STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
AND HOUSE AFFAIRS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA PROCÉDURE
ET DES AFFAIRES DE LA CHAMBRE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, October 26, 1999
The Chair (Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River,
Lib.)): I call the meeting to order. I see a quorum.
Colleagues, you have in front of you an agenda for
this morning's meeting. Following the completion of
some of our procedural matters, we'll move to deal with
Bill C-2. We have the government House leader
attending in that regard.
The first item I want to take up this morning is a
matter than came to my attention in the House on
Friday. I do it as your chair, and I hope you'll
understand the spirit in which I raise it.
This committee routinely introduces into the House
reports on committee membership. The reports are
signed by all whips of the recognized parties in the
House, and these reports are routinely tabled and
concurred with during routine proceedings. On Friday I
tabled the third report of this committee, a routine
membership tabling dealing with associate membership of
standing committees. For reasons that were a little
unclear to me at the time, one of the parties in the
House refused to consent to the concurrence.
So I take the matter up as your chair. If I am to
table on behalf of this committee and if we are to
stick with the convention of the House of concurring
with those reports without debate, then I want it to be
understood around the table that your chair doesn't
want to waste his time, and I'm sure none of you want
me to waste my time. If there's a lack of
communication within the lobby staff or members of an
opposition party or the government party in that
regard, I'd like to get that cleared up. As matters
were, it was the Reform Party on Friday.
I just wanted that to be on the record. When I rise
in the House in that regard, I do it as chair of this
committee and not in any of the other roles I play in
the government. Mr. White was not aware I would be
I'd really just like to see heads nod around the
table, not falling off to sleep, but just to say,
“Yes, we understand, and we'll try to avoid this in
the future.” I'm sure you'll understand if I have to
take it up again that there's been another problem.
However, I'm pretty sure we can overcome these
communication issues informally, behind the curtains
and in lobbies, without the chair having to make the
walk around the House. I hope I don't have to do the
walk in order to get a routine committee report tabled.
Can I move on to the next item on our agenda?
An hon. member: Sure.
The Chair: The next item we want to do is future
business. We'll deal with the report of the
subcommittee on agenda and procedure, which met here
last week. Colleagues on that committee attempted to
scope out the hearings on Bill C-2, and we achieved
some success. A draft of that report is in front of
you. If there is any discussion—and perhaps there
should be—either we could adopt it and take up matters
that have come out of the report, or we could discuss
it before we adopt the report.
Why doesn't your chair tempt fate and ask for some
discussion before we adopt it? Does the adoption
require a mover? Yes. Can I ask someone to move
adoption of that report?
Ms. Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre, Lib.): I
The Chair: So it's on the floor. Can we have
Your chair does note that parties around the table had
agreed that today would be the deadline for submissions
of names of proposed witnesses, so while that doesn't
have to be done at this meeting, I hope all the parties
are in a position to comply with that. Is there any
Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.):
I'm assuming this was adopted by consensus, that there
was general agreement by all the parties at the
steering committee. If that's the case, I'd be
prepared to vote on it. I've read it quickly. We're
off to a reasonably good start. It looks fine to me,
in other words.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Knutson.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Ahuntsic, Lib.): Thank you.
On item 7, the political parties that have been
deregistered, would you like to clarify that for me,
please, Mr. Lee? We're speaking, for example, of what
The Chair: The Marxist Leninist Party is an
example. These are parties that were registered but
that, because of the provisions of the Canada Elections
Act, have fallen into some element of non-compliance
with the prerequisites of being registered, so they are
either in a deregistered mode or about to be
deregistered. I think they are deregistered, and they
still have an existence out on the street, if not under
the Canada Elections Act.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: But they would have originally
had to be registered.
The Chair: They would have been fully registered
parties; that's correct.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. White.
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): I have a
point of clarification, Mr. Chairman. Last week, when
we were working up the agenda here, I mentioned the
desire of Mr. Nunziata to appear as an independent,
since he represents a specific interest with respect to
the Canada Elections Act. It's not clear whether he
fits into the parties scene or whether he will be
treated as a separate witness further down the line.
Was that ever resolved?
The Chair: I appreciate what you're saying about
the status of independents. I think we have two in the
House now. But they could easily be dealt with under
the MP segment of our hearings. We are crafting an
envelope for MP perspectives that we wouldn't want to—
Mr. Ted White: With all due respect, I think
you're wrong, Mr. Chairman. That's specific.
Independents are almost a party to themselves. I think
they are deserving of a little more consideration than
maybe the general input we get from numerous MPs.
The Chair: I'm prepared to accept that they are
MPs without a party label and without access to a party
label, and should be recognized as distinct in some way
because of that. I don't have a problem with that.
Is there any other comment on that issue? Ms. Catterall.
Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.):
The steering committee will have to meet again, because
this is not final; this is a beginning. I think what
we agreed is we'd receive written submissions from MPs
who wanted to make them and then review those and
decide which MPs, if any, we wanted to invite. That's
the time to consider Mr. Nunziata's situation particularly.
I don't know if Mr. White would agree with that.
The Chair: Your chair wouldn't envisage an
independents night here, but I do envisage independents
as having a perspective we should indeed take account
of, and they may have something special to add to the
discussion of this bill. So we'll make sure we don't
forget about them as we craft the hearings.
Do you have something more specific?
Mr. Ted White: Well, a specific request was made
to me, as a member of the committee, by Mr. Nunziata
to have his name put down as a witness. I brought that
submission to this committee last week, and I believe
he falls into a different enough category that he
should be invited as a specific witness. It may be
that the committee overrules me, but I stick to that
The Chair: Okay. We'll note Mr. Nunziata's
request. Thank you.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Mr.
Chairman, I do not want to unduly prolong the discussion, but I
think that we have already had this debate at the Sub-committee on
Agenda and Procedure.
Regarding the MPs, I understand their situation is somewhat
different, but I would like us to maintain the decision that was
made, that is to first receive briefs or written representations,
after which, as Marlene was indicating, the Sub-committee on Agenda
and Procedure will consider the possibility of inviting members of
Parliament who are interested to appear during an evening session.
Eventually, we could indeed consider how we could organize that
evening session in such a way that independent members could really
have their say. Mr. White may want to consider that Mr. Hoeppner
might wish to appear at that time.
The Chair: Point made.
Does anyone else want to discuss this? Okay.
It is clear that we have to have witness names in
today. Our committee staff will review those witness
lists by name, by region, and by category of interest
in the Canada Elections Act, and then come back to the
steering committee with some sense of order that we can
look into and hopefully adopt as a pattern of witnesses
here before the committee.
If that's agreeable, then may I put to a vote the
motion for adoption of this subcommittee report? It's
already been moved.
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: Thank you.
Now we have one small item of business that should
take us up close to the 12 o'clock window for the
Colleagues will note that the subcommittee report
we've just adopted does contain reference to our
hosting of a small event for the visiting Italian MPs.
I thought we might want to deal with that separately,
but I will remind you that—
An hon. member: [Inaudible—Editor].
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chair: We're still fighting over what kind of
wine, if any, will be served at the event, Italian or
Canadian. That happens on Monday, November 1 from 4:30
to 5:30 in Room 237-C, just upstairs. We as a committee
are hosting, so I would encourage your attendance for
as much of that period as you are capable of.
Mr. John Solomon (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre,
NDP): Thanks, Mr. Chair. I have just a clarification
on the names that were suggested at the steering
committee for witness options. Are they going to be
invited? What was the final decision? In particular,
the ones I recommended....
The Chair: Mr. Solomon, you did present an
excellent list with many competent people, leaders in
their field, but we want to have a comprehensive list
from all of the parties before we make a final
decision. That would be imminent. We'll likely have
to convene a meeting of the steering committee to
finally settle on that. We hope to be able to do that
Colleagues, regrettably we've run out of controversy
to deal with here around the table, and the minister is
not due for another eight minutes, so Mr. Bergeron has
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I would like to make two comments to
relax things, Mr. Chairman, so that we can enjoy a few minutes of
chatting while waiting for the Minister.
First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the
presence of our former chairman, Mr. Adams. It is always a pleasure
to have you among us. I don't know whether we will have many more
opportunities to see you in our committee, but I do hope so.
Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Thank you. I don't think
I will attend your deliberations frequently, but I will do so once
in a while.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Fine.
