Good evening, everyone. Bonsoir
, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
I will make my presentation in English, but I'll be happy to answer your questions in either language afterwards.
Thank you very much for inviting me to join you this evening to contribute to your work in relation to Bill . My understanding is that you are interested in my input with regard to the issue of undue foreign influence in Canadian elections; therefore, I will do my best to speak to that first.
By way of background, perhaps it would be of interest to the committee for me to introduce myself briefly and to sum up why I believe undue foreign influence in our elections is a serious issue not only for our country but also for the sovereignty of our country.
By way of background, I am a Canadian citizen. I'm a resident of North Vancouver. For the last 10 years I have been following the money and the science behind environmental activism and, more recently, behind elections activism. I have done all my work on my own initiative. I am not funded or directed by anyone, and I've written a series of articles that sum up most of my work published in the Financial Post and elsewhere.
As you may be aware from some of the articles I've written, there is a significant extent to which non-Canadian influence had an impact in the 2015 federal election in our country. I reported this extensively to Elections Canada. I would just sum up for you briefly that there are at least three U.S.-based organizations that have claimed credit for having had a significant influence in the 2015 federal election. Two of these are Corporate Ethics International, based in San Francisco, and the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, based in Oakland, California.
How do we know these American organizations influenced the outcome of the 2015 federal election? Well, we know this because they've told us in writing. I'll cite one example.
In the 2015 annual report of the Online Progressive Engagement Network, which is part of the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, its executive director, referring to the year 2015, wrote:
We ended the year with...a Canadian campaign that moved the needle during the national election, contributing greatly to the ousting of the conservative Harper government.
That's a written statement by the executive director of a non-Canadian organization. How do they do that? Well, the Citizen Engagement Laboratory has a project called the Online Progressive Engagement Network, OPEN for short, and it had a program called strategic incubation. That program helped to create, launch, and back behind the scenes a Canadian-based organization called Leadnow, based in Vancouver.
Leadnow, with the support of OPEN, ran a “get the vote out” campaign in the 2015 and 2011 federal elections. In the 2015 federal election in particular, they ran a campaign that targeted Conservative incumbents in 29 ridings. In some of these ridings, it stands to reason that this group had an impact. For example, in Winnipeg, in the Elmwood—Transcona riding, where Leadnow had full-time staff for more than a year, as far as I'm aware, the incumbent was defeated by only 61 votes.
Bill aims to close some of the loopholes that have allowed non-Canadian influence in our federal elections. I understand that a lot of work has gone into the preparation of this bill, and as a Canadian I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who's worked so hard on it so far. I regret to say, though, that unfortunately I think with the way the bill stands today, what happened in the 2015 election would be able to occur and reoccur. I don't see that this bill has been changed in the ways that would be needed to deter and in fact make illegal what happened in 2015 and keep it from happening again.
Specifically, I would refer the committee to proposed section 282.4 under “Undue influence by foreigners”. It's paragraph 282.4(1)(b) in particular that I think needs some work.
I'll leave it at that as my opening comments, Mr. Chairman, and I would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.
I'm Gary Rozon. I'm an independent auditor. I work, obviously, independently. I work with all parties. I think I have a client or two in this room right now. I've been doing this for over 10 years. Before that, I worked at Elections Canada, so I have a perspective of how things work from the inside.
One of the things on which I've always thought the punishment didn't fit the crime is the issue of making people and agents go to court to file extension deadlines.
For those of you who don't know, after an election, for example, you have four months to file. After the four-month deadline, you have to have either filed or asked for an extension from Elections Canada, which is usually always granted. If you are late and you don't have your paperwork in or you didn't file the extension, you have to go to court to get an extension. This is costly, in the $4,000 to $6,000 range. I'm sure that some of you, as members of Parliament, may not even know. You trust your financial agents and your official agents to handle the money, and for the most part, they do a very good job, but sometimes—human nature—it slips. They forget the deadline. They have to go to court, and the costs are in the $5,000 range and more. For some of the major parties that have the cash or the riding associations or the campaigns that can pay this, it's the cost of doing business, but the same rule applies to people running independently who hardly spend any money, or to someone from the smaller parties who might have raised a couple of thousand dollars. For them to be hit with a $4,000 or $5,000 penalty, as I said, the penalty exceeds the crime.
