House of Commons Hansard #296 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was policy.

Topics

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 10th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the vote be deferred until Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, the recorded division stands deferred until Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

The House will now continue with the remaining business under routine proceedings.

Rail TransportationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present what I believe will be the first of many petitions in response to a question the Minister of Transport asked about demand for a high-frequency train when he was in Trois-Rivières.

Since then, my office has been inundated with petitioners who want him to know that they have been waiting 25 years for the train to come back to Trois-Rivières to support economic development and reduce greenhouse gases. The people of Trois-Rivières are prepared to do their part to get the train up and running in Canada's most densely populated corridor, the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

Organ DonationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today signed by Canadians requesting that Parliament support Bill C-316, an act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act regarding organ donors.

Today there are 4,500 Canadians awaiting a life-saving organ or tissue transplant. The majority of Canadians support organ and tissue donation. However, only 25% are registered as donors. Bill C-316 would make it easier for Canadians to indicate their desire to donate their organs and tissues through their annual tax returns. This information would then be shared with the provincial and territorial governments so that the names of those Canadians who want to help save lives could be added to existing donor registries.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

moved that Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin the debate at second reading of Bill C-76, the elections modernization act.

Our democracy is stronger when more Canadians, not fewer, are able to participate in our elections. Our government believes that democratic institutions and election rules must keep pace with changes in society and the expectations of our citizens. The elections modernization act is an important step forward for our democracy and for the ability of Canadians to participate in and trust our democratic institutions.

The changes we are proposing under the elections modernization act will make the electoral process more accessible to all Canadians, will help modernize the administration and enforcement of election rules, will make the electoral process more secure and transparent, and will protect the integrity of the Canadian electoral system, while better protecting the personal information and privacy of Canadian citizens.

We believe that our democracy is stronger when as many Canadians as possible participate in it.

In 2014, the previous government passed the Fair Elections Act. This was a regressive piece of legislation that former chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand said contained measures that would “undermine [its] stated purpose and won’t serve Canadians well.” One hundred and sixty academics signed a National Post editorial stating that the Fair Elections Act would “damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections.” The Globe and Mail ran five editorial board pieces, pleading with the Conservatives to reconsider that legislation.

The Harper Conservatives did not listen to reason. They did not pay attention to evidence, and Canadians paid the price. After the passage of the so-called Fair Elections Act, we saw the disenfranchisement of more than 170,000 Canadian voters who lacked sufficient identification. That is according to Statistics Canada. We saw it become more difficult for Canadians to get information about where, when, and how to vote. We saw it became easier for elections lawbreakers to actually evade punishment.

Unlike the Conservatives, we are listening to Canadians. We want Canadians to be able to participate in our democracy.

By repealing the unfair provisions of the Harper government's Fair Elections Act, we are making it easier for all Canadians to vote.

In April, I was pleased to introduce the elections modernization act on behalf of our government. Not only would it undo the controversial aspects of the Conservatives' so-called Fair Elections Act, but it would strengthen our democratic institutions by making voting more accessible to millions of Canadians who have previously faced unfair barriers.

I will illustrate some of the proposed changes by focusing on four groups of voters: Canadians with disabilities, women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian citizens living abroad, and those who do not have the identification required under the Fair Elections Act.

To ensure Canadians with disabilities are better able to participate in our democracy, Bill C-76 confirms existing accessibility practices and further requires a combination of measures to be available to all persons with disabilities, regardless of the nature of that disability. Bill C-76 creates financial incentives for political parties and candidates to accommodate electors with disabilities. These could include providing election material in accessible formats or adding wheelchair ramps to campaign offices, as examples. It makes changes to election expense provisions so that candidates with disabilities or candidates who are caregivers for young, sick, or disabled loved ones would find it easier to run for office.

For these individuals, costs related to this caregiving could be paid from either personal or campaign expenses and would not count against spending limits. These expenses would be reimbursed at up to 90%.

