Good afternoon, everyone.
I'd like to welcome Mr. Alexandre Boulerice, Ms. Shanahan and Mr. Fragiskatos.
Welcome to the 126th meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We're continuing with clause-by-clause consideration of .
Once again, we are pleased to be joined by Jean-François Morin and Manon Paquet from the Privy Council Office, and Trevor Knight and Robert Sampson—ah, he's new—from Elections Canada. Thank you all for being here.
I'll go to Mr. Nater in a minute, but I just want to do a couple of things first.
First of all, I hope people will be judicious in following the five-minute rule, roughly, so that we can make good progress today, so that we don't have to stay late today or on the weekend.
I also want to go back really quickly. I know it's hard to believe with 200 clauses, but we actually missed clause 71. There were no amendments, so I would just like to ask for unanimous approval of clause 71.
I also welcome Ms. May.
Just so you know, before we start, tentatively, tomorrow we'll meet from 9:00 until 1:00 and from 3:30 to 7:00. Do you remember that when we first discussed this we talked about the evening being a 7:00 to 9:00 type of framework? We're doing 7:00 right now. Just so you know when we get around to planning our committee, next Thursday is Wednesday hours. It goes into our time because of the visit of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. If we adjust our schedule for next Thursday, you'll know why.
When we left off, we had just finished clause 223.
We'll go to clause 224.
(On clause 224)
The Chair: We have amendment CPC-98, and there are some ramifications. The vote on this amendment applies to CPC-101, which is on page 184, CPC-103, which is on page 189, CPC-105, which is on page 191, CPC-106, which is on page 192, and CPC-107, which is on page 200. They are linked by the concept of surveys conducted in preparation for an election.
Would the Conservatives introduce amendment CPC-98, please.
If there is no further discussion, we'll vote on the amendment.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Shall clause 224 carry?
Some hon. members: On division.
(Clause 224 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Just for the record, and so people have all their records straight, I want to confirm that when we defeated amendment CPC-98, it also defeated amendments CPC-101, CPC-103, CPC-105, CPC-106, and CPC-107.
(On clause 225)
The Chair: On clause 225, there was amendment PV-9, but it was consequentially lost with PV-3.
We're now going to CPC-100. If we adopt this amendment, CPC-101 cannot be moved as they amend the same line.
Could the Conservatives introduce CPC-100, please.
Thank you very much for your question, Mr. Boulerice.
For the purposes of this debate, I would note that the aim of Conservative amendment CPC-100 is limited to the election period. The proposed changes concern part 17 of the Canada Elections Act, which addresses the activities of third parties during the election period.
Amendment CPC-100 concerns two separate subjects. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of the amendment address situations in which a third party and a registered party, or a third party and a candidate act in collusion with each other.
The only place where the bill refers to third parties that act in coordination with each other is paragraph (c) of the amendment, which provides for the new subsection (4), which reads as follows:
||(4) No third party shall act in collusion with any other third party - including by sharing information - in order to influence either third party in its partisan activities that it carries out..., its election advertising or its election surveys...
The particular feature of a third party as set forth in the Canada Elections Act is that a third party can really be anyone except a candidate or a political party. The Canada Elections Act already provides that third parties may associate with each other. A third party may be a person, a business or a corporation, but it is also possible for a number of persons, corporations or associations to combine to form a third party.
Where the term "third party" is used in the Canada Elections Act, it refers to all third parties.
Seeing that we've had discussions and co-operation, we may be ready for the vote.
(Subamendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Amendment CPC-102 as amended has passed; therefore, amendment LIB-31 cannot be moved. Amendment NDP-20 is defeated, because it was consequential to NDP-17.
I'm sorry, Mr. Boulerice. I feel for you.
(Clause 225 as amended agreed to)
(On clause 226)
The Chair: There was amendment CPC-103, but that was defeated because of amendment CPC-98.
This again is in regard to third parties and the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendation for anti-circumvention provisions regarding foreign contributions.