The same applies to the riding associations that had the May 31 deadline. I've been working with them. It's always a rush for those who forgot about the date. If you have new agents, the dates aren't burned into their brain like they are with some of the rest of us who do this all the time.
One way to get around it, I would suggest—and I've suggested it with some of the agents I've been working with for years—is that in the matter of a campaign, where you're getting back 60% of your spending from Elections Canada.... To make round numbers, if you spend $100,000, Elections Canada is going to give you back $60,000. I'll say that you motivate people the best way you can, and for most people, that's money.
I would do away with the court side of things. I would say that if they did four months, they needed an extension, they got it, they got an extra 30 days, and they still couldn't file after a few days, don't send them to court. I would say to take 10% off every month. Instead of 60%, it would be, “No, you missed the extra month and you're now getting 50%. You missed another month? You're now getting 40%.” That paperwork would get filed faster than any court would ever do.
I'm not going to mention names, but I know that one person in this room had to go through that with their riding association. The file went into Elections Canada. The agent didn't know that Elections Canada puts the “dead” in “deadline”, and he thought, “Close enough.”
Everybody is pointing.
Voices: Oh, oh!
That's why I didn't name names.
To me, it's just crazy. In the one case that I'm speaking of, he got the paperwork in. He was in the Elections Canada mailroom, but they flat out refused to open it until they.... He had to go to court. The judge is like, “I went to law school for this?” He got the court order. Then it came to Elections Canada, and they opened it. It just seems like overkill. That's the main thing. It's equal until it gets down to the little guys. They're being asked to pay $4,000 or $5,000, as well. It's overkill. If this ever goes back to Elections Canada, I hope they take advantage of that.
My other totally self-serving item is this. Over the years, we've all seen the indexing of campaign spending limits for elections. We've all seen the indexing of contribution limits, which I'm sure some of you totally appreciate. They have not indexed the Elections Canada subsidy in about 15 years. Every year we are asked/told to do more, and with inflation we're getting less. That ends up going back onto your riding associations and your campaigns, when there is more audit work that has to be done before going to elections.
That's my semi self-serving.... The main thing is that I wish we could do something to keep these kinds of things out of the courts.
It's the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada.
Esteemed members, I'm very happy to be here.
I'll start by saying I'm quite familiar with the election law, and I have been since about 1991 when we had the Spicer and the Lortie commissions, the last time that any really serious study of the electoral law was done.
We also have a lot of experience being on the receiving end of the unfair and undemocratic aspects of the law since 1972, when we started participating in elections.
In our opinion, Bill is a missed opportunity. It missed the opportunity to uphold democratic principles and to contribute to alleviating the perception we have today that party governments don't have the consent of the governed. It did nothing to address how the electoral process and electoral results themselves don't inspire confidence that a mandate that is supported by the majority of Canadians has actually been achieved.
I'd like to highlight just two problems today, because of the brief amount of time we have. One is the right to an informed vote and the need to have equality of all those who stand for election. The other is the matter of privacy.
The unequal treatment of candidates results from the privileges accorded to the so-called major parties, and it violates the right to an informed vote. We're told that we have political equality because of an even playing field that is supposed to be created by the fact that everybody has to meet the same criteria. For example, everybody has to do exactly the same things to become a candidate. Everybody has to respect the spending limits and so on. On top of this, we're told that public funding mitigates the inequalities we have.
All of this is meaningless when privileges are accorded to some, and the rationale is presented that only the so-called major parties are considered to be contenders for government, and that therefore, only they deserve to be heard. Others are dismissed as being fringe or incidental. This is not democratic by any standard. The only ones who see these arguments and don't see that they're undemocratic are those who are passing laws.
