Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I would like to begin by thanking the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for inviting me to provide my observations on Bill .
I welcome the chance to offer you my insights and observations on the electoral process. When I provide comments to a committee of the House of Commons, I am very aware that I am addressing Canada's lawmakers.
Today I would like to briefly address the following topics: the provisions of the bill and my observations from Ontario's 2018 general election.
In reviewing the provisions of this bill and other bills related to elections, I always ask myself whether the change protects the integrity of the electoral process, preserves fairness and promotes transparency. I have reviewed this bill closely and I offer the following observations.
The bill offers amendments that, if passed, would improve access and reduce barriers to voting. A number of the provisions in this bill were implemented in Ontario, and I am highly supportive of them.
I specifically want to highlight the provision that allows voter information cards as a piece of identification. The voter information card is a staple of electoral administration and, in my humble opinion, a core piece of the Canadian electoral fabric. The voter information card unites every elector group, giving them the confidence that they are registered, and provides them with the information they require to cast their ballot. This proposed amendment creates consistency with Ontario's identification requirements, and I applaud this government for recognizing its importance.
Additionally, lengthening the election calendar and extending advance poll hours are important amendments to contribute to the success of the election. I appreciate the flexibility that these provisions and others provide to the chief electoral officer. Election administrators are in the best position to make decisions on how elections are delivered. Allowing the chief electoral officer to make decisions on their mandates while complying with legislation is a key factor of success in overseeing elections.
I will now turn my attention to third party regulation. In 2016 Ontario implemented substantive reform with respect to election finances. While Ontario was undergoing significant electoral reform, I had been asked, and agreed, to serve as an adviser to the Standing Committee on General Government. This committee undertook an extensive process in consulting the public by travelling Ontario and hearing from interested individuals and stakeholder groups on the proposed legislation.
I also appeared three times in front of the standing committee to provide my thoughts on the provisions in this bill. My messaging in this area has been simple and consistent. The concept of the level playing field is central to our democracy. It is also a unifying principle of election administration, tying together the voting process and the campaign process.
Election outcomes are intended to reflect the genuine will of the people. Political finance rules are in place to ensure that all political actors have an equal opportunity to raise and spend funds to advance their message and win votes. Electoral outcomes should not be distorted because of unequal opportunities to influence the electorate. Third parties are no exception to this. Creating a regulation system for third parties is critical in creating a level playing field, and I am supportive of the proposed provisions in this bill.
There are amendments in this bill that align with Ontario's model, with some exceptions. Spending thresholds differ in Ontario compared with what is being proposed in Bill . While I will not comment on the specific amounts and whether it is appropriate or not, what is important to me is that regulation be in place prior to the writ period and during the writ period. In Ontario, prior to the legislative reform in 2016, we never had pre-writ regulation. It was something I long advocated for because of the lack of transparency on what could be incurred by third parties in the six months leading up to an election.
One feature of Bill that I am quite supportive of is the requirement for third parties to provide interim reports. I believe this contributes to effective oversight and better transparency.
I would also like to highlight the area of foreign spending. I strongly support restricting third parties from using funds from a foreign entity. However, this bill does not address how it will regulate this source of funding. There are no requirements to disclose where third parties are receiving funding from, which could very well be from foreign entities. I highlight that for the committee to consider.
Overall, I view these provisions as a step in the right direction.
The next area I would like to address involves the provisions related to enforcement. In order to effectively enforce, it is important to provide regulators with the tools they require.
I am pleased to see the commissioner of Canada elections' ability to issue administrative monetary penalties, compel testimony and lay charges where he or she deems fit. I also believe it is appropriate that the commissioner of Canada elections be relocated to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. Being equipped with these tools allows the commissioner to fulfill the mandate effectively and maintain public trust by holding political actors accountable.
I would now like to focus the remainder of my time on my observations from Ontario's 2018 general election.
This year's election saw an unprecedented amount of change. Elections Ontario operationalized four different pieces of legislation in advance of the June 2018 election. These amendments enabled Ontario to implement new boundaries, new technology, new staffing models, new processes and modern tools for all elections-related stakeholders.
The 2018 general election in Ontario, in my humble opinion, was a great success, and the legislation helped support our efforts to provide greater access and modernized services to electors.
There are a few key areas that I'd like to highlight for your consideration.