As historically has been the case, we are trying to further, I genuinely believe, protect Canadians and democracy by making the clauses as watertight as possible. Certainly, as has been indicated by our witnesses several times, the legislation largely points to, “You can't do this. If you do this, that's illegal.”
We believe that CPC-110 takes this further by, for example, in proposed paragraph 358.02(1)(a) making it also legal, “No person or entity shall”...“conceal, or attempt to conceal, the identity of the source of a contribution”.
Again, we are just trying to further close these loopholes relative to the bill that was put forward.
Thank you for your question, Mr. Boulerice.
I'm just going to make a technical comment on amendment CPC-110. I would note that the new section 358.01 here proposed refers to section 358, which has been deleted by the adoption of amendment LIB-33.
To answer your question, Mr. Boulerice, I should note that the new division 0.1 was created under another Liberal amendment that was adopted yesterday. Broadly speaking, that new division prohibits the use of foreign funds at any time for partisan advertising, election advertising, partisan activities and election surveys. More specifically, it provides as follows:
||349.02 No third party shall use funds for a partisan activity, for advertising or for an election survey if the source of the funds is a foreign entity.
||349.03 No third party shall
||(a) circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, the prohibition under section 349.02; or
||(b) act in collusion with another person or entity for that purpose.
I know that doesn't exactly answer your question, and I won't answer it either, because every case is unique.
As we said earlier, however, third parties may include anyone except a candidate or party.
Canadian businesses probably receive foreign funds everyday, from dividends or other sources. If it were perfectly clear that an organization with a very limited budget was suddenly able to incur extraordinary expenses that it would normally be unable to incur, thanks to a foreign contribution, the situation could be investigated by the commissioner because it might involve one of the prohibitions I just cited. It all depends on the amounts and circumstances involved.
The CPC amendment with reference number 9964902 has been withdrawn, and amendment CPC-115 was consequential to CPC-111, so no amendments pass related to clause 234.
(Clause 234 agreed to on division)
The Chair: There was one CPC amendment for clause 235, with reference number 9965053, but it was withdrawn, so there are no amendments.
(Clauses 235 to 237 inclusive agreed to)
The Chair: Regarding clause 238, there was amendment CPC-116, but it was withdrawn by the Conservatives. Amendment LIB-35 passed because it was consequential to amendment LIB-32.
(Clause 238 as amended agreed to on division)
(On clause 239)
I don't know the specifics in terms of how we would inform people. I think it's fair to say that in terms of the entire implementation, we'll obviously have to be clear and inform people. I don't think we would object to a process for informing people of these things.
If I can take a step back, right now in the act there is a category of personal expenses, which includes child care, travel and living expenses. It also includes other personal expenses that people may seek a reimbursement for. Those could include a wide variety of things that people seek reimbursement for. Under the current act, that has an overall limit of $200. The limitation functions as a way of achieving a balance in what you can seek a reimbursement for, not what you can spend on these things.
Bill would expand that to travel and living expenses, so there will now be other categories, potentially, where the CEO may wish to place limits.
I don't know that I can comment. The only comment I would make is, given the timing of everything, if there is a situation where these things cannot be implemented before the next election because of the time delays in here, there is the possibility that the categories of travel, living expenses, and personal expenses would be open and not subject to limit.
The consequence of that isn't on the overall election expense limit. The consequence of that would be on the reimbursements candidates could seek for those expenses. There may be higher reimbursements than perhaps would be thought appropriate in terms of achieving that balance, but that's the only consequence of this amendment that I would see that would raise a concern for Elections Canada at this time.
I would like to make a few comments on that. The first comment is the current obligation for the Chief Electoral Officer to publish the information that is found at paragraph 382(1)(a) of the act. That is, as Trevor was referring to, the publication in the manner that the Chief Electoral Officer considers appropriate.
