Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. My name is Scott Jones and I'm the head of cybersecurity at the Communications Security Establishment. As mentioned, I'm accompanied by Jason Besner, the Director of the Cyber Threat Evaluation Centre, or CTEC, at CSE. Thank you for inviting us here today.
As I believe it has been sometime since a CSE official appeared before this committee, please allow me to provide you with a brief overview of CSE's cybersecurity mandate.
For over 70 years, CSE has helped provide and protect Canada's most sensitive information.
In addition to our foreign signals intelligence and lawful assistance mandates, CSE, as Canada's centre of excellence for cyber operations, is mandated to help ensure the protection of information and information infrastructures of importance to the Government of Canada.
In this effort, CSE provides advice, guidance, and services to Government of Canada departments and agencies and to owners of other systems of importance to the Government of Canada. CSE works closely with partners from across government as part of this important effort, some of whom you have already heard from as part of your study.
As you know, the asked CSE to analyze risks to Canada's political and electoral activities from hackers. In response, CSE released an assessment of cyber-threats to Canada's democratic process. This assessment, released in June 2017, was developed by looking at the experiences of elections around the world over the last 10 years. The report found that Canada is not immune from cyber-threat activity against its elections.
While the threat in Canada was assessed as generally low sophistication, political parties, politicians, and the media are vulnerable to cyber-threats and influence operations. Indeed, the report assessed that in 2015 Canada's democratic process was targeted by low-sophistication cyber-threat activity.
There are many types of threat actors who could target our democratic process, and CSE plays a vital role in preventing them from achieving their goals. By providing advice to government departments, political parties, and the public on how they can better protect themselves against cyber-threats, we help prevent harmful compromises.
Since publishing the report on cyber-threats to Canada's democratic process in June, CSE has held productive meetings with political parties, parliamentarians, and electoral officials to discuss the report and its findings and to offer cybersecurity advice and guidance. For example, at the federal level, CSE officials have met with parliamentarians, representatives from all political parties with standing in the House of Commons, and in partnership with Elections Canada, we met with a majority of federally registered political parties in Canada.
We have been asked by the to continue our analysis of cyber-threats to Canada's democratic process. Our 2017 report was produced with the intent of it being updated as required. Our analysis will continue to look at the rapidly changing technological and threat environment, and will help characterize and understand the evolving threats to our democratic processes.
These efforts are part of CSE's goal of supporting an enhanced understanding of cybersecurity issues and will help increase resilience against threats to Canada's democratic process. In addition, this ongoing analysis will help inform briefings to Government of Canada officials, political parties, and parliamentarians.
Our ongoing efforts are set within the context of broader initiatives taken by the Government of Canada to bolster cybersecurity. Through budget 2018, the government has announced its intention to create a Canadian centre for cybersecurity within CSE as part of a new “to be announced” Canadian cybersecurity strategy. This initiative is complemented by the enhanced statutory framework proposed under Bill , which would help strengthen CSE's capacity to thwart cyber-threats. This important legislation includes key provisions to advance the tools available to government in this domain, set within an enhanced accountability regime.
Thank you, and we look forward to answering your questions.
: [Witness speaks in Mohawk]
I was just speaking Mohawk and said, “Hello, everyone.” My name is Coty Zachariah, or “He Speaks in the Wind”. I come from the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation, located near Kingston. I'm also the national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students and represent around 650,000 students across the country at the post-secondary level.
In October 2014, we joined the Council of Canadians in a charter challenge to the voter suppression elements of the so-called . Our primary concerns about the act were with regard to prohibiting the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer, or CEO, to authorize the use of the voter information cards as valid ID for voting, and limiting the CEO's authority to carry out voter education and outreach.
Students face additional barriers to voting, notably that students move frequently, often up to twice a year. As a result, common identification cards do not indicate the address that students live at on election day, or their names are not on the voters list in the poll or riding that they live in while they attend school. Moreover, by limiting the CEO's authority to carry out voter education and outreach, students, who are often new voters, are likely to be more confused about the process.
Despite these barriers in the last election, the CFS undertook a massive, non-partisan elections campaign that worked to mobilize students to come out in record numbers to vote. In 2015, 70,000 student voters took part in the democratic process at on-campus polling stations. It led to an expansion of that initial pilot project within Elections Canada. For 18- to 24-year-olds, turnout was 57.1%, compared to 38.8% in 2011. This increase of 18.3 percentage points is the largest increase of voting engagement in any demographic in the country. However, this increase was in spite of the Fair Elections Act and students still faced issues.