Canadians see it for what it is: a violation of fundamental democratic principles that exacerbates the crisis of credibility and legitimacy of both the electoral law and governments.
I'd like to give just one example of how this time around we could have taken the opportunity to address this problem. For over 17 years now, the Chief Electoral Officer has been recommending that the allocation formula in the law be removed from the privileged status now in the formula that's in the law, and instead that allocation be on an equal basis, particularly the free time. I sit on the advisory committee of Elections Canada, and I attend the broadcast meetings, and this very simple recommendation that the free time should both be increased and allocated equally has been rejected repeatedly for 17 years because, as has been said, it needs to be referred to study.
In the next election, we'll face the same situation in which, first of all, the parties in the House will have the majority of time, and within that, the Liberal Party—the ruling party—will have the lion's share of that time, while the smaller political parties get a token, not to mention all the complications with the airing of it.
The second point I'd like to make relates to privacy. We stand with the Privacy Commissioner in believing that political parties should be subject to the law. We see no reason why they shouldn't. I want to highlight the hypocrisy in this, because even if political parties are subject to the privacy law and PIPEDA, the election law itself, in our opinion, violates the right to privacy.
The election law does not recognize the right to informed consent, in our opinion. In 2006, the Conservative Party, when it was in the vanguard of micro-targeting with its constituent information management system, used the power that it had at that time, although all the parties agreed, to introduce unique, permanent identification numbers for electors, and to introduce bingo cards, the practice of Elections Canada workers that replaces the work that was once done by scrutineers to inform the political parties as to who has voted when. They don't tell them how they voted, but with data analytics, we're very close to that situation.
The Conservative Party wanted the ID numbers so as to make data integration and micro-targeting easier. The bingo cards were designed to address the problem of not having enough volunteers, which is a problem that all political parties are facing. In our opinion, again, this violates the principle of informed consent. It is just wrong. Electors should have the right to not have their unique ID numbers handed over to political parties to facilitate uploading their information into elector databases. They should also have the right to opt out of having their names put on the bingo cards, so that parties know whether they've voted or not voted.
Finally, I want to make a different point about these developments. Privacy is one concern, but the significance of this development in campaigning, which involves tracking electors and building profiles about them, is of greater concern to us. In our opinion, it does nothing to raise the level of political discourse in the country. It's not enhancing the involvement of people in the political process. The privacy debate, which is focused on things such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal or Facebook and how it's being used, clouds precisely how micro-targeting is impacting the process and particularly how it relates to political parties fulfilling their purported role of being primary political organizations and being the organizations through which people are involved in debating and discussing the problems facing the society, and in deciding the agenda and policies the society needs.
Our conclusion is that these developments, along with the fact that there hasn't been a serious study of what's going on in the electoral process since 1991-92, requires that we have public deliberations on all the fundamental premises of the electoral process to renew it once again: how mandates are arrived at; how candidates are selected; the use of public funds; and the fact that all people and all members of the polity, regardless of whether or not they belong to a political party, should be treated as equals.
How do we achieve this? Our position is that funding the process should take priority and should replace funding political parties. We think political parties should raise funds from their own members and not be recipients of state funding. So long as state funds are allocated, they have to be allocated on an equal basis. Otherwise, we have a situation where power and privilege are influencing the outcome of elections.
Those are the opening remarks I wanted to make.
I'd like to quickly read an article. We are a party of eccentrics. It's kind of like herding cats. We have a full range from orthodox Christians to narco-socialists, and our previous party whip, Marc Boyer , only had a statement of birth and with that he was able to become a candidate and an officer of the Marijuana Party. He did not have a driver's licence. He did not have any bills to his name. His father was a municipal accountant who in World War II served in the Canadian Forces. With the end of the war and the turmoil in the British Empire, the king promised the officer corps that their children would not be liable for the war debt.
At the age of 65, Marc requested his pension and it went from the pension office to the Prime Minister's Office, to the Speaker of the House, and right now I believe it's on Brigadier-General Rob Delaney's desk. He's the Canadian Forces provost marshal.