The first is privacy and security. With an increased focus on personal data and intrusion into public networks, privacy and cybersecurity were and are top of mind.
This was the first general election where technology was implemented, including e-poll books to strike off electors and vote-counting equipment to count ballots.
In order to ensure security, we worked closely with the provincial security adviser, who was appointed by Ontario's secretary of cabinet. We went to him to seek advice on ensuring our processes and systems met thresholds and limited the risk of threat. In coordination with the provincial security adviser, Elections Ontario had a security expert carry out comprehensive audits of our systems, processes and people. The report recommended a number of actions that we implemented to reduce vulnerability.
There is little evidence to suggest that the 2018 general election in Ontario was significantly affected by cybersecurity intrusions, fake news or any other form of electronic interference.
The last area I'd like to speak to is third party spending. With a new regime in place, similar to Bill , third parties now had registration requirements and spending limits for both the pre-writ and writ periods. In the 2018 general election we had a total of 59 third party registrants—34 in the six-month pre-writ period and 25 during the writ period. By comparison, in 2014 we only had 37 third parties registered in the writ period. This represented a 59% increase in the total number of third parties that registered compared to 2014.
At this time it is difficult to assess the overall impact of the new regulations, as we will not receive full financial filings until December of this year. However, I am confident that regulation significantly impacted how much money was spent on third party advertising. I will give you an example. In 2014, 37 registered third parties spent approximately $8.67 million during the writ period alone. In 2018, we had 25 third parties registered in the writ period who, combined, could only have spent $2.55 million under the new regime. This represents a decrease of more than $6.12 million in spending during the writ period. This is a significant reduction, and I look forward to seeing the final expenses of all third parties in December.
One area of challenge for us, though, was in registration requirements. In Ontario, similar to the provisions in Bill , a third party is only required to register once it incurs $500 in expenses. This registration requirement was a challenge for us to navigate and regulate. We received numerous complaints on third parties, many of which had not registered with us, as they kept their spending under $500. The result was unregulated third party advertising. The difficulty we encountered was that many of these parties spent money on advertising exclusively through the Internet. This made it a challenge to ascertain if and when they went past the $500 threshold.
Third party registration is an area of reform I will be commenting on to Ontario's legislators early next year, and something you may wish to consider as a review in this bill.
I would finally like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for inviting me to speak and to offer my perspectives as chief electoral officer of Ontario. I applaud the work this committee is doing on electoral reform, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.
We did our pilots in both Whitby—Oshawa, and Scarborough—Rouge River. When I wrote to the legislators, we were very transparent. We believed going into the election that we would only put technology in where we knew it would work.
We had our returning officers do a review of all the voting locations with a technical device to determine what type of connectivity we would get there. We put the technology in just slightly more than 50% of the voting locations in Ontario, but it represented that 90% of the electorate were going to those locations, meaning that 90% of electors voted using the technology.
As far as the technology itself is concerned, it far surpassed our expectations. On election day, we hovered between 99.4% and 99.6% connectivity with the 3,900 locations in which we had technology. It worked really, really well.
From the electorate's perspective, we recently received all of our research data. In Ontario, there is a requirement in the act to do a large survey. We ask about 10,000 Ontarians various questions, and some of the numbers coming back are staggeringly high. About 95% of general electors in Ontario were very supportive and found the technology easy to use, efficient and secure.
When it comes to the vote tabulators, they were the easiest part. It is a paper ballot. When I went into this process of trying to modernize the election, I was very cognizant that we wanted to maintain a paper ballot. I've conducted elections right across this country and in speaking to Canadians, most Canadians believe they want a tangible piece of evidence of how they voted. Maintaining a paper ballot was core to us.
With respect to the tabulators themselves, the technology is relatively simple. It's been around for 30 years. It's the same technology when you go to your grocery store and the clerk takes your cereal box and runs it over the scanner. It's not cutting-edge technology; it's tried and true technology.
On election day, we had over 4,000 tabulators in the field, and we literally had nickels and dimes, meaning we had some issues with 10 to 20 of them throughout the course of the day. No elector was ever disenfranchised. We had processes in place to ensure that they could still vote by using an auxiliary box.
From our perspective, the technology was a big benefit to us in this election.
I'm on the subamendment.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, again, to the committee for giving me the floor. It's always a pleasure to discuss this motion and discuss the subamendment that my able colleague has proposed.
