I'll call this meeting to order. Welcome to meeting 13 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
You all know by now that we're meeting pursuant to the order that was adopted by the House on Wednesday, September 23, allowing committees to sit in hybrid format.
For the benefit of the witnesses today, I'll point out as well a few reminders that those who are participating virtually, members and witnesses, may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of "floor”, “English” or “French”. The floor language is for those who wish to listen to the language spoken with no interpretation.
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I would remind you that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. Should members need to request the floor outside their designated time for questions, they should activate their mike and state that they have a point of order, or if they aren't present physically, then speak into the mike and try to get my attention by stating that they have a point of order. After that point of order is raised, those who wish to speak to the point of order, please either use the "raise hand" function or try to get the attention of the clerk, if you're physically in the room. Both the clerk and I will keep a consolidated speaking order.
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Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. Also remember to speak slowly and clearly for the benefit of the interpreters especially. It's quite challenging. Please do not speak over one another. It's almost impossible for the interpreters to interpret if we speak over one another. Be mindful of that as well.
It looks like everyone here on today's call has a headset. We've been providing headsets to the witnesses as well. These headsets have been determined by the House administration to be the most effective ones. Please, it's mandatory to wear the headset with the boom microphone.
Now we'll start today's meeting.
We have been able to get our witnesses into two separate panels. Originally we had it set up with three panels, but we had to do some reshuffling because of the availability of some witnesses.
For the first panel, I would like to welcome Professor Blais, who has been here before. He's coming to us from the University of Montreal, the political science department.
From Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, we have Ms. Blumczynska.
Thank you, Ms. Blumczynska, for being with us today.
From the Canadian Federation of Students, we have Nicole Brayiannis. She is the deputy chairperson for the national organization.
Thank you for being with us today.
Welcome to all of you. Each of you has five minutes for your introductory remarks.
We'll start with you, Professor Blais.
I thank the committee for inviting me to comment on what we should do if there is an election during the pandemic.
I have three very brief comments. The first one is that I do not think there should be an election this year. We have fixed election dates. The next election should be in October 2023, not before. It is possible to have a minority government for four years. Just because minority governments traditionally last only one or two years doesn't mean that must always be the case. All political parties must learn to compromise.
Having said that, I agree that the possibility of an election in a pandemic must be anticipated. So I have two comments on that. My first observation is this: I fully agree with Elections Canada's proposals. We must avoid line-ups and make voting easier. It is easier to vote on Saturday or Sunday than it is to vote on Monday alone. I would add that there should be more polling stations to make voting easier. In short, we must do everything we can to avoid waiting in line. Actually, why not have an express line for those who are more vulnerable?
There could even be one for those who reserve their spot and want to vote at 10:38 a.m., for example.
I think these measures should be maintained for future elections. Every effort should be made to make voting as easy and quick as possible.
My final point is that I applaud the proposal to make voting in long-term care facilities more flexible. I think it is a great initiative.
Those are all my comments.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Good morning. Thank you for this honour.
I'm speaking to you today from Treaty 1 territory, which is the land of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples and the homeland of the Métis nation. I want to begin by acknowledging that I'm a settler who's been allowed to enter this country by the colonial Government of Canada. I also want to say that I understand that I, and those who have arrived before me and after me, have been welcomed here and owe our freedom to the indigenous peoples—land and water defenders. I understand that by entering into nation-to-nation treaties, the indigenous peoples made it possible, amongst other things, for settlers to build new lives in peace and safety.
In the last week, I reached out to ethnocultural communities throughout Winnipeg to invite their voices into this chamber. I recognize that I am but one experience. Many who face barriers to democratic participation must be heard. My special thanks to the African Communities of Manitoba, the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations, and many trusted advisers who I call friends from our Syrian, Nigerian, Congolese, East Indian and Chinese communities.
To begin, I want to state the obvious: No one wants to expose themselves, their families or communities to possible infection and illness. The highest assurances must be made to protect the health and well-being of every person in Canada. Many factors can influence one's participation in an electoral process, especially voters originating from countries where the electoral process has often been neither fair nor free.
