Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand in this House to speak to the fair elections act, which I did at the procedure committee for several weeks, and in the media, to make sure that Canadians understand the modernization and reform we are bringing to our elections law. The polls last week seemed to show that Canadians agree with our modernization of elections administration.

I will address the questions and commentary from my colleague from Winnipeg North. First, he said about his own experience at the procedure and House affairs committee that the government did not want to hear and that he did not feel that the government was listening to him. I would remind him that there were almost 30 hours of witnesses. Almost 60 or 70 witnesses appeared at the procedure and House affairs committee to give their perspectives on the fair elections act.

Members in this place spoke in questions and in debate, as well as in discussions in the media, which means that there was a lot of discussion. Our government made 14 substantive amendments to a bill that was already focused on modernizing our antiquated elections law. That word “antiquated” comes from Harry Neufeld himself.

The hon. member suggested that the government acted alone or took charge of an issue that seemingly did not need to be addressed. He certainly has not been following elections law in Canada. In 2011, the results in Etobicoke Centre led to a result being overturned and ultimately to a challenge at the Supreme Court of Canada, where issues related to election administration, the training of officials, and vouching showed that our system needed profound modernization.

Elections Canada asked Harry Neufeld, the former B.C. chief electoral officer, to do a report. He had both an interim report and a final report. The bill is also built on a 2007 Elections Canada report on voter participation and issues related to groups that are under-represented on election day.

I would suggest to the hon. member that this bill did not come out of thin air. In fact, it came out of a profound need to modernize and make our system far more effective and less prone to irregularities, because each election, we have between five and 15 results in the 200 to 500 vote range. Mr. Neufeld’s report showed that our old way of doing things had as many as 500 errors per riding.

In a G7 country, it is unacceptable to have an antiquated system, so we have updated it. It is our position, and it has been clear throughout, and Canadians agree, that one must show some form of identification before one votes at the poll. Canadians understand it. It is reasonable, and our amendment has addressed the concerns about some of the 39 forms not having addresses.

It is a great bill. The amendments have made it even stronger, and our government is proud to move our elections forward with it.

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