House of Commons Hansard #371 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elections.

Topics

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question by the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington is at the core of what Bill C-76 is trying to do. It is trying to ensure dignity for all Canadians when they want to go to cast their ballot.

I do not know about my colleagues, but I have scrutineered at polling stations and seen someone who was going to cast their ballot being refused. It might be someone who just got the courage to vote. Even though voting is a relatively simple thing, it can actually be quite scary and daunting the first time, especially for people who do not feel like they are necessarily included in society. It is extraordinarily important to ensure that people have their dignity and feel empowered to go to vote with confidence.

Section 3 of the charter guarantees our right to vote. That is what this bill is achieving and that is what this bill is protecting and—

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I will try to get two more questions in.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this bill includes hundreds of amendments because it was so deeply flawed. It was all put under time allocation, not just here in the House but also at committee, which the Liberals previously argued vociferously against.

This is not just a historic day as this place begins its final hours before undergoing renovations, but also a day of irony that the last bill passing this chamber is about the foundations of our democracy, how we vote and how our votes are counted.

It also must be somewhat ironic for the minister, because her first act as minister was to fall on her sword for the Prime Minister and break the electoral reform promise. That was the first thing. The last thing the minister will be doing is passing a democratic bill through the House while restricting debate on the bill, which the Liberals said no one should ever do. It is unfortunate. However, the reason for that happening is that there was so much delay. The minister knows that as well as I.

My one question is this. As we look ahead, the Liberals put very little in the bill to protect Canadians against hacking by foreign governments. As we are seeing what is happening with China, Russia and all of these foreign nations right now, does the minister not believe, as her own members at the ethics and information committee believe, that political parties must be subject to privacy laws, not just suggestions or posting something on their websites, but under privacy laws as the Liberals at their own committee agreed just yesterday?

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his hard work on this file. It has been a privilege to work with him. We are here representing Canadians and it is a real honour and privilege to do just that.

In Bill C-76, there are important measures with regard to privacy, as my colleague mentioned, but also with regard to ensuring that there is no foreign funding or foreign interference in our next election. It is integral and imperative that we pass Bill C-76 in order to protect our upcoming election in the next year.

I welcome and congratulate the members of the ethics committee for their excellent report and investigation that garnered international headlines for the good work they did. I am currently reviewing their recommendations and I thank them for that work. As I have always said, I welcome further study on this issue.

I look forward to carrying on this discussion. Members from all parties did truly excellent work and I am sure that we can continue to work together in the future to ensure that we get this right.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I did say that I would try to get two more questions in, but we have actually run out of time.

That being the case, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

All those in favour of the motion, will please say yea.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

All those opposed will please say nay.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

And five or more members having risen:

Bill C-76—Time Allocation MotionGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #981

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

Alleged Intimidation of Members—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised on December 4, 2018, by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley concerning certain responses to Oral Questions.

I want to thank the member for having raised the question, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to Government House Leader and the members for Portage—Lisgar and Timmins—James Bay for their observations.

The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley maintained that during question period on December 3 and 4, in response to questions about members of the Liberal caucus, the Prime Minister and the government House leader threatened opposition members with legal proceedings if they repeated their allegations outside of the House. He felt that this constituted intimidation that could prevent the opposition from holding the government to account and therefore a violation of his privileges.

For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader reminded members that the privilege of free speech comes with a sense of responsibility for any remarks made. He argued that the question raised was simply a disagreement as to facts.

I wish to remind the House that members enjoy absolute immunity when speaking during our deliberations. Free speech, a cornerstone of the rights and parliamentary privileges accorded to members is, as explained in citation 75 of the sixth edition of Beauchesne at page 22, “...both the least questioned and the most fundamental right of the Member of Parliament on the floor of the House and in committee.”

But while it is essential to the functioning of our parliamentary business, the word “free” cannot be thought to be synonymous with “limitless”. Speaker Fraser stated on May 5, 1987, at page 5766 of the Debates:

Such a privilege confers grave responsibilities on those who are protected by it....All Hon. Members are conscious of the care they must exercise in availing themselves of their absolute privilege of freedom of speech. That is why there are long-standing practices and traditions observed in this House to counter the potential for abuse.

While the allegation in question should call for serious reflection, I do not have the power to comment on the scope of the answers given by the government nor to rule on the disagreement existing between the members as to the interpretation to be given to the facts. Speaker Jerome affirmed this on June 4, 1975, at page 6431 of Debates:

...a dispute as to facts, a dispute as to opinions and a dispute as to conclusions to be drawn from an allegation of fact is a matter of debate and not a question of privilege.