Our community shared that some elections abroad, in their lived experiences, were marked by violence, financial inducement, disenfranchisement, electoral fraud and a lack of voter education. This made people believe their votes did not count. It ultimately led to voter apathy and low turnout. The governments that emerged from these skewed democratic processes often lacked legitimacy and representativeness, and were not responsive to the needs of the people. This further alienated citizens from the governance and democratic process. A lack of inclusive governance leads to low participation in elections.
The first challenge is to overcome apathy and the belief that individual votes do not count. Regrettably, as many refugees and recent immigrants wait for years to become citizens, as permanent residents they're not eligible to vote. This inevitably affects their participation when they finally do become citizens and can exercise this right. There's a growing movement across Canada in municipal and provincial elections to extend voting rights to permanent residents. After all, they pay taxes, use government services and contribute to our communities. The federal government could lead the nation in extending this most critical right to all permanent residents.
Second, we've seen from recent elections in the United States that mail-in ballots and electronic voting may offer new and safer mechanisms for participation. However, I want to strongly caution you that these options can further disenfranchise those who lack literacy and digital literacy skills. The lack of digital literacy skills especially is a major barrier for many people from an immigrant background. Voting processes in many countries continue to be manual with limited online involvement, both because of low digital literacy and because of a lack of digital infrastructure. At IRCOM, as an example, more than 50% of the adult tenants do not possess the digital literacy skills to navigate the Internet confidently. Nearly 34% of families do not have access to reliable IT devices. Thus, building digital capacity of voters in advance of elections is required for everyone to adapt to the new reality of voting in a COVID-19 era.
Remote voting cannot completely replace in-person options. For elections to feel politically safe, they must be accessible in a variety of ways and be transparent and available in every community. In fact, in-community options need to increase to accommodate physical distancing and the necessary sanitization. Expanded locations and longer early voting hours will reduce crowding and physical contact.
At voting locations in communities with larger immigrant populations, staff need to be familiar with rules regarding language interpreters. They must be patient and culturally sensitive. For those locations, multilingual signs to direct people—polling station, wait here, show your ID—are important.
Security at voting stations must also be assured because, in the lived experiences of some new Canadians, expressing a political opinion publicly, even if voting is confidential, is an act that can be dangerous.
For mail-in ballots with prepaid postage, there must be a longer early voting period with an assurance that every vote postmarked by a predetermined date and time will be counted up to and including election day.
Before voting can even begin, however, there must be extensive public education about the structure of Canadian government and our parliamentary democracy. Educational resources should be multilingual and in plain language. Voters have the language skills needed to vote, but it can be specialized language of government structure that poses a potential barrier. The vital subject matter will be better understood in one's own mother tongue.
Furthermore, upon arrival in Canada, civic and voter education must be integrated into all orientation programs offered by newcomer-serving organizations. These should explore active citizenship, individual responsibility and the importance of participating in governance decision processes even before newcomers become eligible to vote.
Last, we must partner with ethnocultural community groups to promote inclusive governance and open government. These groups are invaluable communication channels for disseminating information and mobilizing participation. Include people early in the process through participatory budgeting and discourse about legislation. Increase representation at government committees at all levels of government. The more people participate in the governance decision-making process, the more they are likely to take part in the electoral process.
Thank you, Chairperson, and thank you to this committee for inviting the Canadian Federation of Students to speak on this issue.
I want to start out by acknowledging the privilege that comes with addressing you today as I ask you to join in paying respects to the original caretakers of the land where I reside in so-called Pickering, Ontario, who are the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinabe, and the Mississaugas of the Credit peoples. I also want to share my solidarity with all indigenous land defenders, from east coast to west coast, who continue to fight these protective battles.
To share a bit of context, the Canadian Federation of Students is the oldest and largest student organization in Canada. We represent more than 530,000 students across the country. Our membership includes both domestic and international students at the college, undergraduate and graduate levels, including full-time and part-time students.
