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Results: 1 - 7 of 7
View Richard Cannings Profile
Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise here today to speak to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. I am somewhat happily surprised to get this speaking opportunity, as we are debating this under time allocation.
The irony is, if it was not so serious, it is a bit delicious debating a bill that would change the rules around our elections, the foundation of our democracy, under time allocation after only a couple of hours of debate on the committee report. It is doubly ironic because the Liberals used closure to limit debate on second reading as well back in the spring. I remember that. Maybe it is a triple irony, because in the previous Parliament, the Liberals used one of their opposition days to debate a motion that time allocation must never be used to cut off debate on any bill that touches on our electoral system, and they have already done it twice here.
The history of this bill, as the previous member touched on, goes back to the time of Conservative Bill C-23, the so-called “Fair Elections Act” of 2014. If there was ever an Orwellian name for a bill, that was it. Among other things, that act made it more difficult for many Canadians to vote and ordered Elections Canada not to educate Canadians about the electoral process.
Both the Liberals and the NDP ran in the 2015 election on a promise to repeal Bill C-23 and get rid of the first-past-the-post electoral system once and for all. What have the Liberals done with regard to the Fair Elections Act? In late 2016, they tabled Bill C-33, and then sat on it for 18 months and did nothing. Then they tabled this bill, Bill C-76, on April 30 of this year, which included the measures of Bill C-33. That is a little late, because the Chief Electoral Officer had given the government a deadline of April 30 to pass any legislation around election changes because they had to be ready for the 2019 election. The government was a bit late with its homework there.
Here we are almost two years after the government tabled C-33, its first attempt at electoral reform, two years after it broke its promise that the 2015 election was going to be the last election run under the first-past-the-post system, and five months past the Chief Electoral Officer's deadline for legislation to be passed in time for the 2019 federal election.
What is in this bill that we have been waiting for all these months and years? To be fair to the government, I will start with some of the good measures we are happy to see on this side of the aisle. In fact, many of them are changes the NDP has been calling on the government to do for some time. It would limit the writ period of any election to 50 days, thus eliminating the chance for another marathon election like the 70-day campaign we had in 2015. That is great news for all Canadians, not just for candidates. I would like to thank my NDP colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, for suggesting this to the government in the form of his private member's bill.
I am happy to see two parts of this bill that would encourage young people to get informed and involved in the electoral process. Like many MPs, I go to a lot of schools to talk about government and the electoral process. During the Thanksgiving break I spent a whole day at Grand Forks Secondary giving classes on civics, and a couple of classes on biology as well, because I was a biologist in my former life, but that is outside the scope of this topic.
The questions I get asked at school talks are often much more informed than those I get at open town halls. Unfortunately, the turnout for young voters at elections is usually well below that of older voters, so I am happy Bill C-76 would allow the registration of future electors between the ages of 14 years and 17 years. This simple act has been shown in other jurisdictions to increase the proportion of young people who vote after they turn 18.
Unfortunately, the Liberals voted down an NDP amendment to this bill that asked the government to study the possibility of lowering the voting age to 17. We allow young Canadians to join the military at age 17, but for some reason we do not want to give them the right to vote in our elections, to give them a voice for their future in this country.
Second, this bill would remove the ban on public education programs conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer through Elections Canada. Why this ban was put in place in the so-called Fair Elections Act is beyond me. However, I welcome the opportunity for Elections Canada to inform and educate Canadians about the electoral process.
Bill C-76 would also bring back the process of vouching to allow electors without proper ID to vote, as well as allowing the use of the voter ID card for the same purpose. These were disallowed under the Fair Elections Act in an effort that seemed to want to solve a non-existent problem, that of voter fraud, for which there are vanishingly few if any examples of, by creating a much more serious problem that inhibited Canadians, particularly disadvantaged citizens, from voting at all. We should be encouraging Canadians to vote and this will be a step in the right direction at last.
Unfortunately, the government missed an opportunity to increase gender equality in Canadian elections, to increase the number of women running as candidates. The Liberal government talks glowingly about its commitment to gender equality, but does next to nothing in the bill to advance that.
Canada is far behind other countries in gender equity in political representation. My former colleague, Kennedy Stewart, now the mayor of Vancouver, put forward a private member's bill that would have strongly encouraged parties to increase the proportion of female candidates in future elections. Unfortunately, the government voted that bill down and failed to include its provisions in this bill.