The third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 148, makes it clear that my role is rather limited to, and I quote:

...take into account the extent to which the matter complained of infringed upon any Member’s ability to perform his or her parliamentary functions...

In the present case, the member has not demonstrated to the Chair that he was prevented from speaking in parliamentary proceedings and therefore unable to perform his parliamentary duties. Accordingly, I cannot find that there is a prima facie breach of privilege.

That being said, everyone must consider the content of their remarks in the House. Members, of course, have broad freedom of speech, but we must never forget the potential effect of the words spoken during the vigorous debates that animate the House. Self-restraint and the utmost of respect are required in all circumstances.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Bill C-421—Speaker's RulingCitizenship ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

On Thursday, December 6, 2018, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented its 80th report to the House. In its report, the committee recommended that Bill C-421, an act to amend the Citizenship Act in regard to the adequate knowledge of French in Quebec, standing in the name of the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, be designated non-votable.

Pursuant to Standing Order 92(4), the member appealed the committee's decision by filing with the Speaker a motion to that effect signed by himself and at least five other members of the House representing a majority of the recognized parties in the House.

I wish to inform the House that the appeal of the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île in relation to the designation of Bill C-421 meets the requirements of Standing Order 92(4). Accordingly, I direct that a secret ballot be held on Tuesday, January 29 and Wednesday, January 30, 2019, on the following motion:

That Bill C-421, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec) be declared votable.

The House resumed from December 12 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments, and of the amendment.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has four minutes remaining in questions and comments.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, what we have before us is very positive legislation that will have a positive impact on democracy in Canada.

I know from personal experience, whether it is the voter identification card or many other aspects of the legislation that the minister has brought forward, that it will assist in enabling more participation in elections.

A good majority of the recommendations that were brought forward in from the previous chief electoral officer have been incorporated. This is good legislation. Given the significance of the day, and many have commented that this might even be the last day in this beautiful chamber for the next 10 years, it is appropriate that we are debating this bill. It is positive legislation that will enhance Canada's democracy.

Could the member provide a comment?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is some history being made, an ironic sense of history, because the Liberals have put the bill under time allocation. When my friend sat in opposition, he said that it was a horrible thing for the then Harper government to do. Yes, it is historical, but it is also ironic.

I said to the government consistently that we needed to put all political parties under privacy laws. That was a recommendation from the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner and the study that was commissioned by the minister herself of our spy agencies to prevent the threat of foreign hacks into our elections, as happened in the Brexit vote and the recent U.S. federal election. The Liberals ignored all of that and said they wanted to study that threat some more. What a great thing to do with a threat.

This place is historic and it does deserve our respect. Passing a bill this way, with this major flaw missing in the bill's entire composition, is an unfortunate way to commend this place to the renovation nigh for some number of years.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to hear my colleague's thoughts on some of the remarks by the minister today. She made a lot of the fact that what had come back from the Senate was, effectively, a technical amendment, that all parties supported it and that it was a drafting error. She said that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs had been looking at this issue for a year or more.

As I understand it, PROC did not have this bill for a year. It is a huge bill with a lot in it. It was time allocated in the House and in committee. That kind of rushing to get things done, particularly after the Liberals sat on their hands for over two years in bringing forward some of these important reforms, is exactly the way we end up with technical errors in a bill. When the government tries to ram a huge omnibus bill through the House and committee, that is how these kinds of mistakes are made.

Now we are being told we need to move this through the House quickly. Could my colleague give us a little perspective on the process that has gotten us here?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, how we got here is the problem. The Liberals sat on the bill for hundreds of days and sat on the previous version of the bill for hundreds more days, having wasted almost three years in the process. Elections Canada gave a deadline over 200 days ago for the legislation to pass, so now not all of this bill will be incorporated. That was the problem.

One would think, after the Liberals betrayed their promise on electoral reform, the very next thing they would do to undo the unfair elections act by the Harper government would have been to get on with it, the urgency of now, but they did not.

Now we have the Senate fixing a democratic bill for the House that was passed. It is a shame, unfortunate and entirely due to the lack of any sense of responsibility or urgency on the part of the government.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-76, the elections modernization act, with my esteemed colleagues.

