Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in the House today to speak to the motion brought forward by my colleagues in the official opposition. However, and I think it will come as no surprise to members of the opposition, I certainly oppose the motion that the official opposition has brought forward.
It is also very important for Canadians to understand the context in which we are having this debate. The fair elections act has passed second reading and has been referred to committee. That committee is procedure and House affairs, of which I am a member. We have had the opportunity to begin examination of that bill starting two meetings ago, yet no examination has occurred except for one hour of presentation and participation by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform.
Since that time there has been no examination of the bill whatsoever, because members of the NDP, in particular the NDP critic for democratic reform, have been filibustering the committee. Why have they been filibustering? It is because the NDP, supported by the Liberals, have said that they want to see cross-country hearings on the content of the bill, and until they get a commitment from the government to engage in cross-country consultations, they will refuse to hear witnesses at the committee level.
This is a gross misuse of power. Obviously, opposition members have the ability, procedurally, to filibuster. We have certainly allowed that to happen. The irony is that all members from the opposition benches have said this is such an important piece of legislation, that Canadians need to be consulted, and that we need to hear testimony about the contents of the bill, yet they are preventing testimony from being heard at the committee level simply because they do not like the government's proposal to hear testimony at the committee level here in Ottawa.
Members of the opposition feel that effective and accurate testimony and widespread consultation with Canadians is paramount. They feel that without that cross-country tour, information and input from Canadians would be lacking. I cannot more vociferously and fundamentally disagree with their contention.
Let me first point out that I have heard today in debate from members of the opposition that our government is trying to stifle debate and is trying to prevent witnesses from appearing before the committee. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I, as many members would know, have been a primary government spokesperson on this issue, and I have stated publicly on a number of occasions that our government is willing to hear testimony from anyone in this country who has testimony they feel would be important for our committee to receive. We can do that with today's technology very easily.
I doubt very much, despite the protestations of my friends opposite, that anyone in Canada who would like to give testimony before our committee would be prevented from doing so, given the state of today's technology. Whether it be through Skype, teleconference, or a number of other avenues that we have before us, literally every single Canadian would have the ability to forward testimony to our committee.
Members opposite have said that is simply not true. They have said that there are many people in remote areas of this country, on reserves, or in rural Canada who do not have access to the Internet, for example, and who could not get on Skype. I would suggest that anyone with a computer or with access to a computer would have access to our committee. If there is an individual in a certain location in this country that does not have Internet service, we will get them to the nearest location that provides Internet service so that we would be able to hear their testimony.
I have also stated quite publicly that our committee would be willing to meet at least 12 or 13 times to hear testimony.
To put that into context, most Canadians may be unaware of exactly how long a bill is normally examined. I can assure the Speaker that members in this place know as well as I do that the study of a bill, regardless of what legislation is being proposed, usually does not take 12 or 13 meetings for a full examination. Even our budget bills have not taken that length of time.
Yet, we have committed to hearing testimony, to sitting in committee, and to examining this bill, for up to 13 separate two-hour meetings because we feel that this is an important bill and should be scrutinized and examined carefully. To again put that into context, if we met for 13 separate occasions, on average that would be two to three times longer than a normal piece of legislation is examined by standing committees in this place. We are committed to that.
The opposition members who are talking the talk do not seem to be walking the walk. They are stating that while they feel this is an extremely important piece of legislation and should be examined carefully and thoroughly, they are refusing to allow the committee to do its work. They are refusing to allow witnesses to come forward and speak to the bill. That is all we are asking for. If they want to examine the bill, that is tremendous; so do we.
Are there improvements that could be made? Perhaps there could be. We have indicated that we would be open to any reasonable amendment that makes sense. We are not trying to ram this piece of legislation through, as the opposition would try to have Canadians believe. We are committed to putting more time in to the examination of this bill than probably any other piece of legislation that members have seen in this place. I would challenge any member sitting here today to tell me what other piece of legislation has been granted that amount of time for study because, frankly, there has not been. The opposition members are continually saying that the government is trying to ram this through. That is pure and utter hogwash.
I would also point out that the opposition members have stated publicly that they have two primary problems with this bill. Why are we not examining those provisions of the bill? One issue is on the voter ID card. The fair elections act would do away with the voter ID card as we now know it. The second is the vouching practice. The fair elections act would dispose of the current practice that allows certain individuals to vouch for a potential voter who does not have the proper identification.
The reason that the fair elections act would do away with those two provisions is because, unfortunately, there is too much opportunity for abuse and voter fraud by both the use of voter ID cards and by vouching. Had we been engaged in committee hearings right now, undoubtedly we would have heard from, or at least we would have scheduled appearances of those people who could testify to fraud that has occurred in previous elections because of these two elements of the current practice of administering elections.
The voter ID card does not definitively prove the identity of any Canadian. With the permanent registry of electors, a card is sent out in the mail to individuals. However, it is not absolute proof that the person who is in possession of that voter ID card is actually the person who is entitled to vote.
We have heard a lot of debate over the past few weeks, and even today, where members are saying that voting is a privilege and a right. We could have a debate on whether or not it is a right or a privilege. What certainly cannot be denied is that voting means that the person casting a ballot has to be eligible; in other words, they have to be able to prove that they are the one who is eligible to vote. That is not an unusual demand or request to put upon Canadians. If we are not able to identify the individual who wants to cast a ballot, how do we know that person is eligible to cast a ballot? That is all that the fair elections act does.
Now, there will be some who argue that the provisions contained in the fair elections act are too cumbersome, unwieldy, and would actually disenfranchise people. Members of the opposition have pointed to statistics saying that in the last federal election there were 100,000 people who cast ballots because someone vouched for their identity and that if we did away with vouching those people would somehow be disenfranchised. I, again, beg to differ. I certainly do not know all of the 100,000 people who were vouched for in the last election, but I do know this. Over my five terms in office as a member of Parliament, I have seen voting practices in my riding, and every time we have had a federal election I have seen vouching in action. While I agree that many times the person who is vouched for is indeed eligible to vote, on many occasions it is not because they did not have the proper identification. Many times, frankly, they show up at the polling booth, and when asked to produce identification, they say they forgot it. They say that they have a driver's licence but do not have it with them, so someone then vouches for them.
One of the provisions of the Canada Elections Act is that Elections Canada devotes all of its advertising and considerable resources to educating Canadians and letting them know, not only when and where to vote, but what proper identification they must possess to prove their identity. That is all we are saying. If we cannot properly identify potential voters, how do we know these voters are in fact who they say they are?
