The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendment made by the Senate to Bill , and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I had the honour and privilege to be chosen, among the 338 members of Parliament, to speak today on the last day we will be sitting in this building, the Centre Block, in the House of Commons, in our wonderful Parliament, in our great federation.
Before I go any further and talk a bit about Centre Block, I should say that I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for , one of my esteemed colleagues, whose riding is quite close to my own. We share a border, between Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval and Beauport. I am very happy to work with him on various issues that affect our respective constituents.
I would like to wish a very merry Christmas to everyone in Beauport—Limoilou who is watching us right now or who might watch this evening on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. I wish everyone a wonderful time with their family, and I hope they take some time to rest and relax. That is important. This season can be a time to focus a little more on ourselves and our families, and to spend time together, to catch up and to rest up. I wish all my constituents the very best for 2019. Of course we will be seeing one another next week in our riding. I will be in my office and out in the community all week. I invite all my constituents to the Christmas party I am hosting on Wednesday, December 19, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at my office, which is located at 2000 Sanfaçon Avenue. Refreshments will be served and we will celebrate Christmas together. Over 200 people attended the event last year. I hope to see just as many people out this year. Merry Christmas and happy new year to everyone.
Today I want to talk about Bill . I think this is the third time I speak to this bill. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to speak at all three readings of the same bill, and I am delighted I have been able do so.
This is somewhat ironic, because we have every reason to feel nostalgic today. The Centre Block of the House of Commons has been the centre of Canadian democracy since 1916, or rather, since its reconstruction, which was completed in 1920 after the fire. We have been sitting in this place for over a century, for 102 years. We serve to ensure the well-being of our constituents and to discuss democracy, to discuss legislation and the issues that matter to our country every day.
Today, rather ironically, we are discussing Bill , which seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act. This is the legislation that sets the guidelines, standards, conditions and guarantees by which we, the 338 members of Parliament, were elected by constituents to sit here in the House of Commons. It is an interesting bill that we are discussing on our last day here, but this situation is indeed somewhat ironic, as my NDP colleague so rightly said in his question to the parliamentary secretary. He asked why, if this bill is so important to the Liberals, they waited until the last minute to rush it through after three years in power. The same version appeared in Bill in 2015-16, and the Liberals delayed implementation of that bill.
Since we are talking about Bill C-76, which affects the Elections Act and democracy, I must say I find it a shame that only six out of the 200 amendments the Conservatives proposed in committee were accepted.
We have concrete grievances based on real concerns and even the opinion of the majority. I will share with the House some of the surveys I have here. I just want to take a minute to say to all those watching us on CPAC or elsewhere right now, that it has been my dream ever since I was 15 to serve Canadians first and foremost. That is why I enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces. That is why I dreamed of becoming an MP since I was 15. In 2015, I had the exceptional honour of earning the confidence of the majority of the 92,000 constituents of Beauport—Limoilou. I would like to tell them that, in my view, the House of Commons represents the opposite of what the said yesterday. He said it was just a room.
I did not like that because the House of Commons, which will close for renovations for 15 years in a few days, is not just a room, as the Prime Minister said. I find it unfortunate that he used that term. It is the chamber of the people. That is why it is green. The colour green represents the people and the colour red represents aristocracy. Hence the Senate chamber is red.
I hope I am not mistaken. Perhaps the parliamentary guides could talk to me about this.
It is unfortunate that the said that it is not the centre of democracy, because that is not true. I will explain to Canadians why it is wrong to say that Parliament is not the centre of democracy.
The Prime Minister was right when he said that democracy resides everywhere, whether in protests in the streets, meetings of political associations or union meetings. Of course, democracy happens there. However, the centre of democracy is here, because it is here that elected members sit and vote on the laws that govern absolutely everything in the country. It is also here that we can even change Canada's Constitution. The country's Constitution cannot be changed anywhere else or as part of political debates by a political association or a protest. No, it can only be done here or in the other legislative assemblies of the provinces in Canada. It is only in those places that we can make amendments and change how democracy works or deal with problems to address current issues. Yes, by definition, in a practical manner, the centre of democracy is right here. It is not, as the Prime Minister said, just a room like so many others. No, it is the House of Commons.