Certainly one aspect of Mr. Reid's amendment has been dealt with in terms of the appearance today of the chief electoral officer of Ontario. Frankly, I found his testimony to be interesting, intriguing and fascinating. He touched on a number of issues that I think are related to the bill that we have before us in this committee in the examples that they had provincially, whether it be third party financing, the provisional voter registry or, more generally, concerning technology, which isn't directly foreseen in this bill, but has been something that the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada has touched on and commented on, particularly as it relates to e-poll books, how that was implemented provincially and the challenges that our CEO, Mr. Perrault, is having federally in terms of implementing that in a professional and appropriate way.
In his testimony last week, he noted that he is not in a position to roll forward with that in a testing capacity, which would normally be done in a by-election, in the by-election that we expect will occur at some point this fall. Currently there are vacancies in York—Simcoe as of Sunday, in Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, in Outremont, and I believe in Mr. Di Iorio's seat as well. I did notice that Mr. Di Iorio is still on the website. I'm not sure when his resignation takes effect. I thought it had happened back in the spring, but that doesn't seem to be the case since he still seems to be on the website. So, potentially there will be a by-election there, as well as in Burnaby—Douglas, which I think is Burnaby South right now.
Certainly there are opportunities in those by-elections to pilot certain things. However, the understanding is—and I think appropriately so—that the CEO is not willing to undertake that unless he has full confidence that the technology is there, has been tested and is ready to go. The information that we received this morning from the provincial CEO about how he rolled out that testing in the Whitby—Oshawa by-election and then rolled it out province-wide this past June is a positive.
His testimony was also worthwhile in terms of technology and how it is implemented. An interesting dynamic that those of us who have rural or remote ridings—mine is certainly more rural than remote—but, rural in terms of connectivity and the challenges we are faced with in terms of using new technology, whether it be e-poll books or vote tabulators.... I had the great privilege of using this technology during our federal leadership race in May 2017. I believe it was the same company and the same technology. They look like old fax machines.
An hon. member: [Inaudible—Editor]
Mr. John Nater: It's related to the provincial CEO's testimony, which is—
That is interesting. That has happened. We enjoyed hearing the CEO's testimony.
Going forward, I think it's absolutely important that we hear from the minister before we proceed to clause-by-clause. I was quite looking forward to hearing the minister testify at committee on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
What really frustrated me was that from the government's side there was this implication that the testimony from the was some kind of gift bestowed upon the opposition by the government. Frankly, it's not. That's not the way it should be. The minister and her counterparts across the cabinet were given clear direction in their mandate letters that they should be available to committees. My hope is that the minister will appear once more before committee before we move to clause-by-clause so we can discuss some of the amendments.
I appreciate that the clerk will be distributing the amendments that have been submitted by all parties, and I understand that there are a number of them: from the government, the opposition and the third party, and from I believe the Green Party and potentially the Bloc, although I don't know that for a fact. I do know that Ms. has submitted proposed amendments.
It's important, I think, that before we actually go to clause-by-clause—and now in the coming days we'll have access to the proposed amendments—we have the opportunity to speak with the . It's important to to hear from her and to have her indicate to us what direction she's looking to take in terms of which amendments would be acceptable to her from a government perspective, and what amendments she's not willing to undertake. The ability to have her appear before this committee at a certain point in time I think would be worthwhile. I think it would be beneficial.
Certainly, those of us who are on this committee have an interest in this file, obviously, since we're sitting on the committee that's studying the bill, but she, as the responsible , has an important vested interest as the minister responsible for this matter to appear and to indicate the government's direction. I appreciate, certainly, that we may not agree with every amendment that she proposes, and we may not agree with every amendment that the NDP or the Green Party may propose, but we would at least have an indication from the minister of what direction she would like to see.
From my perspective, I would be curious to see what amendments she would be willing to accept as they relate to third parties, so the ability to ask her whether she would agree to additional strengthening of some of the provisions on third parties.... Certainly, taking into account some of the comments that came from our Ontario CEO as they relate to third parties, I would be intrigued to hear whether she'd be amenable to strengthening some of those concerns, particularly—and again, this is in relation to the ongoing commentary and controversy south of the border—with regard to foreign influence and foreign interference. None of us wants to be talking about Russian interference and #FakeNews in terms of that foreign influence.