To quote the Chief Electoral Officer's post-2015 election retrospective report:
|| As in the previous two elections, problems with voter identification at the polls were more often related to proof of address. The labour force survey after the 42nd general election asked non-voters why they did not vote. In terms of reasons related to the electoral process, the inability to prove identity or address was the main reason cited ... and was more often cited among those aged 18 to 24.... Based on estimations from the survey, that amounts to approximately 172,700 electors. Among them, some 49,600 (28.7%) said they went to the polling station, but did not vote because they were not able to prove their identity and address. Approximately 39% of that group were aged 18 to 34.
We at CSF find that unacceptable. Students, however, are encouraged to see that Bill would make substantial reform to the Canada Elections Act, including the amendments formerly set in Bill , and we look forward to seeing it passed.
We are discouraged, however, that these reforms are coming so late. It seems likely that even if Bill proceeds expeditiously, it would not make it through the Senate and be proclaimed into force until 2019, making it unlikely that Elections Canada could fully implement the bill's reforms before the next general election in October of next year. It seems likely that it is our court case with the Council of Canadians that might result in the necessary reforms around voter suppression being implemented prior to this election, a regretful outcome of a delayed process around Bill that we would like noted.
We believe student and youth participation in the democratic process is something to be celebrated and not discouraged. We hope that Bill will promote this principle.
Good afternoon. I would like to thank the committee for the invitation today to discuss the privacy implications of Bill .
As you are well aware, citizens' concerns have been voiced globally around how their personal information is being gathered from online platforms and used in the political process. Allegations about the misuse of the personal information of 87 million Facebook users are a serious wake-up call that highlights a growing crisis for privacy rights. Not only is consumer trust at risk, so too is trust in our democratic processes.
As you know, no federal privacy law applies to political parties; British Columbia is the only province to cover them. This is not the case in many other jurisdictions. In most regions of the world, laws provide that political parties are governed by privacy laws. This includes jurisdictions such as the E.U., the U.K., New Zealand, Argentina, and Hong Kong. Canada is becoming the exception.
We recently reviewed the privacy policies of political parties. While these policies have some positive features—for instance, all make provisions for people to update personal information or correct details that are out of date—they all fall way short of globally accepted fair information principles.
Similarly, the standards alluded to in clause 254 of Bill also fall short. In fact, Bill C-76 does not prescribe any standards. It simply says that parties must have policies that touch on a number of issues, leaving it to parties to define the standards that they want to apply. In terms of privacy protection, Bill C-76 adds nothing of substance.
For instance, the bill does not require parties to seek consent from individuals, limit collection of personal information to what is required, limit disclosure of information to others, provide individuals with access to their personal information, or be subject to independent privacy oversight.
By contrast, in British Columbia, parties must apply all generally applicable privacy principles, and B.C. otherwise has very similar legislation to the federal legislation. In B.C., consent applies, but it is subject to other laws, such that consent is not required for the transmission of lists of electors under electoral laws.
I've heard much support, including from federal politicians, for the idea that political parties should be subject to privacy laws. The government, meanwhile, appears to think that political parties are not similarly situated to private companies as they relate to privacy.
For instance, ministers seem concerned that applying privacy laws would impede communications between parties and electors. This is an interesting proposition, but I have not yet seen any evidence to that effect. That evidence may exist, but it has not been presented for public discussion.
I would note that in Europe, however, political parties have been subject to privacy laws for over 20 years. I understand that such protections have now become part of the culture of how elections are run.
What we know at the end of the day is that democracy appears to still thrive in those jurisdictions where parties must comply with privacy laws.
The precise law where privacy rules should be found does not much matter. It could be the Elections Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA—in other words, an act governing privacy protection in the private sector—or another act.
What matters are that internationally recognized privacy principles, not policies defined by parties, be included in domestic law and that an independent third party, potentially my office as we have expertise, have the authority to verify compliance.
Independent oversight is necessary to ensure that privacy policies or principles are not just empty promises but actual safeguards applied in practice.
Together with Elections Canada, we have developed amendments that would achieve these goals. We provided these suggestions to the committee today. If you wish, I can explain them during the question period.
