also the most significant in Dartmouth's development, was his leadership in the birth and growth of Burnside Industrial Park. It was his project, his success and his legacy.

His post-mayoralty life continued to be one of achievement and recognition.

Although he lost some zeal for life after the death of his beloved Leah, he continued to be one of our most respected and beloved citizens until his death this week.

Our whole community feels his loss. To his family, including my friend, his son Michael, we offer our condolences on the loss of a man whose beliefs were simple--faith, family, and community--but whose achievements were remarkable.

Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Beirut an explosion killed Lebanese Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj and a number of other people. Canada strongly condemns this new terrorist attack, which comes at a time when Lebanon is putting forth considerable effort to find a political solution to the current crisis.

Canada sends its condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of Lebanon.

We also reiterate our firmest support for Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and his government.

This attack against the stability and democracy of Lebanon must not weaken the resolve of the Lebanese people to resist those who seek to destabilize their country.

Those who committed this act of violence and those who support them must be brought to justice.

Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Works finally announced on December 10, 2007, the federal government's contribution for the relocation of the Montreal planetarium to the Rio site.

During the press conference, the unelected minister put on a shameful display of partisanship unworthy of his position. Indeed, although the host of the event had planned to invite the federal representatives from east Montreal, the unelected minister apparently objected, despite the fact that these federal representatives joined forces to complete the project.

Furthermore, this unelected minister, showing absolute pettiness and a complete lack of ethics, took it upon himself to invite and introduce Conservative candidates from Montreal Island, emphasizing that they would likely be his future colleagues in the House of Commons.

Coming from someone who was not elected, this contempt for the democratic process is not only unacceptable, but I think it is safe to bet that Montrealers will not soon forget it.

Government Policies
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, what a refreshing change it is from a previous government that was full of talk and no action to a government that gets things done. We are a government that speaks and takes action, and that promises, then delivers.

Let us have a look at what the government has accomplished and what it has delivered. We have reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%.

We have reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. We have increased the amount Canadians can earn before paying income tax to $9,600.

We have delivered $100 per month to parents for each and every child under six years of age.

We have reduced the national debt by $37 billion, with interest savings used to further reduce taxes.

When it comes to protecting our streets, the government has delivered by introducing sweeping reforms on the justice front.

After having listed a number of initiatives that will put more dollars than ever before in the pockets of all Canadians, I would like to wish all members of the House, and indeed all Canadians, a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year.

Dunlap Observatory
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the David Dunlap Observatory opened in 1935 on land donated in trust to the University of Toronto by the widow of astronomy supporter David Dunlap. Under the terms of the trust, the Dunlap heirs would regain ownership of the university facility if it closed.

The University of Toronto recently announced that it will declare the observatory surplus and put it up for sale.

I believe that this is such an important historic site because it is the largest observatory east of the Rocky Mountains and it is where the first black hole was discovered in 1972 by astronomer Thomas Bolton.

It is unfortunate that at this time it will be the highest bidder who will control that particular property.

I have spoken with and urged the Government of Canada to consider creating a large national urban park that would be the first of its kind in the greater Toronto area. I believe that all orders of government should participate in support of this. I believe the residents of Richmond Hill want to maintain this great jewel, not only for the people of Richmond Hill, but for Canada.

Bloc Québécois
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is like Santa Claus. The story is that he is the one who makes and delivers the gifts, but we know that is not what really happens.

People can write letters to Santa Claus, but at the end of the day, it is our government that has the means to take action, to keep its word and to deliver the goods.

The Bloc Québécois has introduced 242 private members' bills, but has managed to get just two private members' bills passed and that was just to change the names of two ridings. If the Bloc was truly Santa Claus, then Quebec families would be disappointed with their gifts this year.

For every issue, the Bloc has a solution. The only problem—and it is a huge problem—is that they are stuck in the opposition benches and cannot implement their solutions.

Those who do not have the responsibility that comes with being in power can say or ask for anything they want. Our government is proud to act in the interest of Quebec and Canadians where the Bloc simply cannot.

Government Policies
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker: the softwood lumber sellout, which increased raw log exports, the rapid expansion of the tar sands so we can pipe bitumen to the U.S., the deregulation of air traffic safety, and the introduction of security certificates. I could on about all the shameful ways in which the Conservative government is harmonizing Canada's trade, safety and environmental policies with George Bush's United States.

Canadians know that the introduction of these measures will have long-lasting negative impacts on our jobs, our communities and our sovereignty. Under the Security and Prosperity Partnership, Canada will have less and less ability to adopt independent and sustainable economic, social, cultural and environmental policies.

In the long run, this could have a lethal effect on Canadian public programs such as universal health care and public education.

As members of Parliament, we are each privileged to represent a portion of this country, but we also have a duty to protect it. I see it as my duty to do all I can to stop the SPP from going any further.