Mr. Chairman, perhaps we could suggest that we order wine
produced by Canadian producers of Italian origin.
Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): I want foie
gras with icewine.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Italian foie gras?
The Chair: Mr. Bergeron, you're doing a great job.
If you can keep it up, then you won't have to do any
dancing on the table for us here.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chair: I'm going to suggest that we go off
record now and suspend for five or six minutes, so that
we don't have to put all of this into the Hansard. Is
Some hon. members: Yes.
The Chair: We'll suspend.
The Chair: Colleagues, we'll now resume.
We're delighted to have with us the Honourable Don
Boudria, government House leader. As minister, he will
be introducing to us today Bill C-2, the new Canada
The Honourable Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the
House of Commons): Thank you very much, Mr.
Colleagues, I am accompanied by Mr. Michael Peirce, who is
director of legal operations at the Privy Council Office. As you
are no doubt aware, the Privy Council is the Department I am
responsible for under the Elections Act and under all other acts in
my capacity as Minister of State.
I am indeed pleased to be here with you today to discuss our
new Elections Act. I am pleased first because I see the very
familiar faces of my colleagues from the House of Commons, and
second because this gives us the opportunity of resuming our work
on the Elections Act.
I am very aware, Mr. Chairman, of the patience and dedication
that all members of this committee have shown in working very hard
to prepare the report on the Elections Act, and I want first of all
to commend them for their work in improving our democratic process
in Canada, for that it is exactly what we are talking about here.
I will not belabour this, because everyone here knows full well the
importance of what is incumbent upon us—perfecting our democratic
process. I also know that the members of this committee recognize
the critical role played by our Elections Act in that democratic
Mr. Chairman, the proposed amendments to the Canada Elections
Act, which are now before you for your consideration, will come as
a surprise to no one. Indeed, most of those proposals reflect the
outcome of a wide-ranging consultation, a process which has
culminated here, around this table.
In fact, the amendments we are proposing today are largely
based on the findings and recommendations made by this committee,
as well as on the reports of the Chief Electoral Officer, those of
the previous committees that have dealt with this issue and, of
course, on the findings of the Lortie Commission, whose report was
published in 1991. I will come back to this later on.
Even though parliamentary committees and the House itself have
already discussed the Lortie Commission report and even though we
already have made some amendments, there is still a long way to go.
I need only remind you that in 1993, a bill had been introduced in
the House of Commons, but because an election was called that same
year, it died on the Order Paper.
To begin, let me highlight a few of the administrative
changes to this act.
First of all, we're proposing to empower the Chief
Electoral Officer to adjust the voting hours for areas
of the country that don't switch to daylight savings
time. This will address the problem the Saskatchewan
voters had in the 1997 election. I'm sure MP Solomon
will know very well what I'm referring to here.
On a related topic, Mr. Chairman, that is to say the
topic of administrative changes, I want to indicate to
you that an Ontario court struck down a provision
regarding the liquidation of assets for the parties
that lose their official status. We've responded in
this legislation by allowing registered parties that
fail to field the required number of candidates during
an election to retain their assets, subject to certain
conditions. That was a decision of Justice Molloy
some months ago, and you'll probably be familiar with
it, Mr. Chairman.
Also as a result of that court decision.... We used
to have a condition whereby $500 from your $1,000
deposit was refunded for filing your papers, and the
other $500 was refunded only if you received 15% of the
votes. Again responding to Justice Molloy's
decision, we're going to make the entire $1,000
refundable if a person files the papers, and the 15%
criterion will be removed.
We're also proposing to extend voting rights to
returning officers. You might ask what happens in the
case of a tie. Well, first of all, I believe the last
time we had one in Canada was in the general election
of 1963. There are 300 or so elections every time, and
we've had 10 elections since then, so 3,000 times
returning officers have been denied the right to vote,
without our ever having a tie since then. That
procedure is so seldom used that I don't think having
it in there is warranted. Much more preferable is a
mechanism for a run-off in the event that there is a
tie, and that is proposed in this bill.
Also in this legislation we're offering to offset the
impact of inflation, since the act as we now know it
was introduced in 1974. As you know, the threshold for
receiving the 75% political tax credit is $100 right
now. We're proposing to increase that to $200. It
will bring it a little closer to what the provinces
have. For instance, Ontario has it at $250, some
provinces have it at $300, and so on. So we're
proposing to bring that to $200.
We don't propose to change the other limits within
that, just that one—in other words, to further
encourage the smaller donations.
Second, we're proposing to increase the voucher
expense limit from $25 to $50. You'll know that the
voucher system is a system whereby, if you buy small
things for the campaign office that cost, I don't know,
$10 and you forget to get the receipt at the cash
register, you can just write a little voucher and put
it in the till, and that works for the purpose of
accounting. Well, maybe that was fine in 1974, but
nowadays if you go and buy two pizzas and forget to
pick up the receipt, you're over the $25 limit. So
we're proposing to bring that to $50.
In the last election, many people had problems paying
the auditors. The auditors were only allowed to charge
as much as $750 to your campaign, and that may have
been all right in 1974, but it's very difficult,
particularly in larger centres, to find one for that
price now. We're going to increase that maximum to
$1,500 under this bill we're proposing.
We also want to have measures to ensure that
canvassing and the posting of signs in apartment
buildings will be permitted. We have the curious
situation right now where in row housing, for instance,
if they are freehold, a candidate can express their
democratic opinion by having a lawn sign on their lawn.
If a similar building across the street is condominium
owned, the condominium corporation can pass a bylaw
preventing a person from that right of self-expression.
We think the act should say you can't do that, that a
person should be able to put up that kind of sign if
they so wish. The same thing applies to apartment
buildings, if people want to put a sign in their window
and so on.
We also have put into this bill a strengthening of the
enforcement capabilities of the commissioner for
Elections Canada. As you will know, at the present
time, if you catch your opponent cheating in an
election on the expense limit or on anything else, you
have to resort to the courts to get a common law
injunction, and the threshold for that is very, very
high. You must prove irreparable harm and material
damage and all kinds of stuff, and that is a very high
threshold. We want to make that more flexible, so that
it's not three months after the election by the time
you are able to get redress.
Mr. Chair, we've looked closely at the 1996 decision
of the Alberta Court of Appeal to throw out spending
limits for third parties, but we've also examined the
1997 Libman decision in the Supreme Court of Canada in
that regard. You will know, of course, that the Libman
decision—and I have a copy of it here—says about the
Alberta Court of Appeal regarding third parties:
With respect, we have already mentioned that we cannot
accept the Alberta Court of Appeal's point of view
because we disagree with its conclusion regarding the
legitimacy of the objective of the provisions.
—the provision being to restrict third parties to a
The court further stated, and again it's from
the decision, speaking of third parties:
While we recognize their right to participate in the
electoral process, independent individuals and groups
cannot be subject to the same financial rules as
candidates or political parties and be allowed the same
spending limit. Although what they have to say is
important, it is the candidates and political parties
that are running for election. Limits on independent
spending must therefore be lower...
So the courts were quite clear that third-party
spending rules are appropriate and that, whatever they
are, they must be lower than what is imposed on
We reflected on the 1988, 1993 and 1997 general
elections, which went without spending controls for third
parties. I'm offering in this bill the following:
that spending limits for third parties be $150,000 at
the national level and $3,000 within a constituency,
but to be deducted from the $150,000 national level.
In other words, the Supreme Court told us that $1,000
The amount we put in is 150 times that size, just in
case someone is led to the mistaken view that the
courts would throw this limit out. Clearly this is not
going to be the case.
Our role then is to ensure that all electoral
participants have an opportunity for meaningful
In this legislation we're also proposing to respond to
the court decision regarding blackouts. This is a
rather interesting one, because it manifests itself, as
you know, in three different ways, two of which have
been struck down by the courts.
In response to the striking down of the 72-hour
election blackout on public opinion polls, the
legislation will reduce the blackout period from 72
hours to 48 hours and will implement a new 24-hour
publication requirement on polling methodologies. You
will know the court said 72 hours is too long, and in
any case, any rule that doesn't have a methodology in
it won't work. So we shortened it to 48 hours, and
we've included that for the first 24 hours in an
election campaign, if someone broadcasts a poll, they
must reveal the methodology according to a formula set
by the broadcast arbitrator. It's all in the bill.
