My thanks to you and this committee for inviting me here.
I will make some short introductory remarks, after which I will be pleased to answer the questions you have with regard to Bill , the Fair Elections Act.
Last week, I worked at an orientation conference for senior election officials in one of our provinces. It was attended by a great many newly appointed returning officers and election clerks who had never managed elections before.
I found the trainers were particularly effective in offering a window on democratic first principles that are supported in law around the globe. The universal and equal suffrage guarantees that Canada has supported, both in article 21 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 25 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, were rightly described as foundational to the conduct of free and fair elections.
Consistent with these principles, the trainers described their provincial election act as a legal vehicle providing all resident citizens over the age of 18 with opportunities to exercise their constitutional rights, guaranteed by section 3 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, where it says:
Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
The inclusive and unqualified scope of this charter clause, which I have read and heard quoted hundreds of times since it became law in 1982, caused me to reflect on how electoral franchise laws in Canada have evolved and how Bill departs markedly from that evolution.
There is a healthy but constant tension in every voting system between the two equally important goals of providing broad accessibility, based on the fundamental franchise rights I just mentioned, and ensuring procedural integrity that maintains citizens’ confidence in the process itself. Canada is no different in this regard.
By accessibility, I mean the ease and flexibility by which all eligible voters can obtain a ballot at election time. The considerable extensions to advance voting provisions are one clear example of this.
By integrity, I mean employing administrative mechanisms to ensure that only eligible electors vote, that they only vote once, that their vote is kept secret, that each ballot choice is counted accurately, and that, except for maintaining the first principle of ballot secrecy, the entire process is conducted in a fully transparent manner. The introduction of voter ID laws in 2007 are an example in this context.
In its current form, Bill creates a fundamental imbalance between accessibility and integrity. It introduces a requirement that every elector must provide acceptable documentation to prove both their identity and address of residence prior to being issued a ballot. The bill would eliminate the current ability of a registered voter, who has the prescribed identity documents, to vouch for one other elector who does not possess sufficient documentation to prove both their identity and address. Further, it bars the voter information card, which Elections Canada mails to each registered voter to advise them where and when to vote, from being used as documentary proof of residential address.
The has stated that vouching must be eliminated to crack down on voter fraud. He has also stated that voter information cards must be eliminated as identification for confirming a voter’s address because these cards are a replacement for acceptable ID.
The has used the “2013 Compliance Review Report”, which I authored, that drew attention to administrative errors made by election officers during the 2011 general election, as the basis for justifying the elimination of vouching. He characterizes vouching irregularities in the context of undetected voter fraud.
I was engaged to audit aspects of the 2011 general election as a third-party election expert, and it is important to me that my report is properly understood. Having listened carefully to what the has said, it is my opinion that he has not interpreted my report correctly.
Yes, my report articulates that there were serious problems with vouching during the election, as well as even greater numbers of irregularities in administering voter registration in conjunction with voting. But voters were not the problem. The problem was with the system. My observation was that election officers, ordinary citizens willing to work a very long day without breaks for minimum wage or less, had trouble completing a series of exceedingly complex procedures on their first and only day on the job.
My assessment focused on the fact that election officers are responsible for administering 17 different exception procedures, of which vouching is just one, and that they often completed these procedures imperfectly.
My report concludes that this is a systemic problem related to our antiquated voting model. At no point in the report do I link vouching with fraudulent voting. I've heard the minister articulate that the absence of evidence of voter fraud doesn't mean it hasn't been happening. I heard him further suggest that Elections Canada simply isn't aware of the level of voter fraud with vouching because the agency hasn't investigated the many instances where legally required vouching procedures were not followed. However, over the course of my study I heard of no candidate scrutineers, voters, or media representatives ever raising an issue with respect to vouching fraud. I am not aware of any formal complaints in this regard.
Around the globe, I know of no election administrators who would launch an investigation into voter fraud without solid evidence or any credible allegations or complaints. During the Etobicoke Centre court case, both the Ontario Superior Court and the Supreme Court of Canada were very clear that there was no evidence that persons who were ineligible to vote were allowed to vote due to procedural errors made by election officers. My compliance review report clearly states this in several places. So do the written court judgments themselves.
In addition, the Supreme Court judgment established a new precedent for deciding whether or not to accept votes when procedural irregularities are alleged. This involves a two-step test. First, the occurrence of election process irregularities must be proven. Second, evidence must be presented that satisfies the court that those procedural irregularities actually resulted in ineligible persons being permitted to vote.