With regard to the specific provision that is being modified here by the motion, Bill was recommending the repeal of section 383. This was a recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer in his latest recommendations report because, as we read section 383 right now, it contains a mistake. It was amended by mistake in 2015, whereby subsection 383(2) is kind of out of place and doesn't make sense in the context. Also, generally section 383 was about the consultation of these candidates' returns at the returning officer's office, and the Chief Electoral Officer has indicated in his latest recommendations report that nowadays, as these returns are available online, this consultation in person at the returning officer's office seems pretty unnecessary.
Finally, on the motion itself, my colleague Robert alluded to that, but all government institutions that have a website, including Elections Canada, are required to make all documents readable in accessible formats for persons with disabilities. The PDF documents represent a very specific problem because often, as in the case of financial returns, those would be scanned copies, so the document would not be readable in a machine-readable format. This would require Elections Canada to create a translation, word for word, of what appears in the entire document for each and every election return. That would represent a very heavy burden for the organization.
Thank you, Chair, and thanks to committee members.
This amendment will be something with which you're all familiar. We've had a lot of focus in the national media, in this committee, and in the evidence. Particularly, I remind you of the evidence of our former chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand. An approach that he favoured in his testimony was to adhere to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. This is what my amendment will do.
There was discussion before the committee about that suggestion. It was also supported by Professor Michael Pal from the University of Ottawa, and tellingly, in the media, Teresa Scassa, the Canada research chair in information law and policy at the University of Ottawa described Bill as it is now, as "an almost contemptuous and entirely cosmetic quick fix designed to deflect attention from the very serious privacy issues raised by the use of personal information by political parties.”
It's very timely. It's the right thing to do. There's no reason political parties can't adhere to the same laws that the private sector adheres to.
I would really hope that you'll give serious consideration to actually voting for this amendment to enshrine privacy protection for Canadians and not exempt political parties any longer.
This is meant to be based on evidence that we heard, and I'm trying to reflect on a single witness who spoke against this idea of the parties moving into the modern era and falling under some sort of privacy rules.
As we heard, Chair, from the current Chief Electoral Officer, there are none that parties are subjected to—zero. It should be of concern not just from the Canadian voter's point of view that we collect a lot of information about Canadians—not just voting intentions but all sorts of information—from the electoral lists. Parties are in the business of accumulating and cross-tabulating data on citizens to understand their voting motivations and their intentions. That's the primary objective of most political parties in their very existence right now, along with raising money and all sorts of other things.
The current examples in front of us from the U.S. and the U.K. should be important. We don't want to fall into a similar scenario in which an important election or referendum is affected because one or all of the parties' data systems were hacked. We also heard from security experts that our parties' data systems are not secure.
This is a clear and present concern. In the most recent Quebec referendum, for example, which was a very close vote, if after the fact—or during, but certainly if after the fact—it was learned that the Parti Québécois or the Liberals had serious breaches of their databases and that those voters were targeted by outside influences to vote one way or another on the question, you can imagine the fallout from that on whoever won or whoever lost. For a country like ours, which, as Mr. Dion used to say, works better in practice than it does in theory, we shouldn't have anything built into our political or democratic infrastructure that threatens our ability to conduct ourselves and to have the will of the voters expressed as cleanly as possible into the parliament they elect.
Marc Mayrand was joined by, of course, our Privacy Commissioner, who said, and I quote, “Nothing of substance in regard to privacy”, and a requirement to have publicly available data policy is a 'hollow” requirement.
The Chief Electoral Officer, whom members on the government side have referred to continuously in support of amendments you have made, said:
||If there is one area where this bill failed, it is privacy. The parties are not subjected to any kind of privacy regime.
In answer to a question he said, “I think the time has come for that, and privacy commissioners around the country are of the same view.”
David Moscrop joined that conversation in support of bringing this in.
Victoria Henry from Open Media said that the “omission of political parties from privacy legislation is a concerning gap”.
I'm quoting there, as I will Dr. Dubois, when she said:
|| This proposed legislation does not include any form of audit or verification that the policy is adequate, ethical, or being followed. There are no penalties for non-compliance. There are no provisions that permit Canadians to request their data be corrected or deleted....
