Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-76, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act. One of the key foundations of Canadian democracy is the free and fair electoral process by which Canadians vote for their representation here in Ottawa. It is a citizen’s right; it holds our government accountable to the people and makes our country stronger as a result. That is why it is so important that we study the many concerning problems of the bill, which the Liberal government has now decided to introduce so late in its mandate.
Canadians are doubtful of the bill and they have very good reason to be. The Liberals time and time again have broken the campaign promises they made to voters in 2015. Their pledge to address the issue of electoral reform is one of the biggest broken promises of all, and we need to remember how they talked about first past the post during the 2015 election.
What happened? In less than a year they shelved it, and here we are today. It is interesting how things have come around.
Why have the Liberals in government been so lacklustre on the commitments they promised to implement? With so little time left before the next election, why have the Liberals decided to just now introduce this 350-page omnibus bill on electoral reform, when they could have taken steps to bring it forward to debate earlier? Why are we, as official opposition, now being forced to cram our deliberations on Bill C-76 because the government has procrastinated so long on this matter? The Liberals started this process months ago. They should have brought in the bill way before May of 2018.
The acting Chief Electoral Officer warned the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs repeatedly that time was running out for Elections Canada to properly implement any changes to the electoral system in time for the election next year. The deadline for any major changes to be made was last month, April 2018. How can the Liberal government excuse its broken promises on the issue of electoral reform, and how can Canadians be expected to trust it on this file any longer?
The bill purports to improve our electoral system by making our elections more fair and transparent, but it actually damages our voting process in critical ways. When Canadians vote in elections, they expect that everyone will be held to the same high standard, so that everyone’s vote is equal and that no person or group will be able to vote more than once or otherwise have more of a say than anyone else. We ensure this by requiring that when citizens vote, they provide a legitimate form of identification, so that we can guarantee fairness, transparency, and efficiency in all our electoral system.
In fact, as the website for Elections Canada notes and as we have said many times in the House today, Canadians can use nearly 50 different pieces of identification in order to prove their address and their identity. These accepted forms of ID are much more generous than the forms of ID required to purchase alcohol or, in the future, cannabis. They are much broader and more inclusive than the forms of ID that are required even to board a plane for a domestic flight.
Canadians need a driver’s licence to drive a car, a motorcycle licence to drive a motorcycle, and a library card to take out a book from their public library. In order to vote, Canadians do not need to have any of these pieces of identification. A citizen could vote by showing their student ID card and their utility bill, for instance. The Liberals do not like to accept the fact that all sorts of pieces of identification may be used by Canadians in order to exercise their democratic right to vote, so they claim that voter participation is hurt, despite these generous identification requirements.
How is this true? Is this claim actually true? Well, as we all know, data from Elections Canada tells us that the 2015 federal election saw the biggest voter turnout since 1993. Around 3.6 million people voted in the advance polls alone, which was another record-breaking achievement.
What about young people? We talk about young people a lot in the House of Commons. The Liberals previously justified Bill C-76 on the premise that the current identification requirements turn away youth from voting. We note that on May 10, the hon. member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, across the aisle, emphasized this line of reasoning by stating, “What this legislation does is to get youth more involved in the electoral process. I think it is a good thing when our youth are involved in our democracy”.
We agree that greater youth participation is something we all want to see in elections, and during the last election, we saw just that, young people coming out to the polls. In fact, the official data from Elections Canada shows that in the 2015 election, the participation of voters aged 18 to 24 increased by 18.3%, to 57.1%. Back in 2011, only 38.8% voted. We saw a major increase from 38.8% in 2011 to over 57% four years later, which is almost a 20% gain. This is the largest increase for this group since Elections Canada began recording demographic data on turnout in 2004.
Those nearly 50 different types of acceptable ID did not lead to a decrease at all in voter turnout among young people. Quite contrary to the Liberal narrative, actually, the percentage of young people voting went up significantly. As I mentioned, it was by almost 20%.
What about those voting on reserve? What did the turnout look like there? Once again, the data from Elections Canada tells us a different story from the one we continue to hear from the Liberal government. When we compare the voter turnout in 2015 to that of 2011, we find that on-reserve voter turnout increased by 14%. Furthermore, Elections Canada reports that during the 2015 federal election, the gap between turnout on reserves and turnout among the general population was the lowest observed by Elections Canada since it began calculating turnout for aboriginal populations in 2004.
Evidently, then, we see that what the Liberals claim to be the case in terms of falling voter turnout across the country clashes with what we find is reality. Far from disrupting voter turnout, as the Liberal fearmongering said it would, the nearly 50 accepted pieces of voter identification during the last election correlated with increases in voter turnout across this country. Nonetheless, the Liberals are pushing forward with this bill, Bill C-76, and in the process of doing so are threatening the integrity, transparency, and fairness of our electoral system, which would hurt all Canadians.
Under this bill, people would be able to use their voter identification cards as valid pieces of identification when they went to vote. This change would be implemented despite the fact that the government admits that 986,613 voter information cards were issued with incorrect information and had to be revised during the last election, in 2015.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
Mr. Speaker, in the early 2000s, I actually worked for Elections Canada. I went to Watrous, Saskatchewan, to a seniors place. I knocked on the doors and I talked about identification for voters. Many of them were bedridden. During the election at that time, in 2004, Elections Canada officials would go to the rooms and check off the ballots for the people in bed.
I think this would help. Many people have a tough time getting to the polls. As I mentioned in my speech, advance polls are certainly picking up across the country. Those who are bedridden should have the democratic right to vote, and I can see this helping them out.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
Mr. Speaker, the government admitted that in the election of 2015, 986,613 voter information cards were issued with incorrect information and had to be revised.
As I mentioned, I worked for Elections Canada. I was one of those people who would be in an electoral situation in a room. It was in Saskatoon. Many people in the early 2000s did not have proper identification. We went through the process, and we gave them, at the time, the right to vote.
The fraud situation is hard to prove. However, we know that third parties in this country are getting a bigger say than they should. This legislation would strengthen third parties, which is something I think all Canadians are very concerned about. We have seen what third parties have done in the United States. We have seen what third parties did with Brexit in Britain. We are all concerned about third parties. The money they are pouring into this country is a concern for all Canadians for 2019.