Good morning. Welcome to meeting 127 of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs as we once again continue clause-by-clause consideration of Bill , an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments.
We are pleased to be joined by Jean-François Morin and Manon Paquet from the Privy Council Office, and Trevor Knight and Robert Sampson from Elections Canada.
Thank you for being here again. You're great members of this committee.
(On clause 320)
The Chair: We will pick up where we left off last evening, clause 320.
Mr. Nater, could you present CPC-138.1, please?
You're not moving it. Okay.
(Clause 320 agreed to on division)
(Clauses 321 and 322 agreed to)
(On clause 323)
The Chair: On clause 323, there's CPC amendment 140, which has some ramifications. If this is adopted, Liberal-40 cannot be moved, as they are virtually identical. If CPC-140 is defeated, so is Liberal-40.
On CPC-140, go ahead. You can present it.
If I may, the Chief Electoral Officer expressed concern with the mens rea
element in this amendment.
The intent element, which is twofold, currently requires that someone “fraudulently, and with the intention of affecting the results of an election”.... The concern was that this is a limited scope and it may lead to unforeseen or unanticipated limits. For example, the word “election” in the Canada Elections Act has limited meaning. It does not include leadership contests or nomination contests.
With regard to the word “fraudulently”, if someone is authorized to access a computer system, they would not fall within the scope of this provision. Then, in a third, and perhaps more significant way, the intent may not be to affect the results or the integrity, it might be something that falls outside of that and yet is germane to the electoral process.
The Chief Electoral Officer's recommendation was to remove the mens rea element, the intent element, from the provision.
Yes. I would like to comment.
Ms. Sahota asked me a question on this specific topic right after the minister's remarks on Monday. I answered Ms. Sahota's question in English, so this morning, if the committee doesn't mind, I will take the unusual step of answering this question in French.
Please, all of those who don't understand French, hook up to the translation. I was trained in criminal law in French and I want to make sure that my answer is very precise.
The offence referred to in subsection 482(1) includes two elements of mens rea: fraud and the intention of affecting the results of an election.
When the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the committee earlier this spring, he recommended that the second element of mens rea, intent to affect the results of an election, be deleted. I don't remember the exact wording he used to propose its replacement, but it referred, in the various subsections, to the use of a computer in an election or leadership run.
I would like to draw the committee's attention to the three amendments and to show how they differ from one another because they are not entirely similar.
Amendments CPC-141 and PV-14 are more similar, and the Liberal amendment is more different.
The purpose of the Liberal amendment is really to add a new offence, which is to attempt to commit any of the offences referred to in paragraphs 482(1)(a), (b) or (c) proposed in the bill. As this offence would be described in the new paragraph (d), it would include both elements of mens rea named in subsection 482(1). The Liberal amendment is thus not entirely consistent with the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendation.
Amendments CPC-141 and PV-14 both add an element of mens rea that, where applicable, could substitute for the element of intent to affect the results of an election. The element of mens rea in amendment CPC-141 would be the fact of "undermining confidence in the integrity of an election". In amendment PV-14, it would be "the intention of affecting...[the] integrity of an election".
One of the concerns with these elements of mens rea is that they are highly subjective. It could be very difficult to determine the level of confidence in the integrity of an election. That might subsequently lead to enforcement problems.
I would also like to draw the committee's attention to another point that I addressed in my answer to a question from Ms. Sahota.
Section 342.1 of the Criminal Code refers to a very similar offence. In fact, the offence described in section 482 of the Canada Elections Act, as proposed in Bill , is based on section 342.1 of the Criminal Code. As I said on Monday, section 342.1 of the Criminal Code does not require any clear mens rea or intent to affect the results of an election.
Section 342.2 of the Criminal Code refers to another offence, possession of equipment enabling the commission of the offence described in section 342.1 of the Criminal Code.
I remind committee members of these provisions for a very simple reason. The Chief Electoral Officer of course plays an investigative role specializing in elections, but it would be false to believe that federal elections take place in a legal void or in a world where other investigative services are non-existent and inactive.