There is no ban on foreign third party spending or activity. We have seen evidence of how foreign activity has affected elections in the United States and the UK. We need to ban that from Canadian elections. We hear almost daily stories of election tampering in those areas and others.
Canadians are deeply concerned about privacy issues during election campaigns. Political parties amass huge amounts of personal information on voters, yet there is nothing in the bill that covers this.
The present Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perrault, said in committee, “If there is one area where the bill failed, it is privacy. The parties are not subjected to any kind of privacy regime.”
The Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, said that the bill had “nothing of substance in regards to privacy.”
No one at committee spoke against more stringent privacy requirements. Everyone was concerned that we did not go far enough.
I will close by bringing up the big thing missing from the bill and that of course is real electoral reform.
The Liberals, the NDP and the Green Party all campaigned on a promise that 2015 would be the last election under first past the post. Over 60% of Canadian voters supported that idea. For many Canadians, that was the most important promise of the election.
Canadians were tired of elections that gave parties with less than 40% of the vote a 100% of the power in a majority government. The Harper government was an example and the present Liberal government is another. Unfortunately, once the Liberals were in power, they forgot about that promise.
The Liberals say they want to increase the participation of Canadians in the electoral process. They say that Bill C-76 is their answer to this. However, the incredible cynicism on their lack of action on real electoral reform has already had a negative effect on how Canadians feel about their elected representatives and whether it is even worth voting in the next election.
I support many of the reforms contained in Bill C-76, but it falls short in so many ways. Like so many bills we see in this place, it is a tentative step in the right direction, but we need to go further.
Let us get rid of big money in elections. Let us ban foreign interference in elections. Let us protect the privacy of Canadians. Let us get back on track to getting rid of first past the post, so every vote will count.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2018-10-24 16:40 [p.22805]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as we are at the final stages of Bill C-76. This is the Liberals' attempt to fix the attack on our democracy that came out of the last Parliament, when the Harper government moved what it called the Fair Elections Act, which was clearly the unfair elections act. It tried, in various ways, to disenfranchise a number of Canadians, particularly low-income Canadians, indigenous people, young people and people one would suspect Stephen Harper did not think supported him.
Rather than make policies that appealed to various groups, the Conservatives' approach was to write legislation in our Elections Act to make it harder for them to vote, which was quite cynical and nefarious. We have been waiting a long time for this bill from the government. It actually introduced one almost two years ago that would have undone the unfair elections act. Then it did nothing with it for 18 months. It did not move it, debate it, or talk about it. It waited until we had this bill, Bill C-76, which is much larger and takes on more issues.
For those watching, I just asked my Conservative colleague if she joined with us in agreeing with the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner, the privacy and ethics committee of the House of Commons and every expert we had come before committee. They said that one of the great flaws in Bill C-76, as it is constituted right now, was it virtually said nothing about privacy. All the Liberals are requiring political parties to do is to have a privacy policy somewhere on their website.
The policy does not have to do anything. The policy is not enforceable. It does not mean anything with respect to protecting our democratic values. They just need to have a policy somewhere. We have warnings from around the democratic world, from our European allies and our American cousins, saying that we have to fix this because the attacks are coming. The disruptions, disinformation and misinformation, the fake news campaigns that we see on social media are genuine threats to disrupting free and fair elections in their countries and obviously in ours as well.
The bill is flawed, to say the least. There were hundreds of amendments at committee. We have 179 amendments here, from all parties including the government side. The Liberals took three years to get to this point and they got it wrong on many levels.
It is unfair to simply criticize legislation. We are always working to improve things, to make them better, because this should be non-partisan. We all agree that elections are vital to the health of our country and those elections must be free and fair. We must allow the parties to argue their points and let Canadians, in a free and fair way, make the decision as to who they wish to speak on their behalf. However, we know that on some of the most important aspects of our democracy, Bill C-76 made a half-hearted attempt or no attempt whatsoever.
We moved motions to include the idea of my friend Kennedy Stewart, the mayor-elect of Vancouver, to reimburse parties according to how fair they were toward women and other under-represented groups in Parliament. We know the facts and they are undeniable. This Parliament is 26% women. The last one was 25%. Under the current trend, it will take 80 years until we have a gender equal Parliament, unless we do something about it. We proposed to do something about it by amending the bill and the Liberals said they did not want to talk about it and voted against the idea.