In conclusion, the integrity of our democratic processes is clearly facing significant risks. If there ever was a time for action, this is it.
I welcome your questions.
Mr. Chair, I'd just like to thank the committee for the opportunity I've been given to speak to you about Bill and its positive impact on members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I am Colonel Vihar Joshi. I'm the Deputy Judge Advocate General, who is responsible for the Administrative Law Division of the office of the JAG and I'm the coordinating officer designated by the for the purposes of section 199 of the Canada Elections Act.
I'll first make a few opening remarks and then I will gladly answer any questions the committee may have.
The special voting rules, presently set out in division 2 of part 11 of the Canada Elections Act, were developed at the end of the 1950s and have undergone very few significant changes since then.
Currently, Canadian Forces electors must complete the statement of ordinary residence upon enrolment and maintain it for election purposes. Exceptionally, the statement of ordinary residence allows these voters to choose the electoral district in which they will vote during federal elections. For example, they may choose to vote in the riding in which they were living when they enrolled, the riding in which they currently reside because of their military service, or a riding in which a loved one lives and with whom they would be living, if not for their military service.
However, once an election is called, members can no longer modify this address during the election period.
Canadian Forces electors who wish to exercise their right to vote must do so within their unit during the military voting period, which is between 14 and nine days prior to the civilian election day. When they vote in a unit, Canadian Forces electors are not subject to any identification requirements. Only the few members who qualify may exceptionally vote at a civilian polling station and may only do so on polling day.
In the most recent federal general election, the participation rate of Canadian Forces electors was significantly lower than that of the general population. There are certain factors that may explain this.
In his report entitled “An Electoral Framework for the 21st Century: Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the 42nd General Election”, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada recommended a complete review of the special voting rules that apply to Canadian Forces electors. Mr. Chair, I understand that the members of the committee unanimously supported such a review.
Over the past two years, we have been working hard to review the provisions of the Canada Elections Act that affect Canadian Forces electors.
The aim of the amendments to Bill that are of interest to us is to make the federal electoral system more accessible to members of the Canadian Armed Forces. These amendments also help to ensure the integrity of the vote and maintain the flexibility the Canadian Armed Forces require as they operate around the globe in a broad range of security and operational contexts.
Mr. Chair, before taking questions from committee members, I would like to draw your attention to certain key amendments Bill makes to the special voting rules that apply to Canadian Forces electors.
First, the bill eliminates the statement of ordinary residence, or SOR, procedure. This measure will allow our members to register on the National Register of Electors, as all other Canadians do, and to update their registration during the election period. In so doing, Canadian Forces electors will be required to register in the riding of their ordinary place of residence or, if they reside outside Canada, their last ordinary place of residence before leaving the country. This change will allow our members to vote in the same riding as their loved ones, in addition to preventing certain Canadian Forces electors from having to vote in a riding to which they no longer have a connection.
The bill also eliminates the obligation for Canadian Forces electors to vote within their unit. Our members may now choose to exercise their right to vote by using the voting method that best meets their needs.
As all other voters, they will be able to vote at advanced polling stations, at polling stations on polling day, at the offices of returning officers across Canada, or by mail from Canada or abroad. When they choose to vote elsewhere than at their unit, members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be subject to the same identification rules as other voters, including proof of residence.
The bill does, however, maintain the possibility for full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces to vote within their unit, whether in Canada or abroad. Bill will also allow our part-time members to benefit from this opportunity, which is currently not an option for them.
At the military polling stations, Canadian Forces electors will now be subject to new, clear, and consistent identification rules. Using identification documents issued by the Canadian Armed Forces, they will be required to prove their name and service number in order to receive their voting ballot. Our members who are participating in operations or exercises in Canada or abroad, on land or at sea, generally cannot bring documents that show their residential address with them. This security measure aims to ensure the protection of our members and their families. As a result, Canadian Forces electors voting within their unit will not be required to provide proof of address. They will, however, be required to declare that they are voting in the riding where their ordinary place of residence is located. Any misrepresentation may be subject to an investigation and could lead to charges before civil or military tribunals.
The bill also allows for a more fluid exchange of information between Elections Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces. These exchanges will lead to increased integrity of the vote, in particular by ensuring that the names of Canadian Forces electors voting at military polling stations are removed from the list of electors used at civilian polling stations.