The Government of Canada recently announced the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, which is staffed by employees from Public Safety Canada, the Communications Security Establishment and other specialized cyber security organizations. The government also announced the creation of the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
If candidates, parties or government organizations encountered a security breach or a potential unauthorized use of a computer in the context of an election, they would have to file a complaint with the Commissioner of Canada Elections and with the RCMP or local police departments.
The Privacy Act, the Access to Information Act and our criminal law framework enable investigative agencies to cooperate. Cooperation is encouraged because every investigative organization has its own specialty. Initiatives such as the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit are established precisely to ensure that all investigative organizations collaborate and draw on each other's specialties.
It is true, as the Chief Electoral Officer said, that the criminal law framework provided for under section 482 of the Canada Elections Act may be limited, but many other Criminal Code offences could apply to similar situations, including sections 342.1 and 342.2.
I would like to reassure committee members on this point: if an incident did occur, it would not be the only offence we could rely on. This is all part of a much broader legal framework.
You have to name them all.
We don't update the Canada Elections Act very often, right, so why not go for gold here? If there's a way to say election, nominations and leadership contests....
If “results of an election, nomination or leadership contest, or of undermining confidence in the integrity of the same” were added to Liberal-41, that would fall in line, that would include another recommendation that came from the CEO while still, as Ruby has said, broadening the question about intent.
These are all connected, but the first two are the ones that we need to consider first, and then we can consider Liberal-41 after that as an independent clause.
Looking through you, Chair, to get help—yes.
I'm not sure how the Conservatives feel about this, but that friendly amendment to CPC-141, I think, is better than PV-14. Pass that or consider it, and then look at Liberal-41, which is an addition—adding subsection (d)—and we wouldn't be affecting the same thing twice, so those votes would stand apart. Is that right?
I get that sense, but I just want people to think about it. First of all, this is a recommendation that did come from the Chief Electoral Officer. We seem to be very selective whether we think he's wonderful or not, depending on what he says. He's great when we agree with him, and we ignore him when we don't agree with him.
We're saying that if, during a leadership race, somebody—with intent or not—tries to cast doubt by hacking into it, spreading misinformation or disinformation, we're okay with the parties being able to handle it themselves and not relying on any of the potential criminal offences that could result if we included this in the Elections Act. I don't know why we wouldn't want to keep the highest integrity over all of our nomination races. I really don't see it as interference, personally. This is in the event of somebody trying, for example, in Ruby's nomination, to do all of those things to cast doubt over the results of you being the candidate—if you had a nomination race.
That's the point and the intention of this. I appreciate people wanting to keep party things party, but look at the offences we're talking about. This is people who are intentionally trying to discredit our democratic process—not just at the general election but when we pick candidates who will then be put forward as candidates in the general election. The whole thing seems integral to me. Why not have an offence on the books that says, “If you try to do this, regardless of whether it's successful, you're committing an offence”, as opposed to just letting the parties handle it?
Now we move to Liberal-41.
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clause 323 as amended agreed to on division)
(Clauses 324 and 325 agreed to)
(On clause 326)
The Chair: On clause 326, there's a new CPC amendment, which is reference number 9952454.
Stephanie, would you like to present this?
On clause 329, there was CPC-144, but it was consequential to CPC-49, which I assume is defeated.
(Clause 329 agreed to on division)
(Clause 330 agreed to)
The Chair: Clause 331 had two amendments, both of which have been withdrawn: CPC-145 and Liberal-42.
(Clause 331 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Clause 332 had one amendment, CPC-146, which was withdrawn.
(Clause 332 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Clause 333 had some amendments. It had Liberal-43. That was consequential to LIB-24, so that amendment is passed. There was a CPC-147, but that's withdrawn.
