Mr. Speaker, leadership often requires making difficult decisions. A good leader makes decisions in the best interests of the people. A bad leader makes decisions in the best interests of him or herself, often to the detriment of the people.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, the government has used the phrase “unprecedented times” to justify many ludicrous actions, such as when it tried to get away with giving itself unlimited taxing and spending powers until 2022, or when it replaced Parliament with a special committee where only certain questions were permitted, or when Parliament was prorogued in order to cover up the Prime Minister's scandal: the unethical conduct he engaged in with the WE Charity Foundation. All of these actions were taken in the name of “unprecedented times”.
Canadians are watching and are catching on. They are beginning to see a pattern wherein the government is exploiting the pandemic in order to engineer scenarios that benefit it politically. This bill is another example of exactly that. While no one would suggest that we do not want to be prepared for an eventual election with a minority Parliament, we also need to be aware that the COVID-19 crisis continues to worsen. Canadians are losing their businesses. We have the highest unemployment rate in the G7 and we have a runaway deficit with zero plan for economic recovery.
Any reasonable person would understand that other priorities need to take precedence over calling an election. In fact, every single party has said it does not want an election, speaking on behalf of what they are hearing from Canadians. What are the Liberals thinking about? They are thinking about sending Canadians to the polls in the middle of a pandemic.
We have learned from the Prime Minister that talk is cheap. He has said his government cares about protecting Canadians, but when it comes down to it, all he seems to care about is protecting his own job. Why else would this bill be rushed through the House of Commons before receiving a report that is supposed to come forward from the Procedure and House Affairs Committee? This committee conducted a study specifically on having an election during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why is there a rush? Why act so quickly? Could it be that the Prime Minister is in fact trying to time things just right so that he can go to the polls when it is most politically advantageous for him to do so? Again, a good leader would govern in the interests of the people.
Many components of this bill are cause for serious concern. They grant the Chief Electoral Officer unprecedented powers to extend the vote time, to allow mail-in ballots to be counted past the deadline, to determine what is satisfactory proof of identity and residence and to accelerate the timeline for these changes to go into effect. I do not believe I need to inform the House of what happens when a large portion of the public questions the validity of election results. Let us just say that chaos ensues.
For democracy to work, it is imperative that the public have confidence in the electoral process. Given that there are so many uncertainties at this time, the government should ensure that the rules are definitive and clear. Instead, we see the opposite in this legislation. This bill gives significant discretionary powers to the Chief Electoral Officer and creates a ton of uncertainty for voters.
While I can appreciate that adjustments need to be made to accommodate safety precautions and various health measures, I believe we should come with concrete rules, not arbitrary guidelines that can be modified on the whim of an individual. This is a recipe for disaster.
What is needed? Any additional powers given to the Chief Electoral Officer should be subject to approval by each party represented in the House of Commons. After election day, no mail-in ballots should be counted. Straying from this norm could create an opportunity for all sorts of problems, and we see this in other countries. Perhaps most importantly, this bill, which will amend the Canada Elections Act in response to COVID-19, must have a sunset clause. We have seen the Liberals attempt to entrench pandemic policies post-pandemic. That cannot be the case with the amendments being made to this legislation. This bill must stop being in effect after the pandemic has subsided. It is so important that this bill have a sunset clause.
Another change to the Canada Elections Act the Liberals are proposing with this piece of legislation is to allow polling stations at long-term care homes to commence 13 days before the end of the election. This one makes zero sense. Sadly, the pandemic has illuminated very tragic realities in senior care homes across this country. Based on the statistics, the elderly are most vulnerable when it comes to suffering from COVID-19 and the loss of life. Instead of minimizing potential exposure, the government now thinks it would be a good idea to have polling stations open even longer, therefore maximizing the opportunity for exposure to COVID-19.
In what world does that make sense? There is zero evidence for this change to the act. It is putting our most vulnerable at risk, and it must not go through. It is ludicrous. It is silly. It is incomprehensible. Clearly the Liberals are in a hurry to hold an election in the middle of a pandemic, and they are putting their partisan interests above the health and well-being of people, the elderly and those with disabilities in particular.
Canadians do not want an election in the middle of a pandemic. We saw the spikes in COVID cases after the B.C. election and the Saskatchewan election. Just imagine what that would look like on a federal level. By not considering the testimony of the health officials appearing during the committee study, the Prime Minister has wasted the valuable time of public health officials and the valuable advice they have offered.
The Liberals have continued to scheme to push through this legislation as quickly as possible, when they should have been prioritizing Canadians and our economic recovery as well as our health. There are legitimate concerns about this new legislation's effect on the safety of seniors, those in long-term care and those with disabilities. I dare say there are concerns for all Canadians.
Canadians deserve clarity around their electoral process and any changes to it, especially if they are forced to go to the polls in the potentially high-risk environment of a worsening pandemic. This bill brings uncertainty and puts vulnerable Canadians at risk at a time when so many Canadians are just trying to keep their heads above water.
It would be nice to see the leader of this country divert some attention from himself and his political career toward the Canadian public and what is in their best interests. The pandemic has exposed the true colours of the Liberal government and where its focus lies. The crafting of this legislation, and the speed at which it is being pushed forward, are prime examples. It is undeniable that this bill was unilaterally constructed on behalf of the Liberals and for the benefit of the Liberal Party of Canada, not the Canadian people.
Our focus as parliamentarians should be on Canadians: on their health, safety, welfare and future. We need to see an economic recovery plan, not a Liberal election plan, as was provided in the 2021 budget. Democracy in Canada has taken some significant hits from the government currently in power. It would be my hope that for the remainder of the House, those on the side of opposition would band together and take a stand on behalf of the Canadian people, insisting on good legislation as we move forward.
It would be my hope, then, that we do not continue the trend of a declining democracy and that we vote against this legislation as it stands today.