Canadian Forces members make tremendous sacrifices defending our democracy. It only makes sense that we make sure they are able to participate in it as well. In the most recent election, 68% of Canadian electors voted. Among members of the Canadian Forces, the participation rate was only 46%. The bill would give Canadian Forces personnel the same flexibility as other Canadians in choosing how to cast their vote.

Canadians living abroad are no less dedicated to our country than those who reside within its borders, yet many are not able to vote. The bill restores voting rights to more than a million Canadians living abroad by removing the provisions that electors cannot have resided outside of Canada for more than five years and must have an intent to return.

Debates in the last Parliament highlighted a fourth group of Canadians who have challenges when it comes to participating in elections. These are citizens who do not have the required identification. The previous government stopped the use of voter information cards as an allowable piece of ID to establish residency. This happened despite Elections Canada's observation that some four million Canadians do not possess a driver's licence. Canadians impacted most by the Conservatives' regressive law change included university students, indigenous peoples, and in some cases seniors who live in long-term retirement facilities.

We will restore voting rights to these Canadians and we will also restore the practice of vouching for identity and residence. This will help bring eligible voters back into our electoral process. Those who vouch for others would continue to be required to make a solemn declaration and would not be able to vouch for more than one person.

Conservatives may try to say that this would make it easier for non-citizens to vote, but that is simply not the case. In his 2011 compliance report for Elections Canada, Harry Neufeld, an independent elections expert, recommended “widening use of the Voter Information Card as a valid piece of address identification for all voters.”

To ensure that only Canadian citizens are able to vote, the bill would authorize the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with information about permanent residents and foreign nationals living in Canada. This would help ensure that only Canadian citizens are included in the register of electors and would help to create a more accurate and up-to-date list of voters. The bill would also grant the commissioner of Elections Canada the ability to impose a financial penalty on individuals who vote when they are not able to do so.

Today Canadians are busier than ever. They work irregular hours. They do shift work. They travel for business and pleasure, and they have parenting or caregiver responsibilities that start before dawn and end late in the evening. As a result, more and more Canadians vote at advance polls. We would increase the hours during which these polls are open to provide more flexibility and enable more Canadians to participate in the electoral process.

The bill would restore the Chief Electoral Officer's authority to conduct public education and information activities to help inform Canadians about the voting process. Through the bill, we would empower young Canadians to pre-register for elections so that when they turn 18, they are automatically registered to vote. As well, the bill would make it easier to hire Canadians aged 16 to 18 as election officers, giving them an opportunity to get engaged earlier in the electoral process.

While we are making it easier for Canadians to vote, we are also making it more difficult for elections lawbreakers to evade punishment. The bill sanctions the powers of the Commissioner of Canada Elections and offers a wider range of remedies for enforcement.

Through the bill, the commissioner would again report to the Chief Electoral Officer and would have new powers to impose administrative monetary penalties for minor violations of the law, have the authority to lay charges, and be able to apply for a court order to compel testimony during investigation of election offences.

Budget 2018 would also provide $7.1 million to support the work of the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections. This funding would help ensure that the Canadian electoral process continues to uphold the highest standards of democracy.

In 2017, the Prime Minister expressly gave the Minister of Democratic Institutions a broad mandate to enhance the openness and fairness of Canada's public institutions. Part of that mandate is to deal with foreign influence and emerging technologies.

Last year, the member for Burlington, my predecessor and soon-to-be successor in the role of Minister of Democratic Institutions, asked the Communications Security Establishment to conduct a study on cyber-threats to our democratic processes. This first-of-its-kind public report found that there was no evidence of nation states interfering in the 2015 Canadian election, but that there has been an upward trend in cyber-threat activity against democratic processes globally.

We take that report seriously. It found that over a 12-month period, 13% of elections globally had some level of foreign interference. We recognize the seriousness of this threat. We cannot afford to ignore these threats and we have a responsibility to defend the integrity of our electoral system.

We are moving forward to protect our democratic institutions from cyber-threats and foreign interference. In budget 2018, the Government of Canada provided approximately $750 million for the creation of a new Canadian centre for cybersecurity. Budget 2018 also sets aside more than $100 million over the next five years for the creation of a national cybercrime coordination unit. These organizations will bring together expertise from across government, coordinate investigations, and protect and defend our government and democratic institutions from cyber-threats.