Bill would eliminate vouching on the basis that the minister thinks my report proves the process is so fraught with irregularities that it could lead to courts overturning election results. Irregularities identified have been equated with voter fraud by the minister, as he implies that both legal tests have been met and that elections will be overturned if vouching continues. In the name of improved procedural integrity, the bill would see fit to disenfranchise more than 100,000 eligible voters. Most of these eligible voters have no difficulty in providing ID that proves who they are, but they are challenged to produce documentation that proves their current residential address. Expanded use of the voter information card could remedy this, but Bill , as currently drafted, would disallow any such use.
Here's the thing. A large number of irregularities did occur, but there's no evidence whatsoever that any voters fraudulently misrepresented themselves in the vouching process. There is only evidence that the current voting process model needs an urgent administrative redesign and significant modernization. Our current model has served us well since Confederation, but it must be re-engineered to function in a way that measures up appropriately to 21st century expectations of what universal and equal suffrage should mean. It needs to be redesigned in a way that permits temporary election officers to easily perform their role in a fully compliant manner.
For the past 33 years, I have worked on planning, organizing, and conducting elections in Canada and around the world. I've performed this work in places as diverse as South Africa, Guyana, Libya, and Russia. My interest has always been to ensure that the fundamental rights people have to participate in free and fair electoral processes are upheld. My principal goal today has been to offer clarification with respect to what I wrote in my report on compliance during the 2011 general election. In that light, I believe it is clear that parts of Bill require careful reconsideration.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I turn things back to you.
Let me ask you this, because you point out the question of addresses, and many of the IDs cited by the minister, such as the most basic of ID, which is a problem I have in rural areas.... For example, there are the people who live in seniors homes. I know of one particular senior in my riding who lives in a home, and the only way that she was enfranchised or able to vote was because of her voter identification card.
The minister cites health cards. In our province, there is no address on that card. All of the ID he cites—well over 30, the very basic ID, with the exception, of course, of a driver's licence, which this woman does not have—disenfranchises her, and now, for the first time since Confederation in Newfoundland and Labrador, she cannot vote, period.
They talked about bracelets. I have yet to see a bracelet with an address.
Do you think this is an oversight that you're stunned by, this fact that they would say that all this ID can be used, when in fact the disenfranchised voters, such as first nations, students, and those in rural areas cannot vote because of the address? And now the one thing they had is eliminated.
I'd like to build upon what my colleague Mr. Simms was going through. Really I think, in fairness, I'll make sure you get a copy, because I think a lot of Canadians don't realize that vouching really is not used. In fact, your report mentions that many jurisdictions don't use it.
Your report also mentions that built-in resistance to change is strong, within even the elections community. I think this act shows that change and evolution and improvements will lead to mixed views, if I can put it mildly.
One key quote I have is from page 27 of your report on vouching and whether we can fix it. Your conclusion was: “...reducing the current rate of serious errors during...vouching transactions forms an immense challenge that should not be underestimated.” So fixing it appears difficult, immense, impossible. The Supreme Court decision has shown that procedure, even asking people to follow procedure, is not disenfranchising them, and in fact it's maintaining the integrity of the process.
I'm going to ask you about what's on Elections Canada's website, which is basically voter identification at the polls. It's annex C of your interim report, which is the identification. You talk about 85% or more of Canadians having the quick one-to-three-minute time at the polling station. Those are people who are generally on the official list of electors, and they would come in with identification and go through. The 15% you talk about, the 17 exceptions that are required, some of those are physical assistance, disability, a whole range of those 17. But the ones that seem prone to error are either registration issues, which you're addressing through training and other improvements, or vouching. The audit showed that more than 120,000 vouching transactions produced 95,559 errors. Your report said there was a 42% error rate as a minimum, but it could go as high as 80%, but you couldn't conclude an exact figure because in some errors there were multiple errors. So what I'm quoting here—95,559—are errors but one transaction could have had two errors. Is that correct?
Friends and colleagues, we have a busy hour. Let's get started, please.
We have four different witnesses in this hour. It's always a bit fun when we try to do that, so let's do our best to get down to work, please.
We have Alison Loat, the executive director of Samara; from the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Graham Fox; Nathalie Des Rosiers, a member of the board from the Faculty of Law, civil law, at the University of Ottawa; and Taylor Gunn from Civix.
