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Results: 1 - 15 of 5707
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-03-26 10:02 [p.5343]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the House again to complete my remarks on Bill C-19. The last day we were debating the bill, I spoke to some of the content of the legislation with respect to what it proposed and some of the areas for improvement that I hoped could be addressed at committee.
I expressed then, and I will express it again now, my desire to see the bill proceed quickly to committee. While it is important for a number of reasons, it is no secret to anybody in the House that this is a minority Parliament, and things can sometimes move quickly in minority Parliaments. We could end up with an election and it is important we be ready for that should it come.
However, I also emphasized, and I want to emphasize again, the extent to which it really is incumbent upon all members of Parliament at this time to work to avoid an election. As a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, who participated in the study on what a pandemic election might look like, we heard very clearly that there were a lot of risks, and they are not just public health risks.
There is a real risk of disenfranchising people and having Canadians who want to vote either decide that they should not because it is too much of a risk to their personal health or they might face other barriers that do not have anything to do with an immediate risk to their personal health but present barriers nevertheless. That might be around transportation options to get to polling stations and other kinds of challenges that people have faced as a result of the pandemic.
What is important to bear in mind is that when all of us were elected in the 2019, the pandemic was not on our minds. Nobody saw this coming. However, we were each elected with a responsibility to be leaders in our community and to speak for our community. For as much as there have been disagreements on many things, and rightly so, and I think that is what people would expect in Parliament, there has been, and ought to continue to be, an overriding sense of responsibility to work together.
There is obviously a really important leadership role for government in that, to continue to have an open posture to consult opposition parties. I, frankly, think it did a better job of that during the early days of the pandemic and it issued in better policy. As the government apparently gets more interested in an election, we see some signs of that here and there in the things the Liberals say, both about Parliament and in the way they have behaved in Parliament, as well as some opposition parties.
We also see it in what the Prime Minister has been saying to his national executive and even in some of the speculation about the date announced for the budget, which is later than many people expected. It happens to coincide nicely with the timing of a pre-summer election should the Prime Minister desire it. There are a lot coincidences happening, and that is the most charitable way to put it.
It would be a mistake for the country to have an election at this time. Different COVID variants are popping up different in parts of the country. We just saw the experience in Newfoundland and Labrador where an election took much longer to complete than anybody expected because the nature of the pandemic changed mid-election and the date was pushed back many times
It is disconcerting that the Prime Minister continually refuses to say that he will not unilaterally call an election. He can make that commitment. If we end up in an election, at least let it be because things actually fell apart in the House of Commons. However, the Prime Minister continues to retain his ability and will not pledge not to use it to go to the Governor General and cause an election.
Parliament has already demonstrated that spirit of collaboration. The fact is that we are having a budget in April 2021, but did not have one for the entire year of 2020. The estimates, which are owed to the House under the Standing Orders, were significantly delayed. This is a sign that Parliament has been willing to accommodate the government and recognize the extraordinary nature of the times we are in.
Parliament has shown a lot of flexibility. It has not always been easy and it has not always been a fun process getting there. It has had its fair share of criticisms from people on all sides, which is fair enough. It is a Parliament and that will happen. The point is this. If we look at the outcomes, we have been able to get enough good outcomes for people to ensure that financial distress and bankruptcy was not the overriding narrative of the pandemic for most Canadians. There are other things we can and should be doing and the place to have that debate is in Parliament.
We were all elected to bring those views to the table and to do our best work to advance solutions on behalf of Canadians. I do not see a reason why that work needs to end. I would be reassured greatly if the Prime Minister were willing to say that much himself and refuse to call an election unilaterally. I will believe it when I see it. In the meantime—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-26 10:08 [p.5344]
Madam Speaker, as the parliamentary secretary ultimately responsible for reaching out and trying to pass this legislation through, I want to extend my hand to anyone who has input and would like me to take any form of action in support of passing the legislation. I have been committed to doing this for quite a while now.
I agree with the member for Elmwood—Transcona that in a minority situation we need to be ready and should be ready. Where I disagree is with the member's assessment of today's Parliament. All we need to do is look at the destructive force we witnessed yesterday from the opposition parties in trying to force standing committees to do certain things.
My question for the member is this. Would he also acknowledge that Elections Canada does have a mandate to be ready, and it will be ready? Hopefully, this Parliament will be able to help facilitate a healthier, safer election, whenever that might be.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-03-26 10:10 [p.5344]
Madam Speaker, on the first point about what happened yesterday, if we examine the list of Liberal private members' bills and motions, what we often see is a long list of mandated studies for committees. This is not a new thing and it has been a frustration to many. I invite the parliamentary secretary to look at the Private Members' Business of many of his own members. What he will see are instructions to committees from the House. I find it weird that he would have a principled objection to that. Perhaps the Liberals should have a discussion in their House leader's office or at their caucus more appropriately about the nature of Private Members' Business their members ought to put forward.