Clearly, too, I think most of the population, with perhaps some leading American figures excluded, believes that there was an act of interference in that election. I want to hear from the how she will go about addressing the concerns that are rightfully held by members—I think on all sides of this table—about how foreign influence will be dealt with in an upcoming election. How the minister will deal with that is certainly an open question.
I'd be curious to question her on whether she would adopt some of the testimony of the provincial CEO in terms of having all donations disclosed for a third party in regard to where the funding comes from, and whether that funding comes from a foreign entity or from an entity that perhaps mixes foreign funds with domestic funds. Hearing from the on that particular matter in terms of whether she'd be open to some increased reporting standards and accountability mechanisms that would prevent entities from using foreign funds in Canadian elections I think would be worthwhile.
As well, I think it would be worthwhile to question the on the role of the Auditor General. I found it interesting that the CEO brought up the point that the Auditor General conducts a review of government spending in the pre-writ period. That's an interesting way to address it.
As far as I know, the Auditor General doesn't have that role federally. I'd be curious to see the minister's comments on that, and whether she'd be open to having an audit role for the AG or another similar entity, perhaps the CEO, or perhaps someone not directly related to the elections, to review how government advertising is undertaken during the writ period and in the pre-writ period.
That goes along with a further commentary that, in the proposed legislation there is the pre-writ spending cap applying to political parties. I'd be interested to hear the minister's comments on whether she would be open to aligning the periods for federal advertising, as well as ministerial announcements and parliamentary and ministerial travel that could conceivably be seen as being done with an electoral purpose. I would want to know whether the minister would be open to reviewing that type of function.
For all intents and purposes, it appeared as though the minister was open to having these conversations. She certainly, physically, showed up on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. She sat through the entire meeting in Centre Block. She had notes in front of her. Conceivably, she was prepared to testify and was open to questions from this committee.
That didn't happen. A motion was brought forward at the beginning of the meeting, before the minister could testify, which we debated throughout the meeting. It was the guillotine motion that's now before us. The actual original motion, I guess, was to revive that motion for debate rather than doing so after the minister's testimony. That's unfortunate. As I said, I don't think the appearance of a minister at committee should be seen as some kind of gift or some kind of benefit that's provided to committees only if we agree to a programming motion, only if we agree to a guillotine motion. I don't think that's appropriate, especially when you review the mandate letters of ministers, which focus on them appearing before committees.
Another thing I wanted to hear from the minister before we move forward is her focus and her efforts to implement a similar provisional voter registry, as was undertaken in Ontario. The CEO of Ontario provided some positive commentary on that. In their example, it was an optional registry. In ours, it was an automatic registry. In both cases, the option is to withdraw at some point in time. I'd be curious to know the minister's thoughts on those two strategies, and which one is more appropriate from a federal perspective.
On the provincial perspective, the CEO, Mr. Essensa, mentioned that about 1,200 people, give or take, were on the register. That seems exceptionally low given the population of Ontario and given the number of 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds that are out there, particularly since the vast majority of 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds are currently in high school, so they're in a public institution that a CEO or an elections official would have access to. That 1,200 number seems low. I'd be curious to hear the minister's commentary, one way or another, in terms of how that's undertaken. The CEO appeared to indicate that the number of people who have withdrawn is exceptionally low. I think that's a positive outcome. It would be curious to see whether that bears out when it's a mandatory or an automatic registration.
This ties in with the privacy concerns with that. I was pleased to hear from the provincial CEO that this data is guarded within Elections Ontario. It is not shared with political parties. It's not shared with third parties. It's not shared outside of Elections Ontario. I think that's an important matter that we need to assure ourselves of: that similar provisions are in place.
Federally, we've heard from the former acting minister, , in a commentary on the bill itself in the House, that it would not be the case that this information would be shared with people outside Elections Canada. That's reassuring, but as well, we need to assure ourselves that it is the fact.
As the corollary to that as well, when people do turn 18 and they become eligible to vote, those names are then added to the permanent voters list, at which point, of course, as registered voters, people are entitled to vote in the federal election. That information would be shared with those actors in the political process that have the right to have that information.
While I'm on the subject of privacy, and Mr. Cullen brought up the issue of privacy regulations, privacy rules, how we go about dealing with the challenges of protection of personal data, protection of information. Certainly, this bill has some measures designed to move us toward that, but on hearing from different witnesses, different experts, there is no agreement that it goes far enough. I'd be curious to know from the minister, if she's had any change of heart in terms of how questions of privacy are dealt with in this legislation.