I'll start from my right and work left. If you have an opening statement, please try to make it as short as you can. I'll likely flag you down somewhere near the five-minute mark if you haven't stopped by then.
Ms. Loat, would you like to go first, please?
My name is Alison Loat. As the chair said, I am the co-founder and executive director of Samara, which is an independent non-partisan charity that works to improve political participation through research and education.
Today I'd like to suggest changes to Bill that our research suggests would help realize the ambition Monsieur set out in the bill's introduction, to “ensure everyday citizens are in charge of democracy”.
Our concern at Samara is with the declining participation of Canadians, both at elections and in between elections. In 2011, as this committee I'm sure well knows, only 38.8% of young people voted. Should these trends continue, this will further drive down turnout in Canada, already one of the lowest among western democracies. It's fair to assume that if only 38.8% graduated from high school, we might consider this a national emergency. We should be similarly concerned with our dismal turnout.
Apart from voting, Samara's research indicates that Canadians' political activity between elections, which includes such things as joining or donating to political parties or campaigns, is at or below 10%, and much lower for youth. This low participation is the largest problem facing Canadian democracy. Addressing it should be a paramount concern of every parliamentarian and a stronger focus of the bill.
Samara's focus group research confirms that people don't vote for two main reasons: access and motivation. Access includes things like not knowing where to vote or not having a registration card. Motivation includes things like believing that one's vote doesn't make a difference or that politics doesn't matter.
First, and in general terms, we recommend several changes to increase access. These are detailed in our submission, and include support for provisions to oversee telephone calls to voters and suggestions for improving efficiencies at polling stations.
Second, we have three specific suggestions to address the deeper problem of motivation and that seek to further citizens' participation through both multi-partisan and non-partisan means.
First, enhance the role of the Chief Electoral Officer to provide and support non-partisan public education on Canadian democracy. Elections Canada should be encouraged to do a much better job here. Given the severity of the turnout problem in Canada, a well-funded independent organization focused on engagement should be strengthened rather than eliminated, particularly given its support of programs—like Student Vote—that have proven results.
Second, we recommend that working with and through non-partisan civil society organizations, Elections Canada administer an innovative funding and research program based on current understanding of what is actually effective in increasing participation, and then measure and report on those results. This would be a valuable resource for political parties, teachers, academics, community groups, and others who seek to address Canada's declining political participation.
Third, in order to ensure that political parties fulfill the spirit of Mr. appeal in the House that parties “reach Canadians where they are in their communities”, we propose that parties allocate a portion of the increased funds, proposed in this bill, toward voter education and engagement in between elections. Mr. is correct in highlighting that parties and candidates play a critical role in encouraging participation, and no doubt that is part of why they are so generously supported with tax dollars.
However, declining voter turnout, together with Samara's research, suggests there is room for parties to improve. In a recent survey, we asked Canadians to clarify what they expect from political parties and grade their performance. Over half of Canadians agreed that parties' most important job is “reaching out so Canadians’ views can be represented”, but they gave parties a failing mark of 43% in that role.
Dedicated expenditures could be used to facilitate visits of candidates and party members to classrooms, or provide funding to organizations performing engagement work. That's to cite just two examples. This investment in citizen engagement could help improve Canadians’ perceptions of parties and bolster their involvement in them.
These three recommendations, coupled with further enhancements to voter access, will substantially improve Bill and Canada’s ability to tackle the most pressing problem facing our democracy—Canadians’ increasing disengagement from our very own political process.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I look forward to answering any questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will be speaking French and English.
My name is Nathalie Des Rosiers and I am here as a member of the Board of Fair Vote Canada, Représentation équitable au Canada. I am also currently with the Law Faculty, Common Law Section, and not the Civil Law Section, at the University of Ottawa.
Fair Vote Canada is a civil society group that aims to improve Canadian democracy, particularly through improvements to the Canadian electoral system.
Fair Vote is a grassroots organization and multi-partisan platform for electoral reform, and has been so since its beginning. My involvement with Fair Vote Canada came from a report that the Law Commission of Canada did, Un vote qui compte, which recommended some addition of an element of proportionality to avoid some of the problems of our current first-past-the-post system.
These proposals to reform our electoral system are on the table and must seriously be considered. I will be presenting certain concerns that Fair Vote Canada has with regards to the bill, as well as what it would like to see in a bill that would aim to improve Canadian democracy.
In the course of its work on improving democracy, Fair Vote Canada examined two aspects that are raised by the bill. First of all, the powers and autonomy of Elections Canada, as well as the system to control election expenses.