I want to emphasize how proud I am of the student voter turnout in the last two federal elections. The federation was a major part of making this happen, as we fought for the first on-campus polling stations back in 2015. We saw the benefits of on-campus polling through a 10% increase in youth voter turnout since 2011, and a 60% increase in votes cast at on-campus polling stations during the most recent election.
In consideration of young people as the largest voting population in Canada, we cannot afford for this pandemic to break down the hard-earned progress we've gained in youth voter engagement.
In this past year, students have suffered from being left behind without adequate pandemic supports. As classes shifted online and work became even more precarious, students experienced new and enhanced barriers and challenges to accessing post-secondary education. Therefore, in looking forward to elections, financial and accessibility barriers need to be prioritized in consideration of personal and community safety during in-person voting.
The first accessibility accommodation that needs to be addressed is extending the advance voting period to allow for safe in-person voting. This would give the potential for on-campus polling stations to still take place, while promoting social distancing measures.
The second accessibility accommodation that needs to be addressed is including the option for mail-in ballots. Recognizing that students are a diverse population with a variety accessibility needs, we need to be protecting those who cannot risk their health to appear at polling stations.
In line with these necessary accommodations, all changes to the typical voting process must be well communicated to voters. Here, I do want to give compliments to Elections Canada for their use of social media to engage voters during the last election.
Looking forward, this approach now needs to be taken even a step further to create a simplified and streamlined registration method for new and first-time voters. Due to financial and safety pressures, many eligible voters have had to relocate during the pandemic and may not be registered to vote at their new address, so this work should begin well in advance of voting days, and all messaging related to election processes must be consistent and transparent.
Additionally, recognizing that there will likely not be an opportunity for door knocking or leader visits and that fewer debates will be held, there needs to be a non-partisan virtual space that voters can go to in order to access party platforms for different campaign asks, such as COVID-19 recovery, housing, climate justice, health care, universal basic income and upholding treaty rights for indigenous peoples. Recognizing that many students do not have access to cable and/or limited access to the Internet, this needs to be a user-friendly cohesive website that young people can utilize to easily access this information and feel empowered to make a well-informed decision.
The final consideration I want to give focus to is protection of election staff. Polling station staff and volunteers are front-line workers and are critical to our democratic process. Therefore, it is integral that the health and safety of everyone in these roles is a top priority through ensuring necessary personal protective equipment for all election personnel and voters, and that workers are fairly compensated.
Overall, this pandemic has already taken too much, and we appreciate being invited here today to engage in these important conversations. We've already seen how addressing barriers to youth participation in elections directly translates to representation of youth issues through our votes. It is critical that we keep this momentum going, because in a just social and economic recovery from COVID-19, youth representation and issue prioritization will be critical in rebuilding Canada.
The Canadian Federation of Students appreciates being a part of this consultation to address these needs, and I look forward to your questions.
I had the opportunity last year to work alongside the Elections Canada group at Ryerson. I was part of the part-time students union, the Continuing Education Students' Association of Ryerson.
Students were engaging with the advance polling stations because as it was advance, they were able to vote for their home riding but on campus. That really enhanced and empowered the ability of students to participate in the elections process. We found as well that students were really interested in the core issues that candidates were talking about.
I said that piece about having some type of non-partisan central platform that students could access to learn more about their candidates is really important, because often it falls back on student unions or different union groups to take on that work.
It's really great to have the reliability measure coming from the government and Elections Canada itself, as well, in presenting information in a non-partisan manner. When it comes to how folks were voting, yes, it does come back to the fact that on-campus polling stations are advance polls, so regardless of their riding, they are eligible and able to both register and cast their ballots at the polls there.
I echo much of what Ms. Blumczynska just said.
It needs to be readily and openly communicated with folks well in advance of an election. I had given credit to Elections Canada for their social media strategy that was utilized during the previous federal election. This needs to be even more enhanced now, because even when that resource and material were available virtually, there was still a lot of confusion.
Questions were asked to both my student group on campus as well as the Elections Canada student group on campus, because the process is not always clear and concise. Particularly when it comes to registration to vote and changing addresses in advance of having those ballots mailed to folks, number one, that is critical. Number two is clearly and openly explaining that process and ensuring that folks are comfortable going into an election process and that it's not trying to be further explained. Although those resources should be available, it should be made clear in advance of those ballots going out.