There have been arguments raised by members of the opposition that perhaps there are many people who have been vouched for in the last few elections who have the proper identification and did not have it on their person when they came to the polls but that there are many other people who do not have the proper identification that is needed. That is why in the fair elections act we have increased the number of documents that would be eligible for identification purposes to 39 different documents that could be used to prove the identity of a potential voter. If there is anyone in this country who cannot come up with two out of those 39 pieces of identification, that individual probably was not planning to vote in the first place.
We have heard examples of people in first nations and on reserves who perhaps do not have a driver's licence and lack the common pieces of identification that many other Canadians in, say, urban centres have. One of the provisions is that first nations members could get an attestation from anyone on the band council, stating that they are so and so and reside on this reserve. If individuals do not have a driver's licence or any commonly familiar pieces of identification, they could get something from their own council member stating that they reside there and are therefore eligible to vote.
As well, every Canadian has the ability to have a birth certificate. Most Canadians have bank accounts and therefore have something like a common debit card. University students, who perhaps do not drive and cannot produce a driver's licence, certainly have student cards, and they certainly have transcripts of their marks from their educational institution. All of these types of documents, and many more, would be proper identification under the fair elections act. We are not trying to disenfranchise anyone in Canada from voting; it is just the opposite. However, we want to ensure that fraud does not take place. That is all we are stating.
Another complaint that I have heard from members opposite is that by preventing these cross-country consultations we are in fact denying any consultation whatsoever. They also point out, and wrongly argue I would suggest, that no consultation was engaged prior to the drafting of the bill.
Let me point out the disingenuous nature of that argument. In the provisions of the fair elections act, there are 38 recommendations that were made by the current Chief Electoral Officer. I would ask members opposite, if there has been no consultation, how then do we have 38 recommendations that the Chief Electoral Officer made?
Of course, there have been consultations. I have been sitting on the procedure and House affairs committee since 2006, when we first formed government. We have heard, not only from this Chief Electoral Officer, but his predecessor, on many, many occasions. We have had many discussions with those individuals as to the type of elements they would like in any new election act that is brought forward. There were 38 recommendations from the current Chief Electoral Officer. How can the opposition say there have not been consultations? It does not make sense.
I would also point out that the first point of contact when trying to get consultations and feedback from Canadians are members of Parliament themselves. I do not know what my friends and colleagues in the opposition do, but when we introduce a piece of legislation as important as this, I consult with my constituents. I find out what they have to say about things like vouching and voter ID cards, and our attempts to make the commissioner of elections independent from Elections Canada itself. I get that consultation. That is my job.
Apparently members on the government side may be the only ones doing their jobs because the opposition members say we are not consulting, that we need to hear from Canadians. What do they think their job is? They need to be consulting with their constituents and Canadians and bringing that feedback to committee.
There is no argument that I have heard from members opposite that would change my mind on whether there is a need for cross-country consultations. We can do the job here. We should be doing the job right now. However, because of the filibuster engaged in by members opposite, we are hearing from no one.
I want to hear from the Chief Electoral Officer. I would love to hear from the former chief electoral officer, who, by the way, has examined our legislation and, as he said, if he were giving a grade in a Master's class, he would give it an A-. That is a pretty good grade.
Are there ways that we could improve upon the legislation? Of course, there are. I do not think there has been a piece of legislation brought forward by our government, or any government previously, that could not in some way, shape, or fashion have been improved. That is what committees do. They thoroughly examine legislation, provide amendments, and suggest improvements. The committee then analyzes, discusses, hears testimony, and finally presents a piece of legislation to this House for further debate and an ultimate vote.
We are doing none of that now because the opposition does not want debate on the bill. We know why. Its members have stated publicly, before they even read the bill, that they were going to oppose it. The democratic reform critic, the member for , a learned man and someone I frankly admire and respect, came out before he even read the bill and said they were going to oppose this.
I think, if nothing else, that tells the position of the opposition.
In conclusion, let me just say this. I have read the bill. I look forward to its examination in committee, whenever we get there. I sincerely applaud the work of the for bringing a bill forward that would address a lot of the problems we have had in this country with things like fraudulent voting and big money that has influenced elections. I look forward to putting provisions in the bill to prevent those types of things from happening again.
It is a bill worth examination. I only suggest to my colleagues opposite that they allow us to do the proper examination that the bill deserves.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to speak today to the very important motion moved by the NDP. It has come to this with the debate on Bill .
This involves a law that is vital in a democracy. The Canada Elections Act is the most important law for our democracy. It is considered to be almost constitutional. We must examine the proposed changes with the greatest respect for democracy and Parliament, because the latter is responsible for this act.
The act was amended in the past. However, this is the first time, if my memory serves me well, that a government wants to amend it in such a cavalier manner. The government has not even bothered to consult or approach the other parties in this House, even though the other political parties participate in all elections and the democratic process.
Not only have the Conservatives failed to consult the parties, but they are also introducing legislation that will make draconian changes to the Canada Elections Act. I will not go into the details of the bill because I have already done so at debate on second reading.
However, I do not think that this is how the government should have gone about changing the Canada Elections Act. From the outset, the government has been trying to move forward with this as quickly as possible. Why? The reason is simple. The government is trying to hide things. The bill contains things that the Conservatives do not want to spend a lot of time talking about.
In fact, the government wants to move on to something else as quickly as possible, as is the case with most of the bills it introduces. The government tries to expedite the process in order to ensure that bills are passed very quickly before the public has time to realize what is happening. Once the Canada Elections Act has been amended, there will be no going back, unless we want to go through the lengthy process of amending the law again.
I am clearly very concerned about this issue. The bill makes significant changes that could affect certain segments of the population, namely young people. We have heard this during today's debate and at other times as well.
In Sherbrooke, there are two universities, one of which is located in my riding. There are also a number of colleges and CEGEPs. I therefore feel quite strongly about this issue.
As an MP, it is my duty to represent the interests of the people of Sherbrooke when it comes to this bill and today's motion, which deals specifically with consultations.
The committee should hold consultations across Canada, including in the Eastern Townships and Sherbrooke, which are areas that could be affected by this bill. It is the committee's duty to do so.