Bill C-76 takes a step forward in addressing potential manipulation of social media by prohibiting the malicious use of computers where there is an intent to obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the lawful use of computer data during an election period.

Current provisions of the Canada Elections Act that deal with publishing false statements are, according to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, unenforceable. The bill before us would narrow the focus to information about criminal records and biographical information. A new provision would prohibit distribution of material intended to mislead the public as to its source.

Most importantly, we are closing the loophole that has previously allowed foreign entities to spend money in Canadian elections.

As a result of news reports earlier this year, Canadians are rightly concerned about the way private corporations use their personal information for political ends. I want to reassure Canadians that in Canada these corporations are already regulated under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, but that does not mean our work is done. Through this bill, we are requiring for the first time that political parties be transparent about the steps they are taking to protect Canadians' personal information.

Bill C-76 requires political parties to have a publicly available privacy policy addressing a series of privacy issues in terms of how a party collects or gathers data, how it uses data, how it shares data. A party that does not meet these criteria will face deregistration by Elections Canada.

I also hope that colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee, PROC, will revisit their study on privacy and political parties and provide recommendations on the issue. It was less than a year ago that PROC took a look at this issue and recommended no changes, but I think all members would recognize that the ground has shifted on this issue and that it bears revisiting by PROC. PROC represents all parties, so it makes a great deal of sense for it to be the vehicle to do a deeper dive into this.

Some of the measures in this legislation may be familiar to members of the House, as they were introduced previously in Bill C-33. This underscores the breadth and depth of input and advice that has gone into the bill before us.

This legislation has also benefited from the input of the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. I would like to thank them for their work. I want to thank parliamentarians who contributed to this at PROC, and I also want to thank Elections Canada. Eighty-five per cent of the recommendations from Elections Canada after the last election were incorporated into the bill. The report's findings after the last election are very much at the heart of the bill. Again, I want to thank the members of PROC, who conducted a detailed analysis of the Chief Electoral Officer's report.

Our government is committed to strengthening Canada's democratic institutions. We are committed to maintaining the trust of Canadians in our democratic processes. Bill C-76 would advance that agenda, and I urge hon. members to move expeditiously on it so that it can be in place for the October 2019 general election.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to debate this piece of legislation more officially in the House. We already had a chance to have some back and forth in question period, but we will now have the chance to do that here in official debate in the House of Commons.

There are obviously a number of things I find of concern, but my biggest concern is that the Liberals and the Prime Minister seem to continually try to find ways to damage themselves, to find ways to prevent opposition, and to find ways to tip the scales in their favour. We have seen that a number of times, whether it be breaking their promise on electoral reform or whether it be trying to change the rules of the House of Commons to suit themselves. We see potentially more of that in this piece of legislation as well.

I want to focus on one topic, and it is a topic on which we had a bit of an exchange in question period earlier today. I want to talk about the idea of spending limits. The government is making some changes, obviously, that would prevent political parties from being able to use funds truly given to them by Canadians in a period prior to the election, but it is not doing the same for government advertising and ministerial travel, at least not for the same time period.

I wonder if the minister would commit to making changes to the bill that would line those periods up so that it would not disadvantage the opposition parties in such a way. Would it line those timelines up so that those directives, in terms of the limits on ministerial travel and government advertising, would be the same? I wonder if the minister would make a commitment to make that amendment today.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his work on the whole area of democratic institutions.

One of the first things we did as a government was bring in a new advertising policy. That was in the spring of 2016. That advertising policy, among other things, would ban, and has banned, our government and future governments from engaging in quasi-partisan, political-type advertising with tax dollars. The previous government did a lot of that, and we did not think it was right, so we followed through as a government.

That advertising policy would also apply the same restrictions to government advertising that apply during the writ period to the 90-day period leading up to the writ. That would prevent a governing party, ours and future governing parties, from using that period leading up to the election to engage in government advertising that is actually focused on promoting the governing party. We do not think it is right to do that. We have also cut government advertising quite significantly over the previous government.