Just briefly, before I get back to Bill C-76, I want to talk about the six sculptures on the east wall. The first represents civil law; the second, freedom of speech; the third, the Senate; the fourth, the governor general; the fifth, Confederation; and the sixth, the vote. On the west wall, there are sculptures representing bilingualism, education, the House of Commons, taxation—it says “IMPÔT — TAX” up top—criminal law and, lastly, communications. Those sculptures are here because we are at the centre of democracy. The 12 sculptures represent elements of how our federation works.
With respect to Bill C-67, we have three main complaints.
First, Bill C-76 would make it possible for a Canadian to use a voter card as their only document at a polling station. To be clear, the voter card is the paper people get for registering as an eligible voter. From now on, the Liberals will let people vote using that card only. Currently, and until this bill is passed, voters have to present a piece of identification to vote.
There are risks in letting people vote without an ID card like a driver's licence, health card or passport. First, in 2015, the information on over one million voter identification cards was incorrect. That is a major concern. Second, it is easy to vote with a card displaying incorrect information. That creates a significant problem. It is serious. We need to make sure that voting remains a protected, powerful and serious privilege in Canada.
Our second concern—and this is why we have no choice but to vote against the bill and what upsets me the most personally—is that the government is going to allow Canadians who live outside the country to vote, regardless of how long they have been living abroad. There used to be a five-year limit. In Australia, it is six years. Many countries have limits.
Now, the Liberals want to allow 1.4 million Canadians who live abroad to participate in Canadian elections, even if they have not lived in Canada for 20 or 30 years. They will even be allowed to choose what riding they want to vote in.
Do the Liberals realize the incredible power they are giving to Canadian citizens who have not lived in Canada for 20 years? Those individuals could potentially choose a riding where the polls indicate that the race is very close and change which party is chosen to govern.
Our third concern about this bill is that the Liberals want to prevent third parties, such as labour groups, from accepting money from individuals or groups outside the country during the pre-writ period.
That is good, but there is nothing stopping this from happening before the pre-writ period. People will be able to take in money and receive money from groups outside the country before the start of the pre-writ period.
I thank all Canadians who are watching us for their trust. I look forward to seeing them in the riding next week.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, with whom I have had the privilege of sharing some good times in the House of Commons.
We just learned that there will be votes after question period. This is probably the last sitting day of 2018, and the last one in this chamber. As my colleague said, this is not just a room; it is a place that has borne witness to our democracy for more than 100 years. There was a fire here in 1916, but Parliament was rebuilt. I have a lot of appreciation for the institutions, so it makes me emotional, and I feel a twinge of sadness, as I rise today to speak to Bill .
Two of my colleagues opposite said that they had dreamed of becoming members of Parliament since they were 15 years old, but my dream started at the age of six. I am following in the footsteps of my grandfather, who sat here. I feel a great deal of emotion speaking today. He was a member of a party, the Social Credit Party of Canada, which unfortunately no longer exists. I am proud to say that in 1962, Louis-Philippe-Antoine Bélanger was the member of Parliament for the Côte-de-Beaupré region.
It is no easy task to be a member of Parliament, and we take this very seriously. If you were to ask the 338 members of Parliament, they would say that they work very hard and make many sacrifices. With the holidays approaching, we will soon return to our ridings and our families, who share us with the Canadian people. I want to sincerely thank my wife, Isabelle, and my children, Charles-Antoine and Anne-Frédérique, for sharing me with the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. As a father, I say this with a great deal of emotion.
Now, let us get down to the business at hand, Bill , an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments. Yesterday, in her speech, the minister touted that her bill defends democracy. This morning, by moving a motion, notice of which was given yesterday, the government expedited the process and limited the speaking time of opposition members before proceeding. Is that democratic? On this side, we would say that it is muzzling people who have something to say and arguments to make with a view to improving the bill.
What we are hearing today is that the passage of this bill is being expedited. The Liberals have been in power for three years and suddenly decided to move quickly. What a surprise, 2019 is an election year. I will say no more.