We've also responded to an Alberta court decision
striking down blackout measures on third parties and
candidate advertising at the beginning and at the end
of the campaign. We're not going to touch the part at
the beginning of the campaign, because the campaign has
now been shortened, so there doesn't seem to be any
purpose. But at the end of the campaign, we're
proposing to have a 48-hour blackout on candidate
advertising, party advertising, polling, third parties,
and what have you. It will be the same for everybody.
That way there's no argument as to whether candidates
can advertise, third parties cannot, polling can do
this, somebody else cannot. It will be the same for
everyone. That's a fair way, and it will ensure that
the only group to get the last word will be the
Mr. Chairman, you will remember that when this bill
was introduced last spring, I encouraged Canadians to
take a closer look over the summer months at the
legislation we're proposing. I have taken that
opportunity myself. I've met with academics in at
least four Canadian universities. I've given talks as
well. I'm giving a number of additional talks during
the week of break in November, because of course when
Parliament is sitting, because of my function, I can't
go very far from this place, as all of us will
Here are some of the amendments I will be proposing
right away, in addition to the bill that is there.
First of all, it was brought to my attention by a
number of people that child care expenses should be a
candidate expense. That isn't clear at this time. In
some ridings they've been accepted as candidate
expenses, in others they have not, and in others they
have probably been considered campaign expenses. So
now a candidate would be able to have the child care
expense as a candidate expense. This means of course,
particularly for women candidates—that's the source of
this—it would make it easier to recruit female
candidates in an election campaign, an objective I'm
sure all of us support.
Also, electors in physical danger—and I'm thinking
here of shelters for battered women—would be allowed
to indicate their former place of residence in order to
vote, as opposed to the address of their shelter, for
very obvious security reasons. That is not provided
for at the present time. With the permanent voters
list and so on, it's a very important thing for us to
think about, particularly as we're amending this act.
Also, these same people would be allowed to vote by
mail, so the offender would not be able to even see
them go to the poll to vote. They could use the
mail-in provision, and therefore they would be
guaranteed safety, which again I'm sure all of us
would want to support, or at least I hope so.
There's another anachronism in the present rules, and
it has to do with the disabled voter. When disabled
voters are voting, again using the mail-in ballot,
particularly people who have severe physical
constraints, it's relatively easy, I suppose, to be
able to mark the X on the ballot, but you must also
sign on the outer envelope when you're using those
things. Well, obviously some of these people can't do
that. There's no provision in the rules to accommodate
that. I'm proposing that the committee look at that as
well, and I'd be prepared to offer the actual written
amendments to make that happen.
There's another issue I'll be seeking the advice of
this committee on, and that is the recommendation made
by the Lortie commission in 1991. The numbers they
proposed wouldn't work now, because it was close to 10
years ago, but they said at that time that if parties
succeeded in attracting a greater number of female
candidates, there should be a system to financially
reward a party for doing that. As you know, parties
get 22.5% of their expenses reimbursed right now. At a
certain threshold, should it be 25%, and so on? I'll
leave it at that right now. We can come back to it
perhaps at a future meeting. I hope it's something the
committee will consider.
Finally on that score, another technical glitch has
occurred over time, and it is the following. Now that
we have the permanent voters list, the revisions at the
end usually cause a greater number of people to be
registered at the end than they did before. The amount
you're allowed to spend in a campaign is based on the
preliminary voters list and doesn't provide for that.
So I'm proposing that we use a date, the 11th day
before the election, and that we be able to utilize
those greater numbers to adjust the expenditure amount
of a candidate.
Naturally we would have to make a provision there that
if the amount went down, it wouldn't apply. Otherwise,
if you ordered lawn signs, you can't go remove them
from the ground and return them to the supplier. It
doesn't work that way. So it would have to be upwardly
mobile, but not the other way, in order to work.
Again, I'll be providing this committee with the exact
technical wording for you to consider on that issue.
Those are technical glitches that were brought to my
attention over the summer by interested Canadians.
I want to close by saying all of these proposals rest
as always on the principles of equity, transparency,
and accessibility, which are the foundation of our
Canadian electoral law. I've read the excellent report
your committee proposed, and here I want to take a
moment to congratulate the previous chairman of the
committee, Dr. Peter Adams, and all those who worked on
the report that was submitted to me. I want to
congratulate them for their excellent work. I think
you will all find the principles set out in that report
are reflected in the law we have today.
I'm looking forward to the contribution of this
committee. I'm looking forward to answering the
questions. I want to go at this with a very open mind.
As you know, we're referring this bill prior to second
reading, which permits a wider-than-usual scope of
amendments, providing we're amending the same act, of
course, not a different one. But within that, there's
room for compromise to hopefully make this law better
for all Canadians.
That isn't to say this law isn't good already. It is
recognized worldwide as one of the best. But of course
court decisions and other decisions have made it such
that it is incumbent upon us to improve the laws we
have. I know we will all be working to do that in the
interest of all Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for
your comprehensive and succinct introduction to the
bill. I want to thank you as well for making reference
to some of the court judgments that have guided you
and the government in crafting these reforms.
I would just note as chair that although the court
judgments are out there, courts don't legislate. Any
judge who purported to legislate would probably be out
of his or her depth, out of order, and in my view out
It is our job in this House to legislate, and that's
why we're here. We appreciate the guidance of the
courts in reaching our conclusions, and we thank you
for bring those judgments to our attention here today.
We'll lead off with questioning now. We'll go first
to Mr. Lowther of the Reform Party.
Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Thank
you, Mr. Chair. I'll be very quick and then turn it
over to my colleague, Mr. White, who has a number of
issues he'd like to bring forward.
My concern this morning, Mr. Minister, is with
impartiality, and the non-partisan, non-political
credibility of Elections Canada. Currently Elections
Canada has directly approached 15,000 schools, directly
to the classroom, for children aged 6 to 18 to vote for
their favourite right, Mr. Minister. No provincial
oversight or approval was ever granted. No school board
or parental consent was ever asked for.
This right is then to be reported to the Government of
Canada as to the position of children, in the middle of
a children's throne speech, in a much-billed children's
budget to come.
With this backdrop, we've had 13,000 parental
signatures petitioning the House of Commons about the
undermining of parental authority. Related to that, a
number of the school boards and people who are
concerned about this initiative of Elections Canada
have elected to not participate and to boycott this
particular program. Those numbers are growing across
Does the minister responsible for the Canada Elections
Act feel it's appropriate for Elections Canada to be
involved in public education programs that may be
utilized for political purposes, as this national
election for the rights of youth is seen to be by many?
If not, perhaps we need to clarify the wording in
subclause 18(2) of the bill so that the Chief Electoral
Officer does not have the authority to embark on these
types of politically sensitive public education
Mr. Don Boudria: I'm prepared to listen to the
advice of this committee. Elections Canada has always
had a public education role. It's always been there.
Right now they're undertaking a simulated election with
I mean, they're not doing this exercise with the
Hell's Angels. They're doing it with UNICEF. We could
criticize it if we don't like it, I suppose. I'm not
here to defend any particular issue in which they're
I was asked a question on the floor of the House
yesterday. It's a simulated election they're having
on—guess what?—the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child. Again, they're not asking them
whether they're in favour of bank robbers. They're
asking them questions about a convention to which our
country adheres to.
I guess I just ended a sentence with a preposition.
In any case, that's essentially what is being asked
and what Elections Canada is participating in as part
of its public education mandate, as stipulated in the
act. If we want to contest that, I suppose we could.
But when we're talking about the voters of tomorrow,
the validity of having them participate in simulated
elections, all of the exercises Elections Canada has
participated in with regard to democracy in this
country, recognizing everything Canada has done around
As former Minister of International Cooperation, I can
tell you that our reputation in that regard is second
to none. I'm really wondering whether some people are
seizing on an issue that really isn't one for the
purpose of damaging what is essentially, I believe, a
Mr. Eric Lowther: Thank you.
The Chair: Without objection from colleagues, I
had allowed approximately ten minutes to the Reform
Party, so Mr. White will continue on that basis.
Mr. Ted White: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My first round of questions refers to clauses 350
through 362 of the bill, which deal with third-party
spending and rationed political speech. What interests
me is that it restricts only certain kinds of political
expression according to the definitions in clause 319.