(Clause 333 as amended agreed to on division)
(Clauses 334 and 335 agreed to)
(On clause 336)
The Chair: Clause 336 has about 10 amendments. Liberal-44 was passed consequentially to Liberal-26. NDP-25 was defeated consequential to NDP-17. CPC-148 has been withdrawn. Liberal-45 is passed consequential to....
Are you withdrawing this one?
Clause 338 had two amendments from the Conservatives: CPC-153 and CPC-154. Both were withdrawn.
(Clause 338 agreed to on division)
The Chair: On clause 339, Liberal-52 is consequential to Liberal-36, so that amendment passes.
(Clause 339 as amended agreed to on division)
(On clause 340)
The Chair: Clause 340 has six amendments. The first, which I think is still open for discussion, is CPC-155.
PV-18 was defeated consequential to PV-3.
(Clause 343 agreed to on division)
(Clause 344 agreed to on division)
The Chair: New clause 344.1 is proposed by Liberal-55, and that passes consequential to Liberal-38.
It's already adopted so we don't have to vote.
(Clause 345 agreed to)
(On clause 346)
The Chair: Now we're onto clause 346, and there are roughly eight amendments.
The first was CPC-161, which has been withdrawn. I believe CPC-162 was also withdrawn.
Okay, I will call the vote on CPC-170.1.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clauses 350 agreed to on division)
(Clauses 351 agreed to on division)
(On clause 352)
The Chair: Clause 352 is a little complicated. The vote on CPC-171 applies to CPC-185, which is on page 344, and CPC-193.1, which is on page 363. Also, if CPC-171 is adopted, CPC-173 cannot be moved as they amend the same line.
Stephanie, do you want to present CPC-171?
I just want to get back to Mr. Nater's question.
There are I guess formal separations in terms of the different roles. The discretion to institute prosecutions and to conduct investigations is with the commissioner as an office as opposed to with the Chief Electoral Officer. There are also new formal requirements respecting independence in proposed section 509.21 of the bill.
There's also—I think it should be added, obviously—a sort of understanding, an informal separation in terms of the roles that is taken quite seriously both by the commissioner and by the Chief Electoral Officer in the current arrangement. The commissioner was part of Elections Canada earlier, I know, and obviously the prosecutorial role or the investigative role is separate from Elections Canada's role in terms of an audit. There's that element.
All of those things would be especially important if the commissioner were investigating an election officer or someone at Elections Canada, which could arise, although, hopefully, it would not.
Are we ready to vote? All in favour of CPC-173?
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clause 352 agreed to on division)
(Clauses 353 to 356 inclusive agreed to on division)
(On clause 357)
The Chair: There is, first of all, Liberal-60, which has passed consequential to Liberal-38.
There's a new CPC amendment. It's 10009245.
Mr. Nater, could you present this one?
Again, I would say that this is not within the realm of Elections Canada here.
Just to be clear, Elections Canada is not a name that exists. Elections Canada is a trade name for the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, but there are only two public bodies involved here. The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer is headed by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, and the office of the commissioner of Canada elections is the investigative body.
Here we're in the realm of the commissioner of Canada elections. First of all, this power that would be provided to the commissioner here, the order requiring testimony or a written return, is always subject to a court approval, so it is not for the commissioner himself or herself to compel a person to provide testimony or a written return. It is always on the authorization of a judge.
Second, the commission of offences in the Canada Elections Act can be extended in time in the sense that the same offence can be committed over a long period, for example, because returns are not filed or because the entity or the third party committing the offence is pursuing a path that will lead the commissioner to think that an offence is about to occur.
I hope this answers your question.
It seems to me that, if the commissioner has received information that has come to his or her attention in regard to a potential violation of the Elections Act, there would be an investigation. We would expect that of any investigative body in this country, be it the RCMP, be it our local police forces.
We don't wait necessarily until an offence has happened. We ensure that all threats.... We have some serious concerns and some serious issues that we've debated in terms of threats to the democratic process and threats to election campaigns. If there is a credible threat to an election, if there is a credible issue with respect to the Elections Act, it would make perfect sense for the commissioner to engage in that investigation.