This government is full of paradoxes. Democracy does not seem to be in the current Liberal government's vocabulary. In 2015, during the election campaign, this government promised a balanced budget in 2019. We—the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois—were campaigning against the Liberals and, in some ridings, people believed them. They believed their election promise that they would balance the budget in 2019 after incurring modest deficits in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who made some more adjustments this week, projects a deficit of roughly $100 billion, I repeat, $100 billion, over four years, even though we are in a favourable economic position.
These are extremely important elements, because this is about democracy. The Liberals asked Canadians to vote for them in the election, but now that they are in power with a majority of seats, they are not keeping their word. Is this democracy?
I can keep going. The Liberals promised that the 2015 election would be the last time the current system would be used, but they did not end up changing anything. Was that a calculated decision? I keep asking questions, but they go unanswered.
Did they decide they would be better off leaving the system untouched instead of keeping their election promise? This is another broken promise.
In addition, they promised to protect supply management. That is not what they did with the U.S. President and the Mexican President. They created a breach. Now almost 3% of the market is wide open.
We have stricter standards than the United States. I think that is a good thing, because Canadians' health is important. Our farmers are subject to standards that are much more costly to meet. The government opened up the market without requiring that the U.S. adopt the same standards as Canada, yet it sees no problem. Everything is peachy. How can the Liberals look their voters in the eye after this? In a few hours, we will be going back to our ridings. I wonder how they are going to look voters straight in the eye and be okay with what they have been doing for the past three years.
I would like to talk about an unusual little promise they made. This is another example of them not delivering on their promises. It is a small promise, but I think it is significant to the people involved. They promised to bring back letter carriers. They said they would undo everything the Conservatives did and they would bring back letter carriers. Where are the letter carriers? They are not back. We still have community mailboxes. Let us not forget that the mayor of Montreal destroyed a concrete slab foundation with a jackhammer. They capitalized on that, showed a lack of respect for voters, and they want to talk about democracy?
As I was saying, this morning we voted on a time allocation motion. That means limited speaking time. Since April 2016, I have voted against 35 time allocation motions on 25 bills. Is that what they call democracy? I am sorry, but we do not have the same definition of democracy.
Democracy is about respecting people, having differing opinions, allowing the opposition parties to present arguments in order to improve legislation. That is what our parliamentary system is about and what it allows us to do; otherwise, we are wasting our time. If our ability to speak is restricted, if members are not allowed to express their opinions, that is a dictatorship. That is unacceptable. When the members opposite talk about democracy and say that implementing Bill C-76 will improve the process, that raises some pretty big questions for me.
As for the ID card, it just makes sense that everyone should identify themselves in a way that is consistent. We have a social insurance system, we have a driver's licence system in each province, we have a passport system. Anyone who travels abroad must identify themselves. It is about monitoring, which is reasonable. All Canadians and all Quebeckers are proud to have a Canadian passport.
Meanwhile, when Canadians go to a polling station, they will be able to show up with just a printed card. If any mistakes are made when those cards are sent out, anyone could take the card and claim to have the right to vote. It is dangerous.
I have to say that I do not believe the Liberal government when it says it is acting in the best interests of Canadians. Who can tell me anything this government has really done in the best interests of Canadians since it was elected? I have not received an answer. I ask the question because, at some point, I have to wonder whether I am being a little biased or partisan. I have asked my constituents the same question, for they are very sensible and intelligent people. Unfortunately, they have reached the same conclusion as me.
What we have is a rock star who goes around the world for his own personal gain, forgetting that the primary mandate of any prime minister and any responsible government is to look after the affairs of Canadians. I have a lot more I would like to say, but I am running out of time.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier health, happiness and a joyful holiday. Let's meet again in 2019 with a fair and equitable electoral system.
Mr. Speaker, we are in a beautiful building that has so much meaning to Canadians from all regions of our country. It is such a privilege to be an elected representative. We know today will be our last sitting day. When I think of some of the institutions we have in Canada, number one on the list for me is the Parliament Building. This is the centre of our democracy. I appreciated the words yesterday from the .