Could the minister explain what harm the rationed
forms of political speech do that non-rationed forms do
not—for example, editorials, debates and letters?
What specific examples of such harm can he cite? Are
there any examples, in the three elections mentioned in
which there were no third-party expenses, of situations
where registered parties and candidates in Canada have
been unable, because of their own party or candidate
expense limits, to adequately respond to or rebut the
advertising of the third parties?
Mr. Don Boudria: What this strives to do is
control third-party election advertising spending. As
you know, right now you, the honourable member, and I
are restricted in what we can spend. We're restricted
in terms of both the amount and what can go into
advertising from that amount. As well, anything we
spend must be from Canadian sources.
On the other hand, third parties right now, as of
today, in what I hope is this temporary vacuum of law
in which we are living, have no limits. They spend
100% of what they want, with no maximum on advertising,
and all of their money could come from offshore if
that's what they wish to do.
That doesn't meet the test of equity. If we decide
that we no longer want spending limits for candidates
in this country—and I don't advocate this, of course,
because I think it's good, sound law to have these
limits—then it stands to reason that third parties
need to be subject to limits as well. What kind of
limits? Well, then, the Supreme Court decision has
given us guidance, certainly, on what is an appropriate
I notice the honourable member in his speech the other
day, for instance, said, well, this will be challenged
in a court. Of course it may be challenged in a court.
Who knows? But the courts have already said what is
acceptable, and surely that would indicate to anyone
wanting to challenge it whether it has a chance or no
hope at all.
Mr. Ted White: With all due respect to the
minister, what harm do non-rationed forms of political
speech, according to the definitions in clause 319, not
do that the rationed forms do?
For example, editorials, letters to the editor, and
debates are fine, but there's a ration on other types
of advertising on billboards or something like that.
What evidence does the minister have, from three
elections that have been run with no third-party
spending, that any harm was done to any political party
or any candidate or that there was insufficient funds
available to a candidate or party to defend themselves
against such advertising?
Mr. Don Boudria: I like your use of the word
“ration”, as though spending oodles of money on
anything is considered to be the appropriate way.
I'll use my own example. Does anyone in this room
think I would be an MP in a country with no spending
limits? I can't speak for anybody else around the
table, but most people here know my background. You
know where I'm from. You know where I started.
Yesterday I celebrated the 33rd anniversary of my
starting here as a busboy. Do you think I'd be an MP
where you had to spend $1 million to get elected?
Obviously not. Do only millionaires have the right to
be represented by their peers in the House of Commons?
I would hope not.
I think there is room in this place for everybody.
Some, of course, are going to come from the
agricultural community. Some will be lawyers. Some
will exercise other professions, and, yes, maybe once
in 130 years one of them will be a busboy. I don't
believe there's anything wrong with that.
The election laws we have in our country, and the fact
that there are spending limits, makes it such that
people who are not the absolute wealthiest can seek to
run for office. If you have no limits on a certain
category—those who want to defeat candidates, third
parties—and you have limits on those who do want to be
elected, well, there's inequity there, obviously. It
doesn't take rocket science to understand that if there
is going to be rules, they have to apply to all, not
just to some.
That being said, I think it's totally rational
that there would be rules on third parties.
Mr. Ted White: I take it, then, Mr. Minister, you
can't provide any examples.
I'll move on to ask you a question about whether or
not the minister or officials of your department have
had any discussions with the Supreme Court of Canada
regarding the preparation of the wording contained in
Bill C-2 related to third-party spending.
Mr. Don Boudria: No.
Mr. Ted White: Okay.
Was the federal government or any of its agencies
involved in any way in the funding of the Libman
litigation, including the provision of any funds to
Libman's attorney, Julius Grey?
Mr. Don Boudria: I have no idea. I'm not the
Attorney General for Canada.
I cannot speak as to who funded any part of an action
in which neither I nor my department participated.
Mr. Ted White: Okay.
I have one minute, I see.
Still referring to the third-party spending provisions
in the bill, why is it necessary for a citizen to hire
an accountant in order to be able to take part in
third-party spending? In fact, why are the restraints
on citizens so onerous, and why is the enforcement of
the rules the responsibility primarily of citizens
rather than government agencies?
Mr. Don Boudria: That's not entirely correct. First
of all, anyone who spends less than $500 doesn't
even have to register, to ensure that someone who
participates in a letter-writing campaign to their MP
for their local association and so on doesn't register.
Secondly, those who spend less than $5,000 have very
summary rules to which to adhere. Only those who
spend greater amounts will be subject to the higher
threshold of rules that resemble the type of scrutiny
candidates have to address during a campaign.
So there are three thresholds, actually. It's not
accurate to say that they are all subjected to having to
hire an accountant or some such thing.
Mr. Ted White: But they are subjected to a
situation where enforcement of the rules tends to be
the responsibility of primarily citizens rather than
government agencies. Normally Elections Canada
would enforce the rules, but—
Mr. Don Boudria: No. The reporting of candidates'
expenditures is not made by Elections Canada but by the
candidate—referring to a candidate now. It is
verified by a private accountant, usually referred to
as the auditor, and then that is filed with Elections
Canada for verification should they wish to verify.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was about to
welcome the Minister and to note that he was celebrating the 33rd
anniversary of his stay in the House of Commons yesterday, not just
as a member of Parliament or a minister, but also as a staff
member. He was celebrating 33 years in the House of Commons. This
is quite an achievement and this anniversary is important on two
accounts as it is also the anniversary of the 1993 election.
Let me now turn back to the topic of today's debate, namely
the bill to amend the existing Elections Act. The Minister says
that he has examined with great care and interest a number of
suggestions that were made and forwarded to him during the summer.
I would imagine that he listened with equal interest to our
preliminary debate in the House of Commons.
We could therefore have expected the Minister to come with a
number of suggestions this morning. Among his proposals, some
indeed deserve the support of the members of this committee and the
Minister should be commended for those. They involve some very
interesting features which have been mentioned earlier.
I feel, however, that some recommendations that should have
been made this morning were not. I have to tell you that I'm
somewhat disappointed, especially considering the fact that the
Minister said that he had listened to all concerned Canadians. In
that respect, a number of recommendations, some of them very
important, have been put forward, but it seems that the government
has not taken them into consideration.
I would like to focus on four points and to have the Minister
comment on those. Firstly, I will deal with the issue of equity.
The Minister says that his reform is based on three basic
principles: transparency, equity and accessibility. Although we all
agree on the principle of accessibility, I believe the concepts of
equity and transparency tend to be interpreted in different ways.
With respect to equity, I agree with you, Mr. Minister, that
there must be spending limits for candidates, otherwise some groups
of people would not stand the slightest chance of ever being able
to have a career in politics. But it would also have been
appropriate—and we heard some rumours about that—to limit the
amount of contributions.
In terms of equity, clearly—and we cannot go on forever
hiding our heads in the sand—a citizen who does not contribute in
any way to an election fund or who only contributes an occasional
$5 or $10 is bound to get less attention from a politician than the
chief executive of a company that contributes $25,000 to a
political party. We have therefore made recommendations in the past
dealing with the public funding of political parties. The Minister
appears to ignore our recommendations in that respect. We thought
we could expect that some of those recommendations, such as the one
dealing with putting a ceiling on corporate contributions, would be
endorsed, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
As far as transparency is concerned, there was one
recommendation which all opposition parties in this committee
agreed on and which had been made by the Chief Electoral Officer in
his report following the 35th and 36th general elections. The
Lortie Commission had also made a recommendation on that topic. I'm
talking about the procedure to appoint returning officers. Here
again, the government has turned a deaf hear to our appeals, and
chosen to maintain the present partisan appointment process without
even trying to bring in some changes in order to have a more
transparent appointment process. That process is not transparent
right now, and it will not be once the bill is passed, in spite of
the principle you are trying to put forward. This is regrettable.
As for third parties, Minister, I am in full agreement with
you. We do need to limit third-party spending in elections, so as
to ensure that the rules are the same for everyone and that the
rules of the game are fair for the political parties and
candidates. I therefore agree that we need to limit third-party
However, if we look closely at the bill as it is written, it
becomes clear that the only spending that will be limited is on
advertising. That means, for all practical purposes, that a union
or a big corporation could invest in equipment or staff to help or
hinder a given candidate. For example, door-to-door canvassing
could very well be done by paid staff of a union, a business, etc.