I don't understand the rationale behind restricting this power. It just doesn't seem to make any sense to me.
I'll just leave it there.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
I think that's a good preamble to a vote.
We will vote on CPC-175, which has ramifications on CPC-179, CPC-180, CPC-181, CPC-182, CPC-183 and CPC-191. The vote is applied to all of those amendments as well.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Also defeated are CPC-179, CPC-180, CPC-181, CPC-182, CPC-183 and CPC-191, because they are linked together by the director of public prosecutions.
(Clause 358 agreed to on division)
(Clause 359 agreed to)
Clause 360 had one amendment, CPC-176, which was consequential to CPC-172 so it was defeated.
(Clause 360 agreed to on division)
(Clause 361 agreed to on division)
(Clause 362 agreed to)
Clause 363 had one amendment, which was CPC-177, but that was defeated consequential to CPC-172.
(Clause 363 agreed to on division)
Clause 364 had one amendment, which was CPC-178, but that was defeated consequential to CPC-172.
(Clause 364 agreed to on division)
Clause 365 has five amendments. The first one was CPC-179, which is defeated consequential to CPC-175. CPC-180 is defeated consequential to CPC-175. CPC-181 is defeated consequential to CPC-175. CPC-182 is defeated consequential to CPC-175. CPC-183 is defeated consequential to CPC-175.
(Clause 365 agreed to on division)
(Clause 366 agreed to)
Now there's a new clause proposed, 365.1. It's one of the new CPC amendments, reference number 10018294.
Do you want to present that, Stephanie?
This, as the chair indicated, is a new clause that requires our committee to review the rules related to pre-election spending, third parties and foreign influence after the next election. In a similar way, there were evaluations of the—
Pardon me. I'm on CPC-184. I'm jumping ahead, Chair.
Non-resident electors require separate reporting of results of special ballots cast.
We'll go to a vote on a potential new clause 366.1, which would be created by CPC-184.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
On clause 367, there was an amendment, CPC-185, but this lost consequential to CPC-171.
(Clause 367 agreed to on division)
(Clauses 368 and 369 agreed to)
There is a potential new clause 369.1, proposed by amendment CPC-186, which Stephanie will now introduce for us.
Maybe I'll just find out how this is going to go.
I know it would need to be amended, if it was passed, to put the French and the English together, but it doesn't look like it has good potential, so let's vote on it and see.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clause 370 agreed to on division)
(On clause 371)
The Chair: On clause 371, there is one amendment. It is Liberal-61, which will be proposed by Mr. de Burgh Graham.
My understanding is that there was a discussion before we attended, about adding an additional amendment bringing back the requirement of the returning officers to provide, upon request, bingo sheets in their paper form after the election.
Just going back, in terms of our general recommendation, what existed in the past was that on polling day, every hour, the bingo sheets were given out to representatives. Then there was a requirement on the returning officer to provide copies of all the bingo sheets to candidates and parties after the election. We found that to be quite a burden on the returning officers. Many of them were unable to do that. Therefore, our proposal has been to have a process much like this, where Elections Canada would centralize that process afterwards and make that happen.
Generally, we would not be as concerned about this as the continuing obligation on the returning officer to provide the paper bingo sheets.
The main reason is that I've been saving up for this one.
Sometimes you can swear an oath and people may add things or muff it slightly or adjust it, perhaps based on their own religious beliefs or on their own rejections of religious beliefs, whatever the case may be. The oath itself remains absolutely valid, binding in precisely the normal manner.
A really good example of this is the oath that we all swore when we became members of Parliament. Some people have added to that in the past. I remember that when I was first elected, many of us who were Canadian Alliance MPs at the time, added a bit about not just swearing allegiance to the Queen but also to the Constitution and the people of Canada, all of which is irrelevant, from the perspective of the legality of the oath, although obviously of personal importance.