Thank you for the information.
Good morning, Ms. Blumczynska.
I am very pleased to hear what you have to say. You have pointed out some very interesting things about immigrants who come here and find that their vote doesn't always count. Their experience is not necessarily positive. I thought that was very interesting, but it contradicts what I have heard before.
I used to be a member of the Quebec National Assembly. It was noted that immigrants voted in greater numbers because they did not always have the opportunity to do so in their country of origin. They cherished the idea of being able to vote and they used that right extensively, which we thought was great.
Ms. Vecchio asked about turnout. It would have been interesting to see which of these two trends was more significant.
I dare say that if we had had longitudinal data on turnout in terms of whether immigrants vote at the first opportunity and whether their turnout improves over time would have been helpful.
I would like to hear your views on these two opposite movements and the turnout. Perhaps we should take a closer look.
Thank you to all of our witnesses for appearing today.
Coming to you as well from Winnipeg, I just want to recognize the good work that IRCOM does here for new Canadians in Winnipeg. I'm very glad to hear testimony from you today.
I want to ask, Ms. Blumczynska, if you could give us a bit of an assessment. What I heard clearly from you when we talked specifically about some of the risks of disenfranchisement which the pandemic presents is that it's really important to be able to communicate with the people in the language they're most comfortable with. I'm wondering if you could give us a bit of an assessment of how Elections Canada did in that regard prior to the pandemic. How ready do you think they might be in order to do that well?
Then maybe let us know the extent to which you believe that settlement services organizations might be able to help Elections Canada. If it's a matter of Elections Canada not being able to do that in house, they could provide funding, for instance, for staff here or something within certain communities in order to be able to get those messages out.
On many campuses, although there have been transitions to online or remote learning, the residence centres are actually open for students who aren't able to access Internet in their home communities or who maybe are otherwise not able to access it outside of the area where they live. I think for those reasons specifically it would still be beneficial for on-campus polling stations, recognizing also that community members are able to access them too.
It's not only students who would benefit from this. If there are any workers on campus, they would be able to vote in those spaces, as well as the residence students. I do still see value in it, and I do still think that this should be an avenue that is pursued for advance polling stations.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for appearing today. It has been an eye-opener on what our country may look like potentially in the future.
Ms. Blumczynska, as are many on this panel, I was an immigrant as well. My family came from Hungary. I think you have some history that gives you a little insight on the makeup of other countries and how that might affect Canada. I applaud you for the work you are doing with, hopefully, increasing the number of new Canadians who vote.
I believe you come from Poland. I would like to hear a little of your back story, about why your family left Poland.
Okay, thank you so much.
Thank you, witnesses, for waiting patiently. So that we have a smooth meeting, I should state right at the outset that we have interpretation services available at the bottom of your screen. Please pick the language you intend on speaking in. If you have an updated version of Zoom, I'm told there should be no issues in picking “floor”, but if you lack the proper updates, then it's best to select the language you intend to speak in. We'll do the best we can if you need to end up switching back and forth. It is your right, of course, to speak in both official languages, so be mindful of that.
All the questions should be addressed through the chair. Each organization will have five minutes for opening statements.
From People First of Canada, we have two witnesses here today. We have Mr. Earle, the president, and we have the executive director, Ms. Fletcher. From Canada Without Poverty, representing that wonderful organization, we have Ms. Renaud, the national coordinator.
Thank you to all of you for being present for our study on conducting a federal election during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Earle, are you the one who is going to make official remarks today?
Good afternoon, Chair, and members of the committee. Thank you so much for inviting us here today to speak on behalf of People First of Canada. My name is Kory Earle, and I am the president. I am joined here today by Shelley Fletcher, who is our executive director.
People First of Canada is the national voice for people labelled with an intellectual disability. People First is unique because we are the only non-profit organization to have a board made up completely of people labelled with an intellectual disability. Our board includes people from across Canada, representing provincial and territorial chapter organizations, all working for inclusion and accessibility in their communities.