Lastly, I would like to draw the committee's attention to one more significant legislative modification. Many civilians accompany the Canadian Armed Forces abroad: for example, foreign service officers, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, civil support staff for the Canadian Armed Forces, and dependants of these individuals and our members. Currently, these civilians could have difficulty exercising their right to vote by mail from abroad, in particular because of restrictions related to postal service in certain areas of the world. Bill would correct this imbalance by giving a clear mandate to the Canadian Armed Forces and Elections Canada, which must work together to help these electors exercise their right to vote.
To conclude, members of the Canadian Armed Forces demonstrate courage, determination, and resilience in their service to Canada. They do this in Canada and abroad. The Canadian Armed Forces is therefore enthusiastic about this Parliament's modernizing the provisions in the Canada Elections Act that affect the Canadian Forces electors.
I would be glad to answer any questions you might have.
One of the things I have a problem with when people declare to me that there has been a breach of their privacy is the following. When my father moved from Quebec to Alberta, he had to reapply for his driver's licence and insurance and the conversion of all the things you have to do. His insurance company in Quebec told him that they could not disclose to him his driving history, so that he could then give it to another insurance company, because of privacy laws. He explained to them that it was his driving history that they were holding and that he should be able to tell them to transfer it to someone else.
But, no, for privacy reasons, they said, they couldn't do that. He said that seemed kind of ridiculous to him, and they said, yes, it was, but that's what the law said.
Mr. Daniel Therrien: They were wrong.
Mr. Tom Kmiec: I'm always worried that we're going to create these structures, these laws and regulations, and then people applying them in their offices will misapply them—that's something I've seen—and they will err on the side of caution. They'll do it justifiably. They're trying to protect their organizations. They have privacy officers in corporations and in organizations. I used to be a privacy officer at the HR Institute. They're cautious. Everything is about caution. They don't want to make a mistake. They want to err on the side of caution.
How much of that would impact political parties in the day-to-day activities they have in trying to both identify issues that are important to their supporter base and identify those people whom they don't agree with? I have supporters who don't agree with the New Democrats and the New Democrats have supporters who don't agree with me. I obviously don't want to be communicating with them on an issue on which they don't want to be communicated with, and I'll try to avoid doing that, because I have a finite amount of time.
What do you say to those who make the case that political parties are incentivized already to avoid communicating with those who obviously don't want to speak to them, don't care about the same issues, and are not compelled by the same things? It's a public debate. Whether I'm door-knocking or I'm at a town hall and I'm trying to figure out if Chris and Ruby agree with me or not and whether they are supporters or not supporters, or if I do it on social media or through some other means such as a letter-writing campaign, where do we draw the distinction between what should be private and what is part of the public square or public debate about what is arguably the right of politicians—or not the right of politicians, because we don't have a right to anything—or the ability to understand how our citizens think about a particular issue, and where they are leaning in terms of support or voting? Where's the line?
Thanks for inviting me to appear on this important subject.
First, I want to run through my disclosures very quickly. I do not consult to anyone, anything, or anybody anywhere in the world: not corporations, not governments, not lobbyists, not unions, not NGOs, and not people. Secondly, I don't belong to any political party, nor do I donate funds to any political party or candidate. Thirdly, in 2014, I researched and authored an op-ed on identification systems that was published in The Globe and Mail. I believe everyone has a copy.
After spending quite a bit of time—that was in the spring of 2014—researching identification systems in Canada only, public and private, and the rules legislated concerning identification systems federally and provincially, it became clear to me that it is legally and factually impossible to be invisible in terms of identity in Canada in the 21st century, so I'm putting caveats around that.
In a post-modern sophisticated society, multiple large public and private organizations— from governments to military, to banks, universities, tax authorities, and health care authorities—have been forced to develop systems of identification over the years to authenticate identity before ID is issued or access is allowed to the system, such as seeing a doctor. Thus, it is more useful to think of our systems—plural—of identification in Canada as a gigantic Venn diagram of interlocking circles, for those who can remember Venn diagrams from their university days, wherein each circle of the 40 or 50 systems of identification represents merely one identification system in Canada: OHIP health card, or driver's licence, or passport, or credit card.