This bill would be a generational change to the Canada Elections Act. Many of the changes proposed in this bill are long overdue and would fulfill long-standing recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer to adapt the administration of Canada's federal elections to a modern age.

Bill C-76 contains measures on four important themes. First, the bill seeks to make the electoral process more transparent to Canadians. Second, it aims to enhance the accessibility of elections to all Canadians. Third, it would update the Canada Elections Act to adapt to the ways in which our elections have changed. Fourth, it seeks to strengthen the security and integrity of Canadian elections.

I now wish to discuss the themes in greater detail to remind my colleagues of what exactly the bill proposes to do, and how. With the introduction of fixed election dates in 2007, elections can begin in earnest well before the official writ is dropped. To address this, Bill C-76 would introduce a pre-election period. When all political entities know that an election is likely to be held on the third Monday of October in an election year, they are able to spend large sums of money in the medium term right before an election with no regulatory oversight until the drop of the writ. This new pre-election period would introduce limits on political parties and third parties in the months leading up to the writ period.

Bill C-76 would also introduce new requirements on third parties, including spending limits for the pre-election period, reporting on a greater number of activities and the need to register with Elections Canada when spending more than $500 on partisan activities or election advertising. Additionally, new reporting mechanisms for third parties to occur during the election campaign, rather than after, would ensure Canadians have a clearer look at how these entities spend money before they vote.

The bill would also limit the actual election period to 50 days, which would help us avoid a long-drawn-out campaign like in 2015. Combined with the elimination of a pro-rated increase for spending limits, this bill would save taxpayers money. This bill would also help make the electoral process more accessible for Canadians.

Great care has been used in determining groups of Canadians who may face barriers when exercising their right to vote, including electors with disabilities, electors who have trouble producing identification, electors who are living abroad and electors in the Canadian Armed Forces. New measures in Bill C-76 would aid these specific groups in exercising their franchise, along with improving general accessibility for all Canadians.

The bill would reform many of the provisions allowing for people to vote outside of the polling station, and would redefine what can constitute an accessible polling place. For people who may have trouble producing appropriate identification, Bill C-76 would reintroduce provisions of vouching for an elector's identity or residence. Additionally, the Chief Electoral Officer would be able to approve the voter identification card as proof of residence.

There are appropriate protections in place for these changes, so Canadians would be assured that the security of the election would not be sacrificed. Additionally, changes would be made to allow Canadians who have been living outside of Canada for over five years to vote. Once again, the bill would make the electoral process more accessible for all Canadians. This would include candidates and young Canadians.

Bill C-76 would introduce new expense reimbursements to provide support to candidates with families and candidates with disabilities, or those who may care for someone with a disability. These changes come from the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer, and should simplify the administrative hoops that candidates are required to jump through in order to run their campaigns.

Additionally, the bill would enable the Chief Electoral Officer to establish a register of future electors. There are an estimated 1.5 million Canadians aged 14 to 17 who would be able to register with Elections Canada. Once they reach the age of 18, they would seamlessly be transferred to the register of electors and be ready to exercise their right to vote.

I also want to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Guelph.

The register of future electors would be totally secure, separate from the established register and completely voluntary. This register would be an excellent way to engage young Canadians and harness interest in politics.

Regarding the administration of the election, Bill C-76 also makes changes that would have an impact throughout the entire delivery of the election. In the past, there was a degree of prescriptiveness, which was necessary, in the Canada Elections Act. However, this prescriptiveness has evolved from a necessity to a detriment. The bill would give the Chief Electoral Officer greater ability to organize the election in a more efficient and fair manner. These changes would impact polling-place procedures and address a number of issues causing long lines at the polls.

Last, Bill C-76 would bolster the security and integrity of our elections. The bill would make it more difficult for third parties to use foreign money during elections without facing penalties. I would also note that there are significant changes to the Commissioner of Canada Elections in this bill. The commissioner would now be a part of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer as has been the case through most of our commissioner's history. This relocation would be accompanied by a new compliance mechanism, an administrative monetary penalties regime, which would allow the commissioner to more efficiently allocate resources and would provide him or her with a mechanism to enforce the Canada Elections Act without invoking criminal penalties. The commissioner would also be given the ability to compel testimony, which would streamline his or her investigation of offences against the act.

This is only a rough outline of what Bill C-76 would accomplish. Canadians enjoy a high degree of confidence in our elections, which is especially important in these fractious times. We are convinced that Bill C-76 would help retain this high level of confidence in our elections.