People First of Canada is founded on the belief that people who have life experiences with an intellectual or developmental disability are the best people to represent themselves and other people with intellectual disabilities. Our membership closely follows the idea of “nothing about us without us”.
Currently, Shelley and I sit on Elections Canada's AGDI committee, the Advisory Group for Disability Issues.
We appreciate the opportunity to be part of the national conversation and share our feedback and recommendations with the committee.
People First of Canada has also worked with Elections Canada on the ground during the past two federal elections. We have been contracted to raise awareness and inform people living with an intellectual disability on where, when and the ways to register and vote. People First members put together 22 events in eight provinces and two territories. Our work is meant to reduce the barriers to voting faced by Canadians with an intellectual disability. We are happy to note that we have succeeded.
I will now pass it over to Shelley.
We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic could affect how the federal election is conducted. The special report by Canada's Chief Electoral Officer highlighted three main challenges as the provision of accessible, safe and secure voting services, the availability of election workers and the availability of poll locations.
We acknowledge that these would be challenges for everyone, but we know that they will have an increased impact on the people we are here advocating for today. Voting can be a challenge for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities even without a pandemic. It's important to consider their barriers to voting.
In considering the special report, People First of Canada strongly agrees with the statement, “Elections Canada is of the opinion that a variety of voting options continues to be the preferred path.” Having a variety of voting options is important to people who have issues with accessibility and transportation. We strongly support having as many accessible polling locations as possible.
Accessibility is one of the biggest priorities for our members, both accessibility around physical space as well as having a variety of accessible voting tools. We shouldn't sacrifice the number of polling locations across this country or the level of accessibility at polls. While we very much support the suggestion of having two days of polling, along with an increase to 16-hour days, one concern that may arise is the issue of transportation, particularly in rural communities. We would recommend consideration be given to moving the voting days from Saturday and Sunday to Friday and Saturday. Given the transportation issues faced in rural communities, we know they are even more limited on weekends. Having one weekday and one weekend might help with that concern.
Also, many Canadians view Sunday as a day of worship, so by moving to a Friday and Saturday vote day it would take the criticism off Elections Canada and the federal government.
Along with longer polling days, we support moving to shorter shifts, two eight-hour shifts. Our membership has specifically said that one of the reasons they don't apply to jobs with Elections Canada is the length of the shift. This would help address the anticipated challenges of finding available election workers.
Finally, the special report states that facility administrators will be reluctant to allow election workers to operate a poll in the lobby or common area, so election workers would go bed to bed.
We recommend that Elections Canada use more temporary, pop-up voting locations. This has been done on university campuses, so why not increase this to include long-term care facilities, day programs for people with disabilities and institutions? This could include using movable or temporary structures such as PODS, which could be placed outside different locations. They could be easily sanitized. They could be easily moved from one location to another giving vulnerable people an increased opportunity to vote.
Thank you, Chair, Vice-Chairs, Clerk and members of the committee for inviting me to speak today on behalf of Canada Without Poverty.
For 50 years CWP has represented the interests of people living in poverty and has been led by people who have personally experienced poverty. Our work is guided by our lived experience. CWP operates on the belief that poverty is a violation of human rights. We seek to eradicate poverty through education and to promote meaningful public policy action on poverty-related issues.
People in Canada living in poverty have faced devastating hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, women, racialized and immigrant communities, indigenous peoples, persons living with disabilities, young adults, seniors and folks living with intersectional identities have suffered the greatest impacts to their health, employment, housing and overall well-being. These communities in the past have also faced barriers exercising our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote.
CWP recently launched our poverty pandemic watch project and released a report identifying the various areas that pandemic relief policies have failed to address, including loss of income or reduced income, limited housing and emergency shelters, and food insecurity during the pandemic. Our findings detail the profound hardships that diverse communities in poverty are experiencing during this pandemic. These unique stressors can prevent people from feeling empowered in voting in an upcoming election.
We have several recommendations to safeguard and enhance voting participation for voters in poverty.