That is meaningless. It really is, folks. If a Canadian challenges a party and says, “I think you've lost my data. I'm getting all sorts of calls from certain groups or certain people trying to sell me things, and I told you on my doorstep that I'm concerned about the environment”, or “I'm concerned about taxes”, there are exactly zero consequences contemplated under Bill for a data breach from any of the parties. This has to be concerning. This is way beyond right-left partisan politics.
This is simply about trying to address a gap in our legislative ability to run free and fair elections in this country. I've talked with the minister from day one about this. From having talked to some congressional colleagues in the U.S., who said, “If you do anything, fix this gap. You guys are naive; you're boy scouts; you think you're not going to be got after because you're nice people”....
That's not the way it works. Outside influences, inside influences, just looking to disrupt—again, imagine the experience we had in Quebec—a fundamental question going on within one of our provinces, not even to push voters, but to cast doubt....
As we've seen, Chair, when we're talking about election laws, one of the things we're always safeguarding is that on election night, when the results are released in each of our ridings and then the grand result is released for Canadians, win or lose, Canadians accept the results as being good, whether they like them or not—but they weren't tampered with and they weren't affected.
This is one of the things that maintains that assurance for Canadians. Without this, we're in a whole different world, because we collect an enormous amount of information about Canadians. I seem to be the only one around this table admitting that, but we all know it for fact to be true, and we don't have the proper protections, because data is so powerful these days. We watch it all the time. It's only going to increase.
This problem is not going to get better on its own, right? It's not as if parties are going to give up collecting data and are not going to get increasingly sophisticated, yet our security systems are not in place to protect what is so valuable to the functioning of our democracy.
Thank you, Chair, because I know that your committee motion didn't require you to give me a second crack at this.
I just want to mention that I tried to amend this when it was Bill , the . I brought forward an amendment to have the Privacy Act apply. This time, I modified it to having the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, apply.
Based on the advice we're hearing from our Chief Electoral Officer and from experts in privacy, if we wait, David, with all due respect, we'll be having the 2019 election with inadequate protection of Canadians' privacy data, and we know what can happen. As Nathan was talking, I remembered that when Irwin Cotler was in Parliament with us—it was a huge honour to serve at the same time as Irwin—he was so upset because he told his campaign staff to make no phone calls on High Holy Days, no phone calls, and somehow somebody had the database of the Jewish families in his riding and they all got calls on Seder. They were interrupted if they were at the Seder feast by calls from the Irwin Cotler office.
Now, we don't know who made those calls, but it's a misuse of privacy data to be able to know who is Jewish, who is likely to be home, and who could be offended by the misuse of data. Our privacy data is private, and Canadians should have a right to be able to say to any political party, “Show me what you've got on me—I want to know.” That's a right Canadians should have. There's no reason, ethically, practically.... There is no justification for political parties to be the only exempt operators who collect data, and boy, do they collect data.
We collect as much as we can. We don't have as much as you guys. I will never forget talking to Garth Turner. He put this in his book. It was about the FRANK system, which stands for friends, relatives, and neighbours' kids, in terms of what his former party was collecting.
We've got to fix this. We've got one shot and it's in the next half hour.
This is for colleagues who were feeling that PV-10 was too much, too fast and too quick; who are interested in privacy; and who understand the concerns of the experts we heard from, the Privacy Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer. Everybody hears those concerns and wants to do something about it, because how could you not? That would be my argument. In that case, NDP-21 is for you.
Here's what it does. It works with the Chief Electoral Officer to develop directives in consultation with the Privacy Commissioner and to work with the parties to establish guidelines. Those guidelines are then given into directives, and the Chief Electoral Officer can use those directives. It doesn't invoke PIPEDA. This was one of the concerns I heard, particularly from Liberal members, that PIPEDA was too much; it was too much on parties. This does not insist upon that.
This is exactly our job—to independently, as MPs, get elected to a committee, listen to the witnesses, glean the best information we can from them, and do right by Canadians. I suspect, or I presume, I suppose, there's a certain amount of pressure on colleagues to not vote for things that folks back in the party offices don't want to do.