One matter on which I'd like to hear from the minister, when she appears and hopefully that can happen, is whether she feels the federal privacy legislation, PIPEDA, applies completely to those actors within the political process, or whether some aspects of it could be applied to the process. We've heard testimony both from the CEO and from the Privacy Commissioner who have made specific suggestions around the privacy question and personal information. Being able to go forward and have that conversation with the minister and question her as to whether or not she will accept those recommendations from those commissioners, or whether she has an alternative proposal to do so, would be of benefit to the committee.
Another issue that is worth articulating, and worth having that conversation with the minister about, relates to the anti-collusion provisions that the provincial government has implemented. I was heartened to hear there were allegations—I shouldn't say heartened to hear there were allegations. I should say that I was heartened to hear how the CEO dealt with allegations of collusion among political actors, among third parties and how those were investigated.
I'd be curious to hear whether the minister would be open to strengthening and implementing strong anti-collusion provisions within the federal legislation to ensure that third parties and political actors are not trying to get around the rules and the limits that exist within legislation to influence beyond what they ought to be able to influence.
The Ontario CEO, as a corollary to that, brought up the example of the minimum spending limit, it being $500 in Ontario, and the challenge of forcing that within a digital environment. We could take a step further and look at that writ large with advertising in general.
With online advertising, whether it's on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or more traditional banner ads on websites, it's difficult to maintain a registry or an observation of these advertisements. Unless you or someone connected with the campaign have observed them first-hand, there's not typically a permanent record of that available online. It may not ever even appear to someone individually, based on the metrics that are indicated in an advertisement.
For example, on Facebook, it can be targeted to people who like a certain page, who may have certain page likes within their Facebook account, so based on that, you may or you may not see a political ad.
If I happen to like the Conservative Party of Canada on Facebook, if I happen to like on Facebook, the Liberal Party or the New Democrats—
Chances are that, if the NDP or the Liberals are running an ad, those who like and those who like the Conservative Party or similar entities will be excluded from seeing that ad. The ability to know what its money is being spent on is largely limited to actually being able to physically view an ad. When we have the minister here, we need to have that conversation about how we go about ensuring that, particularly as it relates to third parties.
In terms of political actors, the disclosure of information is, I would say, fairly robust. We are, through the Canada Elections Act, required to report all expenses, all contributions, so it's dealt with that way. Again, there are always challenges, but if money was spent on Facebook advertising, if money was spent on online advertising, as a matter of the law and as a matter of electoral rebates, for that matter, political entities report that on their returns.
A third party who is not required to register, though, will not have those same dynamics, so we need to have the conversation with the minister in terms of how we go about addressing those types of concerns, particularly in a digital environment.
Now, I don't claim to have the magic solution to any of those challenges. Certainly, there are options available for this committee, and I look forward to seeing the amendments that are being brought forward by all political parties, to see if there's something in there that we could adopt and implement that would allow us the opportunity to go about that direction, to look at ways in which we can ensure that third party rules foresee some form of digital advertising and how to address that digital advertising when it happens. Perhaps it is real-time reporting of all expenses of third parties, together with the forced registry of all third parties, so whether they spend $1, $500, or $5,000, I think that would be one way to go about that. Certainly, the provincial CEO indicated that it would be easier for him to determine a $3,000 or $5,000 threshold, or a zero-dollar threshold, but when you come to a $500 threshold, you're certainly kind of using a judgment call and it makes it more challenging to see where that happens and where that comes into play.
Certainly more generally, it's a conversation that needs to be had with the minister more broadly, on how we deal with new technologies and new ways of communicating that don't always appear in the traditional way of doing business in an election. I'm a new MP, but I've been involved in election campaigns for my adult life, and I very much remember that original advertising was very much focused on radio and television ads, and in smaller communities on the weekly newspaper and the local newspaper. For those, it was very easy to indicate who spent the money to pay for the ad, which campaign was doing that, because it said that it was authorized by the official agent for so and so. That certainly was the way it was dealt with in the past, in terms of how we traditionally campaign.
In the new era, it's more challenging to have that clarity in terms of what ads pop up in one's stream. There are ways that you can see individual pages and what advertisements they are undertaking, but it's not always clear to a voter, to a constituent, to a Canadian, in terms of where those are being targeted and where they are undertaken.
