Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 7, Evidence - April 10, 2014


OTTAWA, Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs met this day at 1:34 p.m. 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; and, in camera, for the consideration of a draft report.

Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good afternoon and welcome, colleagues, invited guests, members of the general public who are following today's proceedings of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

We are continuing our pre-study on Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts. This bill proposes amendments to numerous aspects of Canada's electoral law along with related amendments to the Telecommunications Act, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, among other acts.

The bill is currently being studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which has heard from a number of witnesses on certain elements of the bill. Our task as a committee is to conduct public hearings on the subject matter of the bill which will allow us to report on some of our findings prior to its introduction in the Senate.

For our final panel this week, I would like to introduce Ric Lim, who is a representative of the Pirate Party of Canada; and Michael Nicula, Party Leader of the Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency.

Mr. Lim, I would ask you to begin with your opening statement and then we will turn the floor over to Mr. Nicula.

Ric Lim, Representative, Pirate Party of Canada: Good afternoon. I'm here from the Pirate Party of Canada. We are a federal political party focused on reform to information law and democracy in the 21st century. One of our founding principles is open government. This could be easily realized using practical technological solutions to implement the real-time automatic online disclosures of spending and other data.

The Chair: Mr. Lim, can you slow down a bit? It is difficult for translation.

Mr. Lim: These are essential to a frugal and honest government. It will help make guaranteed income, or Mincome, feasible. We believe in making Canada the best place in the world to live in. We offer an important alternative voice. Having more real choices is good for democracy. It is hard to compete against established and well-funded parties. We have accepted the challenge because Canadians are not being properly served and Bill C-23 is evidence of this.

Bill C-23 is about to make competition harder. It creates loopholes, allowing established parties to spend millions more. In a virtually limitless spending environment, rich parties and well-funded special interest groups have undue influence. As demonstrated south of the border and pointed out in a Boston Globe May 12, 2013, article by Tracy Jan, members of Congress spent twice as much time on fundraising than on committee hearings, floor votes or meeting with constituents. By introducing more money into the system, we risk adding a level of distraction our lawmakers do not need.

Furthermore, allegations against Dean Del Maestro, whether true or not, demonstrate one way of how the ban on corporate donations can easily be circumvented. Bill C-23 does not address this problem but, instead, creates new ones.

Another major point that is less often discussed is the central poll supervisor could become a partisan appointee. Sure, there are deputies and poll watchers that are partisans to provide checks and balances. But making the central poll supervisor a biased partisan from a winning party is like picking a judge from the prosecution team.

The difference between established democracy like ours and countries where people continue to die fighting for democracy is we trust our elections. That trust is harmed with a biased partisan as the central poll supervisor. The central poll supervisor decides whether or not a ballot is valid.

A partisan central poll supervisor could lead to the systematic contesting of ballots like the ones we saw in Florida, meant to disenfranchise voters. It is heartbreaking to see the integrity of our democracy dismantled like this.

Laws must be carefully considered and evaluated. It takes time for every possible point to be raised and to seek expert testimony; otherwise, the result is always a bad law.

The Conservative Party of Canada once believed in the same thing. Many election experts have made it clear they were not consulted on C-23. The bill was rushed through Commons with little time for debate. It has been a long time since the Senate's duty to exercise sober second thought was this great. This is a bad law and the Senate has a duty to send it back.

Much has already been said about vouching. We just want to say there is no proven case of voter fraud. However, the last election saw many complaints of voter suppression. Why is the Elections Act silent about voter suppression and instead focusing on the yet-to-be proven voter fraud? If there's voter fraud, prosecute them. But we all know there were undeniable cases of voter suppression in the last general election. Why are we introducing measures that will further disenfranchise more voters, especially young people and Aboriginals?

It is wrong to prevent Elections Canada from encouraging people to vote. We cannot have an election body that is unable to ensure proper conduct of an election. With barely 60 per cent of Canadians voting, we need all hands on deck for increasing turnout. Elections Canada needs more power to investigate voter suppression. Instead, C-23 takes power away from Elections Canada.