Mr. Don Boudria: But we deal with that issue.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: You deal with that?
Mr. Don Boudria: Yes.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Well, I would like you to give me some
specifics, since I had understood that only advertising was covered
by the bill.
Mr. Don Boudria: No, no.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: If you are telling me that neither the
offices nor the staff of businesses or unions can be used, I would
like you to tell us which provisions apply, because my
understanding is that only advertising is limited.
Another recommendation, this one supported unanimously by the
members of this committee, dealt with controls on trust funds, not
for the parties but for the candidates. As things stand now, a
candidate can set up a trust fund before an election, and when an
election is called, the fund is transferred to the campaign fund.
The source can then be indicated as merely being a “trust fund”.
There is no disclosure of exactly where the money came from that
was transferred from the trust fund.
The committee's report included a recommendation to that
effect, but as in the other case, it was not taken into
consideration by the government. The question of trust funds for
parties was raised, but not those for candidates. If that is not
the case, I would like you to tell me, since my understanding of
the bill is that it will still be possible for candidates to set up
trust funds, which can be transferred to their campaign fund
without the public—and this is where transparency comes in—having
any idea where the money came from.
Those are my remarks, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Don Boudria: Thank you for those excellent questions,
although they are not easy ones.
First of all, two issues were raised about financing, but you
have broached only one this morning. People usually talk, on the
one hand, of setting spending limits and, on the other, of allowing
only individuals to make donations and preventing companies from
doing so. I think that prohibition is even covered by the Charter.
If I remember correctly, the Lortie Commission never recommended
spending limits; in fact, it recommended the opposite, on the basis
that these kinds of limits do not achieve anything. In order to
encourage more grassroots contributions from individuals and small
businesses, we are allowing for contributions up to $200 to be
given more generous tax treatment. Very large companies will
receive proportionally less advantage on the income tax side.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: That may be true from an income tax
point of view alone, but when it comes to having the ear of
politicians, as I was saying earlier, you would have to have your
head in the sand to think that a company donating $25,000 is not
listened to more closely. It is certainly likely that the Prime
Minister is more receptive to requests, expectations and appeals
expressed to him by the president of that large company,
Mr. Don Boudria: Listen, I can talk to you about the financing
in my own riding. I do not remember receiving donations above 500
or $600 for my election campaigns.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: The situation is quite different for
political parties at the national level.
Mr. Don Boudria: Most of the time, when our party receives
major contributions, the media publicize that. A few years ago, the
guest speaker at my annual benefit dinner was the Prime Minister,
and most of the media that are here today probably covered that
event. People were charged $100 to come, and the cost of the meal,
room rental and invitations was only $40 a person. It came out to
a contribution of about $60.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I am not referring to that,
Mr. Minister, as you are quite aware.
Mr. Don Boudria: I know that you are not referring to that,
but rather to the distinction between parties and candidates. I was
simply saying that, where candidates are concerned, most of the
contributions came about that way.
The Lortie Commission did not recommend setting spending
limits for the parties, as is done in some provinces. In fact,
where such rules exist, sometimes two individuals give donations
adding up to the limit in order to get around the rules.
With respect to third-party financing, the rules are limited
to advertising because third parties are clearly not candidates.
Obviously no link can be made with the expenses of candidates, who
are subject to the rest of the rules.
Take the example of a hypothetical plant, the ABC plant. Let
us say this plant is located in my riding and wants to loan four of
its employees to do door-to-door canvassing for me during their
working hours. Their work would become part of my campaign
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I agree, but they could do it in their
Mr. Don Boudria: It does not make any difference if they are
acting in their own name or not. Any activity to promote a
candidate becomes an expense of that candidate.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Let us take the example of a business
that decides to put 20 employees at the indirect disposal of a
candidate. Could that not do considerable harm to the candidate by
sending his or her election expenses skyrocketing?
Mr. Don Boudria: The candidate would refuse that offer because
he or she would have to immediately report it to Elections Canada
and under the new mechanisms in the bill, the Chief Electoral
Officer could intervene and use legal means to have it stopped. In
the past, someone could have, claiming good intentions, gone out to
support your campaign with 10 employees and intentionally made you
go over your expense limit, and then you would be charged. These
new measures are more flexible and will enable us to report any
situation of that kind immediately and have these activities
stopped through the legal means provided. The rules have been made
more strict in order to protect us against such abuse when people,
either because they sincerely are trying to help or because they
are pretending to help and really want to do us harm, invest in a
candidate's campaign and cause problems.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I asked two other questions,
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Bergeron.
Mr. Don Boudria: The two other questions...
The Chairman: No. It is now Mr. Solomon's turn.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: About the returning officers and the
Mr. Don Boudria: We already talked about trust funds for
political parties. I thought that I had pretty well dealt with that
issue. I will look at the situation in more detail to see if it
goes any farther. I believe that the committee's report looked only
at political parties' trust funds, which are also covered in the
bill. You can check that on your side and I will do the same.
As for the returning officers, I think the current system
works well, that we have received excellent service, and that
returning officers carry out their duties in a non-partisan way.
Since 1993, nominations in each polling station have been supported
by the member elected during the previous election and the main
opposition candidate in the riding. Prior to 1993, nominations were
the responsibility of the party in power at the national level and
the party that came in second at the national level. That procedure
was perceived as being less objective, because in some ridings, the
person who perhaps needed the most protection from someone with ill
intentions could potentially be from a political party other than
the two most popular political parties at the national level. The
changes introduced in 1992 or 1993 recognized that fact. I think
that the system has been working much better ever since.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Bergeron.
Mr. John Solomon: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Boudria, welcome. From one busboy to another, I
like many things in your bill. I was a busboy in
Kresge's actually in 1965.
Mr. Don Boudria: Hear, hear.
Mr. John Solomon: Spending limits are very
important in our country, and they distinguish us from
countries such as the States, where for example
Barbara Boxer in California paid $33 million Canadian
to get elected. That's just outrageous.
You talked, Mr. Minister, about equity, transparency,
and accessibility. I want to congratulate you on
recognizing Saskatchewan as the only province or
territory in the country that maintains central
standard time 12 months of the year. This bill
resolves the closing of the polls in that province.
With respect to accessibility, I want to ask you
questions in particular about rural vouching. In
Saskatchewan our farms are becoming larger and larger.
In the bill you're recommending we eliminate rural
vouching. Our farms are so large now that quite often
enumerators don't get to the farms to enumerate people,
because farmers are actually out on the tractors. On
election day they go to the polls, and because they're
out harvesting, seeding, haying, or spraying, when
they're out on the tractors and the combines, they're
not carrying ID. So they can't go to a poll and say
they have ID if they haven't been enumerated. It just
By eliminating rural vouching, you're targeting
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta rural districts in
particular in denying accessibility to individuals who
may have been left off the voters list, farmers in
particular. I'd like to ask what the rationale was for
doing that and whether or not you could reinstitute it
or entertain a motion or an amendment to have it
retained in constituencies that have significant large
In many cases these farms are 2,000 acres to 10,000
acres; they are huge places. When you're farming and
you want to go vote, you'll sometimes jump into a
half-ton and drive, but when you get to the polling
station, which may be 15 or 20 miles away, you have no
ID. Everyone in the community knows you, because
you've lived there a long time. The various party
scrutineers and poll clerks all know you, but you're
not on the voters list; therefore you can't vote.
I'd like to know whether or not you'd entertain an
amendment to reinstate that item.
An hon. member: Can they drive without a driver's
licence in Saskatchewan?
Mr. John Solomon: Absolutely. Many people do.
Even those who don't have a driver's licence drive
without a driver's licence.
Mr. Don Boudria: The first question was about the
source of it. It was this committee that made the
recommendation to remove the distinction between urban
and rural voters. I can draw your attention to the
page number; it's page 69, section 26.11.
But if it's the feeling of this committee, upon further
reflection, that it should be kept, I don't per se
object to it.
I'd like to hear more of the deliberations. Perhaps
the Chief Electoral Officer will testify before you
too, and together you'll be able to develop a consensus
of the committee. But I thought I was acting on the
consensus of the committee as expressed in 26.11
on page 69 of your report.
Mr. John Solomon: I wasn't aware that was a
recommendation of the committee. Certainly we did not
support it at any time. But we'll review that.