I would note that you can click on, I believe, the “About” tab and see which ads are being currently run by a particular page, but again it doesn't show who paid for them and who's authorized those ads. Particularly on a Facebook page, it may not have a clear definition of who it is. Certainly, if the Facebook page was “John Nater, MP”, you could reasonably assume that's a Facebook page that is related to John Nater, or John Nater for the Conservative Party, or some kind of indication that it's connected to that.
The challenge we're facing, however, and where we need direction and clarity is with other entities. If there were a “Friends of John Nater” campaign that had a Facebook page, determining exactly who the friends of John Nater are would be a challenge.
The point is that we need some clarity from the department and from in terms of how we go about that. Any individual can create a Facebook page and call it whatever they want. “Friends of John Nater” is an example, but it could be a Facebook page such as “Canadians for a Clean Environment”, “Canadians for Increased International Trade”, or “Canadians for a Strong Manufacturing Sector”. There are no limits on how a Facebook page can be created, and for an issue like that, we need to ensure that we are engaging the supply management, or rather, social media companies, in terms of what efforts we make. I had SM in my mind, so social media, supply management....
I think that on a proactive basis, we've seen movement from social media companies to ensure that clearly fake accounts or bots, as they are called, are being whittled away. They are being eliminated, but you can only do so much in any given situation. When we hear from , we need to hear her plan and her strategy to go forward, in terms of what options there are to go about that process.
We talk about Facebook and we talk about Twitter. Those seem to be the primary mechanisms. We heard from the Ontario chief electoral officer this morning, who noted that he has had a relatively positive working relationship with those companies, those businesses. That's what they are; they are businesses.
I'd be curious to hear from about what outreach efforts she has undertaken, in terms of working with Facebook or Twitter, to determine what the next steps are, either with a voluntary approach or with a regulatory or legislative approach, whether it's in time for the next election or whether it's something that we will wait for a future election to see, an election in 2023. I guess that would be the conceivable next step.
I think we need to hear from and have that conversation with her about what the appropriate steps are on this. We hear about Cambridge Analytica, and we hear about the data mining practices that went on in other jurisdictions, but hearing from her, hearing her perspective about what the next steps should be on a matter such as this would be worth the conversation.
Again, when we see the amendments that have come forward from all parties around this table and those represented in the House but not necessarily holding official party status, it would be worthwhile to see if there is one that may address the digital progress that's being undertaken.
The corollary to that is enforcement. Enforcement is a challenge, especially for elections where so much of the enforcement would happen after the fact. If you have an election that is completed, and there's evidence of overspending, of non-registry, or of foreign influence, it's very difficult to correct that fact after an election has been completed. Certainly that's something that was noted before this committee by those who testified. It has been noted in other places and in other commentary. Being able to enforce something at the time of the infraction is a matter that we as a committee have to grapple with and to deal with.
Failure to do so, and the forced wait until after an election has occurred provide very little in terms of corrective practices or corrective ability to fix it at that point in time. If we wait until we've submitted all our financial filings and our audited financial statements after an election campaign, often that's months in before Elections Canada can determine whether an infraction has taken place. We need to look at where that ought to go and what powers should rest with either the Chief Electoral Officer or perhaps the commissioner of elections to make that happen.
Of course, that's one matter, but another matter that I think we as Canadians worry about is security and privacy. More generally, we want to ensure that our data, our personal information, is safe, whether that's information held by Elections Canada or by political parties.
I found the testimony from the Ontario CEO to be informative when he stated there was little evidence of that type of interference and threat, but I thought his additional commentary was even more important, that there were in fact failed attempts to access information, which is positive to see, but nonetheless there were attempts to do so.
I was heartened that he made the comment that this information was then shared with the appropriate channels, the CSE, Communications Security Establishment.... I think it's worthwhile to try to determine where these threats may have come from. I would say the robustness of the province's structures and mechanisms in place to have prevented that attempt is positive.
I'd be curious to hear from the minister if she is aware of specific examples of threats against federal information and whether that's within Elections Canada itself or maybe within a political party—their apparatus, their databases—or any other entity at the federal level that would, by its nature, have personal data on Canadian voters.