We are often asked why the House should tell a committee what it needs to do. I think the reason is quite simple: all the resources available to the committee have already been exhausted. The request has already been made and all the possibilities have been exhausted. As the chair of a committee, I can attest that the committee will continue to control its own destiny and agenda, no matter what happens.
If the House votes in favour of this motion, that would put pressure on the members of the committee in question. They would practically be forced to move forward and abide by the decision of the House as a whole.
I think that is what it has come to because we have already exhausted all the other avenues with the requests made in committee that were rejected by the Conservatives. We hope that this time, because all MPs will vote, some from across the way will see the light and vote with us on this motion that we have moved. We hope to be able to hold the consultations that we have been calling for since the bill was introduced, so that we can go directly to the people this affects. I think that is the key in all this.
I think this is the least we can do, given how important this law is for our democracy and how much respect we have for it. This has been done in a number of other files, for a number of other bills. Consultations have been held across Canada for various things. Earlier, other members gave examples of bills that were before parliamentary committees. Those committees decided to travel and hold consultations on those various bills.
Today, we have a bill to change the Elections Act, and the government is refusing to hold any consultations and talk to Canadians about this. It makes us wonder how important the Canada Elections Act is to the government when it cannot accept a request as simple as holding consultations like the ones that have been held for many other bills in the past.
It makes us wonder what the Conservatives are afraid of. That is the question that comes to my mind when I see the Conservatives opposing the idea of talking to Canadians. They must be afraid of something. We already heard the say in committee that it would be a circus, a ridiculous spectacle. I do not remember his exact words, but he seemed to be ridiculing the idea of consulting Canadians. The parliamentary secretary seemed to be saying that it was ridiculous, there was no point and we should not consult Canadians.
We completely disagree. I think that we would see the complete opposite. It would be even more helpful for the committee members who will study the bill. After several consultation sessions, the committee members would be able to go through the bill clause by clause, taking into account what they heard in the various communities across Canada, whether it was on aboriginal reserves—which we think will be significantly affected—on university campuses or in seniors' homes. These are examples of places the committee could visit to make a better study of this bill.
I think this bill has a number of shortcomings, and I think that consultation is the best way to make improvements. I may be naive, but even after three years here, I have faith that it is possible to improve this bill. Maybe I am kidding myself, but I still think it is possible.
The best way to improve the bill is to consult the people who will be affected by the changes to the Canada Elections Act. This may involve some amendments to the bill, because we will truly know what kind of impact these changes will have and how we can improve the bill. I hope that will be possible.
I ask my colleagues in all parties to support this motion to consult all Canadians across the country.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today because I want to help protect something that is very precious to Canadians: our democracy.
The motion moved by the member for is a reasonable response to the Conservatives' misguided efforts with respect to democracy. As my colleague from said earlier, this is electoral “deformation”.
What we are asking for is not complicated. We want Canadians and stakeholder groups to have a chance to express their views on these significant changes to our election legislation. When I say Canadians and stakeholder groups, I mean Elections Canada, the minister, of course, first nations, anti-poverty groups, people with disabilities, youth and students from all parts of the country, urban, rural and remote alike.
The committee has to travel. It cannot stay here in the ivory tower in Ottawa. No one can deny that Ottawa is an ivory tower. When we are here, we do not know what is going on in the rest of Canada.
Many committees travel in the course of their duties. Going to see people is essential. We have no choice. I do not see why the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs would not travel in this case. The government will say that it would be an expense, and I agree. However, some expenses are essential to democracy, and consulting the people is one such expense.
I think that, in devising this reform, the Conservatives did not pay much attention to people's reality. I think they could not care less. They are not spending money on the right things, if you ask me, and this is a serious threat to our democracy.
Since we are talking about democracy, I would like to take a little step back. The word “democracy” means “power to the people”. We all agree on that. I think the government is afraid of the people. The Conservatives are well aware that because they came up with such a bad bill, consulting people who are worried about this kind of reform might not go well. People would put the Conservatives in their place. That might be what happens.
I have not had the opportunity to speak to Bill , the subject of our motion. I would like to provide a brief overview to illustrate how essential our motion is and how badly the government has botched this bill.
To start, this bill will strip Election Canada of its investigative powers. The Commissioner of Canada Elections will now be under the Director of Public Prosecutions. That would be like removing the RCMP's ability to investigate Criminal Code offences. It makes absolutely no sense. This is a serious change that will prove to be completely ineffective.
Furthermore, the government also wants to take away the Chief Electoral Officer's power to engage in public education, but public education is essential. This will in no way contribute to increasing voter turnout. The Chief Electoral Officer will not be able to talk to people about aspects of the electoral process or work to prevent electoral fraud. This is especially problematic.
The Chief Electoral Officer will also have to seek Treasury Board approval to hire experts. This is serious interference in the work of a senior official. That is not so unusual around here, as we know that the government enjoys that type of thing. However, this makes our electoral system less effective and again threatens our democracy.
The bill will also eliminate the ability of electors to prove their identity through vouching. This may seem minor, but it is a very serious issue. Some people will no longer be able to vote. Let us take for example an elderly woman who does not have a driver's licence and whose accounts are all in her husband's name. She will not be able to vote. Another example is a student who has a student card but does not have a driver's licence. That person will not be able to vote.
I would also like to add that voter information cards will no longer be able to be used as proof of identity. This creates the same problem.
The bill also increases the maximum threshold for individual donations from $1,200 to $1,500. This means that the electoral process would continue to favour people with money. Why are we doing this when Quebec did just the opposite? Quebec decreased the maximum amount of donations. I therefore do not see why we are doing the opposite. It does not make any sense.
The bill will also make it possible for candidates to contribute $5,000 to their own campaigns. I would like to give a very specific example. When I ran for my party, I had little to no money. If this bill had been in effect at that time, I could not have run for office and I would not be here right now. However, my constituents tell me that I am living up to their expectations. This bill would therefore rule out quality candidates who do not have the money to contribute to their campaign. Money is always being put first and foremost.
As I was saying earlier, many committees travel in the course of their duties and that is essential. I do not see why committees should be prevented from going to consult with Canadians. I want to reiterate that I believe that the government is afraid of what might come out of those consultations. To reassure my colleagues, I would like to add that I often hold consultations in my riding on anything and everything. I like consulting my constituents and finding out what they think about many topics.
The government should start doing that because it is essential, particularly since this bill has a direct impact on various segments of the population that need to share their opinions. Consulting these people will only help us to do a better job, and of course, we should go to them rather than making them to come to Ottawa. It is really important.