In that spirit, and also in the spirit of religious freedom, openness and acceptance, which of course is a motivating spirit of modern Canada, the purpose of this wording is to make sure that a solemn declaration—which means an oath—remains valid, regardless of whether people add words or use some form of mannerism that is appropriate to them but not part of the formal solemn declaration.
To answer Mr. Graham's question, I think that if I were to add something to the effect of “I'm now going to mess with the system, so ignore everything I said”, that wouldn't count. You're still under oath.
More likely is a situation where someone makes a solemn declaration and feels the need, based on their own profoundly held religious beliefs, to add something indicating their own level of solemnity.
I would think so, if you're asking if someone has an auditory impairment or can't read, and they muddle it up slightly.
We have a citizenship oath. I went to a ceremony at the Museum of Civilization, as it then was, when the judge said to me he did it two words at a time. He started by saying “I swear”, and everybody said, “I swear”, etc. He said the reason was that a lot of people didn't speak either official language very well and were going to muddle it up slightly. That doesn't have any legal meaning, but they want to get it right. They're trying.
He's an experienced judge. He's used to dealing with this. Some of our people administering elections might not be, and there would be some kind of issue of that sort. The oath is still proper, full and complete.
There was also a Liberal amendment, Liberal-63, which passed consequential to Liberal-9.
(Clause 372 as amended agreed to on division)
(Clause 373 agreed to)
Clause 374 had one amendment, CPC-191, but it was defeated consequential to CPC-175.
(Clause 374 agreed to on division)
(Clause 375 agreed to)
(On clause 376)
The Chair: We are now on clause 376. There is amendment CPC-192. Who will present that?
That's what's being caught in this. That's why the subamendment is being presented.
First of all, this is coordinating with amendment CPC-199, which makes it reflective of Bill .
These are the only two ridings in that schedule that would be affected by Bill with a name change. The various schedules list various ridings that can be affected, based on size and geography. These two riding names need to be changed based on what's currently within that schedule.
Bill will change the riding names. This bill isn't currently showing the change, so we have to make the change to reflect that, if that makes sense.
Don't bring me down, Chair. I was feeling good for a moment.
This is, as was expressed by my Liberal colleagues earlier.... I enjoy studying things, looking them over carefully before we imprudently move ahead. This one requires the Chief Electoral Officer to make recommendations, after study and consultation, about lowering the voting age to 17. The reason we think this is a good idea is that there have been a number of attempts in parliaments to lower the voting age even further, to 16. Seventeen has been the number that folks have landed on because that is the age at which someone can be conscripted in Canada. To deem 17-year-olds able to handle certain responsibilities like holding a gun and pointing it at somebody, one would by association also deem them possessed of the capacity to vote freely and fairly.
In combination with that—and we talk about this, all parties do, in Parliament—are the many decisions we make that are much longer in nature than just affecting us. They affect the folks to come.
I have moved legislation in the past. I think the first bill I helped support was one promoted by a Liberal. It was backed by a Conservative at the time, Ms. Stronach, and a Bloc member and me. This may be hard to imagine these days, Chair, but we went across the country and held town halls just to talk about lowering the voting age.
I have one small reflection on that. I think we were in Edmonton and we had a whole bunch of high schools come to a big forum. A young woman came to the mike and said, “I think this is a terrible idea.” She was 16. We said, “Okay, tell us why.” She said, “If I were voting in the next election, I would have to look at all the candidates, study their platforms and understand what each of those platforms meant for me, and that's just a lot of pressure. I don't want it.” It was a fascinating disclosure because that's exactly the voter you'd want. As we know, most voters don't walk into the polling station with one-tenth of that consideration of what their vote means.
In this day and age, some people—usually the older generations—despair for the generations coming. My sense of things is that they are certainly the most informed and most connected generation in history. Their ability to engage in issues is beyond what it was for you and me at 16 or 17. They can connect into communities and understand laws that are being passed or proposed.
I think this is a very tentative step. This is not saying we're going to do it, just that Elections Canada will be able to gather data on what the impacts would be. Would higher voter turnout happen? What would the consequences be for other things that we don't anticipate? We could just prudently step forward.