It is significant that we are debating another aspect of democracy on our last sitting day in this beautiful room inside the Parliament Building. It is about democracy and how wonderful Canada is, which I and many others would argue is the best country in the world. We owe it to the individuals who have fought the wars. We owe it to the individuals who have filled this chamber. Most important, we owe it to Canadians from coast to coast who recognize the importance of our democracy, who get out and get engaged, whether they are volunteers, candidates or contributors, whomever they might be.
It is such a touching day that this will be our last day inside this hall. Perhaps I might be afforded an opportunity, depending on my constituents and my family, to give another speech inside this chamber 10 years from now. It is tough to say, but I do look forward to the future.
As this will be the last time I rise this year, I would give my thanks to some special people, including the individuals who record everything that is said. We call them our Hansard people. I also thank the individuals up in the TV room. For those who have never been in the TV room, it is quite the grouping up there. They do a fantastic job in ensuring we all look relatively well in our presentations and in delivering our speeches. My thanks go to the individuals who provide the security of this building and this chamber; to the table officers for the fine work they do in supporting members of Parliament, including you, Mr. Speaker; to the individuals such as our pages who play a very important role for all of us members of Parliament. I expect some speeches are a bit more challenging than others to listen to, but at the end of it, we do appreciate the efforts of the pages. I thank our support staff as well. We have amazing individuals who participate in our House leadership teams, from the ministers and the staff who are there to provide us often the type of speaking notes that are necessary in order to participate and be engaged in the debates.
So many individuals contribute to the functionality of this place. I extend my thanks, and also on behalf of many, if not all, members, and express how much I truly appreciate them.
Having said that, I want to get to the core of the issue. Having listened to the debate so far, there are many things that come to mind. In listening to what members have said, I sometimes wonder whether we are even debating Bill . Someone posed a question as to what the government had actually achieved over the last three years. Others have talked about specific things that have occurred in the last three years. Then there has been some discussion from the Conservatives in regard to Bill C-76, and that is where I would like to start.
A few years back, when I was sitting in opposition, we had Stephen Harper's Fair Elections Act, as the Conservatives called it. In opposition, we called it the “unfair elections act”.
I remember that individuals, stakeholders and Canadians from coast to coast to coast recognized the many flaws in Stephen Harper's attempt to reform our elections. People were greatly discouraged. We made a commitment to make changes to our Canada Elections Act and that is what we are talking about today.
When I reflect on the days we debated it when we were in opposition, there was something in common with today. Back then, those in opposition to the Conservative legislation included the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, political stakeholders and individuals who followed politics from virtually every region of our country. Letters were written, appealing to prime minister Stephen Harper at the time not to move forward on a number of fronts. In its presentations to committee, there was no doubt that Elections Canada felt very frustrated because the government seemed to disregard it. Elections Canada, as an institution, is recognized around the world as an agency that performs exceptionally well when it comes to democracy. The Conservative government had no real respect for Elections Canada.
It is somewhat offensive to hear Conservative members talk about how, through this legislation, we are trying to jig the election in any way whatsoever. It is misinformation and that is something Conservatives are fairly good at, that Conservative spin, and it does not have to be truthful. They continue to spin things even though they are not true. They are often very misleading, and I am being generous when I say “very misleading”.
The legislation before us today is supported by other political entities. It is only the Conservative Party that does not want this legislation to pass. It has gone through first and second reading, it went to committee, it came back at report stage and had third reading in the House. Then it went to the Senate, where it was thoroughly debated again and all sorts of stakeholders made presentations. A relatively minor technical amendment was made and now it is back before the House. The Conservatives, once again, have taken the approach that, without the government applying time allocation, this bill will never see the light of day.
Let there be no doubt that at every stage of the bill in Parliament, the Conservative official opposition, which I would argue is still spearheaded by Stephen Harper himself, at least one would think that, continues to frustrate the House, attempting to ensure that Bill never sees the light of day. I suggest that is most tragic. Bill C-76 would enhance democracy in Canada. It would enable more people to participate in the democratic process. Ministers, parliamentary secretaries, many members and even some New Democrats have stood in their places and talked about the importance of this legislation becoming the law of the land. The reason is that at the end of the day, it would improve the system.