Another extreme in our party is the futurists. These are computer literates who want to be able to have direct democracy, to be able to vote with their phones, to have electronic online identification as in the Estonian model, which I am aware of and well versed in.
I would like to read a small article. It's called “Persons For Idiots”, “The Tender for Law: Persons for Idiots”, (c) 2014, Rogue Support Inc., under a Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial-noderivs. 3.0 unported licence:
All of you reading have, at one point or another, encountered the term “PERSON”. After very little investigation, you are forced to accept the realization that you are not a PERSON, rather you HAVE a PERSON. This distinction is the first “lie of ommission” that you will encounter in the world of the “LEGAL”. THE TENDER FOR LAW axiom “LEGAL=SURETY AND ACCOUNTING” makes navigating “law” a lot simpler, and it’s very easy to spot the lies of ommission/ambiguity.
You did not create this PERSON and it has nothing to do with you. THIS ONE FACT is lost on most, and can lead to JOINDER if you are not careful.
When asked if you are a PERSON, some of you will answer that you are a NATURAL PERSON. This is a really dumb thing to claim in COURT because you are making several DECLARATIONS by saying so! First, you are DECLARING that you are in their JURISDICTION. Not only are you DECLARING that you are in their JURIDICTION, but you are also DECLARING that you do NOT enjoy LIMITED LIABILITY. This, of course, means you have 100% SURETY. Let me say that again: If you DECLARE in COURT that you are a NATURAL PERSON, you DECLARE that you accept 100% SURETY. NATURAL PERSON = “picking up the tab”. INDIVIDUAL=SURETY
This is something that comes from the futurists. It was penned by someone who has run for public office in the city of Toronto. He has two trust law degrees and for five hours gave me a dressing down, accusing me of being a complete fraud whose attempts to represent the public would not be to the good.
This is my situation.
Thank you for inviting me.
I think the important point or perhaps one of the most important points I could leave with you is that this wasn't done for no reason. This wasn't done because of how Canada has treated aboriginal people or because of how we've treated immigrants. This was done because of oil.
The American charitable foundations that fund the Citizen Engagement Laboratory, in fact created it. It is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides foundation, and other donors who fund an entity called the tar sands campaign.
When this campaign first began 10 years ago, we didn't know what it was about. The motivations of the funders were not clear, but now they are, because the individual who has been directing this campaign for more than a decade, Michael Marx, said, “From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.”
That is the campaign that has been funding Leadnow. Leadnow was funded and supported behind the scenes as part of the American-funded campaign to landlock our crude and essentially keep Canada over a barrel.
I think the thing that's significant is that this wasn't done for no reason. It was in fact done for the sake of something that's costing us billions.
They don't donate. They provide in-kind support, which, of course, would have a dollar value, right?
As I mentioned, my guess is—although I don't know because Leadnow has refused to answer any questions about this—that most of their input, their contribution, and their support related to the 2015 federal election and the 2011 election probably happened outside of the election period. Because these are very well-funded organizations, they can lay the groundwork for influencing an election two, three, or even four years before the election.
That's one of the problems I think we have, that the way the disclosure requirements currently are, these organizations can get around them by getting things done outside of the election period and also by providing the type of support that does not need to be disclosed.
For example, all of the expenses that are related to use of social media, the use of online communication, are not included in the list of costs that need to be included in the disclosure, and in fact, those are the means that Leadnow in particular relied on most heavily. That's one of the reasons those expenses are affected in their disclosure statement.
The commissioner has asked me to send his regrets for being unable to attend today's session. I am pleased be here today in the context of your study of Bill .
This bill contains measures that stem from recommendations that were previously made by both the commissioner and others. Among these extremely positive measures, the System of Administrative Monetary Penalties, eliminating the requirement for prior approval in order to lay a charge and the power to ask for a court order to compel witnesses.
In addition to these changes, there are a number of other elements that are of particular interest to us.