First, maximize the capacity to process and receive mail-in ballots in order to make voting accessible to those with shift work, living in remote communities, or needing to practice extra precaution because they, or someone in their household, are at greater risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Extend early voting periods to accommodate those who are self-employed or are in shift work and may be not able to vote during the official voting days.
Moving the voting day to two eight-hour periods on Saturday and Sunday is a good step, but we feel it ignores precarious part-time shift workers who are more likely to work on weekends and are less likely to feel confident in confronting their employees to leave work early or for a long period to go vote. Further, it can be a barrier to single parents with school-aged children. We recommend extending official voting days to eight-hour windows on Saturday, Sunday and Monday—importantly, including a weekday in the voting days.
As our other witnesses have noted, translating information about party platforms and candidates to languages other than English and French will be essential, as will distributing these materials to communities where English and French are not the first language of the local population.
Similarly, translate all voting instructions into more languages and ensure that public health guideline signs at polling stations are translated based on local language demographics.
Allow incarcerated voters to request information about their local MPs and party platforms in order to overcome the barriers they face in accessing localized news media while incarcerated.
Finally, ensure that shelters, food banks and service centres can act as polling stations as long as they can meet those health guidelines for physical distancing. This will encourage voting in extremely marginalized and impoverished communities.
Of all our recommendations, CWP would like to stress the importance of mail-in ballots in ensuring that voters in poverty can vote, as they do not require voters to miss work, travel to polling stations, and risk COVID-19 transmission. Anti-poverty advocates across Canada have expressed that mail-in ballots will be key to engaging people in poverty to vote, both during the pandemic and in future elections.
Making voting processes, instructions and information as accessible as possible is necessary for encouraging and empowering marginalized and disadvantage people to participate in our democracy. It is vital that they exercise their right to elect leaders who they feel will represent and fulfill their needs as marginalized citizens.
I thank you again for your invitation today. I welcome any questions from the committee.
Thanks, everybody, for coming today to provide some additional insight.
I'll start off with Canada Without Poverty.
I was fortunate enough to work in a constituency office for a number of years prior to becoming a member of Parliament. A lot of times when I was dealing with government services, one of the biggest challenges people had was getting proper identification.
What methods do you have to help people get the identification they need? I know you look at expired health cards or loss of birth certificates, and I know many churches have assisted with some of those additional costs. What is your protocol to make sure people have appropriate ID so that they can even go to the hospital and get served?
I know shelter workers can be there to assist people in retrieving their identification if it's been lost and they've never renewed their identification. We have amazing social workers in our shelters who do assist with shelter users in this process.
Further, it's great that shelters can be the primary residence where a lot of shelter users can register to vote. I believe there are already these great processes and systems in place that are helping to reach those extremely marginalized people who are homeless, women and gender non-conforming people who are fleeing situations of violence.
We also have to note that a lot of homeless people don't use shelters for various reasons, because they use drugs or feel unsafe, especially during times of the pandemic, when shelters have had to reduce capacity. A lot of shelters have fewer beds. Emergency winter shelters have fewer beds. Also, a lot of people are couch surfing and living in tent encampments.
Absolutely. Everything you're saying makes sense. A lot of times you look at what people need for identification to be able to vote. I think of the bigger picture. What do people need when they go to the hospital? What do they need when they do different things like register for school or for benefits?
It's not just about one time every four years needing identification. It's about needing identification 365 days a year, all of the time. I think that needs to be easier. Rather than change rules on what we do, we need to make sure people are able to get proper identification.
Thank you very much for talking about that.
I'll go now to Shelley or Kory, whoever chooses to answer this question. I greatly appreciate your both coming and sharing your information.
When it comes to ballots, I know we've had lots of discussion on what ballots should look like. People have talked about photographs, Braille and a variety of things we may need. What are some of the things you think we can do to enhance the ballot so that it makes it easier for those to vote who may have a little bit of a disability?
Just to add to that, through the work that we've been doing on the AGDI committee, this has been number one on our agenda since we joined Elections Canada, and we talk about it every opportunity that we have. We are very clear on the implications of changing the voting ballot to include photos. We are determined to keep advocating for that.