We've heard, of course, from Daughters of the Vote, from the Canadian Federation of Students, from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and on down the line that the motivation among young voters would increase dramatically if they were able to actually participate in voting.
The last thing I'd say is that, from all the research that has been done by Elections Canada and other elections agencies, we know that if a voter participates in an election at their first opportunity, the chances of their voting in consequential elections goes up dramatically. The reason 17 is important is that, obviously, most 17-year-olds and those approaching 17 are still in school. Once they hit 18—and most people don't vote right at 18 but just at the next election that comes—they're out of high school. They may be in another form of education, but oftentimes they're in the workforce and otherwise. What an educational opportunity it is to be 16 going on 17, with an election on the horizon and part of your education is getting yourselves and your classmates ready to vote in that election.
The chances of voting would be dramatically higher. We imagine polling stations being right in or near those high schools. Those are the merits of voting at 17, but these are the things we'd want Elections Canada to look at. Will it increase participation? Will it increase lifelong participation in the democratic process? None of us, I hope, are opposed to that.
We've done it six times today. We do it all the time. When the CEO comes to us, as he has recently done—the new CEO and the previous one—we ask for policy advice. Really, we do. We ask whether this will enable that? We ask about the consequences of vouching and other things. We've relied on that advice very consistently, particularly because Elections Canada has some primary roles and functions: free and fair elections, etc. In the policy advice we've gotten, I've never had a hint of partisanship or advantage or anything like that. They just do what they've done very well historically—run elections fairly.
This is the gathering of evidence from a non-partisan source who is, I would say, best placed to look at this and knows who the experts are on elections. I might be asking about the effects on the election, whether the experts support the policy of lowering the voting age, or whether we have evidence enough to overcome the resistance from a broad sector of Canadians. As you know, a large number of our constituents did not think this was a good idea, present company excluded.
This does not bind this committee or Elections Canada to a policy doctrine, one way or the other. This is simply recommending that they go out and ask what the effects would be, positive and negative, and report back to Parliament, which, I think would help Parliament. If any of you have been to high school classes and talked about politics, I'm sure you found a very engaged group of folks. I would say these students are more engaged than an average roomful of Canadians would be if you gathered 30 or 35 of them together and asked them about the policies we deal with all the time. They're studying, and that's what they're supposed to be doing. I think this has merit.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
I guess if promises made by politicians were all inadmissible, there wouldn't be much we would move in legislation.
One very senior prime minister adviser, Gerald Butts, once told me that nobody cares about this issue. I think it was borne out that a great number of people actually care about electoral reform. Hope springs eternal. We've just heard from the new Quebec government, I believe, that they are looking to bring in legislation within the year. B.C. is voting in a week or so, and P.E.I. will soon be voting as well. This issue was supposed to die in the weeds, according to one close friend of the Prime Minister, but somehow, in this one instance, he's wrong. This is just our attempt to get back to promises made to see if they can be kept.
I don't appreciate your ruling but I respect it very much.
It's like a last cigarette before going out to the execution squad.
This is a tricky one for us because, as many of us have heard from the minister just recently, the idea of a debates commissioner has been coming. At first it was promised in legislation, which I greatly appreciated because that would allow Parliament to debate it and a committee like this to study it and make improvements. Not everything that emanates from the Prime Minister's office comes out perfect, from my experience. The delays have just been going on and on, which is at least consistent for this department. They're not quick. This was an attempt to bring the debate commission into this process so we would have something we could talk about as parliamentarians.
This is my primary concern with the process used here. My advice to this minister early on was that the debates commission cannot in any way have any hint of partisanship for it to have credibility with Canadians. I think what happened in the last election was very unfortunate, when the then sitting Prime Minister was refusing to cede to a debate in the proper way. It became an election issue for a lot of Canadians, which I didn't ever suspect it would. Obviously we support the idea of a debates commission. My advice to the minister and to the Prime Minister's office was to include the other parties in constructing that commission. Then you would have the input and it would credibly be seen as a non-partisan effort. The fact that the government has again insisted on keeping it entirely in-house runs the risk of people accusing whatever comes out as not being fair.