First is the return of the commissioner to within the Office of the CEO. This change would be beneficial because our work is closely tied to elections. We would be able to enhance our ability to fulfil our mandate by maintaining better contact with those responsible for the election machinery.
We are happy to see that the important safeguards in Bill to protect our office's independence have been kept in this bill, including the statement that our investigations be carried out independently, a fixed term for the commissioner with removal only for cause, and his status as deputy head for human resources.
With respect to the third party regime, the commissioner asked that I report that a review of complaints about third party activities during the last general election has been completed, and that we have not found any evidence of illegal collusion, coordination, or foreign influence. However, the narrow regulation of third parties under the current act has limited our examination. Third parties now carry out opinion polls, conduct canvassing activities, and hold events. To date, provided they are carried out independently from parties and candidates, these activities are unregulated. Thus, the bill makes significant progress toward levelling the playing field for electoral participants.
Our office has a few suggestions for improvements. First, the bill would require a third party to identify itself in a tag line on its advertising messages; however, a third party can be a group that is formed only for one election, and its name alone may be meaningless. This is not consistent with the goal of transparency sought by the act, and also causes enforcement difficulties. Some provinces require third parties to provide a telephone number or address in their tag line, and the committee may wish to consider requiring this of third parties.
Furthermore, we generally support provisions to provide tools allowing us to deal with new challenges to elections. This includes new offences related to cybercrime and misleading communications, as well as clarifying the offence for foreign inducement and for false statements about candidates and party leaders.
On that last point, I note that the clarifications related to these two provisions of the act are not as broad as what had been endorsed by the committee in its 35th report.
In the case of false statements about candidates and leaders, allegations of criminality and about a few personal characteristics would give rise to the offence. In our view, this is not sufficient to protect the integrity of our elections against false claims that can have a devastating impact on a campaign.
While courts have recognized that false allegations concerning moral turpitude are currently covered, this would be lost if the bill is adopted as is. At a time when false news has become a pressing concern, weakening one of the only provisions that protects our democratic process against false allegations may not be advisable.
With respect to undue influence by foreigners, one of the ways of exerting such influence would be to make a false statement about a candidate or leader. Again, this is much more limited than what the committee had endorsed. The commissioner continues to believe that any false information disseminated by a foreigner purposefully to influence a Canadian election should be prohibited.
Finally, I would point out that the commissioner supports the suggested amendments put forward by the acting CEO. In particular, as our office suggested to Elections Canada, a circumvention offence should be added to prohibit attempts to go around the ban on foreign funds being used to finance third-party activities. It is also important that the specific intent element be removed from the cybercrime offence.
Information about the amendments recommended by the commissioner is included in the chart that was distributed to the committee.
In conclusion, there are many useful elements to this bill. The commissioner has asked that I mention that there will nevertheless always be limits to what can be accomplished in some cases. While Canada has agreements with some countries to carry out investigations beyond our borders, there are others with which co-operation will be impossible.
That said, we are working with our government security counterparts to minimize such barriers.
I will be pleased to answer your questions.
As I'm running right now in a Chicoutimi by-election hoping to get in here like you guys, and I'm also running in tomorrow's provincial by-election, and I'm also running for Brantford mayor, that's a hat trick. It's the third hat trick in my career, which is elections 1994, 1995, and 1996. How can I have fun when they say, “super loser fails again”? I'm going to get the guys who beat me to understand what I'm trying to say. To get an invite to come and talk to you guys was an honour.
I did a prepared statement and I will read it to you. Having run more times than you guys, I felt the pains and aggravations a lot more.
The first point is the threshold for auditor. When I first ran federally in 1979—remember Joe Clark won—my accountant was happy with the $250 cap to audit my nil return made easier by a $2,000 threshold on candidate personal expenses before reporting was required. Today, a winner may be challenged for taking a bus to a meeting without declaring the value of the contributed ticket. Get it? You could spend $2,000 on running around and personal stuff and you didn't have to report it in the old days. No auditor.