We have a more general concern with the integrity of the electoral system. The second part I'm going to talk about is as we said,
the effects of restrictions on voting, that is to say shrinking the pool of electors. That concerns us also.
Fair Vote Canada has always been concerned that the first-past-the-post system, the winner-takes-all aspect, undermines voter confidence and voter participation. It does undermine the motivation because your vote doesn't count the same. In a sense, I think we are concerned that some of the depositions in this bill may further erode voter confidence.
Certainly I think we support the recommendations for the increased power of Elections Canada to engage voters and do public education. We should encourage Elections Canada to have the power to communicate with the public widely. In that context I think the restrictions that Bill put on the power of Elections Canada to engage in public discussions and do research seem unwarranted at this time.
I think it is very important as well that we ensure the integrity of the system in a way in which appearances may make the difference here. Elections officers should be appointed by Elections Canada so they can be trained early and the appearance of neutrality be maintained. Central poll supervisors particularly are very important to maintain appearances here.
In our view the fundraising exceptions could lead to some difficulty in enforcement and to further scandals that undermine voter confidence at this point. I think it's well known that given that trends in voter participation are quite low, it seems to us to be the wrong time to do this.
Let's talk about the effects of restricting voting, that is to say shrinking the pool of electors. The purpose of any electoral reform should be to facilitate and encourage the exercise of one's right to vote. This is the very essence of our democracy, not only for the legitimacy of decisions taken by our Parliament, but also for the sense of civic belonging.
People who are encouraged to vote feel they belong. I am just going to end on this.
A lot of studies have established that political disengagement often leads to economic and social disengagement. It is very important that we not place obstacles or limit the exercise of people's right to vote in any way whatsoever.
In conclusion, in addition to the bill I think we should continue to pay attention to the possibility and encouragement of electoral reform. The mandate should continue to include doing research on why people vote or not, and what could improve voter participation in Canada.
I also thank the members of the committee for giving me this opportunity to comment on Bill .
The Institute for Research on Public Policy is a national independent, non-partisan think tank headquartered in Montreal. Our mission is to conduct research on issues of importance to Canadians and their governments, and bring academics and senior decision-makers together for discussion and debate based on that research.
As some of you will know, the IRPP has had a long-standing research interest in strengthening Canadian democracy and its institutions. Our most recent initiative, directly related to today's hearing, consisted of a consultation process with Canadian and international experts that led to our March 2013 report entitled Issues Arising from Improper Communications with Electors.
The report was distributed to committee members, so I'll dispense with a description of the process and focus my remarks on the recommendations coming out of our work as they relate to Bill .
First, let me note that there are portions of Bill that are supported by our work and echo our own recommendations regarding improper communications with electors. The provisions related to increasing penalties for existing offences, and creating new offences, received strong support from our experts. The report also calls for requiring parties to document their use of voter contact services and preserve those records. Creating a voter contact registry, as is proposed, would be a positive step forward in regulating communications with voters.
However, other provisions proposed in Bill stand in sharp contrast to the conclusions drawn by our experts. For instance, our group felt strongly that the public education role of Elections Canada needed to be enhanced and considered a crucial element of its mandate. To see it curtailed in the way that is proposed seems to be a step in the wrong direction. Enumeration used to play a vital role in informing citizens about elections, but with enumeration gone, the public awareness campaign takes on renewed importance and should be preserved.
Some have raised some good and important questions about the success of past efforts in increasing voter turnouts. I think that's an important point and should be studied further, but if the ad campaign is ineffective, I'd suggest that means get a new ad agency, not stop advertising.
I raise a similar concern regarding the elimination of vouching. To be clear, our experts did not examine the issue directly. It was beyond the scope of our initiative. That said, we did stress that a primary goal of the system should be to make voting as easy as possible for as many citizens as possible.
Be vigilant about fraud, absolutely, but when in doubt, err on the side of the voter. The elimination of vouching seems to run counter to that principle and may further marginalize groups who are already marginalized by the elimination of enumeration and its replacement by the permanent voters list. I would add quickly that I think the discussion you were having in your last session about alternatives to vouching was an important step forward. My point is simply that we don't know enough about the consequences of eliminating it outright to simply proceed without due consideration.
