Questioning the Conservative government on the 'Fair' Elections Act

House of Commons

HANSARD

February 7, 2014

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, section 18 of the Canada Elections Act states:

The Chief Electoral Officer may, using any...means that he or she considers appropriate, provide the public...with information relating to Canada’s electoral process, the democratic right to vote and how to be a candidate.

The Conservatives are removing that section. This bill was supposed to target wide-spread election fraud during the last election, so why are they using it to stop the CEO from talking to the media?

Hon. Pierre Poilievre (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has made a factual error in her question. Section 18 of the existing act deals with promotional advertising by Elections Canada and has absolutely nothing to do with communicating allegations of wrongdoing. Sections 534 and 535, not section 18, require the CEO to the House of Commons on electoral events and any matters that arise from them.  These automatically become public and the fair elections act does not change that. Furthermore, the CEO will still have the ability to report any allegations he wishes to the commissioner, who has a legal responsibility to enforce the act.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the minister should read his actual bill, not the imaginary one that he uses.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the actual bill, it does limit the Chief Electoral Officer's access to the media. Clause 7 of the bill severely limits what the CEO can talk about.

For example, the minister is banning the head of Elections Canada to talk about the state of Canada's voting system. Why are the Conservatives using this bill to put a gag order on Elections Canada?

Hon. Pierre Poilievre (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC):

Mr. Speaker, clause 7 amends section 18, which has absolutely nothing to do with the reporting of allegations of wrongdoing.  Section 18 deals with advertising. The last time I checked, Elections Canada does not combat or report allegations by purchasing advertising. It reports allegations to the House of Commons, something that is not only allowed under the fair elections act but will continue to be required of it. Furthermore, the CEO will still have the legal ability to report any allegations to the chief investigator, who is the Commissioner of Elections Canada.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. Under the government's law, the Chief Electoral Officer's scrum outside committee yesterday would now be illegal. That is ridiculous.

Potential voters with no fixed address or government-issued ID will now find it harder to vote. First nations, young people and lower income Canadians will be hurt.

Elections Canada is banned from doing public outreach aimed at encouraging more people to vote.

Why are the Conservatives using changes to the Elections Act to make it harder for people to vote?

Hon. Pierre Poilievre (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC):

Mr. Speaker, in fact, we are making it easier to vote by giving them an extra voting day and allowing resources to reduce congestion at the polls so that voting is faster for Canadians. Furthermore, we are requiring Elections Canada to communicate to people the basics of voting, where, when, and what ID to bring, and to inform disabled people of the special tools available to help them vote. All of the data shows that these are the main obstacles to voting. We are going to remove those obstacles by focusing Elections Canada’s advertising on the basics of voting and providing better customer service to voters.

This Question Period Transcript was posted on February 7, 2014
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