Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Outremont.
Today is May 13, and it my father's first birthday since his death. My father is among those people who died during the pandemic. The first part of the Bloc Québécois motion refers to all of the Quebeckers and Canadians who died during the pandemic. I want to express my condolences to all of the families in Quebec, in my riding and across Canada who have lost loved ones.
My father had been in a long-term care unit. Our country has some significant problems when it comes to long-term care. I truly hope that we will take everything that we have learned to ensure that people like my father will be better served in the future.
I fully support the idea of national standards, and I hope that all Canadians will respect not only provincial jurisdictions but also national standards to guarantee that our seniors can enjoy their right to be safe in long-term care homes.
The motion also talks about an election, and I can assure the Bloc Québécois and all the hon. members of the House that I do not have any interest in an election, nor do any of the other people I know on our side of the House. It is one of those things where we can keep repeating it and people may or may not believe us, but in the end result, that is the case.
We also, of course, understand that we are in a minority Parliament. The government does not get to control when the next election happens. All of the opposition parties could force an election, and I am not saying that it is necessarily in bad faith that people may vote non-confidence in the government. It could happen for a variety of reasons.
If non-confidence in the government is voted, then we need to have a safe election. There is no doubt about it, with the entire idea of potentially having an election. I am not blaming opposition parties for voting non-confidence. They have a right to do so, but there have been 14 times in recent weeks when opposition parties have voted non-confidence in one way or another, and as a result we could have an election, so it is really important that we appreciate that we need to find a way to bring Bill C-19 through the House in order to have a fair and safe election.
We have talked a lot about it, and I am very proud of our government having taken many measures to ensure safety in the workplace. Elections Canada needs to ensure safety for its poll workers and for all Canadians who wish to express their right to vote in our society. I am also very pleased that we are in a country where we have national rules on national elections. We see what has happened with our neighbours to the south, where there are different rules in every state and different rules, sometimes, in every county in a state. Different types of election machines in different counties led to a 2000 election where Palm Beach County in Florida managed, by itself, to reverse the results of an election.
In the most recent election in the United States, there was a candidate who refused to accept the results of the election. He launched many lawsuits, which were all unsuccessful, and now he continues to maintain that the election was unfair and is trying to get states to create legislation that makes it more difficult for people to vote.
I am pleased that we would be making it safer and better to vote with Bill C-19. We know that the Chief Electoral Officer and the procedure and House affairs committee are really cognizant of the importance of this issue, as evidenced by their significant work and associated recommendations. In addition to supporting the committee's recommendation with respect to long-term care voting and extending the voting period, Bill C-19 proposes a number of other measures to ensure that our electoral process remains resilient, taking into account the current public health context. Both the committee and Bill C-19 propose increased adaptation powers for the Chief Electoral Officer for the purposes of ensuring the health and safety of electors and election workers, should an election occur during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its final report, the committee acknowledged that it has the utmost confidence in Elections Canada in undertaking the diligent planning and preparedness necessary to deliver a successful and accessible election during the pandemic.
This is reflected in Bill C-19's temporary amendment to extend the Chief Electoral Officer's power to adapt the provisions of the act to ensure the health and safety of electors or election officers. It seeks to offer greater flexibility, given the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic and the diverse logistics of conducting 338 elections, and each riding having different challenges. On the committee's recommendation that rapid tests be provided, the government is committed to supporting Elections Canada's preparedness, all while respecting its independence.
An election during the pandemic also means that more electors will vote by mail, as we have seen in various Canadian and international jurisdictions. Indeed, the chief electoral officers of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island all told the committee that there were significant increases in demand to vote by mail during their respective provincial elections held during the pandemic. We certainly saw the same thing with our neighbours to the south.
In British Columbia, there was a 100-fold increase of mail-in ballots between the 2017 and 2020 provincial general elections. At the federal level, the Chief Electoral Officer testified that surveys had indicated that 4 million to 5 million electors intend to vote by mail if a federal general election is held during the pandemic. The Chief Electoral Officer noted that steps had been taken to ensure that Elections Canada would be prepared for such an increase.
Although the committee's recommendations on mail-in voting were primarily directed to Elections Canada, it is evident through the report and witness statements that access to mail-in ballots would support electors that may face barriers. As such, measures to shore up the mail-in ballot system are important. That is why Bill C-19 seeks to implement measures to improve access to mail-in voting for all Canadians in numerous ways, including the installation of mail reception boxes at all polling stations and allowing for the receipt of online applications for mail-in ballots.
The committee's final report highlights that mail-in voting was identified by several witnesses as a means of increasing accessibility for electors who face barriers to voting, including persons with disabilities, indigenous voters, persons living in poverty and students. Augmenting mail-in voting procedures will ensure the system is easy to use, accessible and responsive to voter's needs. It will also provide additional alternatives for those who are most vulnerable during the pandemic.
Ensuring that our electoral system is easy to use, accessible and responsive to voter's needs is also very much the advice we heard from international partners and experts from government, industry and civil society. We want good practice. We want a solution tailored to communities. We do not need a one-size-fits-all approach, but we need to ensure that the same access to voting exists across the country.
Multiple witnesses, including Canada's Chief Electoral Officer, told the committee that holding a federal general election during the pandemic would pose significant challenges and difficulties for Elections Canada. Elections Canada has exchanged information on our best practices and contingency planning and commissioned research.
Bill C-19 will reaffirm to Elections Canada, political entities and Canadian electors that the government remains committed to ensuring that a general election during a pandemic, should one be required, which all of us say we do not want, would be delivered in a manner that is safe for electors and election workers, and ensures the overall integrity of the electoral process.
In conclusion, I do believe it is important to pass Bill C-19, whether or not there is an election on the horizon.