It was said that the experts, including 160 professors that study political law, do not understand the running of the government. Shouldn't we be spending time discussing the points raised by the experts? Government exists to serve the people. It is our servant, not our master. It should not be dismissive of either experts or ordinary citizens. Ordinary people often know more about a problem than the people at the top.

We appeal to all honourable parliamentarians to set aside partisanship and stop this bill. There is no urgency for this reform. It is being rushed through even though it clearly has problems. It needs thoughtful debate and much more careful scrutiny. Many experts and ordinary Canadians have come forward to say this election act is unfair and damaging. Canadians deserve better. We are better off without it.

The Chair: Mr. Nicola.

Michael Nicula, Party Leader, Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency: Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is a pleasure to appear today as part of the pre-study of Bill C-23.

My name is Michael Nicula. I'm the leader of PACT, which stands for Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency. This is Canada's only non-partisan online participatory democracy portal. Our website welcomes any Canadian registered voter, regardless of their political affiliation, to comment and vote on any issue that they care about, including parliamentary bills. I can say that literally I speak on behalf of all Canadian voters — well, those who care to have their say and vote.

We recently posted Bill C-23 on our website, and today I'm in a position to report that 96 per cent of those who have voted so far are flatly rejecting this bill. Here are the top three reasons why that is.

Number one: U.S.-style voter suppression tactics. Most Canadians say this provision may be anti-constitutional. A student who lives in residency, a senior who lives in a seniors' home, or even a homeless person, are as Canadian as you and I, and they are entitled to vote, even if they may not have a proper address or an ID to show it.

My personal observation here is that there is no evidence to support the concern of voter fraud. Actually, the Conservative Party has backpedalled on that claim recently, and obviously the Conservative Party is moving to prevent students from voting. This is so transparent.

I agree that ideally every voter should vote in their district of residence and today's technology permits that, but this bill is so hypocritical. The Conservatives don't see a residency issue when they parachute candidates of convenience into key electoral districts. Actually, all major parties use this highly unfair and non-democratic practice. Just a few months ago, Justin Trudeau parachuted Chrystia Freeland into the Toronto Centre by-elections, and weeks ago he threatened to block another local candidate in Toronto's Trinity—Spadina riding.

Mr. Chair, if the big parties are okay with candidates moving around, then the voters should be allowed to move around, too.

The second reason why Canadians reject this bill is that it opens the door for even more influence of big money and creates a huge loophole that will allow the rich donors to pump money into the electoral campaigns, unchecked.

Mr. Chair, slowly but surely the Conservative Party, with the silent complicity of the Liberal Party, are pushing Canada into a U.S.-style, two-party system, the Reds and the Blues, a system where the influence of the rich and powerful runs rampant. The other smaller parties will become less and less relevant and Canadian democracy will be diminished.

The third reason: The muzzling of Elections Canada, the electoral watchdog who Canadians say needs more, not less, power to investigate and seriously punish those who commit elections offences. May I point out that nobody was seriously punished in the robo-calls scandal, the illegal transfer of funds into Mr. Flaherty's district, or for that matter the sponsorship scandal that marred the Liberal Party.

There are many other reasons why Canadians reject this bill, and I will provide a full summary to this committee after these proceedings.

To be sure, Canadians want to see Elections Act changes, but the most important changes we expect are nowhere to be found in this bill. I checked it many times over. Most Canadians support proportional representation, but Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau, who really control Parliament's agenda, are opposed to it. Mr. Harper used to support PR when he was in opposition, and I have the evidence for this. More surprisingly, Mr. Trudeau is demonstrating dictatorial inclinations in line with his admiration for the Chinese democracy.

Mr. Chair, today we have a phony Conservative majority while less than 25 per cent of Canadian voters have voted Conservative. Meanwhile, the Green Party only has one seat in the house while they really deserve 12. This is unfair, this is non-democratic and it comes as no surprise that the big parties oppose proportional representation.