As I was saying earlier, good things do not come cheap. We need to move forward and improve our electoral system. Electoral reform would be a good thing, of course, but not in this way. This is not the right approach. That is my opinion and that of all my colleagues here at this time. You cannot impose things on people in this way, by ramming them down their throats and telling them that this is how it will be from now on. We do not do that in our country. We have a democratic country that is a great place to live. We want to keep it that way. That is not what the government is doing at this time.
This government is jeopardizing a number of things, and that is very problematic. If the Conservatives were to accept this motion, it would be a good start, because consulting people and implementing real electoral reforms together with the people is a step in the right direction.
Mr. Speaker, one would think that someone who has been here as long as that member would know the rules.
The bill would also make it harder to break the elections law. It would close loopholes to big money, pose new penalties on political imposters who make rogue calls, and empower law enforcement with sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand.
The fair elections act would protect voters from rogue calls with a mandatory public registry for mass calling, prison time for impersonating elections officials, and increased penalties. It would give more independence to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, allowing him or her control over staff and investigations, empowering her or him to seek tougher penalties for existing electoral offences, and providing more than a dozen new offences to combat big money, rogue calls, and fraudulent voting.
It would ban the use of loans used to evade donation rules. I am sure the member for understands that one.
It would repeal the ban on premature transmission of elections results, upholding free speech. It would provide better customer service to voters and establish an extra day of polling.
In the case of disagreements over election expenses, it would allow an MP to present the disputed case in the courts and to have judges rule quickly on it before the Chief Electoral Officer seeks the suspension of the MP.
It would make the rules for elections clear, predictable, and easier to follow.
It would crack down on voter fraud by prohibiting vouching or voter information cards as acceptable forms of ID. This last provision, cracking down on voter fraud, will be the focus of my remarks today.
Each time people vote fraudulently they cancel out the ballot of an honest voter. Studies commissioned by Elections Canada demonstrate mass irregularities in the use of vouching and high rates of inaccuracy on voter information cards. Voters would still have 39 forms of authorized ID to choose from to prove identity and residence.
The fair elections act would protect the integrity of the vote by ending the risky practices that are prone to errors and irregularities. The measures included in the act would strengthen our election system through reforms that would increase oversight, accountability, and enforcement while taking action to ensure the integrity of the vote and provide greater opportunities for Canadians to vote.
Among the important initiatives included in the act are measures to combat voter fraud and increase the confidence of Canadians in the electoral process.
The current provision that allows for the vouching system in general elections has been used in 2008 and 2011, as well as in by-elections since 2007. The Neufeld report, a study that was commissioned by Elections Canada to examine administrative deficiencies at the polls in the 2011 election, concluded that vouching procedures are overly complex and that this has contributed to irregularities in the polling process. It concluded that, among a sample of polls from Etobicoke Centre during the last general election and in by-elections in Victoria, Durham, and Calgary Centre, there were irregularities in 25% of the cases where vouching was used. A national sample based on the last election identified that, of the cases that involved vouching, 42% had irregularities.
Mr. Neufeld stated:
Serious errors, of a type courts consider “irregularities” that can contribute to an election being overturned, were found to occur in 12 percent of all Election Day cases involving voter registration, and 42 percent of cases involving identity vouching.
Even with increased quality assurance, the report indicates that the problem would not be remedied.
This was identified in the Neufeld report, and I quote:
Identity vouching procedures are unquestionably the most complex “exception” process administered at polling stations. The level of irregularities for vouching averaged 25 percent. During two of these elections, quality assurance programs involving Onsite Conformity Advisors (OCAs) were applied. However, vouching irregularities still averaged 21 percent during the OCA monitored elections. This indicates that overly complex procedures cannot be remedied simply by improved quality assurance.
Vouching is risky and subject to high levels of irregularity, and increased quality assurance would not remedy the problem. That is why our government took steps in the fair elections act to eliminate this practice.
In addition to the elimination of the vouching process, the fair elections act proposes to include measures to improve the communication to voters about what types of identification are acceptable at the polls. Canadians are often confused about what forms of ID are acceptable in order to vote. The fair elections act responds to this by requiring the Chief Electoral Officer to communicate to Canadians what forms of ID are acceptable in order to vote.
Research shows that most electors have identification with their name and date of birth. The Uniform Law Conference of Canada states:
Almost all voters have some documentary evidence of who they are and their date of birth....
What is often most difficult for a voter to provide is documentary evidence of residence....
There are many options to choose from in order to vote. Canadians can choose 2 among 39 unique forms of ID that show their name and residence. In addition to providing their name, which almost all Canadians can do, residency can be demonstrated with documentation issued by the responsible authority of a shelter, soup kitchen, student or seniors residence, or long-term care facility. These documents include an attestation of residence, a letter of stay, an admission form, and statement of benefits. I believe that virtually all Canadians can meet the identification requirements, given the exhaustive options that are available.
I will not take time to list all 39 options, but I think it is important to read into the record a few that many Canadians already have: driver's licence, health card, Canadian passport, certificate of Canadian citizenship, birth certificate, certificate of Indian status, social insurance number card, old age security card, student ID card, library card, public transportation card, Canadian Forces identity card, a Veterans Affairs health card, hospital bracelet worn by residents of long-term care facilities, letter from a public guardian, public curator, or public trustee, or a bank credit card statement.
I have only mentioned 16 of the 39 options; so this provides members with a good idea of how many identification options are available.
While Elections Canada has estimated that as many as 120,000 voters have used vouching on election day, these voters could have proven their identity and residence if that requirement and the options available had been explained to them. The fair elections act would require in law that Elections Canada communicate what forms of ID would be accepted at polling stations. This important measure would provide voters with the knowledge they need about what identification to bring before they head to the polls.
Another important matter addressed in the act is the use of voter information cards. The voter information card is a card that Elections Canada sends out during an election campaign to every elector whose name appears on the list. It informs electors when and where they can cast their ballots on election day or at the advance polls. A card is also sent to every elector who is added to the list of electors during the revision period. The voter information cards play an important role informing Canadians about where and when they need to vote.
However, they have not been used as a proof of identification and residency at the polls, apart from some pilot projects conducted by Elections Canada, and there is evidence that their use as ID presents proven risks of voter fraud. Voter information cards with inaccuracies are regularly sent to electors, which could allow those attempting to subvert election law to use them to vote more than once or in the wrong riding.