In Ontario provincial elections, they are doing it wrong. Candidates could sign a declaration avowing no contributions requiring tax credits and did not need an auditor, but to standardize the forms that then require auditors for all candidates with contributions and without, but they paid for the unnecessary auditor. I wasn't paying it. I didn't mind.
However, when my federal accountant retired after 30 years, I used my Ontario accountant and was surprised with a $700 bill, which is reasonable at these rates, when I had only ever paid $250 in the past for 30 years, but the $250 cap left me owing the $450 overage.
I asked the Federal Court to strike the $250 cap that did not keep up with inflation, ever since 1974 unconstitutionally stifling my democratic rights. Justice Phelan ruled I could raise contributions to pay the auditor—not quite political purposes—or save $10 a week from my pension. I appealed it to the Supreme Court, docket number 36937, but it wasn't important enough to be heard.
Now, Ontario has standardized the forms for nominations candidates for parties from no reporting at all to reporting required with an auditor, an unpaid auditor. Any candidate seeking a party nomination must now pay the auditor out of his own pocket, even with a zero return.
Standardize government requirements, sure, but why standardize party requirements? Parties should make their own rules, but the new regulations are now in place to stifle political participation.
An auditor should not be required before a threshold of expenses is reached, which should apply for election candidates too. The Canada Elections Act should not be job creation for accountants.
A famous dictator once said that those who vote don't matter and those who count the votes matter.
A famous dictator once said that those who count the votes matter.
With elections becoming computerized—and I'm an electrical engineer—hacking becomes inevitable, except for no-fraud ballot receipts.
If I can get a receipt for every coffee I buy, why can't I get a receipt for the most important transaction in my democracy? A serial-numbered receipt of my vote without my name lets me check the list of serial numbers and selections published online on election night to verify that my vote was properly registered, and I have proof in hand should those who matter count the votes wrong. No one need ever fear computerized voting again with checkable ballots. That's all you need. I proposed that two years ago, and they haven't moved.
On equitable free time broadcasting, section 9 of the Broadcasting Act used to mandate that free time political broadcast be made available to all parties and rival candidates on an equitable basis, qualitatively and quantitatively. You can imagine the fun I used to have when I was invited to the debates, and the fun my opponents didn't have. In 1986, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down that right to fair treatment and allowed the media to give all the free time on public airwaves to whom they preferred. This is verified in Turmel v. CRTC 33319 at the Supreme Court of Canada. When Rogers banned me from a debate for wearing my party button, I complained to the top. I got arrested, and they took me away. There it is, proof positive that the TV stations can allocate free time to whomever they want. While Big Brother gets to bias elections by rigging the debates on public airwaves, democracy cannot exist. We have to handle Big Brother.
I didn't mind the rich guys buying as much time as they wanted, but it was the free time I expected a share of, and now I can't get. At the last three debates in Brantford, I was excluded from all three for the first time in my career. That's what democracy has been coming to in Ontario politics. I don't know about the rest of the provinces, but I certainly hope you guys don't let it become like that federally.
I'll go back to section 9. Of course, then there's a problem with debates involving three party leaders. Imagine 10 party leaders. Could you handle that?
Thank you to the chair and to the committee for inviting the Progressive Canadian Party to present important evidence, in our view, concerning Bill .
The Progressive Canadian Party is a continuation of the tradition in Canadian politics of a Tory party willing “to embrace every person desirous of being counted as a progressive Conservative”, in the words of Sir John A. Macdonald. The PC Party was led, until his recent passing, by the Honourable Sinclair Stevens, who was a minister in the Clark and Mulroney Progressive Conservative governments, and is now led by former PC MP Joe Hueglin.
I'm speaking today as communications and policy chair on the PC Party national council, but I also contributed to the Elections Canada advisory committee of political parties in 2015; again in meetings in 2018, and in fact yesterday; and previously served, before political involvement, as an Elections Canada DRO and Elections BC voting officer and clerk. I hope this experience adds value to our testimony.
