Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments, also known as “the bill to change the rules to favour the Liberals because they cannot fundraise competitively, and other consequential amendments”. However, that is just the working title.
I appreciate that the minister for electoral reform has come back to the House. The job done previous to her by the treasury board president has been a mess. Now the treasury board president has shown once again that he is not up to the job, whether it is watching Bill C-58 , the Access to Information Act, or his complicity in ignoring reports that Phoenix was not ready, or his attempt to pass off his $7 billion estimate slush fund as transparency.
The acting Chief Electoral Officer had made it 100% clear to the government and Parliament a year ago that he would need legislative changes completed by April 28 in order to have time to be ready for the fall 2019 election, not starting debate and not introducing the legislation by April 28, but completely finished by April 28, through the House and Senate. However, here we are. Instead of having legislation debated and passed through the Senate by now, the Liberals are now just starting.
Let us go back a bit. Following the 2015 election, Elections Canada provided a list of recommendations for changes. The procedures committee was looking at these recommendations for a report to bring back to the House. Then out of nowhere the government dropped in our lap Bill C-33 , an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. Before the report from the committee was completed, the Liberals introduced a bill with incomplete information.
The Liberals rushed in a flawed bill, ignoring the procedures committee, and promptly did absolutely nothing for an entire year. If we add in the inability to appoint a permanent chief elections officer, the cynical Bill C-50 to distract from their cash for access scandals, and the desire to create a debates commission, we have typical Liberal ineptness. Well done, mission accomplished.
How did we get here? We went through the sham consultations a year and a half ago on the electoral reform. It was the same consultation meant to change the voting process from first pass the post to a system that would of course favour the Liberals. This is from their website, and it is still up, “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”
Henry James, considered by many as one of the greatest novelists in the English language, has said, “To read between the lines was easier than to follow the text.” If we read between the lines of “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”, we get if and only if the Liberals get the system they want, one that would guarantee Liberal re-election, then 2015 will be the last under the first-past-the-post system. Further reading between the lines we also see, “If we don't get the system that favours only the Liberals, then we'll abandon the plan”.
It is funny that when we go to the Liberal mandate tracker it shows electoral reform as not being pursued. It is not a broken promise, or thrown into trash or not being pursued. If we go down a bit further on the mandate tracker and look under “Balance the budget”, which is also in their mandate letter to balance the budget by 2019, it says “Underway - with challenges”. There are tens of billions of added debt. Maybe the budget will be balanced by 2045, but we do not know as the finance minister will not answer.
The Liberals are adding $43 billion in debt from when it was supposed to be balanced in 2019 in the mandate to the end of where the budget shows in 2022-23, with $75 billion of added debt over the period from being elected to 2022-23. This is what they call “Underway - with challenges”.
At the operations committee, we asked representatives of the Privy Council Office about this. Privy Council runs this mandate tracker website. We asked them why they would put out this information. It was very clearly a lie and misinformation. They said that the finance department told them to. I feel badly for the Privy Council having to sit at committee and defend such disingenuous information.
Let us go back to Bill C-76 and look at some of the measures in the bill to change the rules that favour the Liberals, because they cannot competitively fundraise, and other consequential amendments. It allows the Chief Electoral Officer to authorize the voter information card as a piece of ID. This is not a voter ID card, as some people are trying to pass it off as; it is a voter information card. People can head to the polls with that piece, which was mailed to them, and vote.
Here are some fun facts from the last election. Non-Canadian citizens were sent the card in the mail, even though they were not eligible to vote. Cards went out with the wrong names. People were directed to the wrong polling station, sometimes 100 kilometres away. There was a 1.5% error rate on the 26.5 billion cards that were sent out, which means 400,000 people got cards with wrong names, wrong addresses, and so on.
In the 2011 election, before that one, three-quarters of a million Canadians moved during the 36-day writ period.
Elections Canada says that the voters list that it draws the cards from is just a snapshot in time. We are going to base the entire integrity of our election on a snapshot in time? Elections Canada says that it cannot even check the voters list to ensure that those on the list receiving the cards are actually Canadians.
To summarize, hundreds of thousands of incorrect cards are going out and three-quarters of a million people are moving during a standard election period. Over a million people potentially could have the wrong card or have someone else's card. Elections Canada is stating that there is no way to check if the cards are going out to Canadian citizens. The integrity of democracy is based on what Elections Canada calls a “snapshot in time”.
This bill would allow Canadians living abroad to vote regardless of how long they have lived outside the country and whether they intend to return. Right now it is five years. It is being challenged before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has not even ruled on this yet and the Liberal government will bring in changes to allow anyone, regardless of how long they have been out of country, to vote.
Three million Canadians are living abroad, wonderful people, spreading the word of hockey in Canada around the world. However, should we allow those who have no intention of ever returning to Canada to help decide our policies in our country? The Ontario Court of Appeals, which ruled on the five year law, stated that it was democratically justified because it preserved the social contract between voters and lawmakers.
I know the Liberal government loves social licence, social licence for pipelines and for everything else, but I wish it would respect the social contract as has been decided by the Ontario courts.
There is no requirement that any of these expats have to vote in the last riding they lived in or even have visited one of the ridings. My brother, Bob, who left the country about 18 years ago, lives in New Jersey. He has never once stepped foot in my riding of Edmonton West. Should he be allowed to vote in my riding, even though he has never stepped foot in it and left Canada about 18 years ago? I have to wonder how many ridings across Canada in the last election were settled or won by less than 1,000 votes.
Concerted efforts by unfriendly foreign regimes could easily swing ridings by those with no skin in the game. Again, should people with perhaps no roots here and no family here and who perhaps pay no taxes and have not stepped foot in Canada for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years be deciding our foreign policy or what communities are getting funds for infrastructure? Should those who have zero intent of returning be deciding who sits in these chairs in the House?
I mentioned my brother. I love him dearly and still feel bad about knocking his teeth out playing hockey years ago, but I do not think he should be eligible to vote in Canada. He left many years ago.
I want to talk about the ID issue. We heard a lot of misinformation and saw hand-wringing throughout this debate about voter suppression under the Fair Elections Act. Let us look at the truth and the facts. Under the Fair Elections Act, we had an 11.5% increase in voter turnout in the 2015 election. It surged.
Here are some of the IDs that people could use: certificate of citizenship, citizenship card, Indian status card, band membership card, Métis card, old age security card, hospital card, CNIB card, credit card, debit card, and employee card. There is over 60 valid pieces of ID that can be used. People can even get a note from a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter to use as ID.
The bill would allow a maximum of third-party spending to soar through the roof, to allow Tides Foundation in the U.S.A., and Russian influence in Tides, to influence our election here. It is wrong. We have seen the issue of Facebook data misuse and Russian hacking. The bill would allow money from these groups to influence our vote.
We have seen the government try to change the rules when it falters. The Liberals changed the fundraising rules and they tried to change our rules in this place when they found the opposition to be too effective. They tried to change how Canadians voted to rig the next election. Now the government is botching this bill.
Bill C-76 is an omnibus of a mess and should be dismissed.