With regard to what's not in the bill, our group also noted that even with legitimate communications with electors there are significant policy gaps that need to be addressed regarding personal information held by party databases. As parties become more sophisticated at collecting information about voters, we need a privacy protection regime to regulate how that information is stored, used, and protected. Voters would be surprised to learn how much parties know about them, and probably shocked to know that the information is not protected. If there is still scope to add to the bill, I would urge the committee to consider seriously a regulatory regime to frame how parties manage and protect our personal information.
Finally, our experts felt strongly that when making any changes to the Elections Act, Parliament should do its utmost to seek as broad a consensus as possible before it proceeds. Given how fundamental the act is to the conduct of our politics, we should avoid making changes on division, and aim for all-party support to the extent that is possible.
In light of what I think is a strong consensus on some issues covered in Bill and the great divisions that remain on others, I would suggest that the committee consider splitting the bill in two. Move quickly to enact the provisions that address improper communications with electors and perhaps other sections of the bill, and hold back on the public education role of Elections Canada, vouching, and perhaps other issues that would benefit from further debate and reflection.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks. That's the fastest 15 minutes that's ever gone by.
My name is Taylor Gunn, and I'm the founding president of Civix. I have spent the last 12 years working with students, teachers, schools, governments, and election agencies to encourage youth democratic participation.
My organization, Civix, primarily provides experiential civic education programming for elementary and secondary school students. Our rationale is that the best way for a young person to learn about their democracy is to experience it rather than to read about it in a textbook.
Our farthest-reaching and longest-running program is called Student Vote. It's a parallel election for students under the voting age. Many of you have participated in it. Basically, it helps schools put democracy on the curriculum throughout the course of an election campaign. Kids go home and they engage their parents in the election. They meet the official election candidates. They run the vote in the school for their peers, and they vote on the official election candidates.
In the last federal election, for the second time, we had over 500,000 students from just under 4,000 schools across the country. The cost of the program, in partnership with Elections Canada, was approximately $750,000. That equates to about $1.32 per student.
We now offer other programs between elections, because we know that being a citizen means more than just casting a ballot at election time.
You might have heard about the student budget consultation that we coordinated with Finance Minister Flaherty and the opposition party leaders, including Ms. May, thank you. It was all about getting kids to understand the federal budget.
We launched something this school year called Rep Day, which many of you have taken part in as well. Through that we're trying to help you get face time with your local high school students to break down their occasionally negative stereotypes of politicians and the political process.
I'm here with you today because I want to work with you on this act. We've enjoyed the privilege of working with Elections Canada over the past four federal elections through section 18.
This draft of the would disempower Elections Canada from supporting us working in schools across the country. This is very important to me, because we think that in 2015 it will be possible to be in half of all schools in this country and to increase our numbers significantly. I don't feel that I can do that without the support of Elections Canada.
We have two short recommendations for you, but I first wanted to touch on something that's very important to us.
For us to be welcomed into schools, being in partnership with Elections Canada, along with the authenticity and credibility that creates, is critical. It is an irreplaceable badge of honour. Everyone knows that Elections Canada is our electoral agency and it can't be replaced with support from say, a Fraser Institute, or a Tides Canada foundation, or another group, for example. It's critical that we maintain that relationship.
The two recommendations we have are as follows. The first one may be obvious. We've enjoyed working under section 18. It's allowed us to come to them with new ideas. Obviously it's up to interpretation what they decide to support or get involved in, and maybe you'd like to narrow that. So our first recommendation would be to keep section 18 as it is and reserve the time of the committee to focus on some of the other major issues like vouching, etc.
Our second one—and you can look at the last page of the little booklet we gave you—deals with the new section 18, where the sidebar says “communication with electors”. What we do is teach the when, where, and how of voting. It's not even really in the bill; it's just describing what the new section is. If that could be changed to “communication with Canadians” I think that would allow us to have permission to teach the when, where, and how of voting, with the support of Elections Canada, to non-electors—those under the voting age.
Outside of that—I can't believe I did that in four minutes. I'm so sorry. That must have been too fast—I'd like to say thanks for having the opportunity to have four and a half minutes. I'd just like to point out that in our opinion, the most significant and important actors in our democracy right now are teachers and our schools. Schools play such an important and integral role in civic education. They don't need a whole curriculum around social studies or around how to be a citizen. They just need great teachers who care about this. They can bring these opportunities into the curriculum. I hope that you'll help us continue to do that.
And thank you all for being here today.