This has two effects, one in practice and one in support of good behaviour. In practice, I think having real privacy policies that are in force, that work with our Chief Electoral Officer...which, again, this entire committee has referenced dozens of times and holds up in high esteem. It also has a secondary effect, where if anybody within the party structure is tempted to do something—such as, I don't know, a robocall into ridings illegally—these types of policies prevent that behaviour, which is what the law is supposed to do. It's not just to catch people when they do wrong. It's also to give enough warning so that when people are tempted, they're not really tempted to enact it.
I really believe we heard everything we need to hear from every witness. If a colleague can recall the testimony of a single witness who said something like this was a bad idea, from all the witnesses we heard, or if colleagues want to look through the ethics and privacy committee, which studied this as well, to find a single witness of any political persuasion who came forward and said Parliament shouldn't do something like this, I would love to hear that testimony. I feel pretty confident that we didn't receive that testimony, and neither did our corresponding committee at privacy and ethics receive that testimony.
A number of us on that committee visited Washington last year. Facebook and Congress and Twitter and a whole bunch of groups that are involved with this issue all gave us the same warning: Your laws are insufficient. We thought we had enough protections. We did not. When a hack happens, it's too late. When the illegal robocalls go out, it's too late.
I just implore colleagues that this is as soft a move as we can make while still ensuring that we get the job done. Like, really; the pleas to study more will be pretty weak when something bad happens. When we're asked what we did about it and we say “Well, we promised to study it more”, we'll hear, “Well, thanks”.We don't do this for any other section of law.
I'll end with this, Chair. This puts some of us in what I almost want to say is a direct conflict between our responsibilities as members of Parliament and members of political parties. The political parties generally don't want this. I know: I've talked to your parties about this. They don't want it. And I know why. They'd rather have it as it is, because status quo means nobody has any idea what the political parties are gathering and what we do with that information.
We don't work for political parties. We may represent them, and fly under various banners, but we work for the people who sent us here. I believe if you sat down with the average Canadian and told them what happens when they click on a survey or when they press “Like” on Facebook; what the parties do with the data; that the parties have very little to no protection to keep that secure; and the potential consequences if that data is breached, then the average Canadian of whatever political persuasion, from the right to the left, would say, “That's crazy. Can you do anything about it?”
Here's something we can do about it. I'll read from the amendment:
||385.2 (1) The Chief Electoral Officer may develop directives, in consultation with the Privacy Commissioner, in respect of the protection of personal information by registered parties.
In proposed subsection 385.2(2), the subsections that are named turn guidelines into directives. Proposed subsection 385.2(3) would read:
||The Chief Electoral Officer may deregister a registered party if that party's policy for the protection of personal information does not comply with a directive made under this section.
There is a consequence. Posting your policy on your website with no consequence—come on—is totally meaningless. It's checking a box. You don't even have to do it, and if you put up some policy and you don't do it, there's no consequence to you breaking whatever it is you wrote down.
That's not taking this issue seriously. This is an attempt to take the issue seriously.
Elizabeth's motion did more, and we supported it. This motion takes us down the path of us getting serious about privacy. It's 2018, and we're going to the polls in 2019. If anyone believes that this problem isn't only going to get worse for 2023, you're dreaming, and that's what the experts told us.
Don't listen to your parties on this.
I'm here and able to say it, and not with everybody in my party who works on the data side thrilled about it, but I don't care; I don't work for them.
I ask members to support this amendment. We should do this. The evidence told us we should do this.
I would just add that in the example from Cambridge Analytica and the other one, IQ—those are the initials—as you probably remember, it was a Victoria, B.C., company implicated in illegally interfering in the Brexit vote. This is horrific stuff, because this is another risk for political parties. You can contract a company and think they're there to help you with your data, but they're stealing your data for some other use and you won't know.