An Elections Canada report on the last election showed that roughly one in six eligible voters do not have a correct address listed on the national register of electors. The information from the register provides the information for voters lists that is reproduced on the voter information cards. In other words, one out of six voter information cards are wrong. That is why the fair elections act would prohibit the use of voter information cards as a form of acceptable identification.
As I have demonstrated, there is a wide range of voter identification documents that are accepted at the polls, which have a proven level of accuracy. There is no need to add voter information cards to that list, in light of the apparent lack of reliability of these cards for identification purposes.
Canadians must have confidence in the democratic and our electoral process. Not only do they need to know how to cast a ballot, but Canadians want to be sure that legitimate votes are not cancelled by illegitimate ones.
As I have demonstrated today, the fair elections act would go a long way to ensuring that Canadians have the confidence in the electoral process that they want and deserve. With the measures to eliminate vouching and communicate the many types of voter identification that are acceptable at the polls, I believe that the incidents of voter fraud would be greatly reduced.
Together, all of these initiatives have advanced the voter identification process significantly from what it was a decade ago.
Of course, there still remains the important debate that will continue on the fair elections act, which will include the examination of the bill by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Canadians, interested parties, and stakeholders will have the opportunity to make their views known.
I have complete confidence that the committee, of which I am a member, will ensure that the study of the bill and the hearings are conducted in such a way as to allow a comprehensive review of the issues.
I do not believe that, to accomplish this, the committee needs to be directed by this House.
It is for that reason that I will not be supporting the motion. I once again call upon members of this House to oppose the motion.
I hope that tomorrow, at the procedure and House affairs committee, the filibustering will stop, the list of witnesses will be established, and we will start to have proper, full, and robust hearings on the bill. We have heard from the minister already. The minister came, spent an hour, and took every question directed at him. Then, as soon as the minister had finished, the filibustering by the NDP began. I am hoping tomorrow, at committee, we will get on with the job that we are paid by Canadians to do, which is to do a robust, careful examination and invite dozens and dozens of witnesses to come in to give us their expert testimony on the bill. I look forward to hearing that testimony from Canadians here in the House of Commons when the committee resumes the good work that it needs to do for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for . Come to think of it, Louis St. Laurent was a former prime minister of Canada.
Listening to the member for and his view of the functions of committee, Canadians watching closely who are not very careful will end up believing in Cinderella and the fairy godmother.
We had omnibus bills before the finance committee for which we had 3,000 amendments. We voted for 55 hours, and the Conservatives did not accept one single amendment. Now they try to tell us today how wonderful it is in committee.
I am proud of the member for , the riding adjoining mine, for standing up for democracy as we understand it to be and for stopping these people from trying to force through a bill that is tainted, that is wrong.
I always try to look for what is good in people, and so far that approach has served me well in life. I sincerely believe that many of the members of the Conservative government who sought office to be members of Parliament did so to serve Canadians, their very neighbours. I also believe that many came to this place to try to make Parliament a better place, but now I have to ask a question of these same good members, these pro-democracy Conservatives: how did it come to this point?
There is much more wrong with the bill than the vouching part. Hearing speech after speech from the government side, one would think the only problem the opposition saw with the bill was around the vouching. That is very far from the facts. There is much more wrong.
I have to ask how these governing, pro-democracy Conservatives reached the stage where they feel so empowered that they can justify to themselves that somehow it is their right, and it is right and proper for them, to deny tens of thousands of Canadians their participation in our democracy.
The arrogance of a few over there is quite astounding. One has been recently quoted as saying that holding hearings for Canadians is virtually as important as a circus. That same member must perceive that Canadians who want to come before the circus would be clowns.
According to the member for who sits on PROC, the procedure and House affairs committee, the Conservatives in the beginning were showing interest in perhaps having hearings across the country. All of a sudden, that changed. As the member for said earlier today, the iron wall came down. We now have to bring this question to this place, the highest level of our Parliament, and get an answer from Parliament, not from the 's Office.
The opposition day motion is seeking the opportunity for Parliament to give direction that we believe would cause this committee to do its job properly by hearing witnesses who cannot necessarily come here, witnesses region by region. People will come before the committee from Elections Canada. We hope there will be agreement on the witnesses here among the political parties, but representatives of first nations, anti-poverty groups, groups representing persons with disabilities, and groups representing youth advocates, students, and others have raised their concerns and done so quite publicly.
Among the things that are wrong, tens of thousands of students, seniors, aboriginal people, low-income Canadians, and the homeless are the ones who are most at risk. That is where a significant problem lies in the bill. We have to come to this House and ask Parliament to allow the proper outreach on a bill, a bill that is affecting our very democracy.
Trade committees travel on a variety of trade issues, including the EU agreement. I am not criticizing that travel because it is important.
I will say, again, that when we consider making a change to a law that would affect an individual's opportunity to vote, we must be careful. It is important.
I was a school board trustee before coming to this place. A wonderful part of my job was talking to grade 4 and 5 students and answering their questions about democracy. As an MP, I return to many of those schools to talk to those kids.
It would be ridiculous to ban Elections Canada from teaching kids about our democracy, about encouraging people to vote. It is important that Elections Canada warns people about election fraud. The person on the street has an obligation to see where the problems might be and report them if they find them.
In my mind, the is trying to use U.S.-style voter suppression tactics and bring big money into Canada's elections. The Conservatives have been shutting down debate and are trying to ram through a bill designed to stop some people from voting. Would it happen to be those people who might vote for someone else?
This legislation would strip Elections Canada of its investigative powers.
One would think that in travelling this country we would come across people who could provide good solid input, people who might not be able to access this place. Almost immediately, I think of professors at universities.
This legislation proposes to remove the power of the CEO at Elections Canada to engage in public education. I come back to this because it is so basic and fundamental. The CEO would be required to seek Treasury Board approval to hire technical experts. Has a person not been put in place to manage this file? Would that individual not have the capacity to seek out technical experts? It is strange.
With respect to voter ID cards, I would suggest that this is government manipulation in order to keep the focus on vouching and ID cards. There are other things that are so clearly problematic.
The bill proposes to change the amount of money, up to $5,000, that people can contribute to their own campaigns. If people run for the leadership of a party, they could put $25,000 into their own campaigns. That would provide people with money an upper hand over people who are less affluent. The idea of a democracy is to allow anybody to come here.