The Prime Minister loves to talk about what a feminist he is, but he does not like to do much about it. Things like this, like pay equity, things that matter to women, the feminist across the way cannot be bothered to raise his hand in effort.
We also tried to include electoral reform changes. We all remember the famous and often repeated promise from the Prime Minister to make every vote count, to ensure that 2015 was the last election under first past the post. We wanted to help the Prime Minister keep that promise. What a radical idea. The Liberals did not want to talk about that either.
We also believed that we should talk about younger people voting. We have support from some Conservatives and some Liberals to just study the idea, to have Elections Canada look at what it would mean to our democracy if 17 year olds voted. What would the effects be? What would the impacts be, positive and negative? That would be for a future Parliament, not even this one. A future Parliament could look at lowering the voting age. The Liberals did not want to talk about that either.
We talked about Sunday voting and all the evidence from democracies around the world, including sub-national democracies in Canada, the provinces and municipalities. We know if we allow for Sunday voting, rather than a Tuesday, which is an odd day to have a vote, it can raise voter participation by 6% or 7%, particularly for marginalized voters. We have all the research on this. What do the Liberals want to do? They want to study it more, which I have begun to learn is Liberal code for “no”. When we ask them to do something, they say “We should study that”. We have come to learn over these past three years that “study” means “no”. It is just that they can say it with a smile rather than simply reject the idea.
The lion's share of the work and the evidence that we heard was around this issue of privacy. Let us understand what we have learned, and these have been hard lessons over these last number of years.
Our British cousins learned through the whole Brexit episode that Cambridge Analytica and a whole bunch of dark and dangerous companies were out there micro-targeting voters through social media, through harvesting data out of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all those accounts that people use for social interaction but also for their political and news interactions with the world. There are companies that were able to break the code of Facebook, sneak around the walls of Instagram and find out more about people than people ever wanted them to know, and not just about those people, but also about their friends and connections. Then they would target them.
This is a dangerous problem because the ability to spread the lie becomes so much more powerful. We no longer use the scattergun approach to say that a candidate is terrible, or one's friend is a terrible person, or this policy is going to lead to that. They can hyper-target particular voters they are looking to sway. The British learned this the hard way. Ask the British Prime Minister how the whole Brexit thing is going for her. Ask the Irish and the Scots how they are feeling about it. We know that the vote was not done fairly, and there was some participation of Canadian companies.
The privacy and ethics committee in this place, made up of all parties in this place, said in its conclusion that political parties must fall under privacy rules to protect our free and fair vote. In rejecting our amendments, Liberals on the committee rejected the analysis and understanding of Liberals on another committee, and not just theirs. They also rejected the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada who said to us that if there is one area where the bill has failed, it is privacy.
The Privacy Commissioner told us that Bill C-76 contains nothing of substance when it comes to privacy. OpenMedia conducted a poll of Canadians and found that 72% of Canadians want political parties to have some sort of rules governing their management of data, their protection of the data they gather. Let us all admit; the other parties will not admit it, but we will, and one day they will join us here: Political parties are in the game of understanding voters. That has always been true. That has gone into overdrive in the last 10 to 20 years.
With the advent of the Internet and social media, the ability to gain information about voters, multiple points of data about each individual voter at the voter level and then target those voters with specific messages can be a positive thing. If someone is interested in the environment and pipelines and wants to know why the Liberals spent $4.5 billion on a 65-year-old pipeline, a political party might want to know that so it can talk to people about what a dumb idea that was, especially for a climate change fighting Prime Minister. That might be a good bit of data to know. However, we also know that parties are collecting this massive amount of data with no rules or oversight whatsoever.
Let us look at the Europeans. The justice commissioner of the European Union, which is on the verge of having elections, said that we can no longer treat this as business as usual. The threats coming from foreign governments, foreign agents and domestic folks that are looking to simply subvert our elections, to cast doubt on the democratic process is real.
The U.S. justice department, under Donald Trump of all people, has said that it is information warfare, that there is an interference in the U.S. mid-term elections going on right now that is connected back to Vladimir Putin.
All these examples are coming forward to us from our own experts, from international experts, and the Liberals said, “No, we do not care. We simply do not care.” They are going to allow the bill to go through without any significant and meaningful changes to protect our democracy. What is an election bill for if not that? I am simply at a loss for words when I talk to my Liberal colleagues and say that not one witness said that we should just leave the whole privacy thing alone, that everything is good, that the status quo is fine. Every single witness, including our own Chief Electoral Officer, said it is imperative to act, and the Liberals shrugged.