But each identification system overlaps many but not all of the other identification systems in Canada. In plain English, millions of Canadians simultaneously, as does everyone in this room, carry an employee identification card, often a driver's licence, a social insurance card, a health care card, an automobile ownership certificate, an auto insurance certificate on the automobile or truck, a passport or a permanent resident card, a credit card, and a debit card, not to mention other forms of identification.
This leads to two critical points. Number one, the mistake of critics in claiming that there is inadequate identification in Canada amongst some Canadians is to focus on only one of the multiple systems of identification and, upon finding some voters who may lack that particular ID—e.g., a passport—then conclude that some Canadians lack any ID to vote, and that's not true. I may not have a passport, but I may have a driver's licence. I may not have a driver's licence, but I may have a passport, and so on and so on. Restated, it is necessary to examine the totality of our national, provincial, and municipal banking, education, and health care et al. identification systems—not any one system in isolation.
Secondly, some critics claim that many identification systems do not disclose much information and thus are inadequate. This fails to recognize the elaborate and very sophisticated systems and rules of primary identification, driven, I would point out, by many of you parliamentarians and past parliamentarians in legislating the systems of identification in a myriad of statutes on the books passed by Parliament over the years, including the tax act, the pensions act, and so forth, which make the secondary identification more valuable.
This may sound very abstract. Let me very concrete. It can be argued that a bank debit card, an ATM card—I have one in my pocket, and I'm sure everyone here does—is pretty useless. All it has on it is my name and long line of multiple digits. What use is that? Except that Canada's Bank Act, passed by you, the parliamentarians, mandates that any person who opens a bank account must—not could, ought to, or should, but must—produce two pieces of primary identification issued by government, and defined as a driver's licence, a passport, or a birth certificate, in order to open a bank account.
Now the FCAC reports—of course, this is established by Parliament—that 96% of Canadians possess a bank account, those little debit cards, which means that 96% of Canadians have a minimum of two forms of government-issued primary ID.
Now I'll quickly review some of the important identification systems that are allowing me to say it's impossible to be digitally or identifiably invisible.
One, per the Vital Statistics Act, passed by every province and territory—I did check that—this is just from Ontario, “The Registrar General shall, upon receipt, cause the registrations of births, marriages, deaths, still-births, adoptions and changes of name occurring in Ontario....” That becomes the database that issues birth and death certificates.
Two, by law, Canadian citizens, newcomers to Canada or temporary residents must have a social insurance number—as you know, because it's been passed by Parliament—to work in Canada or to receive benefits and services from government programs. What a lot of people don't realize is even student loans must be recorded. A social insurance number must be disclosed by the student to get a student loan. That also applies to the myriad of benefits, not just federally but provincially and municipally.
Three, schools record and report to education ministries when a student starts elementary and then secondary school, including immunization.
Four, provincial health ministries issue health care photo ID cards. If you go to the website of any province, it states you must provide two forms of government-issued primary ID. In Ontario, a person has to first show proof of citizenship, then provide separate primary ID establishing residency address before getting a health card to access health care, including doctors or even doing blood tests at the hospital here.
Five, provincial DOT ministries' licensed drivers: per Transport Canada's latest report, 25 million Canadians have driver's licences. They issue ownership certificates mandating the owner name and address for the 33 million cars, trucks, and SUVs registered in Canada. That's 33 million pieces of identification. Of course, there is the insurance, the corresponding mandatory insurance that is necessary.
Six, the bureaucracy that collects and records more data on individuals than anything else is the CRA. In 2015, per the CRA, 29.2 million people filed tax returns. This is more than the 25 million people who were eligible to vote, according to Elections Canada, in 2015. On every tax return, we are required to provide our social insurance number and our address.
Seven, and this is the last on my itemized list, by law, all land titles must be in writing—in English common law systems—and record the name and address of the owner, while under provincial landlord and tenancy laws, rental tenancies must be in writing and record the name and address of the tenant.
At the airport, as we all know, every one of the 133 million passengers in Canada in 2015 had to provide photo ID not once but three times: once to get the boarding pass, once to go through security, and once at the gate, just to get on the plane.
Over two million students in post-secondary education, according to Statistics Canada, are provided photo ID by every college and every university in Canada, because it is mandatory. I've supervised every exam in every course I have taught for one-third of a century. They must bring their photo ID or I will send them home and they cannot write the exam. That is standard practice across universities and colleges because we can't possibly memorize and know all of the people sitting in that class.