Mr. Chair, all the watchdogs of Canadian democracy are barking loudly today. Civil society, small parties, non- governmental organizations, experts, we have done all we could to stop this unfair and non-democratic bill. You may actually have the power to stop it. The question is: What will you do?

Thank you. I am pleased to take questions.

The Chair: Thank you. We do have questions for you, and we will begin with the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Baker.

Senator Baker: I thank the witnesses for appearing here today. I must say they're in fine political style. You are really impressive, and you look like you have already started your election campaigns.

For the viewing public, because this is seen across Canada, I wonder if each one of you could tell us whether your parties are registered parties in Canada, whether you run candidates, and how many you hope to run in the next election, and primarily how does this disadvantage your particular political party?

Mr. Lim: In the U.S., we see that you need a lot of money to be able to run. In running a campaign, usually the more money you have, I guess you can reach more households. The per-vote subsidy was a good way of making it fair because it is how many votes you get, you get the amount of money; while under the proposed system, it would be whoever has the richer candidate would have more money to put in and their supporters could also contribute more.

I don't think that's very democratic if the richer people — or the party with the richer backing — that back them are able to have advantage over those who don't have as much.

Senator Baker: Are you a registered party and are you running candidates in the next election?

Mr. Lim: Yes, we are. We ran some candidates previously, and we're planning to hopefully run more candidates, try to get as much as we can.

Mr. Nicula: The Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency is a registered party. We registered under the name Online Party of Canada and recently changed the name.

We run candidates. Actually, in the upcoming by-election in Trinity—Spadina, Ms. Olivia Chow's seat, I will run there. We ran in Toronto-Centre against Ms. Chrystia Freeland in November, and we are hoping to run another 10 candidates across the country in the next general election in 2015.

The reason why we believe that the smaller parties are put at a disadvantage is money. It's as simple as that. Politics in Canada is very much a money game. You have to be in our shoes to realize that. The big parties benefit from free advertising on TV. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Harper are on TV every day and we're not. Not only that, but they have the public coffers at their disposal. Right now, Mr. Harper is spending $100 million of taxpayers' money running Canada's Economic Action Plan, which is obviously an advertising campaign for the Conservative Party. We do not have that financial power. It will take decades to raise that much money.

Senator Baker: How does this adversely affect you, though? The present bill we have before us, how does it disadvantage you compared to the present situation?

Mr. Nicula: It's very simple. Instead of levelling the playing field for all political parties, it actually makes the gap even wider.

Senator Baker: How?

Mr. Nicula: By creating a loophole where the big parties are now allowed to spend more by making calls for donations, not campaign spending. Basically they are now free to spend millions of dollars calling for more donors, and the money that they spent on calling people will not count towards the limit that the other parties have.

Obviously, the parties that have more money, they actually can make more calls. The gap between the rich parties and poor parties, or smaller parties, is going to increase.

Senator Baker: Why have you just mentioned the Conservatives and the Liberals here? You didn't even mention the NDP. Aren't they even in existence as far as you are concerned?

Mr. Nicula: The NDP has not had a chance to —

Senator Baker: They're the official opposition.

Mr. Nicula: I know, but they never had a turn at the big bone, which is the —

Senator Baker: You don't think they will?

Mr. Nicula: They may, but, believe me, once they take a taste of that juicy bone, they will become as bad as the Conservatives.

It's not their fault: It is human nature. They want power and, when they get it, they want more power. It's the duty of civil society and you, if I may, to actually put the checks and balances in place to make sure that these parties are not going nuts trying to get even more power.

I don't blame them, because that's what they're there for, right? They want more power so they can push their agenda, but that's not right.

Senator Frum: Mr. Lim, you said you ran candidates in the 2011 election.

Mr. Lim: Yes, we did.

Senator Frum: Because you said you prefer the per-vote subsidy system, have you calculated how much money you would get in that system?

Mr. Lim: Honestly, we are a new party. so we won't get much out of it at this point.