We think the steps we have taken are in the interest of fair and open elections.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I note that there is a lot of interest in posing questions and comments for the minister. I am going to ask all members to keep their interventions to no more than a minute.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join this debate. It is a debate that has been long looked for because, if members will recall, 18 months ago the Liberals introduced a bill to affect our elections going forward and then for 18 months they did nothing. They did not bring the bill forward for debate and did not talk about it. Also, 18 months ago, we were given notice that the Chief Electoral Officer was leaving, and for 18 months we did not have anyone, until we had a name a few weeks ago which was then changed to another name which the government has now decided to make public.

One of the grave concerns we had about the unfair elections act, as the minister rightly points out, was the attempt at voter suppression by the previous government. The government of the day did two things. One, it moved unilaterally. Only the government ended up supporting legislation that affects all parties and all Canadians. Two, the government shut down debate on the bill almost immediately.

I am looking for a commitment here today from the minister. I ask him not to do it, not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Incredibly cynical parties in the past have chosen to try to suppress the vote here and suppress the voices here in the House of Commons. Liberals were critical when they sat on this side. I am looking for a direct commitment from the minister not to follow the same path. I ask him to commit that the government will not limit debate on this bill, and that he will make sure that we can allow members to speak, and not proceed—

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. President of the Treasury Board.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his engagement on the whole area of electoral reform. As he has indicated, he agrees and the NDP members have expressed in principle support for much of what is in this bill, particularly for the components of this bill that reflect the report of Elections Canada after the last election. Eighty-five per cent of that report is in this bill, in particular those elements that reverse some of the more regressive measures of the Conservatives' so-called Fair Elections Act.

The member also expressed a concern that I share, in terms of making sure that these changes are in place to be in effect for the next election. Given that there has been a lot of study—I believe 30 hours at PROC—around this issue, at some point we are sawing sawdust. The hon. member has expressed concerns of having this in place for the next election. If we put those two together, we would very much appreciate his support and the NDP's support for moving forward in good faith in a timely way to make sure that the new—

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Perth—Wellington.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister talked about using a voter information card and reinstating that as a form of identification. In the last election 986,613 voter information cards were reported to have inaccurate information, were sent to wrong addresses, and had erroneous information.

Can the minister address why he is using as a piece of identification for voters something that for as many as a million voters had inaccurate information?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, one of the recommendations from Elections Canada, having had the opportunity to analyze the impact of the changes that the previous government made in eliminating vouching and voter information cards, was that we bring back voter information cards. In fact, I mentioned earlier that over 160 experts on elections felt it was the wrong decision, and Stats Canada has said that in fact 170,000 Canadians who ought to have been able to vote did not have the opportunity as a result of that. We believe democracy is stronger when more Canadians participate, and that is why we are bringing it back.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Gatineau Québec

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, in the 1980s and 1990s, the Mulroney government appointed the Lortie commission on electoral reform. The government of Jean Chrétien followed through on a number of the commission's recommendations, including by reforming the electoral financing system and overhauling the political financing rules. We cleaned up political financing in Canada.

However, that tradition of consensus was largely abandoned, unfortunately, in the last Parliament not once, not twice, but several times by the Harper government which retroactively changed election laws, laws respecting leadership campaigns, and so on, and suppressed votes. The one thing that most Canadians took extreme offence to was the suppression of votes and particularly the suppression of young people's votes. Can the minister tell us how he is correcting that historic error by encouraging and getting more Canadian youth to vote?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, again, we believe very strongly that having more Canadians active in the political process, including in elections, is really important and vital for our democracy. That really starts with young Canadians.

To have a registry of future voters and to engage young Canadians early by giving them an opportunity to work in elections is really important. We think restoring the ability and the mandate of Elections Canada to promote engagement and to do outreach makes a great deal of sense. That is why it is in this bill.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

GPQ (ex-Bloc)

Gabriel Ste-Marie GPQ (ex-Bloc) Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the President of the Treasury Board for his speech.

