REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to table its
Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Monday, April 7, 2014, to examine the subject-matter of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, introduced in the House of Commons on February 4, 2014, in advance of the said bill coming before the Senate, now tables an interim report.
Your committee held six meetings on this study. In total the committee heard from 21 witnesses including the Minister of State (Democratic Reform), the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections, along with many experts, academics, political parties and other stakeholders. The committee also received a number of written submissions.
Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, was introduced because it is important to protect the trust, participation, and reliability of the electoral system.
The committee recommends as follows:
1. Specifically authorize communications between the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Chief Electoral Officer.
2. Include a requirement that attestations of name and address should be given to those who seek it (the elderly, homeless, Aboriginal peoples, etc.).
3. Remove the provision on spending during an electoral period – the part that would exempt as an election expense the commercial value of services provided to a registered party for the purpose of soliciting monetary contributions only from individuals who have made at least one contribution of $20 or more to the registered party or to one of its registered associations, nomination contestants or candidates in the last five years.
4. Extend retention of automated calling service call records to three years, from the one year proposed in Clause 76 of the bill, and make the contracting calling service company the repository for these records.
5. Clarify Elections Canada’s new, reduced role that ends democracy promotion so it will not affect Elections Canada’s working relationship with Student Vote, a project of CIVIX, or other electoral educational programs in elementary and high schools.
6. Encourage Elections Canada to place photographs of candidates on ballots, to address concerns of people who have trouble reading.
7. Encourage Elections Canada to provide information to those with vision loss, such as information about the availability of braille ballots, and to conduct a pilot project in the use of specialized voting kiosks, described to the committee by the CNIB witness.
8. Encourage Elections Canada to consider allowing verified electronic correspondence as a means of identification at polling stations.
9. Both the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections should expressly be able to inform the public of problems they uncover in the electoral system.
Attached, as an appendix to the committee’s interim report, is a minority opinion from the Honourable Senators George Baker, P.C., Serge Joyal, P.C. and Wilfred P. Moore.
MINORITY OPINION FROM THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
GEORGE BAKER, P.C., SERGE JOYAL, P.C. and WILFRED P. MOORE
to the Sixth Report of the
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
(Subject-matter of Bill C-23)
1. Constitutionality of the Bill
Bill C-23 lacks sufficient safeguards to ensure that voters who are qualified to vote are not disenfranchised. The bill, therefore, is clearly unconstitutional in that it violates the right to vote set out in section 3 of the Charter and cannot be saved by section 1.
2. Voter Information Cards
The Chief Electoral Officer’s authority to authorize the voter information card as a valid piece of identification as one of the alternatives to a government-issued piece of photo identification should be restored. (Clause 48(3) amending section 143(2.1))
The clauses of the bill which repeal the provisions that enable a voter without the prescribed pieces of identification to vote, or to register to vote, should be struck from the bill. (Subclauses 48(1) and (2), clauses 49, 51 and 52, subclauses 53(1), (3) and (5) and clause 54)
4. Commissioner of Canada Elections’ Power to Seek Court Order to Compel Witnesses to Provide Evidence
The bill should grant the Commissioner of Canada Elections the power to apply to a court for an order to compel witnesses to provide evidence to assist in an investigation of a violation of the Canada Elections Act.
5. Chief Electoral Officer’s Mandate to Communicate with the Public
The broad mandate that the Chief Electoral Officer currently has under section 18 of the Canada Elections Act to provide information to the public relating to Canada’s electoral process, the democratic right to vote and how to be a candidate, should be restored. Clause 7 of the bill should, therefore, be struck from the bill.
6. Treasury Board Approval to Pay Remuneration for Temporary Employees with Electoral Expertise
Clause 10, amending section 20(1), should be amended to strike out the requirement that the Treasury Board approve the remuneration and expenses of persons with technical or specialized knowledge engaged on a temporary basis by the Chief Electoral Officer.
7. Inability of Commissioner of Canada Elections to disclose any information relating to investigations
Clause 108 of the bill should be amended by striking out new section 510.1, which prevents the Commissioner of Canada Elections from disclosing any information relating to an investigation, except under certain limited circumstances.