As Kory said, the illiteracy rates in Canada are ridiculously high. This is not just about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; this is about a whole bunch of other Canadians who don't read or who don't have good literacy skills. As I'm looking around the screen and I'm making notes about who's on here, I'm having to reread some of your names three or four times to print them down, and I'm thinking, “How do you say that?” We know that names can be very confusing.
The other thing I wanted to say is that Quebec did this; it's been done in Quebec. They did have photos on ballots. We know it can be done. We know that we need MP support to do it. That's one of the things that Elections Canada has said to us, that we need to start talking to MPs about it, because there have been conversations with some MPs and they're very opposed to it for a lot of reasons.
Absolutely, building off what Kory said, I think a lot of people just do not want to have to put an election on their plate while they're dealing with so many other things. I think even more important than the process of election is that people right now are dependent on these federal and provincial funding initiatives such as EI and, in a lot of small businesses, the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
The last thing you want is a lot of people in Canada worried that these benefits are going to change all of a sudden, as they've all changed dramatically and frequently in the past seven months. A lot of people worry that these benefits could potentially cease with the transition to a new government, so I agree that avoiding an election as much as possible is something that I think the majority of Canadians in poverty and people in poverty are going to support.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Earle, Ms. Fletcher and Ms. Renaud, I would like to say thank you for the work you do. Thank you for your important testimony today.
Mr. Earle, thank you for the work you do in long-term care. It's not an easy time right now, and we appreciate your work.
I like what you wrote before. You said that you want to especially encourage people with intellectual disabilities to vote, as it is their right, and they should use it. What would help your members to vote?
It's so great to see you, Ms. Duncan. We've crossed paths over the years. You've been a huge champion of pushing the agenda forward, so thank you.
We have to recognize that in order for people to vote, we need to make sure all tools are accessible. We'll continue to push for photos on ballots. We'll continue to make sure that this is an avenue that our members have strongly been supportive of.
We also want to encourage that many take the opportunity to work during an election as well. Give them that opportunity and experience because it's extremely important when you hear so many saying, “Have you applied for a job?” We know so many people who are below the poverty line who would really benefit even from the experience of that.
We talked a bit about phone voting. That certainly would help. On that, I'm curious about how B.C. handled that and what members took from that. Mail-in ballots are extremely important, but also make sure that everyone works together to make sure that the people have that information so they know who to vote for and who the candidates are. Although writing is valid and all of that, it's very challenging for a lot of our members. That's why a lot of us have our support workers who will do that.
The other thing is that when people have support workers who at this point can only help one person in the group homes and institutions, it's really important that these workers be able to help more than one person. So many across this country who are in isolation don't actually have families or have that support connection. That would help the homeless, etc., having that support aspect.
Absolutely. We just held an event not too long ago called Conversations with Kory. I can't begin to tell you the struggles people are going through.
One at the top of mind right now is the mental health crisis in this country. People are isolated. People are lonely. Just think about all of us at the end of the day. All of us get to go home. So many don't. Many are struggling because they're alone and have no one next to them. Many have shared their tears that they just want this whole pandemic to be over. Many have said that they're worried about the holidays even being worse for them. Many have shared how their mental health crisis has not only increased but it's really made them think what there is to life when there's nothing to do any more.
These are stories of everyday Canadians. People face such difficulty. They don't have that ability. They are lonely and so many of them are isolated today. Just think about some people who are in group homes, etc., who already feel that way as is, but now they cannot hang out with the people they wish to hang out with.
When people across the country shared their experiences, we could only say that we felt hopeless, because that's what we felt. We felt hopeless because we wanted to help each and every person to have the best quality of life. Before the pandemic, people's lives were hanging in the balance. During the pandemic, they still hang in the balance and the struggles that they go through have only become a lot more severe.
Sure. I'll be quick as I know that the time is running out.
We've been doing a project with CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and People First of Canada are running a class right now. It's a six-week session for people with intellectual disabilities around their mental health, on how to recognize it, what to do about it, what it feels like, the words to use if they need to go into a hospital. We're doing a ton a great work in that area right now.