On the second point about Elections Canada being ready, we certainly heard at committee during the study on pandemic elections that Elections Canada would do everything it can to run its—
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-03-26 10:11 [p.5344]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his work on the procedures committee, which studied the recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer. I wonder if he could comment briefly on what he thinks of the government tabling this legislation before that committee has had time to make its recommendations.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-03-26 10:11 [p.5344]
Madam Speaker, I have a bit of a different take on that one. In my my, it was important that the government table legislation before Christmas. I thought it was important that the bill proceed in a spirit of collaboration and that MPs from different parties needed to know what was in the mind of the government with respect to its initial proposal. Otherwise, it would have tabled it at the last minute and the criticism would have been that it had sat on these changes and nobody had time to give input. It was better that it put its best foot forward earlier so there was some time over the break to think about what it had proposed.
It is unfortunate it took so long to get to the debate on Bill C-19. There are a lot of reasons for that. I acknowledge that it was not just because of the government that this happened. It was been better to have a longer conversation with more information rather than less and that—
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2021-03-26 10:13 [p.5344]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
The bill provides for a three-day polling period. However, the Bloc Québécois thinks that two days, Saturday and Sunday, would have been sufficient. As for mail-in voting, that will occur over a very long period, and under the bill, ballots can even be received until the day after polling day, which would delay the announcement of the results and could create uncertainty. All of these things create a risk of electoral abuse, and so I would like to know what the member thinks about that.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-03-26 10:13 [p.5344]
Madam Speaker, I think the biggest risk of uncertainty regarding the election results comes from politicians who say that people should be uncertain about them.
In many countries, the official election results are not known until one or even two weeks after the election, and that is not the end of the world.
We could take the necessary measures to ensure the security of the ballots while they are being counted, which would give a bit more time after voting day. However, that is something that would have to be more thoroughly debated in committee, which is why I want this bill to be sent to committee as quickly as possible.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
Madam Speaker, what concerns does the member have around this legislation being passed in a timely manner so if the Liberals do call an early election, it is a fair one?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-03-26 10:14 [p.5345]
Madam Speaker, one of the things that Canadians need to know about this bill is that there is a clause that says its provisions will not come into effect until 90 days after the bill passes through Parliament, which includes the other place not just the House of Commons.
If anybody is thinking about having an election before the summer, it may well be too late already under these rules. I do think the proposed legislation, and particularly after some improvement in committee, will make for a much better election, both from the point of view of public health but also from the point of view of ensuring that people who want to cast their ballots have their voices heard, that their votes count and that they get them in the ballot box.
It is really important that these modifications are made in case we have an election. It is already probably too late for an election that would occur before the summer. I would like to hear the Prime Minister commit to not calling an election before the summer.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2021-03-26 10:15 [p.5345]
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, is a real warrior on interesting issues such as the convention for moving from a House to an election.
I really want to ask him about one of the missing pieces, which I was surprised was missing, and that is the physicality and the COVID risk of collecting the signatures. Usually our volunteers go out to collect those signatures, as we have to have 100 signatures on paper. I know from provincial colleagues that this was a problem in the pandemic. Could the member comment on that?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-03-26 10:16 [p.5345]
Madam Speaker, this is a really critical issue. The committee should be taking this up as one of its priorities for the legislation.
People in the House will know that I am not a wallflower when it comes to criticizing the government. However, if we look back to Bill C-76, it was a very combative way to change the Elections Act. The approach so far seems to be different, and that is important. It creates the space for the committee to do good work on this and other issues to get some changes on which we can all agree, and then proceed on that basis.
I remain optimistic in respect to this legislation that we should be able to find a path forward and get good rules in place to protect both public health and democracy in the case that we do have an election. The best option is to not have an election right now. It is not a good time.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I think it is very clear that the government desperately wants a pandemic election, because it is focused on its own political interest.
Part of the argument the government is making is about Parliament not working. What we have seen is the opposition working very collaboratively to get key spending bills passed, especially in the early phase of the pandemic.
Also, we do see cases where opposition parties are working together to get things done that the government does not like. We saw it with the creation of the Canada-China committee, the Uighur genocide. We have a motion at the foreign affairs committee on COVAX which the government is filibustering.
Does the member have a comment on the fact that if anyone is hurting the work of Parliament, it has often been the government that has been trying to delay things on which opposition parties are actually working together?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-03-26 10:18 [p.5345]
Madam Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is currently undergoing a filibuster by Liberal members who do not want to have a vote on a particular motion that has to do with the WE Charity scandal, I am certainly attuned to the ways in which the government is also causing dysfunction when it suits its political purposes.
That is why I reiterate that we all have a responsibility, as MPs, to try to rise above that kind of stuff, do our jobs and keep the focus on people. That includes trying to avoid an election right now, because there are serious risks to both public health and to our democracy. We do not need a political crisis on top of an economic and public health crisis, and the best way to avoid that is to not have an election. We need to think differently about the way we might have approached our jobs in the last Parliament and in the early days of this one.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Majid Jowhari Profile
2021-03-26 10:19 [p.5345]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kings—Hants.
I am happy today to discuss Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response), tabled last December. This is an important piece of legislation that would create more accessible voting options for all Canadians. More precisely, I will outline the ways in which this bill seeks to temporarily enhance mail-in voting for electors should a general election be required during the pandemic.