It's been argued that the requirement for voter ID negatively affects low-income people much more, yet when you examine Ontario Works—that's the bureaucracy that administers social welfare—you will quickly realize it is vastly more onerous to obtain social welfare because of the identification. They want bank accounts. They want tax returns. They want driver's licences. They want tenancy agreements. It is vastly more onerous to obtain social assistance or welfare than it is to vote because of the identification requirements.
It is likewise for those who have looked at the OAS requirements, GIS requirements, and the Canada Pension Plan requirements to identify yourself in order to be paid a pension under those systems.
In conclusion, in a large, sophisticated society, it is widely recognized that we need rigorous systems of identification to ensure confidence in the integrity of our tax system, our health care system, our election voting system, our student records system, our banking system, and all our other identification systems.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am the legal counsel for the Conservative Party of Canada, and I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear here this afternoon.
There is one particular feature of Bill that I propose to address, and in fact, it's an omission in the legislation that has now been proposed. Specifically, while the bill seeks to further restrict the spending of registered parties by a newly defined official pre-writ period, it ignores the larger issue of third party financing and the types of third party activities that are not even regulated.
The integrity of federal elections is an issue on which we all agree. Our federal election should be determined by Canadians. If that is agreed, we can also agree that this bill does not go far enough in plugging several holes that permit foreign influence in Canadian federal elections via third party activity. To illustrate my point, I refer to correspondence from Elections Canada prepared in the year 2015. During the 2015 general election, it became clear that several groups, including one referred to as Leadnow, were engaged in several aspects of the election and that they used foreign contributions.
By a letter dated October 1, in response to the concerns the Conservative Party of Canada had raised, the Office of the Commissioner of Elections Canada responded in part:
|| As provided for in the Act, Leadnow Society cannot use, for election advertising purposes, any foreign contribution that was received by the third party. It can use foreign contributions, however, to finance any of its activities that are not related to elections advertising. For instance, they may use foreign contributions to call electors, hold events, survey the opinions of electors, send e-mails or give media briefings. Such activities, if carried out by a third party independently from any candidate or registered party, are not regulated under the act.
Elections Canada's interpretation of the Canada Elections Act on this point is open to serious challenge, but rather than endless debate on this point, this Parliament can and should act decisively to ensure that foreign contributions cannot influence Canadian federal elections.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the importance of the strict regulation of third parties in its decision in Harper v. Attorney General of Canada, where it cautioned:
||For voters to be able to hear all points of view, the information disseminated by third parties, candidates and political parties cannot be unlimited. In the absence of spending limits, it is possible for the affluent or a number of persons or groups pooling their resources and acting in concert to dominate the political discourse....If a few groups are able to flood the electoral discourse with their message, it is possible, indeed likely, that the voices of some will be drowned out...Where those having access to the most resources monopolize the election discourse, their opponents will be deprived of a reasonable opportunity to speak and be heard. This unequal dissemination of points of view undermines the voter’s ability to be adequately informed of all views.
That's from paragraph 72 of the Supreme Court's reported decision.
Later in that same decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognizes that:
||If individuals or groups were permitted to run parallel campaigns augmenting the spending of certain candidates or parties, those candidates or parties would have an unfair advantage over others not similarly supported.
That appears at paragraph 108 of the reported decision.
The interpretation by Elections Canada quoted earlier must be corrected by clear legislative language. Our Supreme Court has been decisive on this point. This Parliament should regulate all third party activities and ban all foreign contributions. When it does so, and only when it does so, we will have secured electoral fairness in this country.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I will answer them quickly.
In terms of the first one, with the greatest respect, Mr. Simms, I think you're making that mistake. You're finding one system where 4% don't have coverage, therefore you're saying they have no ID whatsoever. That's simply not true because every citizen, every person in this country, is covered under the Statistics Act. It is illegal not to record the birth or the death of any person in this country. You can't suppress someone's birth or death. That's just that.
Under the pension systems—and I'm saying this, having just applied and obtained CPP—I can tell you the hoops I had to go through. It's vastly more complex than voting in an election, I assure you.
Those are just two examples so I don't accept the argument that there's any Canadian in this country who doesn't have some form of identification. Twenty-nine million people file tax returns because the CRA requires you to file a tax return even if you don't owe money, for example, if you want an HST rebate, or you're receiving some kind of benefit from the government such as student loans.
