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View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 33 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-19.
The meeting will be webcast on the House of Commons website. Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. Therefore, members can attend either in person or remotely using the Zoom application. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that taking screenshots or photos of your screen is prohibited.
Since I don't see anybody attending in the room, I will just remind everyone who's participating virtually to select your language of interpretation at the bottom of your screen. Ensure that you are on gallery view so that you can see the entirety of the committee. As well, you will have to mute and unmute yourselves throughout the meeting. Please raise your hand on the toolbar below if you wish to speak to an amendment.
(On clause 10)
The Chair: At our last meeting, we left off with CPC-17.
Ms. Vecchio, maybe we can have you reintroduce it. I know that you already moved CPC-17. If you wish, you can speak to it again, just to give the committee a refresher on that amendment.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Thanks so much, Ruby. I'm happy to do so.
This amendment would limit the Chief Electoral Officer's ability to accelerate the implementation of the provisions, which would be enacted by clauses 2 through 5, to prevent those provisions from coming into effect prior to September 20, 2021, which is the first scheduled sitting day of the House this autumn. In other words, if the Prime Minister wants to call a summer election, it would be under the current rules that are there.
I have just a couple of things. I'll be honest; I know that some members, specifically Daniel, would really like to see this go through—not necessarily this amendment, but this bill—because he recognizes that there's a good chance the Prime Minister will pull the plug. Let's be honest. The only way he can pull the plug is if there's a non-confidence vote, and we have not seen a non-confidence vote that was lost in this House of Commons.
Since we already had a motion indicating unanimously that we do not want an election, this is something that we thought about. Let's get back to work in September and do the job that Canadians are expecting of us.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Ms. Vecchio.
I know that there were maybe some questions for the clerk or maybe Elections Canada. That's why last time you wanted to have that extra time.
Mrs. Karen Vecchio: Absolutely.
The Chair: I completely understand. I apologize for trying to rush you—
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
—to get it done last time, but I was coming from the perspective of maybe not having an extra meeting. Now that we do, now that you were able to help secure that time.... I appreciate, I guess, all the administrative staff in the whip's office who made this possible for us today.
You have that time now. Please go ahead.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
I really appreciate that, Ruby. Thanks so much.
As I was saying yesterday, about 15 million Canadians will be voting in this next election. The fact is that this is all about our democracy. We want to ensure that there is safety, but at the same time, we talked about the fact that, if we're in a pandemic, we know that voter turnout might be a question. There's a variety of things that way. Those things are really important.
That said, there is a good chance that this amendment will go through. I wanted to speak to Ms. Lawson or Michel or Andrew about the bottom line here, about going into this election without this legislation. We heard from the Chief Electoral Officer that he would be able to hold an election during the pandemic currently under this legislation. I just want to confirm that this is the case.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Under...?
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Under the current laws of Elections Canada.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay.
Monsieur Roussel.
Michel Roussel
View Michel Roussel Profile
Michel Roussel
2021-06-18 13:08
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the question.
I wish to reassure the members that Elections Canada is prepared to deliver a safe election under the current existing legislation.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Excellent.
I think those are some of the things we need to highlight here. The biggest concern we have, of course, is that we don't want a pandemic election. That is what we'll continue to indicate. Any sort of barrier that we can put up for the Prime Minister, for perhaps the safety....
I'm never wanting to use “the safety of Canadians”. That's not where I'm going with this one, but any time there is something the Prime Minister may have to question himself on—i.e., “Is this going to be good for Canadians?”—we don't want him to be opportunistic. That is why we're looking at this.
Thanks very much.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mrs. Vecchio.
Is there any other discussion on this?
Mr. Blaikie.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Mr. Roussel, can you confirm for the committee that when you're talking about Bill C-19—Elections Canada obviously and rightly has an important public health focus—that you don't consider turnout to be part of your mandate? When you comment on C-19, you're not providing comment on whether turnout would be likely to be better under a C-19 regime versus the existing regime.
Michel Roussel
View Michel Roussel Profile
Michel Roussel
2021-06-18 13:10
Thank you for your question.
Through the measures that we put in place, we wish to ensure that there's a minimum level of barriers, administrative or otherwise, to voting for the electors. You're correct. We don't measure our success by the level of turnout.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any further questions or debate on this amendment?
Mr. Kent.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
I wonder if Mr. Roussel would reaffirm the comment that I believe he made at the last meeting, that to fully implement all of the provisions of Bill C-19, Elections Canada would require the full 90 days.
Michel Roussel
View Michel Roussel Profile
Michel Roussel
2021-06-18 13:11
Thank you.
I am pleased to reaffirm that. I would add, Madam Chair, that the Chief Electoral Officer had once indicated that it might take at least 120 days to fully and properly implement Bill C-19, so it will certainly be at least 90 days, to reassure the members.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That was a good question, Mr. Kent.
Mr. Blaikie.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Along that same line, in the event that Bill C-19 did not pass Parliament before the summer, and passed, let's say, sometime in September or October, it would then likely take 90 to 120 days from that point in order to implement the provisions of C-19, or would you expect that these provisions would be implemented by September, whether the bill passes or not?
Michel Roussel
View Michel Roussel Profile
Michel Roussel
2021-06-18 13:12
We will do whatever is possible to implement the provisions of the bill within the deadline that will have been set by law. I cannot speculate on where we will be in September, as you can understand.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
This is a question from me.
In the past, with election legislation, I know that your office has worked toward figuring out how to implement certain things before the legislation has passed. Is that something you would be looking at doing? Would you be figuring out what would need to be in place if the legislation was to pass ahead of time?
Have you already been doing some of that work?
Michel Roussel
View Michel Roussel Profile
Michel Roussel
2021-06-18 13:12
As you may know, in the context of the current legislation, there are things that the Chief Electoral Officer can do to adapt the current provisions of the act to effect a certain number of adaptations to the procedures. These would probably be put in operation—might be ready—before the 90-day deadline, and I would expect that. However, some of the more fundamental provisions.... When you talk about three-day voting, it is clearly at least 90 days' worth of work to put that in place.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. Some aspects could be done sooner than others. Thank you.
Ms. Petitpas Taylor.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Also, thank you to the officials for being here.
Monsieur Roussel, I have a question for you. I come from the province of New Brunswick and we had an election last year. Again, the government of the day was in a minority legislature and we didn't really know when an election was going to arise. I spoke to the New Brunswick chief electoral officer, who indicated that they had to be ready at any time for a potential election regardless of whether there was a pandemic or not.
I'm just wondering, because we are in a minority Parliament setting and knowing how efficient that you guys always are with respect to putting things in place, whether we would be prepared for an election should one arise at this point in time.
Let's be clear. None of us wants an election. I always say we are certainly not the ones voting against our government right now, so our voting record shows that we don't want a pandemic election. However, I'm just wondering if we would be prepared if one was to arise.
Michel Roussel
View Michel Roussel Profile
Michel Roussel
2021-06-18 13:14
Thank you for your question and your kind words.
I wish to reassure you that we would be prepared to hold an election should one happen.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Roussel.
Are there any further questions, or is there any further debate?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
To qualify that, you could run an election. For the record, could we have an election run safely ?
Michel Roussel
View Michel Roussel Profile
Michel Roussel
2021-06-18 13:15
Yes, we would have an election run safely. We are prepared for that.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Turnbull.
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