Senator Frum: I understand. It seems to me that one of the problems with that system is, as a new party, it's harder for you to get financing than it is under Bill C-23 when you can raise $1,500 a person.

Mr. Lim: We've only run our first election, so the percentage of vote is minimal. If we continue to grow, as we expect, then as we start getting more votes — I can tell you our financial status right now, we're all volunteer run. We cannot afford to pay anyone anything. Even if we managed to get a certain percentage of votes, without the vote subsidy we will still be in the same position.

Senator Frum: I appreciate it's hard to start a new party; I sympathize with that. Given that you're a new, unestablished party, why would you think of a per-vote subsidy as a better way for you to get the funds you need than direct donations?

Mr. Lim: It's fairer because it's not necessarily looking at how it's going to benefit us at this point in time. Down the road I think it's a fairer system because if we start getting support from Canadians, then we'll get more funding. It doesn't matter if we don't have rich supporters. Because it's a per-vote subsidy, we get a lot of percentage so well get a lot of money.

Senator Frum: Mr. Nicula, I don't know if you have been following the testimony to this committee, but we had Mr. Kingsley here, the former Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada. I asked him about his opinions on the financial measures in Bill C-23. I asked him how he felt about the spending limit being raised to $1,500 per person. He thinks that, in the world context, Canada is the best jurisdiction for fund-raising, and he said:

We are about the one jurisdiction that truly controls money in the political process, in the electoral process. Obviously, we could do better in terms of the auditing of party books, but that's another issue. In terms of the control of money, the fact that only a human being who is a Canadian can give; the fact that that is an amount by which one cannot say that a politician can be swayed or a political party can be swayed; that no corporation can give; that no union can give; that no association can give, not even the Boy Scouts of Canada, mean that this is a tremendous system.

I take it you disagree with him.

Mr. Nicula: Totally disagree.

Senator Frum: Go ahead.

Mr. Nicula: I'm a certified professional accountant.

Senator Baker: Hear, hear!

Mr. Nicula: I can tell you that you have to look at the numbers. These small potatoes, these small amounts that we're talking about here are so insignificant in comparison to the money that the big parties have at their disposal. We're talking here about hundreds of millions of dollars. Me raising $10,000, $15,000 is not going to put a dent in it. That's beside the fact that these big parties have access every day to TV. I would have to pay to be on TV. They don't have to pay for it.

I want to add, the Government of Canada is in the top five advertising budgets. They beat General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola in terms of the money they spent on advertising. This is not immoral: It should actually be illegal.

In many countries there's no such thing. In Norway, which we should be looking at, not the U.S., all parties have equal access to TV. Canadians should have an opportunity to see what we have to say. Maybe the platform of my party is better than that of the Conservative Party. Who's going to know? I do not have the financial power to get into the homes of Canadians and get their attention.

This bill is looking at change, basically, small money. But we're talking about the big money that the big parties are running in between elections, because there's no limit. This morning I was at Elections Canada on a briefing on this law and I asked the Chief Electoral Officer, ``Why is there not a limit in between elections?''

In between elections the Conservative Party can raise and spend $10 billion. There's no limit to it. I don't have that power.

This bill addresses the financial issue in less than 0.1 per cent, to talk about numbers here.

Senator Moore: Thank you both for being here. This bill changes or restricts the authorities of the Chief Electoral Officer and of the Commissioner of Canada Elections. Have you looked at those aspects of the bill? If you have, what comments do you have to make about those changes or restrictions?

Mr. Lim: Yes. I'm trying to look up the section.

Because there was voter suppression, Elections Canada asked for more power. Instead, the bill would take away power from Elections Canada. Elections Canada is an impartial body that overlooks our elections.

I think they should be given the power to investigate election fraud and not a prosecutor appointed by a partisan government.

Senator Moore: I should just make sure you understand that the investigative wing is the commissioner, not the Chief Electoral Officer. The commissioner, under this bill, does not have the power to compel parties to come before him or her and give testimony with regard to suspected improprieties. I want to make sure that you understand that.

