Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today as we get back to the House after a week in our ridings. Last week was very busy, I must say. I also want to take this opportunity to say hello to the many constituents of Beauport—Limoilou who, as always, are watching now on Facebook Live or who will be watching at a later time when the videos are posted on CPAC.
Today we are talking about democratic participation, which I find fascinating. If there is one thing that interests me most in life, it is democratic participation. This was the reason I got involved in politics. I urge Canadians to get involved. Last week I held the first-ever “Alupa à l'écoute!” public consultation in Beauport—Limoilou. I spent more than six hours listening to my constituents and answering their questions. Ultimately, my goal was to hear about the concerns, challenges, and difficulties they face in their day-to-day lives. The next consultation will be in Giffard on September 13, and the third will be in Beauport on November 17. For more information, people can call 418-663-2113. After these three public consultations, I will produce a report in the winter of 2019 and introduce a bill to address an issue that people face in their day-to-day lives. In those six hours last Thursday, I answered every question from around 40 constituents. I was very proud, because this kind of democratic accountability is absolutely essential. That actually ties into this bill.
Let us talk about participatory democracy. Once again, Bill C-76 is not all bad, but we expect that the Conservatives will vote against this bill for specific reasons. I did say “expect”, but that will depend on what happens in committee. My first impression is that this is another attempt by a government that brags about its international and national brilliance. Specifically, the Liberal government thinks it has a monopoly on being virtuous all the time. They want to sell to Canadians on the idea that with this bill they are again improving the accessibility of the electoral system and the eligibility to vote. A number of Liberal colleagues spoke in this place about the integrity of the system. With respect to Bill C-76, we feel that some of the amendments and new rules will directly or indirectly undermine Canada's electoral system.
My Liberal colleague, who as usual was fiery and spouted anti-Conservative rhetoric, said that voting is of course a fundamental right, but that it is also a privilege, as my colleague from Lethbridge stated. It is a privilege that requires a right and individual responsibility first and foremost. The laws that govern Elections Canada at present seek not just to foster participation, but also to ensure that this duty is carried out with integrity and responsibly. It is really a conflict between how to increase the public's participation and how to ensure that the right to vote remains a protected right.
The Liberal member for Willowdale spoke eloquently of the history of our great federation by talking about the changes in voting almost every decade; we went from suffrage on the basis of property ownership to popular ballot. We went from the popular ballot, just for men, to voting for women, thank God. It was Borden's Conservative government that gave women the right to vote. All the parties here, Canada's major governing parties, Liberal and Conservative, are always in favour of making voting more accessible.
We have some technical questions about the bill. That is unfortunate because, as my Liberal colleagues said, accessibility to the vote is a fundamental debate. Why did the Liberals move a time allocation motion a week ago? We were supposed to vote on time allocation today. Surely, the Liberals backed down after finding that they would look undemocratic by allocating only two or three hours of debate on such a fundamental issue.
In comparison, for Conservative Bill C-23, which dealt with Elections Canada and which was introduced during the 41st Parliament, we had four days of debate for a total of 14 hours, in addition to 23 meetings in committee, on this bill that was aimed at improving our electoral system. At this point, we have only had two hours of debate on Bill C-76.
As the NDP did, it is important to recall the concerns raised by the Chief Electoral Officer. He said that the government had previously tabled the amendments to Bill C-76 in Bill C-33, which died on the Order Paper. Actually, it did not exactly die on the Order Paper, because there was no prorogation, but it never got beyond first reading. The Chief Electoral Officer therefore told the government that it needed to get to work right away if it really wanted to make changes in time for the 2019 election. However, the government waited until the last second to make these changes, just days from the deadline set by the Chief Electoral Officer. Clearly, this is just another tactic to keep us from debating Bill C-76 properly.
Certain parts of this bill are fine, but what I find utterly astounding about it is that it proves that Mr. Harper was right back in 2015. The Liberals called us terrible, horrible partisans for announcing the election on July 1. However, the reason we did that was because Mr. Harper had noticed a problem. During the month of June 2015, unions, such as the FTQ in eastern Canada and other big unions in western Canada, which of course are free to protest, had spent tens of millions of dollars on partisan ads attacking the Canadian government in power at the time, which was a Conservative government. Since we could not respond to that situation because we were not in an election period, Mr. Harper, a man of unimpeachable integrity, decided to call an election so that we could respond using election expenses.
Throughout the campaign, the Liberals called us enemies of democracy who only cared about winning votes. In fact, they still say that about us today. However, by creating a pre-election period beginning on June 30 in Bill C-76, they are confirming, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mr. Harper was right to do the same thing four years ago. That is a tribute to our former prime minister.
What exactly would Bill C-76 do? It would expand voter eligibility. Apparently this bill would prepare future voters by creating a register of young people aged 14 to 17 so that Elections Canada can start communicating with them. That seems kind of strange to me because that is when young people are most likely going to CEGEP or community college and living in apartments with two or three roommates. I do not really know how that communication is supposed to happen considering that young people today use their phones and social networks such as Facebook to communicate.
My Liberal colleague said that Liberals support enfranchisement, but giving kids the right to vote is something else entirely. He said that voting is a basic right, but that there is discrimination inherent in our system because Canadian citizens under the age of 18 do not have the right to vote. Voting is not in fact a privilege and a basic right granted to everyone. There are limits, and we can all agree that those limits are good for democracy and the duty to vote because people under the age of 18 have to go to school and do their homework. I strongly agree with that. If they are not in school, they should at least be working or travelling around the world and around Canada without asking anyone for money. I can say for sure that, up to age 18, people should be preparing to exercise their civic duty. That is why people cannot vote until they turn 18. It is not in fact an absolute right for everyone. There is already some discrimination inherent in the right to vote in Canada.
Then there are three pre-election periods. I have already mentioned the pre-election period, so let us talk about the “pre-pre-election” period. There is already a problem with this one, since there will be no constraints on the financial commitments of domestic and international third parties.
Until June 30, we know very well that all the international environmental groups, who like to see the Prime Minister contemplating the death of the oil sands, will spend millions of dollars to promote the end of natural and energy resources in Canada, which is very bad news. Natural resources represent 40% of the Canadian economy. We are in an energy transition. The systematic blindness on the part of the Marxist left and the centrist left in Canada is astounding. We are always being told that we are not making any effort on the environmental front. Since 1960, the environment has been systematically and continuously improved. Let us also not forget that this 40% of the Canadian economy is used to fund hospitals, education programs and our elections, which still cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
They also want an extended period of advance polling, which is very good. I won because of advance polling, so it is a very good idea. Joking aside, it is a good thing.
With regard to limiting the election campaign to 50 days, we could also ask why 50 days and not 37.
The Liberals want to change the requirement of having identification with an address and photo. It will be terrible. I go door to door every month in my riding—