Evidence and comments today will be limited largely to implications of Bill in the context of today's fixed-date election law introduced in 2006, the Fair Elections Act, sometimes described as the voter suppression act by Progressive Canadians, introduced as Bill in the 41st Parliament, and other proposed electoral reforms that have been part of public discussion of this bill. I welcome questions from the committee in its larger context or details insofar as I may be able to contribute positively to your study of the bill.
As an aside, I will note that because Bill is important in the evolution of our democracy, vigorous debate in the Senate is likely to follow given the new partisan spirit introduced by appointments in the previous government, which have been moderated but not checked by the new independent advisory committee recommending persons for Senate nomination by the Prime Minister to the Governor General. I have further comments on that. If you wish, we can take care of that in questions.
Change in Westminster parliamentary democracy may be characterized as a balance of continuity and change, of evolutionary trial and error, and at its best when it proceeds by what Renaissance scholar Desiderius Erasmus described as “by little and little”. Unexpected consequences can be moderated, and ill-advised choices mitigated or remedied. Bill is about evolutionary change. The need for progressive evolutionary parliamentary change is suggested by the 42nd general election.
The 42nd general election of Parliament, on October 19, 2015, well illustrates the need for many of the measures recommended in Bill . The 2015 election was the first one honouring the fixed-date election law. The 41st Parliament had seen the parliamentary opposition in effect neutered by the unavailability of parliamentary responsible government by excesses of party discipline in a majority government and the fixed-date election law.
Omnibus bills and limited debate on controversial legislation, including the Fair Elections Act, became the norm rather than the exception. The last year of the 41st Parliament was reduced, arguably, to a campaign to elect the next parliament. By the end of the session, in June 2015, campaigns and campaign spending by parties and third parties were ramped up before rules applying to writ-period spending came into effect. An almost unprecedented 78-day writ period followed in which party spending limits allowed nationally, and in all 338 riding elections, doubled per candidate. Money became key. The distance between public interest and party interest widened, and concern about Bill voter suppression grew.
I refer you to “Memo on the Fixed Date Election Law, Money and the Corporate Political Party in 2015, and the implications for Smaller Political Parties, and Independents.” The written copy is appended to this document.
Many of these concerns were anticipated. The Progressive Canadian Party addressed several of these concerns and proposed remedies, which were discussed in a submission solicited by this committee, PROC, in September 2006, when the fixed-date election law was originated as Bill , and in a submission to the Elections Canada Advisory Committee of Political Parties, ACPP, on election advertising, in which the implications of fixed-date elections were discussed. Both documents are available on the EC website or by request from Elections Canada.
Bill proposes a new pre-writ period in a fixed-date election, beginning June 30, at the end of the session in the year a fixed-date election is to be honoured, and a maximum limit of a 50-day campaign writ period. We cite the following remarks in the PC Party 2015 submission to Elections Canada by way of guidance on ways in which Bill may be improved:
It is widely reported that political parties or candidates are conducting political campaigns well in advance of the writ being dropped to begin the formal election period. At present, there is no limitation on the spending of political parties or candidates outside of the writ period.
In other Commonwealth countries, notably the United Kingdom, political advertising outside of the writ period is subject to legislated “long campaign” and “short campaign” limits administered by the Elections Commission.... EC advice and interpretative instruction for the 2015 election is strongly recommended.
Advertising activities by the Government of Canada and government departments have included public service announcements of programmes “subject to parliamentary approval.” Such announcements may be deemed partisan advertisements funded by public monies and taxpayer dollars by the agencies contracting to issue such public service announcements because they concern proposals, generally by the governing party of the day, which have not received parliamentary approval.
While this practice is not strictly election advertising in advance of the writ period, the effect is the same. It is recommended that these practices be qualified and that a pre-writ period in the fixed-date election years be extended to mirror long campaign practices administered by the U.K. Elections Commission. This recommendation would apply if the fixed-date election law is not repealed in the interest of protecting the principle of responsible government at the heart of Canadian Westminister Parliamentary democracy.