The debates should just be the debates. Three or four podiums, a moderator and let's go. I don't get it. This is not a partisan thing. I just don't get the strategy to consistently keep it so close to the vest and then run the risk, as happened with the first ERRE committee structure, which was seen as flawed. There was never a conversation with the opposition as to how to build the process to design a new electoral system for us. That blew up and then on the back of a piece of paper we had to create a new one, which I think worked well in terms of a committee process.
That's a weird twitch of this government, and there it is again.
NDP-29 is inadmissible as it goes beyond the scope of the bill as the bill does not deal with an independent commissioner for the leaders' debate.
PV-19 is tabled because of our procedures for parties that are not part of this committee, but I rule it inadmissible as it goes beyond the scope of the bill as the bill does not relate to the leaders' debate.
(On clause 378)
The Chair: Clause 378 has amendment Liberal-64. Does someone want to present that amendment?
You have the floor, Ms. Lapointe.
I would just like to clarify two technical points in the debate.
First, no by-election could be triggered to fill a vacancy in the House of Commons less than nine months before a fixed-date election. However, a vacancy that occurred shortly before the deadline would result in a by-election. For example, in 2019, the limit of nine months before the fixed-date election would be January 21. Consequently, if a vacancy occurred before January 21, 2019, it would have to be filled by a by-election, which would be held in the spring or summer of 2019.
Second, this statutory amendment responds to a recommendation by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada concerning overlapping by-elections and general elections. In the 2015 general election, if my memory serves me, by-elections had to be triggered in three or four ridings. They were triggered very early on, in May or June, I believe, and voting day was the day scheduled for the general election. Those by-elections were considered replaced by the general election when the writs for the general election were issued. This overlap created several problems of interpretation of the act regarding the rules respecting the financing of political parties and the campaigns of candidates during by-elections.
That's right—without this amendment. That actually extends the period of the vacancy, which could lead to a period of non-representation back to 15 months or so.
That wasn't the intention of our recommendation, although I don't think our recommendation, to be honest, was perfectly well crafted. Our idea was to have a period where a by-election does not need to be called, and a clear period where it does not need to be called. By drawing it from the vacancy period, it makes it clearer.
This amendment responds to a concern we had about the way the provision exists in Bill , and it reduces the time in which you will not have representation.
We will vote on Liberal-64.
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: That's unanimous.
CPC-193 can't be moved because it's related to the same line as the amendment we just did.
(Clause 378 as amended agreed to)
The Chair: Clause 379 had one amendment. It was CPC-193.1, but that was consequential to CPC-171, which was defeated.
(Clause 379 agreed to on division)
(Clauses 380 to 383 inclusive agreed to)
The Chair: There is a new clause proposed. It was originally proposed by CPC-194, but that was withdrawn and it now will be proposed by the new CPC amendment with reference number 10008080.
Is now the appropriate time?
I haven't done any of these but there's an amendment I'd like us to consider. It will require unanimous consent, because it goes back. We were working with Elections Canada in a previous iteration to try to figure out language around this. You and I would have this experience, but perhaps other committee members don't. This is about the timing of when results are released during election night. Many of our constituents are still going to the polls when results are coming out from the east coast: how Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or P.E.I. have voted already.
I think there are provisions in the act in terms of the availability of information being somewhat equal to voters across the country. That privileged information can't be given to some voters and not others. This is affected in section 283. This is why it will need unanimous consent.
Just allow me to read it out, explain it, then one comment to the elections officials and then move on. It would say, “One and a half hours after the polling stations close in Newfoundland and Labrador, one hour after the polling stations close in the Maritimes and immediately after the polling stations close in the rest of the country, an election officer who is assigned to the polling station shall count the votes in the presence of” Then it continues through section 283, which is the counting of votes.