The other thing is, as Kory said, this pandemic for our folks has just been so life altering for them. People who live in care are not able to see their families. People who barely make—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ms. Renaud, you talked about incarcerated voters who were having difficulty getting information from political parties on election platforms. We have heard it a number of times, and I find it a little odd.
My colleagues will say the same thing, but in the Bloc Québécois, when someone asks us for information on our platform, we provide it quickly, and in different forms to make our message accessible. If you ask my colleagues, I am sure they will say the same thing about their respective parties.
Have you approached the political parties to increase the dissemination of information through media that allow them to really grasp the information quickly so that they can subsequently make a more informed choice?
You're free to log off at this point. I want to cover a couple of things with the regular committee members before we end today's meeting.
Members, I want to inform you about a couple of things.
In our last meeting, there was a desire to go in camera to take a look at some issues with MP security risks and have some of the witnesses back in order to do so. The clerk has checked into availability for times. I heard through the whips that there might be Monday evening slots available to committees. They're on a first-come, first-served basis. We looked into that and those slots are all taken until January 25, so January 25 would be the next Monday evening time slot we would have available. We have put our name in to hold that spot for now, if we end up having to take that long to meet on that issue.
There is a second option I want to present to the committee. The second option would be to meet after the House rises. There is some capacity for us to meet the week after. That would be the week of December 14. December 15 would be the actual date, in our regular time slot, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It would be the Tuesday after the House rises.
It's up to you guys. Those are the two options. We have the evening of Monday, January 25, which would be after the House resumes again, or we have during the winter break or constituency time on December 15.
Do you have a preference?
I'd be a miracle worker, then.
Thank you for informing me about that, Ms. Vecchio. We were just looking at it in terms of the IT resources. I hadn't realized—and you are very correct—that I'll probably look into that a little bit further as to whether there is some agreement that can come about on that.
We'll just hold the time slot for January 25 for now, and then I'll update you in one of our next meetings as to what's happening with the security risk meeting.
I want to remind you that at Tuesday's meeting—the next meeting we have for this committee—we're going to be considering the interim draft report. Andre, if you want to give any feedback to the committee members, now is a good time. I think he's going to get us the draft report before the weekend starts—sometime tomorrow, hopefully, so you have the weekend to look over it.
I'm getting a thumbs up, so that's correct. You should be receiving that tomorrow, so you have the weekend and Monday to mull it over.
Perfect. Usually, the only time there's an exception to that is if you've requested another email to be used, so your P9 is not flooded. You should receive that tomorrow.
As you're going through the draft report over the weekend, please bring your suggested recommendations to the meeting on Tuesday. In order for Andre to insert them into the report, the deadline for recommendations is later on that day, Tuesday, December 1, at 5 p.m. You will have the opportunity during committee time that day to talk about the recommendations, and then a few hours after the committee meeting to make the submissions to Andre.
That will be a good way of doing it, so we have the benefit of talking to each other about them, and seeing where people are on it.
We have a meeting scheduled for December 10 with witnesses for the study on prorogation. That's going to be for 90 minutes. It's a three-hour meeting. The first 90 minutes will be the continuation of our study. Hopefully, we'll have the chief medical officers of Quebec and Ontario. The other 90 minutes of that meeting will be for the prorogation study.
Some parties have submitted a witness list. I would hope that all parties would submit their choice of witnesses as soon as possible. We're talking about having a constitutional expert, or an academic in that portion. We would only have enough space for four people on that panel, so I'm looking for one recommendation each.
As for that whole study, if you could start submitting recommendations for witnesses for the prorogation study, as well, so the clerk will have enough time to slot it in over the winter break, and start talking to witnesses, so we can be prepared when we come back. It gives him some flexibility to go back and forth with different organizations and people.
The suggestion would be that by December 11, which is the last sitting day of the House, we have the complete list of witnesses from all parties for that whole study, or as complete as you can make it, so we can start planning.
I need the one witness for now, and then by December 11, the rest of the witnesses for the prorogation issue.
Does anyone have any questions? No.
I'll see you on Tuesday.
The meeting is adjourned.