Mr. Don Boudria: Okay. I'm not trying to say that
given the committee said so, it can't be reopened
again—not at all. Look at it again, and if you think
there are still valid reasons to keep it there....
Particularly in view of the fact that the main reason
we had it before was to add people to the voters list
when they were missed in enumeration—an enumeration
that of course now has completely changed, with the
permanent voters list and so on—it was felt by this
committee that the distinctions between urban and rural
voters—and that's the main one—should be removed.
But I'm prepared to look at it again, sure.
Mr. John Solomon: Part of the argument for
retaining it is that in a rural area, you tend to know
your neighbours a little better than in the city. I've
lived in both areas. In the city, unless you're in
politics and you go to your neighbours quite often, if
you're an average citizen, you don't know your
neighbours, in particular in apartments and so on. So
it's tough to vouch for your urban neighbours if you
don't know them, whereas in the rural area it's very
easy to do that.
Mr. Don Boudria: But of course with ID, one
doesn't need vouching any more either. And in urban
areas, one problem we had is that even if people had ID
previously, they could not be sworn in or added to the
list. But that was eliminated in urban areas to permit
someone with ID to vote anyway, so I suppose it was
felt by this committee that a similar provision in
rural areas would work well.
If you say there's strong evidence that people in
rural areas go out to vote without ID and therefore we
should look at it again, well, discuss it in committee.
I'm not against it per se.
Mr. John Solomon: It's not a widespread problem,
but it happens, as I say, during seeding and harvest,
when they're working 18 hours a day. They don't carry
their ID with them on the combines.
The second point I want to raise is with respect to
the permanent voters list. There have been examples in
by-elections and elections, provincially and federally,
of huge gaps in registered voters—for example, in
polls that have a large number of apartments. A lot of
people move in and out of apartments on a regular
basis. In my city and in some of the towns in my
riding, the apartment polls are totally changed from
one federal election to another and one provincial
election to another.
And it's not just apartments; it's senior citizens'
high-rises, low-income people, and people who are not
able to have a residence over a long haul. These
people are being excluded, and your accessibility
objective is not being met. I'm wondering, Mr.
Minister, whether or not you would consider changing
the permanent voters list, and in certain ridings where
they have apartments and so on, having mandatory
Mr. Don Boudria: Of course at the present time the
Chief Electoral Officer has a right to order
enumeration where he feels it's necessary, as you
probably know. We established that under the previous
bill to cause the permanent voters list.
Second, I'm not saying it is, but maybe part of your
question is premised on some of the difficulties that
occurred at the provincial level in Ontario.
Mr. John Solomon: Yes.
Mr. Don Boudria: Need I remind you that in the
same province, we had a federal election almost at the
same time as the provincial one, in the riding of
Windsor—St. Clair, and we had problems in the
provincial election and not in the federal one in the
same riding? So there was more to it than the voters
list that was wrong.
The Chief Electoral Officer administers that, and I'm
sure he could speak to it in far greater detail. But
he has the authority right now to order partial
enumeration where it's necessary.
And he has, on several occasions per year, the tools
necessary to revise the list permanently. Those are
all rules established by this committee.
It starts with the Revenue Canada income tax; you can
just check off to ensure that you're on the voters
list. As well, your driver's licence and a number of
other devices like that adjust the voters list on a
permanent basis to achieve what we have as the
permanent voters list.
In addition, there is the revision that goes on when
the campaign is called. Then of course the floodgates
are open to permit additional people to register and to
be put on the voters list. That holds right up until
the 11th day before the election. That's the same day
I want to have that limit for increasing the threshold
of expenditures; I'm going to use the same day, because
it's the revision day.
And then of course it's possible also for people to
actually be processed one at a time if they're not
registered at all, with the proper identification.
So there are all of these mechanisms now, plus the
Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Kingsley, still retains
power to go into an area—say, for instance, a new
subdivision was built in the last three months—and
Mr. John Solomon: Thank you.
There were two items that were not included that I
would like your opinion on. The first is fixed
election dates, regular dates for federal elections
every four years or every five years. I would like to
know your view on that and whether you might entertain
an amendment to the bill with respect to that issue.
The second is lowering the voting age. I can give you
the pros and cons in terms of why I think these two
should be included.
The third issue, which is more wide-sweeping—and we
as a committee might have representations on this—is
proportional representation. Proportional
representation may be covered under the Parliament of
Canada Act or some other act of Parliament.
I'm wondering what you think about those three issues,
Mr. Don Boudria: On the fixed election date, I
think a constitutional adviser would tell you there is
one right now, and it says that it's every five years.
Obviously that's not what you mean. What you mean is a
greater certainty that it will be held roughly around
the same time, providing Parliament isn't defeated and
so on. That's not just a change to the Elections Act;
it's a very profound constitutional issue.
While we live under a system known as responsible
government—upper-case “R”—it means that effectively
the one who holds the confidence of the House, the
Prime Minister, makes the decision of either when he
wants to seek a new mandate to renew that confidence or
when he feels he has lost the confidence of the House,
either case. It's a major constitutional departure from
what we're doing right now to get into anything
In this country, over the last two or three decades,
we have had elections roughly every four years. At the
provincial level, in the eastern part of the country
they're almost once every three and a half years or
thereabouts. As you go further west in the country,
they tend to be somewhat longer.
So there are variations in there, but we're all
subject to the same constitutional provision under what
was then known as the British North America Act, now
the Constitution Act, and that's the five-year maximum.
I don't propose we should change that, but it's a
debate that is quite outside of changing the Canada
On lowering the voting age from 18 to 16, there was no
recommendation like that in the report of the
committee. There was no recommendation like that
either in the Lortie commission report. I don't know
of any other jurisdiction.... Certainly there's no
other country in the G-7 that has a voting age lower
than 18. There doesn't seem to be much of a case to
achieve that, so I don't think we should entertain that
at this committee either.
Finally, the last proposition you raise is on the
issue of proportional representation. Depending on
what you mean, it could either mean changes to the
Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act—not the act
that's before us, which is a different issue—or if you
wanted to change the proportion between provinces, that
would actually be not only an amendment to the
Constitution but the kind of amendment to the
Constitution that would require unanimity, a vote of
every single provincial legislature plus both houses of
this Parliament. That's what was advocated. Either
way, it would not be within this act. Either it would
be the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, if you
just wanted to take the same number in a province and
change the formula—say, having one giant constituency
for all of Saskatchewan, with a list—or if you wanted
to change the proportion from one province to another,
it would be the other scenario.
The Chair: Thank you.
This is just the opening round. There will be many
other opportunities to continue discussion on this, I'm
sure. If we have difficulty with these issues, I know
the minister would want to come back and assist us.
Mr. Don Boudria: Sure. At 1:30 I have to
leave to prepare for question period, but I can come
back right after that.
The Chair: I know there are a number of government
colleagues who want to make interventions, but I'll
follow the pattern for today's meeting and ask Mr.
Harvey if he has a question.
Mr. André Harvey (Chicoutimi, PC): There has been a lot of
talk about October 25, 1993. You can understand that it is not a
good anniversary for everyone.
Mr. Don Boudria: For my part, I talked about October 25, but
Mr. André Harvey: I was reading your real intentions,
Mr. Minister. We did not celebrate for the same reason yesterday,
did we, Mr. Chairman?
I would like to start by pointing out to the Minister that the
bill contains some interesting technical amendments. I think that
this bill is a progressive step towards improving the Elections
Act. The issue that Stéphane raised is the whole issue, at least
I would like to ask the Minister to make a statement of
principle on the issue of individual and corporate financing to
which national parties have access.
I would like to give the Minister an opportunity to spend 10
or 15 minutes discussing amendments to eligible amounts as well as
a better framework for the publication of polls, in keeping with
the 24-hour period that is suggested in the bill, so that we can
have relevant information on all polling techniques. How do you
reconcile democracy and funding, both corporate and individual,
that we are entitled to at the federal level?
I know that in Quebec, it is possible for a large corporation
that wants to participate in party financing to enable its
associates to participate, and subsequently, if I'm not mistaken,
to compensate its associates. We all know that national parties
receive huge corporate donations.
I would like the Minister to tell us if he agrees that
allowing corporate donations at the national level does not
necessarily run counter to the principles of democracy. I would
like to have your opinion on that. In Quebec, the debate on
individual financing and corporate donations is ongoing.