I don't know if you have any thoughts about that authority resting with the commissioner so that he can compel witnesses and try to get to the bottom of a situation in a timely way for the good of the system, of course, and the good of the parties that maybe involved. It's usually pretty sensitive stuff, and they can be cleared more quickly if he has a right to get in there and do his research. Have your parties thought about that?

Mr. Lim: Yes. We fully support giving more power to the commissioner. From what I understand, the power will be given to the prosecutor instead, which is a partisan, appointed person.

Senator Moore: Mr. Nicula?

Mr. Nicula: I'm bringing comments here from real voters who voted on our website on this bill. The concern is that this law does not do anything to increase the actual power that the Elections Canada commissioner has to punish anything. We're not that stupid. Canadians are not that stupid. No one in Canada has ever been punished severely for any illegal act in terms of elections. Robo-calls, sponsorship scandal, moving money around — no one has ever been punished seriously. There have been some small punishments.

What we're looking at are real punishments. This bill should actually give some teeth to the electoral watchdog to actually do something because just talking for five years about the robo-calls and putting it under the rug is not going to solve the issue.

As to your question about the Chief Electoral Officer, this bill is actually going to restrict the activity of the Chief Electoral Officer, who, in the past, has been trying to promote voter participation. Voter participation in Canada is very low. I want to make a statement here that the Online Party of Canada, now the Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency, has done more than the Government of Canada to attract voters. We put the bills on the website. People can vote from the comfort of their home. We authenticate them. We make sure that every registered voter can vote regardless of political affiliation. We have done this.

We want to see that the Chief Electoral Officer has more power. I want to see that they can actually now employ new technologies to make it easier for voters, especially young voters, who are so turned away from politics, to actually vote. They don't want to go and sit in line in the basement of a church when they do Facebook and Snapchat and Tumblr on the Internet. Today, we can vote on the Internet. For American Idol, they elect their victor within hours, and they can count millions of votes. I'm not saying we go there, but today's technology allows for authentication. The banks do it. I can log in to my CRA account. Don't tell me that that's not safe. Then, I can vote on bills, on ideas, on anything. Today's technology does that.

I want the Chief Electoral Officer to actually be in a position to promote —

The Chair: We don't want speeches. We'd like you to tighten up your responses so that all members can have an opportunity to ask questions.

Senator Moore: You mentioned that 96 per cent of those who voted have rejected the bill. I'd like to know how many people voted and whether or not they had comments about the bill's proposal to eliminate vouching. So how many voted? Tell me your thoughts on vouching.

Mr. Nicula: The vote is continuous online. I don't have the final numbers.

Senator Moore: What's the latest number?

Mr. Nicula: The latest number was 51.

Senator Moore: Fifty-one voters. How long was it on the site?

Mr. Nicula: It was on the site for two days.

Senator Plett: I would hardly think that is a real test of the bill, having 51 people vote against it.

Mr. Nicula: It matches national polls.

Senator Plett: You've spent a lot of time telling us what all is wrong with the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party and not what is wrong with the bill.

The Conservative Party of Canada's average donation is $99. Their average annual donation, from any one person, is $199. That's not actually the rich people donating to the Conservative Party of Canada.

The Liberal Party, I believe — and I don't want to speak for them — has adopted similar methods, and I know the NDP has as well. So when you say that it's only the rich because of our voting methods, I find it a joke for you even to say that.

The fact of the matter is that the Conservative Party of Canada is in government. They have an action plan and they are advertising that. That's simply something a government does. If you ever form government or even ever get a seat, you might have an opportunity to do some of that as well.

As for proportional representation, I'm not sure where that fits in with this bill, but when we talk about proportional representation, a few short years ago, the PC Party of Canada went down to two seats. They, together with the Alliance Party, are now the Government of Canada because they pulled up their socks and went and did some work, instead of complaining about what all is wrong in our country, and formed the government.