There is not just something wrong with this legislation, but things are missing from this legislation.
I have said many times in this place that the true purpose of committees is to work together. When a government brings a piece of legislation forward, I see it as the responsibility of the opposition to try to make the legislation better. We have come to the stage in our committee where we are butting heads all too often and the opportunity to make the bill better is not there.
In closing, I want to go back to the most fundamental thing. The good people who are in this place and who do have the proper intentions should pause and think about what they are about to do. We are about to take part in a process that would limit a person's franchise in this country. This legislation would put an artificial limitation on a person's ability to vote in a federal election. It would limit people's ability to choose their government.
It is very clear to those of us on this side of the House that we need to start looking at the people who would be disenfranchised. There are many in society who are already disenfranchised in many ways. Many individuals are poor. First nations are disenfranchised. This legislation would be an added suppression, for lack of a better term.
We can do better than this. Members should truly consider hearing from Canadians. They should put their trust in the democracy that Canadians deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion today. It is absolutely crucial that we examine Bill properly. Not only is our motion—which calls for public hearings on the matter to be held across Canada—entirely reasonable, but these hearings are absolutely essential in order to better understand our Canadian democracy and improve the Canada Elections Act as much as possible, as it should be.
I am fortunate to be a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the committee we are discussing here today, the one being asked to conduct these consultations. As vice-chair of the committee for a little over a year now, I have had the opportunity to take part in many debates. For instance, at the beginning of this period, the committee was tasked with examining the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer. The committee also had to produce a report on what it thought of those recommendations and on the changes that he recommended that the government make to the Canada Elections Act.
After the 2008 election, the Chief Electoral Officer made about 50 recommendations. Some were minor, while others were quite significant. They would have corrected the major problems with the Canada Elections Act. When the matter came before the committee, the process was quite long and a great deal of discussion took place.
However, the tremendous advantage of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs—and one of my colleagues here today can confirm this—is that it is one of the committees that operates most effectively on the Hill. That is my opinion. Most of the time, things are dealt with by consensus and by mutual understanding, and we almost always manage to find common ground that everyone can agree on. That is the advantage of dealing with matters that are usually non-partisan.
As for the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer, at the time, I thought we had an excellent discussion. In the end, we were able to produce a report that most committee members agreed on. They found many of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations to be worthwhile
We now have before us a bill that we have been waiting for for a very long time. It has been a long time since these changes were requested. It has been a long time since the committee tabled its report. It has been a long time since the NDP, in response to major election fraud issues, had a motion unanimously adopted in the House, outlining the specific changes that needed to be made to the Canada Elections Act as quickly as possible. This is urgent. The Chief Electoral Officer was very clear. These changes must be made as quickly as possible so that they can be implemented in time for the 2015 election.
If we wish to prevent other cases of major fraud, such as the robocalls, and other issues that emerged during the 2011 election, such as voter suppression, then yes, significant changes need to be made as quickly as possible. However, Bill contains all sorts of measures that come out of left field and do not solve anything. That is a problem.
For example, the Chief Electoral Officer made an excellent recommendation with regard to vouching: election workers should be hired in advance in order to prevent as many problems and administrative errors as possible. Right now, the Chief Electoral Officer does not have that authority. He was therefore asking to be able to hire election workers earlier in the process so that he would have more time to give them the proper training and did not have to hire workers too quickly and at the last minute. This would considerably reduce the number of administrative errors made on election day. Is this measure included in the bill? No. Instead, the government decided to completely eliminate this system, which allowed some groups of people, namely young people, people living in rural areas and others, to vote. This bill will completely deprive them of that right.
It is thus absolutely essential to go and get the opinions of the people who will be most affected by this bill, meaning people with reduced mobility, seniors, members of first nations and students.
I would like to focus on youth and students, because they are very important to me. Last spring, I tabled a motion before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study voter turnout among young people.
We know this is a major problem because fewer and fewer young people are voting. The numbers are quite alarming. During the 2011 election, the 18 to 24 age group had the lowest turnout by far at 38.8%. That means that barely 38% of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 came out to vote on election day. Those who did vote used the voter card or vouching. Youth voter turnout is currently at a catastrophically low level. What is more, some of those who voted in 2011 would not have been able to if these measures had been in place.
The minister keeps saying that his bill will contribute to improving youth voter turnout. The problem is that this is not 1984 and ignorance is not an asset. Just because the minister says that the bill will improve youth voter turnout does not mean that it will magically be so. The truth is, if the Conservatives were truly interested in improving youth voter turnout, then why would they get rid of the voter card as a form of identification for voting, and why would they get rid of vouching? No other measure has made it easier for young people and students to vote.
To come back to the heart of the motion, if the Conservatives are so convinced of the merits of their measure, if they are so convinced that it will truly help young people vote more, then why would they not consult them? Why would they not go across Canada, meet with the groups most affected and ask them whether they really think that these measures will contribute to improving voter turnout at every election?
When I hear what the Conservatives have to say about how they have no intention of consulting or desire to consult, that tells me they know exactly what they are doing. I think they are perfectly aware that these measures will make it harder for young people to vote. That is their goal. That is what they are trying to achieve.
Consulting—going to see people to ask them what they think about an issue as fundamental as our democracy—is not complicated. It is something committees do all the time.
Two years ago, I participated in a diplomatic mission of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. I went to Ukraine with an all-party group of MPs to hold public consultations. All day long, people from all over came to talk to us about democracy in Ukraine, about how it works, about what could be improved, about major problems and obstacles to democracy in Ukraine.
We did not stay in Kiev. We went all over, to all the regions. We went to Kharkiv in the east and Lviv in the west. We travelled around. We went to see people. That gave us a complete picture of the reality over there. Had we stayed here in the basement of the Centre Block, had we told the Ukrainians to Skype us and tell us what was going on in their country, I do not think we would have been able to understand the situation as well as we did.
It was an extraordinary opportunity. It is something that Parliament must do, and it is fantastic. Why can we not do the same thing here, in our own country? Why is it so hard to say that this is something very important that needs to be done? We need to go to every region across the country to meet with people and talk to them about the state of our democracy and the proposed changes. We need to ask them what they think and find out what their reality is.
We need to go to downtown Vancouver, where homelessness is an issue. We need to go up north and talk to aboriginal communities. We need to go anywhere where there are major issues. That is not too tall an order if we want to do our best to improve democracy in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to join the debate here. I have listened with considerable interest to the foregoing discussions, some of which, to be honest, seem a bit histrionic given the nature of the subject matter we are dealing with.