Here is the question and I will leave it at this. There are challenges and tensions that exist within each individual MP, their loyalty and observation of what their party wants and their loyalty to country. This is a clear case where, if we only are here to defend Canadian democracy and make sure our elections are free and fair, the choice would be clear, that we need to approve the changes that the NDP is proposing, suggested by our Chief Electoral Officer, our Privacy Commissioner and every expert we talk to.
The Liberals consistently chose party over country. That is unacceptable regardless of what Canadians feel like, regardless of what their voting intention is.
Bill C-76 has to do better. We can fix it at the very last moment if people are willing to work together.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-05-01 10:05 [p.18951]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-401, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting age).
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour to introduce a new bill today. Bill C-401 will lower the voting age in Canada and create a system in which young people can vote once they turn 16.
The objective of this legislation is to increase voter turnout among young people in Canada. Across a number of western democracies, voter turnout is the weakest in the demographic where voting matters the most, the people on whose lives the decisions will have the most impact. Young people in Canada, ages 18 to 24, vote the least. Research has shown that if they start voting at a younger age they will continue voting longer. If someone has not started voting before the age of 25, that individual will not start voting at 30. The evidence is clear.
The goal of this amendment to the Canada Elections Act is to give young people the right to vote at the age of 16, knowing that in the context of still being in high school, still being at home, and being in their own community, they are more likely to vote.
I hope the House will look on this bill favourably. Some small adjustments will need to be made based on Bill C-76, which was tabled in the House yesterday.
View Dan Vandal Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Dan Vandal Profile
2017-10-31 10:09 [p.14724]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française that seeks to lower the minimum voting age to 16. Lowering the voting age to 16 would give young people a voice, restore some balance, and encourage politicians and political parties to take their concerns into consideration.
The voting age is already 16 in other parts of the world, including Austria, Nicaragua, Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador.
It is my pleasure to present this petition on behalf of the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française.
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2016-06-02 16:18 [p.3972]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Victoria on what I think is one of the most powerful, well-reasoned and cogent speeches that I have heard in the House in eight years on any subject. I was particularly interested in his accurate and powerful description of the extension of the franchise and his narrative of democracy being a living organism and not a static kind of concept. He pointed out that in Canadian democracy, we have gradually expanded the vote from white men with property to people with property to women to aboriginals to non-Caucasian people, from people who are 21 years of age down to those who are 18.
My question for him is this. Several people on different sides of the House have proposed that it is time to expand the franchise to reduce the voting age to 16, so 16- and 17-year-olds, whom we tax, who drive, who can marry, who can join the army, can also have a say in their democratic structure. As we explore our democratic reform system, is this an opportunity for us to take the next step and actually continue that process of enlarging the franchise to get more Canadian citizens involved in their democracy?
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-06-02 16:19 [p.3972]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and friend from Vancouver Kingsway for his very generous remarks.
I am personally committed to lowering the voting age. It is the right thing to do for a number of reasons, the least of which is because the kids today are a lot smarter than I was when I was that age and are much more involved. This would be an opportunity to engage them more. Rather than phoney events in their high schools where they vote for the student union, imagine if real politicians came in and were trying to achieve their vote? To me, that is a really important test. If we can hook young people on democracy at a young age, I suspect that positive addiction will continue throughout their lifetime. There are a number of good reasons for doing so. I hope the committee will study that as well.
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2016-01-28 10:13 [p.518]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-213, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting age).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House to introduce a bill that would widen the franchise of this country by extending the privilege of voting to Canadians aged 16 or over, with great thanks to the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
The history of the franchise in this country is one of expansion. At one time only men could vote, only men with property. Women could not vote, first nations could not vote, and people had to be 21 years of age. Studies show that individuals who begin voting early in our democratic process are more likely to continue voting for the rest of their lives. We know that voter turnout is generally anywhere between 50% and 65%. Therefore, this is an important initiative to get young voters engaged in our process.
Young voters often work and pay taxes, and yet they have no representation as to how those tax dollars are spent. Voter promotion could be organized through our public education system and start off the process of engaged citizens early on in their lives. Examples of countries that do extend suffrage to 16-year-olds include Austria, Brazil, Scotland, Argentina, and Ecuador.
I would urge all members of the House to empower young people to get their important voice expressed in the chamber so that their perspective on Canadian life can be fully expressed in our democratic process.
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