Before I begin with my questions, I just want to for the record perhaps set something straight. There was commentary that was provided by Mr. Lamoureux's mirror image, Mr. Simms, who was with us during the presentation by Mr. Neufeld, and that is that Mr. Simms brought the example forward of a woman in a care facility in his home province, in his riding actually, who he stated would not have been able to vote without the voter information card, because he said it was the only possible piece of identification that showed where she lived.
I point out that's absolutely false, because contained in the act is the ability for seniors who live in care facilities to merely get an attestation from the head of the facility, saying, “This woman lives here.” That's all they need. So she would have been able to vote, despite the protestations of Mr. Simms. I want to have that on the record.
For my question I think I'll first start with Mr. Fox. I think most Canadians who were paying any attention know, after the last election, the biggest controversy surrounded the robocall situation and Pierre Poutine, the still-unknown Pierre Poutine, who apparently had a fairly widespread and fairly orchestrated attempt of voter suppression. Now, the fair elections act, Bill , deals with that very situation in that it uses the CRTC as the central repository for all voter contact services to register, and in fact without going into all of the details....
I know, Mr. Fox, your organization did fairly extensive studies on voter contact services, but when I asked former chief electoral officer Kingsley, who testified before this committee on Tuesday, if he believed the provisions contained in the fair elections act would prevent that very situation from occurring in the future, he said an unequivocal yes. I would like your opinion, since your organization did so much work on this very issue, about the government's proposal on regulating voter contact services and the role of the CRTC that is contained in Bill C-23.
Thank you for that. I think your comments echo what Mr. Kingsley was saying.
Mr. Kingsley did go a little further. You mentioned you were not here to give any absolutes. He did, in effect. He said his examination of the bill, with the provisions contained regarding what we commonly know now as robocalls, would prevent that orchestrated voter suppression attempt by whoever Pierre Poutine is from occurring in the future.
However, I guess one thing still is up for discussion, and that is how long records should be kept. Bill , the fair elections act, recommends that all records be kept for one year so there is a record of what's happened and what occurred, in terms of script, calls made, calls received, and that type of thing.
Some of the opposition has been criticizing that. We feel that one year is a good balance because right now there's no requirement to keep records for any period of time.
One of the reasons that we are suggesting one year would be adequate is that if there is to be another situation—hopefully, there will not—where something like voter suppression through a robocall system is alerted, in all probability the investigation would commence almost immediately. With the trail that we propose to now regulate, we feel one year would be adequate.
Does your organization have any thoughts on whether keeping records for one year is adequate or too little?
In our submission, and also in my remarks, we had three recommendations on increasing citizen engagement and education, both during and in between elections. That would be done in non-partisan as well as multi-partisan ways. We do believe that political parties and candidates have an extremely important role to play in engaging electorate.
Our research suggests that there's a big bridge between where they could be and where they are, at least in the eyes of citizens. I do have concern about the low credibility that political parties have in the eyes of the public, and as I said, particularly given the quite generous public subsidies they receive.
I mentioned two points about Elections Canada: one, strengthening the role and encouraging them to do a better job; two, having an innovative funding and research program that's based on what we know works, whether Elections Canada is asked to measure results and share those and communicate those so that there's a broader understanding of what we can do to encourage greater voter participation. And third, I do suggest that some of the additional funds provided for political parties in this bill be allocated to voter education so that political parties are sending a message that they are serious about the very severe decline in participation, particularly among young people in this country.
I'm going to follow along on the education part of it as well here. I think what we're talking about is voter turnout when we're talking about the education and the information. I think there are two things that drive voter turnout. The first one is motivation to vote, and the second one is information about voting. Obviously, information is the responsibility of Elections Canada—that's quite clear—letting people know how to vote, where to vote, when to vote. Their own data show that they have been doing a fairly poor job of it.
After the last election, there were reports of young non-voters not knowing where to vote, 25% of them saying they didn't know where to vote. Twenty-six percent didn't know when to vote. Nineteen percent didn't know how to vote. So obviously that would have played a role in their decision not to vote. So that's a barrier there.
I wanted to just ask Mr. Gunn and maybe Ms. Loat—I want to ask you to be quite brief because I've only got three minutes left at this point—if you could just give us a bit of your sense...that tells us about the information part of it, but the motivation part is the part I'd like to ask you about. Can you give us any insights? What are your feelings as to what motivates a person to vote? Obviously the approach of Elections Canada means millions of dollars spent in the last several years, and it doesn't seem to be working.
Tell us what your feelings are, again, briefly. What motivates someone to vote?