We have seen during this pandemic how important accessibility is. We have even taken accessibility measures in the House, through the use of Zoom video conferencing and voting by app. Mail-in voting is a safe and accessible option for all Canadians. According to research conducted by Elections Canada, it is expected that up to five million electors would choose to vote by mail for an election during the pandemic. In comparison, approximately 50,000 electors opted for this during the 2019 federal election. This is only 1% of the turnout that could be expected during a pandemic.
Jurisdictions inside and outside of Canada that have had elections during the pandemic have witnessed a steep increase in the use of mail-in ballots. Many electors, particularly those who are most vulnerable, choose to vote in this manner because it is safe and secure. The existing federal mail-in vote system is no different, and nothing in Bill C-19 would change that.
At the same time, we need to be prepared for an expected surge in mail-in ballots, which is why Bill C-19 includes new mail-in vote measures. These measures would strengthen the current mail-in vote system by facilitating the use of this voting method for all Canadians, thereby ensuring the health and safety of electors who feel more comfortable voting from home.
In my riding of Richmond Hill, we have a large population of seniors who would greatly benefit from an expansion of mail-in voting measures. I facilitated a community council in Richmond Hill that specifically targeted advocating for seniors. One of the major concerns I have constantly heard regards engagement. The pandemic has isolated our seniors from their communities, their social circles and the government. Expanding mail-in balloting and making the process simple would ensure that our seniors do not become more disenfranchised.
Bill C-19 would temporarily establish four new mail-in vote measures: First, electors would be able to register online; second, mail-in ballot boxes would be installed at polling stations; third, electors would be able to use an identification number in lieu of a copy of their ID when registering; and fourth, electors would still have the option of voting in person even after registering for mail-in voting.
The first measure would enable electors to apply online to register to vote by mail, thereby allowing them to avoid in-person voting. This would be a critical option for those electors with significant health concerns. In addition, while online registration would provide electors with the opportunity to participate in the election process from their homes, individuals without access to the Internet would still be able to register to vote by mail. For those who are not comfortable registering online, the option to register by mail would still be available. In this way, we would not be limiting options for electors, but expanding them with an option to register for mail-in voting.
Bill C-19 would also see mail reception boxes installed at all polling stations. This measure would recognize that some electors who register to vote by mail may be too busy to return their ballot kits by mail. To support limited in-person contact, we would be providing electors with a secure and convenient means to deposit their ballots.
The third measure would provide electors with the opportunity to use an identification number instead of their ID to establish proof of identity and residence when registering to vote by mail. This measure would make it easier for electors to register to vote by mail-in ballot, especially our most vulnerable who face significant health risks.
I would note that this, like all elements of Bill C-19, is a temporary measure in which electors must consent to the use of this data when registering with an identification number. To protect against voter fraud, Elections Canada is required to hold relevant data on electors.
Lastly, with Bill C-19, electors would still have the option of voting in person even if they had already registered to vote by mail. Electors who chose to do so would have to return their mail-in ballot kits after registration or sign a declaration stating that they had not already voted by mail-in ballot. We want to help ensure the integrity of the vote this way.
Canada's federal voting system is robust, with measures already in place to safeguard electoral integrity against fraud. Elections Canada has a long history of experience administering the mail-in voting system, with extensive integrity measures and safeguards. There is no evidence to suggest that the current system enables widespread voter fraud or poses concerns for ballot security.
It is responsible to assume that an expected increase in mail-in voting may trigger the need for the chief electoral officer to adapt provisions of the Canada Elections Act during the pandemic. As such, the proposed increased section 17 authorities would allow the CEO to respond accordingly should new challenges or circumstances arise. Taken together, these measures seek to address our unprecedented times by providing extensive opportunities for Canadians to vote. We are building on a mail-in voting system that is expected to see a surge in use.
I would encourage hon. members to support this legislation and send it to committee, as mail-in voting will experience an unprecedented surge that we need to proactively address. The sooner this bill goes to committee, the sooner we will be able to do a substantive review of it, send it to the other place for approval and implement these measures before any election may be called during the pandemic.
The measures outlined in this legislation aim to do so with strength and efficiency and will support electors voting from the comfort of their homes. These measures are imperative in assuring that we do not put vulnerable Canadians at risk while also limiting large election crowds in public spaces such as schools, community centres and religious spaces, where voting booths are usually located.
In closing, in such challenging times, Bill C-19 provides ways to ensure that citizens can safely and widely participate in the electoral process.
I thank all members and urge them to support this bill and send it to committee.
View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2021-03-26 10:28 [p.5347]
Madam Speaker, I want to go back to a point that was raised just before the member's speech. It was from the member for Elmwood—Transcona, who talked about the act being implemented 90 days after receiving royal assent. There is a provision that would allow the chief electoral officer to do so sooner, at their discretion, through the Canada Gazette, which takes me to my point and my question.
This bill is obviously coming forward because of the advice and some recommendations from the chief electoral officer, who is asking Parliament to make some changes if an election were to happen.
How important does the member opposite think it is that we make sure these measures the CEO is asking for are implemented in due course?
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