Mr. Don Boudria: And on donations by unions.
Mr. André Harvey: Yes, of course. It is an ongoing debate, and
I would like to hear your opinion on the issue, Mr. Minister.
Mr. Don Boudria: First of all, donations must be public. When
the Elections Act was adopted in 1974, we took a giant step towards
democracy. Something that had previously been hidden away in a
closet was exposed to the public. The public must accept that. Any
parliamentarian may, if he or she sees fit, rise in the House and
say to someone: “Did you do that because such and such a
corporation gave you such and such a contribution?” We all have the
right to do that. We have all done so. I asked questions like that
when I was in opposition, and today it is the opposite. That is
what we call accountability, and it is excellent. No election
contributions should be secret. Our system has adopted that
Secondly, spending limits have been set for candidates. No
limits have been set concerning the amount collected, but as far as
candidates are concerned, very strict spending limits have been
Thirdly, there is a 22.5% contribution from government to the
parties' expenses. In addition, about 50% of the candidate's
expenses are reimbursed by the government. Finally, all those who
make a donation, mostly the smallest contributors, receive a fairly
generous rebate from the government which becomes much less
generous as the amount of the contributions increases. Today, the
most profitable contribution, so to speak, is the $100
contribution. The proposal I am making today would increase this
amount to $200. However, in this bill, I did not propose to
increase the other limits. In other words, the existing limit for
the next $250 would not change. The one for the 33.33% would not
change either. So, the incentive to make small contributions would
be even greater than for large contributions.
Those are the elements, not only those proposed in this bill,
but also those which have been in place for a long time, which
increase the transparency of the electoral contributions system.
Mr. André Harvey: Mr. Minister, how can you justify the large
donations made by companies in electoral campaigns? For example,
how can you justify a bank making a large contribution to a
Mr. Don Boudria: Companies and individuals have almost
identical rights according to the law. What a company can legally
do in terms of contributions, an individual can also do. They are
not treated differently by the law. The law does not provide for
higher limits for individuals than for syndicates or companies. The
limits are the same for everybody. In other words, there is no
ceiling, in either category, in terms of rebate. The same rules
apply at all levels, as long as we are dealing with a taxpayer. You
could say that non-taxpayers are at a disadvantage, because if the
person who wants to give $50 to a political party doesn't pay
income tax, this donation costs that person $50, while an
individual who works and pays income tax only pays $25 when he or
she donates $100 to a political party. You can say that there is
some difference in this respect, but it is not significant, because
usually, someone who has no taxable income does not tend to make
contributions. These people may pay for a membership card from a
political party, but in general, they do not make other
Mr. André Harvey: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
Madam Bakopanos and Mr. Pickard had both signalled.
Which one of you would like to begin? I think we had
Madam Bakopanos on the list first.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: Thank you.
First of all, I'd like to thank the minister for
changes that included the incremental child care
expenses, because I lived that example, for instance,
as a candidate. But I'd like to say that it isn't
beneficial only to female candidates, but it is
beneficial, Mr. Minister, to all candidates. So I'd
like to make sure we—
Mr. Don Boudria: It would apply to everybody, but
the request came largely from groups representing
female candidates, yes.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: Yes. Thank you for that.
I also thank you for the amendment regarding the
electors who are in physical danger. I think that's a
very important amendment for women who have violence in
their lives and who fear—
Mr. Don Boudria: That one applies almost
exclusively to women.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: Thank you.
Now, my question would go along the lines of what Mr.
White raised in terms of third-party advertising and
third-party spending. He was looking for two examples,
and I'd like you to clarify whether the two examples
I'm going to raise concerning past campaigns would be
covered under the changes you are proposing.
One is the Canadian Police Association posters on
changes to section 745 and the pictures of our
colleagues who did their duty as members of Parliament
and who were referred as serial killers, or lovers of
serial killers, or whatever the terminology was. I
don't quite remember the terminology. Fortunately, my
picture wasn't one of them, but I know that certain
colleagues lived a living hell during the election
campaign when their children were told in school that
“Mommy loves killers”.
So that's one example of protected advertising used by
third parties, the other one being the National Citizens'
Coalition, which, during certain periods in between
elections, manages to spend vast amounts of money
lobbying, quite openly, pro or con government. But we
won't go into that. Certainly during an election
campaign they would use whatever means to put forward
their opinions and views.
Would the changes you are proposing in fact stop this
type of advertising during the election period?
Mr. Don Boudria: No, they would not, but they
would limit the amount they can spend doing it both
nationally and locally.
For instance, it would stop this group you've named
from buying an ad that says “Mommy loves serial
killers” if the ad cost $5,000, because they'd be
limited to $3,000. So they'd either buy a smaller one
or forget about it altogether. There would be that
limit of $3,000 against, or in support of, any
particular candidate. Nationally it would be $150,000.
But this is not censorship. It's not designed to
stop. If a person feels that something is done in a
way that is malicious and wrong and harmful, the courts
are there, and our laws. Otherwise, this bill does not
address that. It addresses limits.
There still could be vicious and unfair and
what-have-you attack ads and so on. This bill does not
touch attack ads, per se. It doesn't mean we have to
like them, and obviously most people don't. Most
people watching them don't like them, I think.
In any case, it wouldn't stop them but it would limit
the amount that can be spent.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: I have a supplementary
question and I'll finish there.
If it doesn't stop them, Mr. Minister, are there other
measures besides limiting the spending that could be
introduced—I don't have the answer, I have to say, but
it's something I've been following since we've been
discussing this act—to actually limit malicious
advertising or personal attacks?
I know it's close to censorship. I know it's a grey
line in terms of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in
this country, but are there other measures within the
act that we can envision in terms of perhaps not
allowing it two weeks before the end of the campaign?
Or perhaps there are other provisions that could be
used within the Election Act.
Mr. Don Boudria: That would be quite difficult.
Probably provisions of it could be struck down. There
is one thing, though, that might address in a very
small way what you're saying. Actually, there are two
things. First is the limit that they cannot have a
concerted attack of $150,000 in one riding, because
$3,000 is the limit. So that's one limit. The second
one is that the 48 hours at the end of the period
prevents a last-minute attack ad—you know, at seven
o'clock in the morning as you're driving to work on the
day of the election. So for that last 48-hour
cooling-off period on everything, candidates' ads or
third-party ads—any ads, for that matter—would
You see, what the recent court decision did was to
remove the provision for candidates' ads but leave the
provision there for party ads. Therefore, on election
day, Mr. Solomon couldn't say “Vote NDP”, but he
could have an ad saying “Vote for me, John Solomon”.
That was the anomaly that had developed with some of
the provisions being turfed out and others remaining in
there. It was a rather curious thing that was left.
As well, you could have someone say “Hi, I'm Jean
Chrétien, vote for Eleni Bakopanos”. The word
“Liberal” isn't there. Provided you paid for it,
that would have been an acceptable ad on the day of the
last election. I didn't participate in any kind of
advertising like that. I just thought that the spirit
of the rule that was there should live on.
Technically, though, I believe that would have been
legal because of the fact that we had a series of
provisions. Some here and there were thrown out, and it
left a few others standing. That's the curiosity in
which we're living right now.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: Before I end here, my comment
would be that I know the court required you to
lower the 72 hours to 48 hours. Because of what I
just raised, I'm a little concerned about the lowering
of the hours to 48 hours instead of allowing it for 72.
It's exactly for that reason—vicious attacks on
candidates, and candidates of all parties, by the way.
Mr. Don Boudria: Well, it before had been the
opinion of not only government but also Parliament that
72 hours was the appropriate amount of time; however,
the courts ruled that 72 hours was too long. It didn't
say that 48 hours would work; it just said 72 was too
Second, the court also said that if you're going to
have a limit on polling—and I'll address only the
polling—it has to address methodologies. So if 72
hours is too long, then whatever it is should have
methodology in it as well. So both provisions were put
in, and 48 hours was used.
If you're asking me why not 24 hours, my answer is
that it really wouldn't do anything. Because
newspapers generally publish once a day, 24 hours and
zero hours would be the same quantity. If you decide
you're not going to have a rule, well, that's a
decision that could be made, I suppose. But the minute
there is one, it leave only 48 hours as the next
threshold below 72.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: Thank you.