I am. Thank you, Chair. That saves me from having to say it.
I would also like to use my time to advise you of a notice of motion.
Earlier today, the government attempted a drive-by smear and, in addition, tried to find a political diversion from the train wreck that is these hearings in terms of their shredded bill . This is a referral from the House. Given the fact that it attacks my party and my leader, we feel that it should be dealt with immediately.
Not only are we in compliance with all of the rules, but we're proud of the outreach work that we're doing, and therefore, I move the following motion:
That, pursuant to the motion adopted by the House of Commons on Thursday, March 27, 2014 relating to the Official Opposition, the Committee invite the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, and also invite the Right Honourable Prime Minister to appear before the Committee to address the many partisan activities undertaken by his government, specifically by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and by the Conservative Research Group (CRG), and that furthermore, the current study on C-23 be extended by the same number of days as those scheduled for the study on the referred motion.
With that, I turn the floor over to my colleague, Madam Latendresse.
An hon. member: If I could be on the order paper for that motion...?
My question relates to the education role you guys have. One of the problems that I have felt exists, and I've felt this for many years, is that there is inadequate education as to how to vote. I think you and I may disagree a little about whether people vote because they are insufficiently motivated versus encountering genuine barriers to voting.
This is just my thought and then I'll let you answer, but here, Taylor, is what I wanted to say. We do know from the CEO's report on lack of youth participation, that when young voters—he divided the young people into five groups—cited reasons why they hadn't participated, three of the groups—and I can't remember which of the three subcategories it was—indicated that one of the primary reasons was lack of voter information materials, voter information cards, which among other things tell you where to vote. It does serve as a prompt. Many people carry these things into the poll. I did; it was a helpful reminder of here's where and when the advanced poll is, that kind of thing. They don't get those things.
If you're in the schools I think it would be useful for kids as part of your education process, when they are too young to vote but are at home. Then they move away to go to college and they can vote, but now we've lost track of them. Helping to educate them on how to exercise that franchise a couple of years in the future would be an enormously useful service.
I'm recommending you do something like that. I'm going to ask you to comment on that or general issues in relation to that.
That's a great recommendation. Hopefully other members can agree that it's a great recommendation so that I can incorporate a great recommendation from the committee rather than just one partisan member.
I've always found voter information cards to be useful. I think voters now have a habit of recognizing and using those. Obviously that should carry on. I don't know if this is so relative to the committee—but certain election agencies across the country have attempted to explore whether or not they could share information with their provincial counterparts—the Ministry of Education, for example, so that as young people went through school, they were automatically put on the registered voters list. Does that help them if they move away to school and they're sharing a place and only one person has their name on that house as residence? I don't think so in the case of voter information cards. If it comes to be that this passes and section 18 is restricted, we'll focus our information that we provide to schools. Everyone will put more energy into just the when, where, and how to vote.
I think the bill is trying to imply that someone shouldn't be trying to tell people why to vote. I can understand that. But the why comes from the when, where, and how. At least in our program, when you go into a school with your fellow candidates, you're not teaching the why. The kids figure out the why. When they go home and talk to their parents, that's where they learn the why.
I feel that even the previous section 18, the current section 18, could be interpreted in exactly the same way. It would be great just to have the committee clarify that especially around things like civic education and public engagement.
That will be here in Centre Block some place I would hope, Mr. Lamoureux.
With direction from the steering committee, we've started scheduling for next week. We have finished scheduling for next week. We finished scheduling for the rest. It's not all available because we're still doing some invites.
This committee will be working Monday evenings, 7 to 11. Tuesday, normal time, 11 to 1. Tuesday evening, the same timeframe, 7 to 11. Wednesday evening, the same timeframe, 7 to 11. Normal meeting time on Thursday, 11 to 1.
That will happen through all the weeks that we're sitting studying this. I promised that we would give as much opportunity to every witness who is asked to be here and for any witness to send briefs and the like. That will accomplish that. We've also reduced the size from four to a maximum of three on groups, like we just had, to try to make that work a little bit better too.
So if you give the.... As the steering committee did the other day...allowed the chair and the clerk to move forward on that and started that scheduling and with the competent work of the committee, I'm sure we can accomplish the rest.
I would assume then that sometime after 11 on Monday night is when we'll deal with Mr. Christopherson's motion.
Sorry, Dave, that was just a joke.
Anything else for the good of the committee today?
We are adjourned.