I have spent over a decade on the procedure and House affairs committee. Normally, people ask me how I manage to pull through on such an uninteresting committee and how I keep myself awake. However, as members can see, there is fun, travel, and lots of histrionics involved in all of this stuff, apparently.
The motion proposes to have the committee do three things with regard to Bill , an act to amend the Canada Elections Act.
First of all, the motion proposes to hear witnesses, and it provides what I think is a very reasonable list of them:
…witnesses from, but not limited to, Elections Canada, Political Parties as defined under the Canada Elections Act, the Minister of State who introduced the bill, representatives of first nations, anti-poverty groups, groups representing persons with disabilities, groups representing youth advocates and students, as well as specific groups which have been active in society on elections rules….
It is all good, and I can think of others that I would add to that list.
The motion has three things, and I will drop down to the third, which is:
…proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of this bill after these hearings have been completed, with a goal to commence clause-by-clause consideration for May 1, 2014.
This is probably a reasonable timeline more or less, and one could quibble over that. However, in general, I do not think it is an unreasonable timeline.
Then, in the middle of the motion, is to have the power
…to travel to all regions of Canada, (Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Northern Ontario, the Prairies, British Columbia and the North), as well as downtown urban settings… and rural and remote settings, and that the Committee request that this travel take place in March and April 2014….
As a member of the committee, I would get to join in on this road show. Putting aside the small quibble that I never considered northern Ontario to be a separate region of Canada on a scale with, say, Quebec, I find it to be a fairly reasonable layout of the different parts of the country we could go to. The trouble with travelling around this way is that it would not improve our ability to hear from witnesses who have worthwhile, intelligent things to say.
I had the good fortune to be on the last travelling road show of the procedure and House affairs committee about a decade ago. I think I am the last person still on the committee who was on it at the time we travelled, in that case, all over the planet to hear about ideas for electoral reform. We divided the committee into two groups. Some of us went off to Australia and New Zealand while others went off to Germany and Scotland to look at their electoral systems. We were looking at alternative electoral systems to what Canada had at the time, and still has.
I wrote about my experiences in an article, which I happen to have a copy of here, called the “Road to Electoral Reform” from the Canadian Parliamentary Review in the autumn of 2005, in which I made the following observation:
On February 1, 2005, committee members (including me) voted a travel budget of $289,695 for the European and Antipodean trips. Later, while the committee was abroad, one committee member…complained to the media about the large size of the travel budget.
It was not I who complained but a member who at the time was sitting as a Liberal and who now sits as a New Democrat. However, I concurred at the time and I still concur with the assessment that we did not get value for money on that occasion. I assume we can travel more inexpensively this time, were we to do so, than we did travelling all over the world.
For one thing, the committee insisted on travelling business class. I am sure we could all agree to travel coach, at best, and perhaps by some other means of locomotion. There was a fair bit of expense, partly because, as all such committees do, we had to ship translators, clerks, and all kinds of people, to make sure that we could function as a committee wherever we happened to be. However, it seems to be a lot of expense for not much benefit.
In the intervening years I have chaired the international human rights subcommittee. We hear frequently from experts who come from all corners of the globe by means of video conference. We have seen video conferencing vastly improve from where it was 9 or 10 years ago. We have people, not just from first world countries, but from other countries, who come in loud and clear. The fact is that we can hear from people from more or less anywhere without the need to travel, and we can provide them with simultaneous translation and so on.
Now, this is significant because we regularly hear from two different witnesses. In fact, the week before the break, we heard from one witness in Ottawa and another witness by video link at the same time We got two for the price of one in the allotted hour. We cannot do that when we are on the road, unless we also have video links on the road with us, which would be an additional expense. I cannot see how we would improve our efficiency with that.
The fact is that when we are dealing with issues like problems relating to urban groups, downtown areas, or remote areas of the country, we are going to get a lot of common issues. We are going to get distinctions too, and we will best see what those issues are if we have an interaction of the sort that can be done electronically. All of this can be done better without travelling than it can be done when we are travelling.
For example, there could be a goal to look at some form of infrastructure. If we were going to consider whether a new tunnel had to be blasted through the Rocky Mountains to accommodate a rail line, I could see the point of travelling. I cannot see the point of travelling for this sort of situation.
There was a very interesting case before the Supreme Court about a year and a half ago, in which a former Liberal member of this place, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, challenged the election of a current member of this place, the member for . The Supreme Court heard the case, which had to do with whether it was legitimate for individuals at a seniors' residence that has closed access—these are the very elderly who have 24-hour care—and who voted in the absence of someone vouching for them, ought to have had their votes counted.
Interestingly, in that election it was the Liberal position that they should not have been allowed to vote because no vouching had taken place. That is the opposite of the position that is being taken today.
However, the interesting thing about this is that the Supreme Court of Canada held hearings in Ottawa and it was able to do so without having to travel to the site. Now that court and other courts have, on very rare occasions, travelled on location. Courts might do this sometimes for murder investigations, for example. However, in this case it did not feel the need because there was no need.
The issues that we are dealing with are issues that can be dealt with best by doing it here in Ottawa. That is a very clear example.
In the midst of saying this, I overheard a member pointing out that it was a split Supreme Court decision. That is correct. In fact, there was a majority and a minority. I am not sure how that relates to the question of whether it had to travel. First, good Lord, if we could not allow split decisions, nothing but unanimous votes could occur in this place, let alone the Supreme Court, so I cannot imagine what the member's objection is.
However, no one objected. No one on the Supreme Court, or anywhere else, objected to them holding these hearings in Ottawa. It was the best place to listen to these arguments.
I sometimes hear people using such extraordinary language in this debate that one would be left with the impression that they are talking about the kinds of civil rights abuses and voter rights abuses that took place in the American south prior to the 1960s.
I am looking at a petition that is available online where people are encouraged to write in about Bill . It has made incorrect assertions.
Under Bill C-23, Voter ID cards will no longer be accepted. This will prevent thousands of students, seniors and Aboriginal people from voting.
Actually, under Bill , the card that reminds people to vote will not be accepted as ID. That is very different from what is being implied here, that somehow people's identification would no longer be accepted. Of course, this would not prevent anybody from voting.