We have to get a handle on this. It's very dangerous. The thing about it is that while political parties are getting more sophisticated at collecting data and wanting to hang on to it, for people who want to hack our systems we give them a key to our data when we hire a company like that. You think they're working for you. That's what happened on Brexit.
I'm going to say that the Green Party of B.C. hired those people to do some work for us—not us, it's a separate party—in organizing a website. When we and the Green Party of B.C. found out that this company was implicated, this IQ company, they started trying to figure out if our data was stolen, if our data was breached. They had to go public and say, “We really don't know—we've done our best to track it down, but we don't know.”
We have to have controls over what happens to our data so that the public knows, the Privacy Commissioner knows, and so we have control and we know that the public has the right to privacy. It's not as if political parties are the only ones who might misuse the data. The companies we hire in good faith might be the ones who are collecting our data. If people knew that you could click a “like” on a Facebook post and a political party could have a contractor who collects that data....
In other words, it's a two-way street. You're not just saying, “Yes, I like that, thumbs up.” You're not just hiring a company to make the Facebook ad look good. You're actually giving another company.... It's quite Orwellian, I have to admit, but we have to control it. If I were a voting member of this committee, you know I'd be voting to support NDP amendment 21, because at least it's a good start and it gives discretion to the Chief Electoral Officer. Also, I'm sure, as Nathan said, that it would be in consultation with the parties.
It gives us some chance to develop some regulations around what's now.... Because we're not insisting that political parties be under our privacy laws, we're creating a Wild West situation where the political parties are vulnerable, members' data is vulnerable and the average person whose door we knock on is vulnerable, and we have got to get a handle on it.
When we're drawing up legislation, we're always measuring risk. This is a case where we're tyring to prevent bad things from happening. On the other side, there is the consequence we couldn't have understood before it happens. Every piece of legislation tries to anticipate this and tries to think about it.
To Chris's point, the idea that a volunteer going home with a poll sheet being the type of breach that the Chief Electoral Officer is concerned about versus the things that we know are present dangers.... There's no conspiracy or mythological thinking about this. The concerns have been demonstrated to us in functioning old democracies that we rely on for all sorts of lessons. We built our parliamentary system off of one of them. In the measurement of the risks, if we see this being conducted right now and we know it's getting worse and, instead, we talk about it more and not change anything until maybe some time later because we're concerned that a volunteer going home with a poll sheet is somehow going to be subjected to some arbitrary penalty, that is of course not the breach that the Privacy Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer are concerned about. They're really not.
For a government that loves consultation—sometimes you don't listen, but whatever; you hit the consultation button a lot—to say you're not into consultation now with people who we trust, Elections Canada, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner, on millions of decisions that affect the way that our democracy.... We trust these guys.
In that weighing of risks, I can't see how the perversion of an election from inside or outside forces, which is everything, versus a volunteer getting caught out with a poll sheet, imagining the day that the Privacy Commissioner is going to hammer that volunteer—they are incomparable to me.
You can tell I'm pleading with my colleagues to say this is a prudent step forward. We have 10 or 11 months until the writ drops. What are we able to put in place before 2019? We have somewhat limited scope in these consultations because they have to go to this committee, as is referenced in the amendment.
Let me anticipate. The parties will not be jumping over themselves to slam down and agree to PIPEDA for 2019. Let me guess at that right now. They've been so reluctant every step of the way. We have to weigh the partisan interest versus public interest. This is one of those times.
On a point of order, Chair, I ask that you rule amendment LIB-55 out of order for offending the so-called “parent act rule”. Page 771 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice
, third edition, Bosc and Gagnon, states:
|| In the case of a bill referred to a committee after second reading, an amendment is inadmissible if it proposes to amend a statute that is not before the committee or a section of the parent Act, unless the latter is specifically amended by a clause of the bill.
The latter point traces back to citation 698(8)(b) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, the editor of which, Mr. John Holtby, is perhaps well known to many of us around this place.
Bosc and Gagnon offer, among several precedents, the November 20, 2007, meeting of the legislative committee on Bill , a meeting at which I understand you, Mr. Chair, were in attendance, where the committee chair ruled several amendments out of order for offending this very rule.