Obviously, we would have preferred the bill to have been tabled sooner. The President of the Treasury Board says he would like the bill to be passed quickly so that it is in place for the next election. We would have liked the bill to be more substantial, especially by including a proportional voting option. That option was abandoned in spite of a unanimous report from the committee that was supported by every party in the House. We would also have liked to see public financing included in this bill, which it is not. Enhanced public financing of political parties could help our elected officials avoid the appearance of acting in their own financial interests.

My question is about the youth vote. Students are often registered to vote in their parents' riding, but they live near their college or university. This makes it hard for them to vote.

What measures does Bill C-76 provide to make voting easier for students who do not live in the riding where they are registered?

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question.

Again, it is very important to increase flexibility to help voters participate in the electoral process, just as it is very important to protect the integrity of our voting system.

To restore vouching, as an example, is one area of flexibility. The member raises a very good point about students having the opportunity. Their addresses are sometimes transient because they live in different places.

Again, vouching requires an individual to make a solemn pledge and take an oath as to somebody's identity. It's not something that is entered into frivolously. People can only vouch for one person. That is one example.

I would be interested to ensure that young people who are not living at their parents' address have that flexibility. I think that is one example of how voter information cards or vouching can provide a necessary and important flexibility to ensure that they have the opportunity to vote.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I want to thank all hon. members for their co-operation. We went a couple of minutes over, but the minister was a little short in his 20-minute speech, which allowed a little more time for some questions. It was very good participation in that regard.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Perth—Wellington.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today and participate in the debate on Bill C-76, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act.

One of the privileges we have in Canada and as Canadians is to participate in free and fair elections. I do not think there is anyone in this House who would disagree with the importance of that privilege and honour that we have as Canadian citizens to participate in our democratic rights.

However, the government has shown its inability to properly introduce legislation to change our elections. In fact, the acting Chief Electoral Officer made it very clear to Parliament and at committee that in order for Elections Canada to make the changes necessary for the next election in 2019, legislation had to receive royal assent by April 2018. Here we are in May, only just kicking off debate on this matter.

On April 24, 2018, at committee, the acting Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, had this to say to the procedure and house affairs committee:

When I appeared last February I indicated that the window of opportunity to implement major changes in time for the next election was rapidly closing. That was not a new message. Both Monsieur Mayrand and I had previously indicated that legislative changes should be enacted by April 2018. This means that we are now at a point where the implementation of new legislation will likely involve some compromises.

Later in his comments he said:

However, it is also my responsibility to inform you that time is quickly running out. Canadians trust Elections Canada to deliver robust and reliable elections, and we do not want to find ourselves in the situation where the quality of the electoral process is impacted.

The government tabled Bill C-76 in April 2018, the same day legislation was supposed to be in place. The government botched the entire process for implementing changes to the Canada Elections Act. As a result of its mismanagement, the government had to introduce this omnibus bill in order to play catch-up and distract from past failures.

The Chief Electoral Officer provided recommendations for legislative reforms following the 42nd general election in 2015. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was reviewing the recommendations and preparing a report for this House. Then, on November 24, 2016, before the committee had completed its work, the former minister of democratic institutions introduced Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. She introduced an incomplete bill and demonstrated a blatant disregard for the committee's work.

Then, after rushing to create a bill and, in their haste, creating a flawed bill, the Liberals stalled. They have been sitting on the bill and have still not brought it forward for debate at second reading a year and a half later. If we add to that their failed attempt to change Canada’s electoral system to favour their party, the tremendous delay to appoint a permanent Chief Electoral Officer, and the incomprehensible action to perhaps create a debates commission, this government's democratic reform has been a colossal disappointment. The Liberals waited well beyond the April 2018 deadline to introduce Bill C-76.

What is more, Bill C-76 is an omnibus bill. It is 350 pages long and contains hundreds of different sections. At best, it contains seven vastly different elements. Many of these elements are flawed, and not only will they not improve our elections, but in some cases they will actually weaken them.