In the example I just gave of Borys Wrzesnewskyj saying that the current member for should not be allowed to sit here, what he was saying is that we insist that individuals be deprived of their right to vote if they do not meet up with the highly technical definition, and highly restricted version, of their right under section 3 of the charter to vote. That is the position that the NDP has defended. The broader position that one has a right to vote has not been taken into account.
The NDP uses this kind of language. Here is another example from the same petition:
Bill C-23 makes it much harder for students, seniors, aboriginal people, and low-income Canadians to prove their right to vote, and will prevent many thousands of Canadians from voting.
The fact is that many people have distinct issues that can make it difficult to vote. These people include seniors, some of whom do not have the kind of ID that we often think of, such as a driver's license; students; aboriginals; and, I would mention, disabled people, particularly people with mobility issues.
I would add other groups to the list as well, such as people who have recently moved. The NDP motion makes no reference to people in suburbs. I guess I can see why the NDP has forgotten that the suburbs even exist, given the amount of electoral success it is having there. Recently constructed suburbs across the country have not been properly enumerated. In every election, this is where there are the greatest problems.
When I was first elected, I remember very distinctly that in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, Morgan's Grant was an area that had just been built. It is not new anymore, but it was in 2000. One polling station was set up, which included something like five or six times as many voters as any of the other polling booths at that location. The result was that after the poll shut, it took over an hour for everybody to go through and vote, simply because Elections Canada had not been aware that so many people were living in the area, which on their maps was still empty fields.
All of these people have genuine problems related to exercising their ability to vote. What these people need to know is how to exercise their franchise. How can they learn that? They can learn that if Elections Canada runs advertisements advising them how to exercise their franchise, for instance, if they have just moved into a location and have not received a voter card, or if they have been asked to go and vote on the voter card at an address that is wrong. That happens a lot. We hear all kinds of talk about how the Conservative Party was ostensibly trying to send people off to the wrong locations.
Let me tell the House about what happened in my constituency. When the riding of Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington was set up in 2004, people who lived in the town of Perth were told to go and vote in Perth Road Village, which sounded good. The local returning officer was unfamiliar with Lanark County, which had been added to the riding. However, Perth Road Village is the road from Kingston, Ontario, to Perth. Perth Road Village is an hour's drive from Perth. Therefore, residents were told to go and vote in a place that they literally could not get to.
What do people do in a situation when Elections Canada has told them to go and vote in the wrong place? What do people do if they go to the polling station they are used to going to and there are no forms to fill out so that they can vote at a location other than the one they normally vote at? Are they deprived of their ballot, their right to vote and their franchise? Those are the kinds of questions they should be answering for people, but of course, they do not do that.
Their advertising right now is all about why people should vote. We have all seen these ads from various elections. I suspect that they are extraordinarily ineffective at getting people out to vote. The ads are all about why it is people's fault that they are not getting in a vote, why they are not motivated enough to get out and vote, and why they should be motivated. If they were better human beings and better citizens, they would be out there voting. That is nonsense.
The primary reason for people not voting is that they do not know how to.
The Chief Electoral Officer does not go around knocking on doors, but during elections I do. We have all had this experience, I suspect. We knock on the door, but the person does not come down, at least not immediately. Then we realize that the reason it did not happen is that the person is an elderly shut-in on the second floor who cannot get down until a son or stepson or whoever comes and carries him or her down the stairs, or perhaps someone was changing a diaper. How are those people going to get out and vote? Letting those people know how they can vote at advance polls or how they can vote by mail, et cetera, can be an enormously valuable exercise. That is being offered.
I mentioned the highfalutin rhetoric suggesting that somehow people are being deprived of their right to vote and that somehow we face a civil rights crisis of the sort that existed in the American south. I find this deeply offensive, and I took the time to go and look up a couple of examples of the abuses that went on in that part of the world in that era to make the point that nothing of the sort exists here.
I have with me a couple of Louisiana literacy tests from the 1950s and 1960s. These were collected by a man named Jeff Schwartz, who is a former volunteer with the civil rights group Congress of Racial Equality. He has been collecting and archiving and putting online some of the forms that were used in various southern states in order to ensure that African-American voters could not participate.
The courts had agreed in the United States that it was reasonable that people had to have at least a grade 5 education or had become knowledgeable to that level in order to exercise their citizenship rights. By the way, no such rule exists in Canada. There is no requirement that a person be literate in order to vote. That is a very important distinction.
However, that requirement could then be manipulated. Local authorities could test and see whether an individual was fit to be registered to vote. The authorities would exercise these tests in a highly arbitrary manner designed to ensure that every white voter, no matter how ignorant or illiterate he or she might be, would get to be registered, and that every African-American would be excluded, no matter how intelligent, articulate, or well educated that individual might be.
Having looked at some of the questions on this test, I can say we can forget about a grade 5 education. I have been in five degree programs, including two Ph.D. programs. I have taught university and I have published two books, and I cannot figure out the answer to some of these questions.
For example, here is a question from the Louisiana form:
Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in the same line, (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write.
What is the right answer to that question?
Question 9 from this list states, “Draw a line through the two letters below that come last in the alphabet”, and there is a series of letters.
Question 10 states, “In the first circle below write the last letter of the first word beginning with “L” , and there is a series of circles.
Another question is “Cross out the number necessary, when making the number below one million.” That is interesting. Does it mean the number below 1,000,000, which is 999,999, or does it mean to take the number with all these zeros and scratch them all out to get 1,000,000? Of course, this was designed to ensure that if I were a white guy and got it wrong, it would be right, and if I were an African-American guy and I got it right, I would be wrong anyway.
By the way, the literacy test mentions that “This test is to be given to anyone who cannot prove a fifth grade education” and “Do what you are told to do in each statement, nothing more, nothing less.” That is an important caveat that makes sure someone will fail. It continues: “Be careful as one wrong answer denotes failure of the test.” Imagine if that was on a driver's test. We would have no drivers in Canada. It then states, “You have 10 minutes to complete the test.”
I could go on and on. If I get the consent of the House, I would love to table these items so that members can examine them. If not, I can provide the email address.
My point here is there have been genuine abuses of the rights of voters. I have given an example from the United States, but we can find examples from other countries, including this one.
No such abuse is being considered or has been considered by any party that is here. The fact is that we have a good system, but we want to make it better by doing a series of technical amendments to how elections run in Canada. It would benefit the country and it would benefit democracy.