To your second one, because I think it's more important, I think my views are even stronger now, not because I'm suggesting there's massive fraud or even minor fraud. I don't believe there is. I also don't believe most planes are blown up in Canada, or in the U.S., or across the OECD because we have very rigorous systems of protection.
Where I'm going with this is we have seen the assaults on our institutions, not so much in Canada but in the States in the last 24 to 30 months. It is absolutely crucial that we maintain the integrity of our voting systems and the belief in the integrity of our voting systems and our banking systems and our political systems. It's the famous Caesar's remark, not only must you be honest, you must appear to be.
I'm suggesting, given that we all have ID, everyone has ID because there are so many overlapping identification systems in this country, we should want to have a system where we are validating identity to vote so it will not give someone the opportunity in a close election to say that somebody was cheating, somebody was cooking, and that's what I'm worried about: undermining the authenticity of our excellent election system. I'm not suggesting people are cheating en masse or even in small numbers.
You may or may not know that I'm a former banker from many, many years ago. I don't have any relationship with any banks, but I was 10 years in banking in my 20s and early 30s, and I worked in the building that you people expropriated, which is now the Sir John A. MacDonald Building. I was there for many years, lending a lot of money to people in the Trudeau cabinet, as well as senior members of Parliament.
Where I'm going with this is that the banking system.... I don't agree with you that you cannot make a voting system secure. You know, it's that old joke about a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money; you can make any system secure if you want to spend enough money.
I'm talking about the Canadian banking system. It has, I believe, one of the most secure and robust IT security systems anywhere. If you look, and there's the evidence, for people who are going to challenge that.... We're getting off-topic, but I'll just give you the....
They have very tiny losses as a percentage of the total dollars flowing through. So, when you look at the empirical data, you see they have very small losses, which tells me it's very secure.
So, going to voting, electronic voting, I do believe we can develop—and I'm not saying it's going to be cheap; I'm not saying we can do it on the cheap, but we can.
Just very quickly, Mr. Cullen, because I think your party is very concerned about access to people—I made this very argument at the university. We're unionized at Carleton, and we still do archaic voting for everything in the union. I said, well, guess what: we have very tiny turnouts for the election. Literally 5% of the faculty are voting for the slate, because you have to physically show up on campus, the votes are held in summer, the professors aren't there, etc., etc.
Electronic voting will encourage and increase participation in the democratic process.
I'm just going to make a point. In the name of brevity, I'll keep it short.
I sit on the Standing Committee on Finance, and we're going through a statutory review of the anti-money laundering act. We've been at it for eight months—maybe even nine months—at this point. I think we have easily reached almost 100 hours. The committee is travelling this week to study the issue.
I think is a much bigger deal than the statutory review of the anti-money laundering act. The provisions contained within it have a direct impact on our democracy. The anti-money laundering act provisions are important in and of themselves, but they're not fundamental to what happens in 2019, which is a general election. I understand there is a certain amount of urgency to deal with it.
That being said, you want to get it right in the first place. You want to have all the right witnesses, and the right amount of feedback. You want to keep your list open, as has been the practice on two committees that I have been on, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, as well as the finance committee. Keep the list open, because as you're questioning witnesses they might say that they know this professor who could provide you with this type of information.
This is a big bill. It's 354 pages. I have gone through it myself. It's a lot to read and compare to what the act says right now. These documents aren't easy to read. Bills aren't made in a format that are simple for anyone to pick up.
I think it's more than reasonable to keep it open, so that witnesses can come in when they can. As you're questioning individuals who come before the committee, they provide new names and you have the opportunity to go and find additional information to test what's in the bill, and its validity. Either it is, and you find evidence out there that confirms the direction that the Government of Canada has taken is the correct one, or they say it's faulty, because of an experience in their jurisdiction.
Commissioner Therrien, who was here today, provided a lot of information about the European context, and how political parties comply with privacy rules. He didn't name specifically that in Italy, they do x, y, and z, or in Greece, they do the following.... He could have said that in Greece, I have the contact for so and so, a commissioner who could provide you with that information. You never know what you're going to get until you start to process off.
Again, I'm just dropping in on this meeting to make a contribution. Other committees have dealt with this in other ways. By keeping it open and not restricting themselves to a strict timetable, they've had a better outcome.
It's an observation.