This brings me to one of the key points contained in the bill, which is the subject of identification. The government is clearly out of touch with what is reasonable in the 21st century.

Today, photo ID and identification with one's address is commonly and routinely used for interactions with governments at all levels, whether federal, provincial or municipal. Under the current law, nearly 50 different types of identification are permitted to allow a Canadian voter to prove his or her identity and address.

Canadians are used to using identification. In Canada, no one bats an eye when he or she is required to show ID to board a plane. No one bats an eye when he or she is required to show ID to prove his or her age to purchase alcohol or tobacco. Students are regularly required to show ID when they take VIA Rail to get the student discount. When we drive a car, we need a driver's licence. When we go fishing, we have a fishing licence. When we go to get a prescription for medication, we show identification. Even to borrow a library book, we need a library card, which, I might add, in most municipalities is free. What is more, when we get that library card, we can also use it as one of the acceptable forms of ID with Elections Canada.

I am proud to have a library card for both the Wellington county libraries and the libraries in Perth county, and I use them regularly. I encourage all Canadians to go to their local libraries and get a card.

Let us look at the list of some of the identification that is currently approved by Elections Canada. Of course, there is the driver's licence or a provincial or territorial ID card. In Ontario, that includes both a photo ID as well as an address on those cards. Also, there is the Canadian passport, a birth certificate, and a label on a prescription container.

It has been mentioned before that perhaps those living in a retirement home or a long-term care home may have a challenge finding identification. However, I would challenge anyone to show me a senior who may be living in a long-term care home who does not have perhaps a pill bottle or prescription that has his or her name and identification on it. Another case would be an identity bracelet issued by a hospital or long-term care facility. Also, one could use a credit card, debit card, or employee card.

The minister talked about students. Nearly every student in high school, college, trade school, or a university has a student card. Most students also have a bus pass or public transportation card. It is unfortunate that the Liberals got rid of the public transit tax credit but, nonetheless, most students do have a transit card, particularly if they do not have a driver's licence.

One could also use a licence or card issued for fishing, trapping, or hunting, one of the great pastimes in Canada. One could use a utility bill, whether that be for electricity, water, telecommunications, cable, or satellite. What is more, Elections Canada also accepts either e-statements or e-invoices for that type of ID. In a growing technological world, I know many of us receive our bills solely online, which is an acceptable form of ID.

One could use a personal cheque, a government statement of benefits, or an income tax assessment. All Canadians are required to file their taxes every year. April 30 was just upon us, and I am sure all Canadians remember that well, with the Liberal government in power.

One could use correspondence issued by a school, college, or university. Again, a student going to college or university in Canada would potentially have that letter. Barring that, it could be a letter of confirmation of residence from a place such as a student residence, for those attending university, or a seniors residence, a long-term care home, a shelter, or a soup kitchen, so that those who may not have a permanent fixed address would still have confirmation of their eligibility to vote.

There is also a third option, in which an oath can be taken to provide confirmation of one's address from someone within the same electoral district undertaking that confirmation.

Most Canadians would see these rules as reasonable and fair. The rules ensure that only those who are eligible electors vote, and that they vote in the correct riding. Canadians are rule-loving people. We respect the rules. When we are asked to prove that we are in fact legitimate voters within an electoral district in Canada, we are happy to do so.

This brings me to the government's decision to use the voter information card as identification. It is an information card, not an identification card, as is often said by members across the way. These are information cards because that is what they provide, information. It has been stated before that, in the 2015 election, 986,613 of these voter information cards had inaccurate information, were sent to the wrong address, or were not complete, yet the Liberals are okay with nearly a million voter information cards being used as identification.

Canadians know that things change. Addresses change, and the voters list is not always entirely up to date. Nonetheless, the Liberals are relying on that information to be used to confirm residence within a riding.

One of the challenges with using the voters list and the voter information cards is that much of this information comes from the Canada Revenue Agency. I will cite a couple of examples where the CRA has mistakenly declared people dead, yet this information is now being used to inform the voters list, and then the voter information card, which entitles people to vote.