The Progressive Canadian Party strongly agrees with the intention and certain of the provisions in Bill , which are intended to reverse the outcomes of Bill , the Fair Elections Act, passed in the 41st Parliament, and to see these corrections as part of the continuity, change, and evolution in Parliamentary practice, by which the unintended consequences or error in previous legislation may be mitigated or remedied. In particular, we commend the restored role of Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer in providing public information during elections and measures to ensure that every qualified Canadian may take part in riding elections of a Parliament in Canada.
We recommend restoring the voter identification card issued by EC as acceptable identification of voters at the polls. We note that in other places and countries, requirements for photo ID and other limitations have had the effect of limiting voter participation and have been described as voter suppression in some sources.
The Honourable Sinclair Stevens, speaking for the PC Party national council in 2014, underscored the seriousness of these concerns, stating that:
It is the view of the Progressive Canadian Party that Bill C-23, entitled the Fair Elections Act...will betray basic principles of democracy in Canada even if substantially amended. Bill C-23 will deny the right to vote to large numbers of Canadians and as such must be challenged in the courts as unconstitutional...in ways indicated by scholars of Canadian constitutional law and political science published in the national media, Progressive Canadians believe the Fair Elections Act must be rejected as unfair, undemocratic, and deserving of constitutional challenge even in light of amendments which are being recommended by members of the House of Commons and in Senate committee. Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act is deeply flawed in fundamental ways and for its apparent intent.
The media release from which this is drawn is appended to this document.
Bill is a welcome remedy for some of the flaws of the Fair Elections Act. We welcome this remedy. Finally, on the margins of debate concerning Bill C-76 can be heard voices calling to revisit the question of electoral reform, which for them means replacing riding-elected MPs in each of Canada's 338 electoral districts according to single-member pluralities or majorities with party proportional representation according to the national or regional party popular vote.
We elect members of Parliament to the Parliament of Canada in riding elections held in each riding separately in a general election of a Parliament when Parliament is dissolved or in by-elections between general elections. We elect members of Parliament, not parties, movements or prime ministers. Party vote, or distributing seats in the House of Commons according to the proportion of votes received by party members nationally, is not relevant.
These facts about Canadian electoral practices are consistent with the constitutional architecture of Canada and with Canadian realities of space and population. Diversity of interest and of opinion, even within party groups, often varies widely in distant parts of Canada. The view in the north, the coasts, the prairies, and the industrial heartland can vary considerably in ways of party discipline, whether formal or as a part of movement politics, yet it is not reflected in party proportional representational systems.
We strongly advise that the debate on Bill not be distracted by those who purpose to achieve partisan advantage by advocating for systems of party proportionality regardless of the merit of the movement or party view they may represent. Democratic rights and objectives are not achieved, sustained, or protected by changing the system to achieve partisan advantage; they are achieved by the power of persuasion and a willingness to do the hard work of achieving democratic societal consensus.
I'd like to thank the committee for taking the time to consider our representation and my remarks. I hope they will help to guide you in meaningful debate and conclusions toward modernization of Canadian elections. There are documents appended to this, which you may find expand upon some of these issues that time here may not have provided for. I thank you again.
It really depends on how these things are viewed.
I mean, social media campaigns don't cost a lot, but they're loud, they're vocal, and they're often unrepresentative. That's a form of advertising in a way, but it is not—quote, unquote—“advertising”.
There are things that external movements and groups can do to influence election results unfairly. Today, Bill is being debated in the Senate. There's a very large lobby, which I think has shaped the debate around the issues that Bill raises. Is that measured by knowledge and science, or is it measured by how social media and campaigning by people who want to benefit financially from the legalization of marijuana want to represent themselves? Do we do that in an election period, and is that fair representation to Canadians?
Those are questions that I think need to be asked when we look at what third parties actually do in the pre-writ period. However, controls by Elections Canada—“controls” is the wrong word—let's say, administration by Elections Canada, I think is helpful.