Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-23, the fair elections act.
The bill would fulfill a commitment made by our government during the last Speech from the Throne and in it our government committed to bringing forward a comprehensive election reform proposal that would protect the votes of Canadians at the polls.
The fair elections act would ensure that constituents in Etobicoke Centre, along with all Canadians, would be in charge of democracy by putting special interests on the sidelines and the rule-breakers out of business.
It would also make it harder for people to break the law. It would close loopholes in big money. It would impose tough new penalties on political imposters and those rogue calls and it would empower the Commissioner of Canada Elections with sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand.
The fair elections act would make our laws clear and easy to follow. It would make life harder for election law-breakers and easier for the honest people to take part in democracy.
I believe Canadians agree that our current system can be improved. For example, 87% of Canadians believe it is reasonable to require someone to prove his or her identity and address before voting. Based on my conversations with constituents in Etobicoke Centre, I would also submit that a majority of my constituents would agree with this view. This is why I am proud that our government is committed to enhancing our electoral laws and protecting the integrity of each and every ballot.
What I would not support is the NDP's suggestion that people should not require any ID to vote. The fair elections act would prohibit the use of vouching and voter information cards as replacements for acceptable ID.
Studies commissioned by Elections Canada demonstrate mass irregularities in the use of vouching and high rates of inaccuracy on voter information cards. Under the act, voters would continue to have 39 different forms of authorized identification to choose from to prove their identity and to prove their residence.
Our government has also recently announced that under the fair elections act, electors with no identification that proves their residence would be allowed to vote with two pieces of identification that prove their identity and a written oath as to their residence provided that another elector from the same polling division, who proves his or her identity and residence by providing documentary proof, would also take a written oath as to the elector's residence. These changes are abundantly fair and reasonable.
Stopping possible election fraud is just one of the many positive changes that the fair elections act proposes to make. The act would protect voters from rogue calls and from political imposters by punishing those who would attempt to deceive Canadians. For example, Bill C-23 would create a mandatory public registry for mass calling and impose prison time for impersonating election officials. It would also increase penalties for deceiving people out of their votes.
The fair elections act would give the Commissioner of Canada Elections sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand to ensure we would have strong elections law enforcement.
The bill would allow for small donations coming in and keep big money out of our elections by ensuring donation limits could not be circumvented. Big money from special interests can drown out the voices of everyday citizens, like people in Etobicoke Centre, who have supported me, and those constituents who come to my office often looking to discuss current legislation or seeking assistance on a variety of issues. Theirs are the voices that should be reflected in the House.
Lastly, the bill would provide better customer service for voters by adding another advanced poll day and ensuring Canadians would know where to vote, when to vote and what ID to bring with them.
The fair elections act would also explicitly require Elections Canada to inform disabled voters of the extra help available to help them vote.
I believe the majority of my constituents would agree with me in that the fair elections act would make life harder for election law-breakers and easier for honest people to take part in our democratic process.
I do want to address something about our youth. I reach out to schools and to various groups in my constituency and beyond when I am asked to speak for a variety of reasons. I tell people, including at citizenship ceremonies, that citizenship comes with duties and responsibilities. One of those duties is to vote. I have said that before and I have said that often. I tell that to school groups, to youth, and to people frequently when I speak in front of public groups. It is very important that people understand that, to make sure that our democracy works as it has.
Make no mistake, Canada is a heaven on earth. There are people clamouring to come to our country because of what we have, because of the strength of our democracy, and how hard we work to ensure that each and every person is enfranchised with their vote.
I am very proud of the bill. I am very proud to stand for it. I am very proud to speak for it.