I would draw the members' attention to an article from November 2017 in which a Scarborough woman was declared dead and her estate was sent her tax refund of nearly $2,800. Another example recently from CBC, in April 2018, talked about a Cape Breton man whose error on a tax return declared both him and his late wife dead, despite the fact that he never submitted a death certificate for himself. Again, this information is being used to inform the voter information cards, which the Liberals now want to use as a confirmation of an address.

The minister also said that the Liberals would be removing the voting restrictions for those living outside of Canada, removing the five-year limitation and the intent to return to Canada. There are two points on this matter. First, it might be reasonable for Canadians who want to see this country prosper and thrive to at least give an indication that at some point in the future they wish to return and live in this great country we call Canada.

Second, when we look at our Commonwealth cousins and the example of Commonwealth countries around the world, we see that they have similar provisions in place. In the United Kingdom, a national who leaves for more than 15 years is not eligible to vote in a national election. In Australia, the length of time is six years.

I want to talk briefly about foreign financing. The Liberal government tries to claim it is shutting the door on foreign financing, that it is blocking foreign influence in elections. What is actually happening is it is opening up a great big loophole that will allow foreign influence to funnel large amounts of money into U.S.-style super PACs to be distributed within Canada during an election campaign.

In a recent article, John Ivison writes:

In the last election, foreign money wielded by political advocacy groups targeted Conservative candidates—Leadnow claimed its 6,000 volunteers helped defeat 25 Tories.

Leadnow said no international money went towards the campaign. However, the New York-based Tides Foundation donated $795,300 to a B.C.-based non-profit called the Sisu Institute Society, which in turn donated to Leadnow.

Leadnow acknowledges Sisu contributed grants for its “other campaigns” but said the election campaign was funded entirely by Canadian sources. Yet, as Duff Conacher at Democracy Watch pointed out, this is nonsense. “Any grant frees up other money, if it’s all in one pot.”

There is nothing in the new bill to stop this from happening again.

Another example comes from our good friend Andrew Coyne, who wrote:

But let’s examine those much-hyped measures to “protect and defend” Canadian democracy. For example, we are told the bill will prohibit foreign entities “from spending any money to influence elections.” Wonderful, you say: how much were they allowed to spend until now? Er, $500.

But then, the real scandal, to borrow Michael Kinsley's phrase, is not what is illegal—direct foreign spending on Canadian elections—but what's legal: foreign money, by the millions, funneled through Canadian intermediaries, which pass it on to domestic advocacy groups to spend.

This is wrong, and Canadians understand that this is not the way that Canadian elections ought to be run. Creating loopholes that we could drive a Mack truck through, allowing foreign influence in Canadian elections, is wrong, and Canadians understand that. They understand that so much of what the Liberal government is doing in the bill is wrong. Canadians believe that voters should be required to prove their identity before they vote. Canadians believe that proper identification is necessary before they vote in an election. They believe that foreign influence in Canadian elections is wrong and that loopholes should not be allowed in the bill, as the Liberals have done.

Canadians also wonder about the lack of urgency of the Liberal government. We have known for a year and a half that we would need a Chief Electoral Officer, and yet the Liberals waited 18 months. They introduced Bill C-33 and let it languish on the Order Paper, and now, at a point in time when the Liberal government has been told directly by the Chief Electoral Officer that they do not have time to implement the changes, the Liberals are proposing to go ahead anyway with this information.

It is for this reason that I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments, since the Bill fails to address the high error rate in the National Register of Electors, and the high rate of erroneous Voter Identification Cards, reported at 986,613 instances in the 2015 election, and does nothing to deal with foreign interference in Canadian elections because the Bill proposes to double the total maximum third party spending amount allowed during the writ period and to continue to allow unlimited contributions in the period prior to the pre-writ period.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The amendment is in order.

Questions and comment, the hon. member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, what this legislation does is to get youth more involved in the electoral process. I think it is a good thing when our youth are involved in our democracy, so I would like to ask my colleagues across the way why they are now opposing the youth electoral registry when at committee they supported it.