People who might be following this debate should be aware that if the government did not bring in time allocation on this motion, it would not pass. The Conservatives have no intention of seeing this proposed legislation pass. They talk about this being a historic day and, yes, this is a historic day, as it is the last day we will have debate inside this chamber. However, it is somewhat disingenuous to refer to the government's desire to use time allocation in order to fulfill a commitment to Canadians in making these changes, because the Conservatives do not want to see this bill pass.
We made a commitment in the last federal election to pass this legislation. In fact, there is wide support for it, and for a very good reason. We can take a look at some of the things the bill would do, such as the treatment of expenses related to the provision of care. This would be of great benefit for those individuals with children going through an election where there are spending caps. Under the bill, candidates would be able to have care provided, which would not be applied under the spending cap, and a healthy percentage of that cost would be rebated. This is widely supported in every area for anyone who talks about improving democracy, not only in Canada but in the world.
There are many aspects of this proposed legislation that would make our democratic system better. For example, there is assistance for electors with disabilities, transfer certificates for electors with disabilities, enhanced voting at home opportunities and level access for polling places. The bill would allow for pilot projects to be conducted through the Chief Electoral Officer and refers to costs to accommodate electors with disabilities. There are things within the proposed legislation that would enhance democracy for members of the Canadian Forces. It would revise who is entitled to vote under division 2, again with the idea of enhancing our democracy. It would put new voting integrity measures into place. There are requirements to provide service numbers with respect to the Canadian Forces. There is a lengthy list of actions that would be put into place as a direct result of this proposed legislation.
One of the issues when Stephen Harper brought in electoral reform was the voter identification card. The card was a valuable piece of identification that could be used with other identification in order to enable a person to vote. The Conservatives got rid of that. There was widespread objection to the Conservative government at the time for getting rid of it. Bill would reinstate it, with the support of organizations such as Elections Canada; many stakeholders; political parties including the Greens, New Democrats, and obviously the Liberals; and others. We are doing that because we recognize the value of enhancing our democratic system.
Bill is good legislation. I do not understand why the Conservative Party does not support the bill.
I would invite people to listen to what the Conservatives said today in addressing Bill . I would suggest that 50% of the time, or more, they did not focus on the legislation. Rather, they talked about the last three years and they used the words “failure after failure”. Let us talk about the last three years.
One of the very first speeches I gave was on the first piece of legislation our government introduced in this beautiful chamber. We are talking about the last one today. The first one dealt with the tax breaks for Canada's middle class. Not only are the Conservatives voting against Bill , they also voted against that tax break for Canada's middle class.
Some hon. members: Shame, shame!
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, my colleagues are right. One would think they would be somewhat shamed.
When we talk about this whole idea of what has happened in the past three years, let me tell my Conservative friends across the way—
Mr. Speaker, people are chewing up my time here. I have a lot to say. This is my last speech this year.
I would ask my friend to talk to the member for about the issue of relevance on this particular bill, and I do wish her a very merry Christmas.
Conservative after Conservative stood in their place and wanted to talk about what has happened in the last three years. That is what I want to spend my last three minutes on, because there have been lots of wonderful things in the last three years. There was the break for Canada's middle class, and what about that special tax on Canada's wealthiest 1%? That is something the Conservatives voted against.
On many occasions I have talked about the Canada child benefit increase and how that has lifted tens of thousands of children out of poverty. What about the guaranteed income supplement? It has lifted tens of thousands of seniors out of poverty. What about a government that has worked with other governments to achieve agreements, such as a price on pollution? Only the Conservatives, and they brought it up today in their speeches, believe that there should not be a price on pollution, and we still await their plan. What about the agreement between the provinces and territories on the CPP, which will put more money in the pockets of individuals when they start retiring in the years ahead? What about the reduction from age 67 back to 65 to collect OAS? I would also mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in historic investments in Canada's infrastructure that our government has put into place.
Our government has done more in the last three years than Stephen Harper did in 10 years. Our government, by working with Canadians in every region of our country, has generated over 700,000 jobs. We have an economy that is doing far better than most countries within the G7.