I know each political party has access to the voters list of every Canadian who is eligible to vote. That information is shared with Elections Canada by a variety of sources, not the least of which is the Canada Revenue Agency. Certainly, Canada Revenue Agency ensures that Canadians pay their taxes, so one would hope that information would be correct, but that's not always the case. My questions for the minister would be the following: How do we work out a plan? What suggestions would she have to ensure that the information shared with Elections Canada, from entities such as Canada Revenue Agency, will be accurate? How would she ensure that only those who are eligible to vote can vote in elections?
In each of our constituencies we can point to examples of constituents who may have failed to file their taxes on time and have challenges with wrong addresses, wrong names, that end up with CRA data, which is then transferred from the Canada Revenue Agency to Elections Canada. I know of at least two examples in my riding where someone was indicated as being deceased by CRA. If that information is then passed on to Elections Canada, it would be a concern when someone goes to vote. Having a process in place would ensure that is dealt with at that point in time.
Any voter who is eligible to vote could go to the poll on election day and prove who they are and be added to the voters list at that point, but that information being foreseen at that point in time is a challenge.
I'm disappointed in the Bloc. I mean, two amendments. Where's the effort?
This is a small point, and I know it somewhat involves people at the table and people not at the table. At some point, considering the number of amendments, substantive work on this bill is needed. I'm not sure I've encountered a bill with that many amendments coming from all sides.
Clearly, from the testimony we've heard to this point, which I think is the last of the testimony we'll hear, there's an enormous amount of work to be done.
There seem to be some sticking points, particularly between the Liberals and the Conservatives, over some of the issues around pre-writ spending and some of the other factors. They are legitimate concerns to have, and a legitimate conversation to have. We have, of course, some amendments that we're working on around privacy and social media, which I think, again, have been supported by testimony.
To the larger case of the parliamentary process, with whatever urgency I would encourage the government and the official opposition to work some of this stuff out so that we can get some sort of process in front of us. As we've heard from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, they've prepared some of these changes. The longer we take, the fewer and fewer options they have to make the changes, many of which all parties at this table agree with.
I fully support allowing Mr. Nater and others to use the privileges that were granted to apply pressure to a bill by using up time, but I don't yet get the sense from the government or the official opposition.... I'm going to say to colleagues on the government side in particular to get on with figuring out where the sticking points are. If we can't solve them, then press the point. People may smile, but at some point you have to decide what you actually want done with this bill and at what urgency you wish to see it done. Some of it is unpleasant, but it's required if you want to see this through. New Democrats want this bill passed with some substantial things in it changed, yet we want to see this bill passed.
I apologize to Mr. Nater and his commentary—
Okay. Thank you, Chair. I appreciate that.
I think the commentary from Mr. Cullen is informative. It is incumbent on all political parties to see if we can't come to an agreement. It may be an agreement to disagree on a number of points but an agreement to agree on certain points—what the next steps are and what the next few days and few meetings may entail in terms of where we go. I also appreciate the commentary from our clerk and the information provided.
In terms of the number of amendments proposed by each political party, I do see the 204 from the Conservatives as a healthy number. I think that's reflective of the role of the official opposition in terms of the scrutiny of legislation. But I find it interesting and informative, and it relates directly to this amendment, that 66 proposals for amendments have been submitted by the government to their own legislation.
I think that's very germane to the subamendment at hand in terms of hearing from the minister on these 66 amendments that have been proposed by the governing party—where those amendments are focused; why the government feels that the initial draft of the bill was not appropriate in those 66 cases; which ones are substantive elements; and which ones are more housekeeping or minor amendments, whether it's a grammatical change, spelling errors, or fixing numbers within a bill. I think those are general housekeeping matters, and I think that's what happens with any bill that might be brought forward.
For the substantive matters, however, exactly why has this decision been made? Whether it's reflective of testimony we heard here at committee, whether it's a reflection of the change in opinion or the change in direction that the government has decided to take, or whether it's unrelated to those matters but is related, rather, to current events that have happened between the time this bill was implemented and where we are today, on October 2, nearly five months after the initial implementation of this bill, hearing from the minister, hearing her address those 66 amendments, and hearing her outline the reasons for those as well....
When the time comes and we get to clause-by-clause, the government will have the majority to pass any or all of those 66 amendments. In the same way, the government has their numbers to pass or not pass the 204 Conservative amendments, the 29 NDP amendments, the 17 Green Party amendments, and the two amendments from the Bloc. Certainly, I suspect there will be overlap in terms of these amendments and where the interest lies. It will be a matter of trying to choose which of the....