In the present case, amendment LIB-55 proposes to add a new clause 344.1 for the purpose of making an amendment to section 498 of the Canada Elections Act.
Bill as introduced would amend both sections 497.5 and 499 of the Canada Elections Act, the two sections that bookend 498, but not section 498 itself. Therefore, Chair, I think the government's amendment is quite clearly out of order.
In terms of the scope of the bill, , unlike , is much broader in its approach. There are all sorts of things we're trying to deal with in the way that our elections are conducted.
NDP-23 talks about how it is that candidates are preferred and the reimbursement system, which is also part of our elections act, as well as the way this is managed. How does that fall outside its scope? Our surface reading of this was that was an overhaul of the Elections Act. How Elections Canada interacts with the parties, reimbursements, going after receipts—all that stuff is within this bill.
This is simply a policy amendment to encourage a policy outcome. In this case, it seeks to have the 's self-defined feminism actually happen by having more women present themselves as candidates and hopefully get elected.
I'm trying to figure where you're interpreting that this falls outside of that scope.
He may or may not make the same ruling as precedent. I understand there's no appeal.
Let me refer this to colleagues this way. This question, which this bill, I would argue, doesn't deal with at all, gender parity within the House, is worthy of the conversation.
Support the appeal to the Chair simply because we can therefore have the conversation. No offence intended, Chair, to you and your clerks in terms of the interpretation. I think we have grounds for this. More importantly, this is a good conversation to have because we're sitting at 26% with no real prospect of getting a whole lot better in our Parliament.
That is my appeal. I don't believe it's necessarily debatable.
I think the only reason the government doesn't reintroduce the per vote subsidy, which a previous Liberal government introduced in the first round, and all the evidence.... There is no evidence supporting the opposite, that the per vote subsidy helps. It was certainly brought in—as you'll remember Chair, because we were both here for it—when big money, corporate and union money, was taken out of politics, the per vote subsidy was brought in as a way to level the playing field and also allow Canadians to express, not just a vote, but in that case, financial support for their choice.
All of the evidence around the world supports this being a good policy. The politics, I suspect, is what's stopping the government from doing it because these guys—I'm going to take shots at you—do from time to time....
Jean-Pierre Kingsley and other former chief electoral officers on policy have supported this. It seems Melanee Thomas, who appeared in front of the ERRE committee, said it's a democratic way of doing party financing. It also struck me as a way of being able to tell people, who thought their votes were wasted because they weren't necessarily voting for the winner, that their votes were contributing to something.
In effect, this would go a small measure towards helping keep the 's promise that every vote was going to count in 2019, which he broke. This would maybe make up for it a little bit.
I wait with bated breath for your ruling, Chair, and then we can move on with the evening.
There's a certain ominous tone in your voice, Mr. Chair.
It seems to be a common sense kind of thing. We're asking for equity statistics to be released on nominations, and collected.
Political parties self-publish some of these some of the time, but not consistently and not in a consistent manner. They're reporting it to Elections Canada, the Chief Electoral Officer, I believe. Oh, excuse me, this would seek to extend it to the Chief Electoral Officer. This is about gender and sexual orientation. It would not identify each nominee, but it would give the universal totals—how many women the Liberals nominated, how many Conservatives, LGBTQ. It's just a way to statistically understand how the nomination part of this democracy is working out. Are we getting more representation or less? Who's doing more and who's doing less?
Also, I think this could be helpful to some Canadians, particularly those interested in getting involved in politics. It would also require parties to describe the nomination voting process—is it a preferential ballot, is it a straight round voting, how did each party nominate their...? There's no requirement to do that right now. I think it is interesting.
I don't see this as even being controversial, but perhaps it is. Again, most parties self-describe, but it's not done consistently. Any Canadian interested in knowing how many women are being nominated, or LGBTQ candidates, can't compare apples to apples. Just to underline, it wouldn't reveal candidate X and riding Y. It's a universal approach.