The Chair: Madam Bakopanos, in connection with
your reference to the possibility of false statements
about candidates intended to affect the election
result, there is a prohibition section in clause 91
that you may want to refer to. The procedural remedies
following that are contained later in the bill. The
minister has already referred to the injunction
Mr. Don Boudria: That injunction was very severe,
and by the time you got it, the election was usually
over. Well, that's going to be made softer, or easier
The Chair: Thank you.
There are a couple of minutes left.
Mr. Pickard, would you like to take the floor.
Mr. Jerry Pickard (Chatham—Kent Essex, Lib.):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to compliment the minister on the changes he
has suggested, but referring as well to Mr. White's
comments, where he specifically asked for examples of
damage that has occurred in the last few elections, I
don't know that we are in the business of measuring
damage that has occurred. I have absolutely no
question that I could look at elections and say, yes,
there were various lobbies that campaigned very heavily
against candidates. We could name a police
association, a teachers' association, the gun lobby, or
the National Citizens' Coalition. All of these lobbies
have spent large amounts of money on campaigns.
We don't have the ability to measure, or I don't think
we've taken into account, the damage that has been
done, but I think what is really critical is the
potential damage that could be created by interests
that we haven't even thought of at this point in time.
There is a tremendous potential damage that I think
could remove democracy in many respects.
No matter what I spend, I can't match the treasury of
many large organizations or many corporations that have
viewpoints differing from my own. That creates a real
dilemma, and I think the third-party advertising is a
very important critical area for democracy itself. I
think I would have great concerns if we didn't make
sure we adhered to those regulations very carefully.
There is a second point I wanted to bring up for the
minister. I think it is important. Mr. Solomon just
came around with a memo referenced from the committee
when Peter Milliken was the chair. They did look at
rural vouching in respect to recommendations being made.
Interestingly enough, it stated that most members were
in favour of rural vouching but there was no consensus
in the committee. I think that would then open up
discussions here, because in fact I believe that in
many rural situations that has been a common practice.
I don't see how it hurts anyone in light of the
fact—and I think Mr. Solomon's point is correct—that
I think a lot of people have gone to the polls without
proper identification in their wallets and so on. Be it
correct or incorrect, it does create a problem in some
communities, and I think it's a valid point to raise
and discuss at this committee.
Mr. Don Boudria: I just saw this document that
relates to the Milliken report. Of course, the
recommendation from the last report is the direct
As I said, if the committee wants to have a look at
that again, I don't object per se. As the rural
Canadian I am—I still live in rural Canada—I
recognize that it's not the same. Maybe it's not
right, but it's quite common for people in rural Canada
to take off and go to the store or what have you but
not have any wallet on them.
don't think of it. Anyway, if you're going to pick up
something at the co-op, you put it on your account,
which you settle at the end of the month, and all that
sort of stuff. It's part of what I live almost every
day too, so I recognize some of these arguments. But
please debate them, and I'll gladly have a look at it.
Mr. Chairman, I'll gladly come back to this committee
again, if it's the wish of the committee, to further
discuss these issues and any others. I want to thank
in advance members of the committee for the hard work
they will be doing on this bill. I'm sure that with
everyone's participation, the bill, which is already
good, will be improved.
With that, I'm going to have to go and prepare for the
question period. In the unlikely event that the
opposition asks our ministers partisan questions, I'm
going to have to go and prepare the non-partisan
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Minister. If there
were a few more minutes, which there are not, I know
there might be a few comments.
Mr. Don Boudria: I can come back.
The Chair: Yes, I realize that. So we will let
you leave for your 1:30 commitment, as previously
For members who wish to comment specifically on
something that's come up today and wish to do it now, I
would recognize you now for just the next two or three
Mr. John Solomon: I just want to raise one thing,
and that is with regard to the 50 candidates rule. The
Ontario high court decision struck down the 50
candidate threshold, and that is unchanged in the act.
Mr. Don Boudria: We're appealing that decision.
Mr. John Solomon: Okay. So until the appeal is
finalized, the 50 threshold is still intact and
you wouldn't consider lowering that. The reason is
that it really restricts regions. If you're going to
have a regional effort politically, it eliminates the
prairies and Atlantic Canada. It certainly provides
opportunities for Ontario and Quebec, but the rest of
the country is quite restricted on it. I just raise
that as an issue.
Mr. Don Boudria: Mr. Chairman, I'm of the view
that this is probably the worst time to.... Once a
decision has been made to appeal it, which it has
been—and I suppose you could argue whether two people
constitute a party, which is effectively what Justice
Molloy said—changing that number while the appeal
is in process would probably be questionable, both as
an idea and perhaps even ethically as well. I think it
should be revisited some other time, if it needs
revisiting. And obviously, given that I'm the minister
who suggested to have such an appeal, I'm of the
opinion that it works just swell the way it is.
The Chair: Members will give that their due
consideration. Nice comment, Mr. Solomon.
Mr. John Solomon: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Mr. Bergeron or Mr. White. This is
without the minister. The minister has had to go to
his 1:30 commitment. And I offer it only as a short
period for comments only.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I would like to make two very brief
comments addressed to the people who were with the Minister.
Perhaps you could give him the message.
I find it a bit strange that the Minister uses the absence of
a recommendation from the Lortie Commission to evade the issue of
popular funding and rejects the recommendation of the Lortie
Commission on the issue of the appointment of returning officers.
You cannot at one and the same time use the absence of a
recommendation as an excuse to say that you won't do something, and
completely dismiss a recommendation to say that you won't do
Concerning the issue of the candidates' trusts, there is
indeed a paragraph in the committee's report, paragraph 21.9, which
The Royal Commission on electoral reform and party financing has
raised the issue of contributions made directly to members of
Parliament, outside of an electoral period. The Chief Electoral
Officer proposes that in the name of transparency and the public's
right to review, members of Parliament be required to disclose
those contributions [...]
Following that, there was a little note that said:
Members endorse the proposal made by Member of Parliament Marlene
Catterall, that when the time comes to consider changing the
definitions of “contribution” and “electoral expense”, it should be
clearly stated in the Canada Elections Act that the name of the
original donor should be disclosed, no matter in what way the money
has been channelled to the campaign organizers.
This obviously includes the candidate's personal trusts.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bergeron.
Mr. White, did you have a comment?
Mr. Ted White: Yes. I just wanted to place on the
record here the observation regarding attack
advertising. The attack advertising in my riding in
fact came from the Liberal candidate. We actually
filed two formal complaints with the commissioner of
elections. So I'm interested to find out that this
process is going to be sped up, because I'm still
waiting for a decision two years after the election.
As it happened, that particular candidate ended up
causing such a problem for himself that I got the
highest percentage vote in North Vancouver in 30 years.
I think that ties in with if you look at the evidence
from around the world and studies that have been done
on the amount of spending on things like referendums in
California and in Switzerland, and even here in Canada
in the case of the Charlottetown Accord, for example,
or the PCs' election spending in 1993, the amount of
money that is spent does not guarantee an outcome. In
fact, if anything, overspending guarantees the opposite
outcome. So I would say the evidence from studies that
have been done is that third party spending generally
doesn't cause any problem with the general trend of the
I would invite any members who have concerns about
that to take a look at the record, even from their own
ridings: where they had attack ads going on didn't
prevent them from being elected. The thrust of my
question to the minister was whether there was any
evidence where a party or a candidate didn't have
sufficient resources to rebut or criticize that
advertising. I don't think there is any evidence that
that's the case.
The Chair: Okay, thank you.
Mr. Pickard, do you want to wait?
Mr. Jerry Pickard: I'll deal with it later. Just
a quick comment with you would be helpful in that
The Chair: All right, that's fine.
Thank you, colleagues. Our next meeting is Thursday
morning, with Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer.
Steering committee will happen somewhere between now
and the gatepost, as soon as we get our witnesses lined
Mr. Ted White: When is the minister coming back?
The Chair: The minister won't be back until
we ask him to come back.
Mr. Ted White: But he will be coming back.
The Chair: He's agreed to come back if we want
So the Chief Electoral Officer Thursday at eleven,
followed by a technical briefing from two groups of
officials immediately after the Chief Electoral
Officer, who will make a brief presentation. We'll
hopefully know what the future agenda looks like at
Is there a motion to adjourn? Mr. Pickard. Great.