Mr. Speaker, free and fair elections are the fundamental essence of a democracy. While we know that more than half the world's population today lives under autocratic, dictatorial or otherwise democratically deficient regimes, Canadians, until recently, could be fairly confident that elections here were the gold standard in terms of freeness and fairness.
Let me assure folks who may be watching this debate that Canadian elections are indeed free in the sense that voters can be fully confident that the choices they make on their election ballots, supervised by Elections Canada, remain secret. However, when it comes to fair elections, where, by definition, all parties have an equal right to contest elections without fear, favour or interference and an expectation of a level playing field, voters may not yet be fully aware that the concept has increasingly been compromised in recent years in a variety of unacceptable ways.
Bill C-76, as with Bill C-50 earlier this year, falls far short of addressing the increasing vulnerabilities and threats, domestic and foreign, to the fairness of the federal election coming in 2019. In fact, Bill C-76 follows the Liberal government's pattern in this Parliament of introducing amendments to Canadian institutions and laws, in place for years, that are promoted as improvements but are actually regressive. We saw it in amendments to the Access to Information Act, Bill C-58, a flawed piece of legislation that was specifically condemned as regressive by the former information commissioner. Despite a significant number of tweaks, Bill C-58 remains regressive.
We saw it earlier this year in amendments to the Canada Elections Act, through Bill C-50, that claimed to end, or at least make more transparent, the Liberal Party's notorious cash for access fundraising events. The Liberals have made much of the new protocols, claiming to observe the letter of the amended law. It was passed in June but does not actually come into effect until December. Bill C-50 actually bakes into law a lobbyist cash for access loophole for Liberal fundraising, the notorious Laurier Club lobbyist loophole.
Bill C-76 makes similar false claims of strengthening and protecting the democratic Canadian electoral process. This is a bill that should have been before the House in more substantial form a year ago. It is a bill the Liberals are now rushing, actually stumbling, a more appropriate characterization, into law, with less than a year until the 2019 election. If anyone doubts the clumsiness of the Liberals' development of the bill, the government was forced to propose, and with its majority pass, in committee almost six dozen amendments. That is the definition of incompetence in government.
The Conservative Party, attempting to stiffen the legislation, proposed over 200 amendments. Regrettably, only six gained Liberal support. Major deficiencies remain. They include the use of the voter information card as acceptable voter identification and the Liberal insistence that all non-resident Canadians be allowed to vote, no matter how long they have been away from Canada, no matter whether they have paid taxes in recent years, no matter whether they follow Canadian politics or know the names of political candidates, and no matter whether they ever intend to return to Canada. As many as 2.8 million Canadian citizens are living outside the country.
I know the time is short, and I must say that I have noticed in the last few minutes a familiar stale stink wafting across the floor from the other side of the House. It smells to me as though we are about to hear the dreaded majority government democratic guillotine, the notice of time allocation. By the time the guillotine drops tomorrow, I would expect that barely three members of the opposition will have had a chance to speak to this incredibly flawed bill, Bill C-76.
I know the clock on the wall forces us to move to procedure.
I look forward to concluding my remarks tomorrow.