If you have some comments about what is wrong with this bill, I would like to hear them, not what is wrong with the government and the fact that some of us have pulled up our socks and gotten to work and formed government.

Mr. Lim: You mentioned that the average contribution is $100, but considering the number of contributors for the Conservatives, you have a much larger base of contributors. While not everyone might be giving their maximum, there could be some who could go through a corporation and could give the cheque to an individual, which the individual could then contribute to the party. Which individual would then be hard to prove.

There were some allegations about that. Whether that's true or not, I guess that's up to the courts, but it demonstrates how that could easily be circumvented.

Mentioning the average amount for such a big party like the Conservatives and Liberals, it might be lower, I guess, but you have more base as opposed to a smaller party for which the average is lower. That represents general members, contributing only a small amount that they can afford.

Senator Plett: You can break the law whether you do it here or anywhere else. I can break the law and go and pay someone else to donate for me, but that's breaking the law. I can go and rob a bank, but that's breaking the law. The laws don't allow us to do that. It is this government that implemented the policy of no corporate giving. It's this government that implemented the policy of, first, a $1,000 maximum, now $1,200. Now, there's a suggestion of $1,500. You are the only witness that I've heard say that that is a problem because there are very few people who donate that maximum. You have that same opportunity. The 51 people who support you could each give you $1,500, and at least you'd have $60,000 to start your next campaign with.

Mr. Nicula: With all due respect, sir, you've got to come down to reality; $1,200 is a lot of money for the average Canadian to donate for a political cause. I'm middle class, and I would think twice if I wanted to donate that much money. It's not a small amount.

Forgive me for saying this, but I think there's a perception — and I think there's some truth to it — that the Conservative supporters are richer than the NDP supporters. I want to know what the average contribution of the NDP supporters is. I can tell you that for my party, most of the members of PACT say that they don't have any money to contribute, and they apologize. Those who do, give me $20, $25. So the average, for my party, would be around $5 per member.

Senator Plett: I wouldn't give you that.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Thank you for being here. I fully agree with my colleague Senator Plett. I feel that your brief is rather an indictment of the government. Some things in your brief are outright false.

Yesterday, we received a witness who actively raises awareness in schools. When you say that this bill or this government is there to reduce the participation of young people in elections, I think that is demagoguery. The experiment this civic-minded group did was to simulate the voting experience for young people, and those young people would have elected a Conservative government. I wonder what the basis is for your opinion, which I think flies in the face of the ethics of submitting a brief here.

[English]

Mr. Lim: No, I didn't claim that — vouching, I don't say it's intentional or not, but that's what I said, that the vouching will disenfranchise.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: But you understand that when you say things that are not true, that takes away all the credibility from your brief. Do you agree with that?

[English]

Mr. Nicula: Sorry, I didn't have a chance to respond.

The Chair: I apologize. Go ahead.

Mr. Nicula: Experts have said that this bill is actually suppressing voters. I'll give you examples of why that is.

This is targeted towards students, because Conservatives don't like students. Students tend to vote Liberal and NDP.

Students live in residence. They live maybe six people in one house. They come from many towns across the nation, and they may or may not have bothered to change their address. If they bring a utility bill, Hydro Toronto does not send a bill to each one of them. It's one who has it in his name. The other five have no possibility, no choice; they cannot prove their address.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Mr. Nicula, when you quote information like that, cite the source. You made a statement without citing the source. In your submissions, I would advise you to cite the source when you make a statement and say that it comes from experts.

[English]

Mr. Nicula: Yes. On our website, Bill C-23 has 10 different resources, links to media, articles, expert opinions that say that. I'm not making this up.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Thank you to our two guests. I listened to you and I must say that I am a bit surprised. My colleagues may find me redundant, but I can tell you that the bill seeks to modernize the elections legislation. You know as well as I do that there were horse-drawn carriages in cities many years ago; today there are horses in cities but the legislation has been changed. That being said, I read your document.

Let us talk about parachute candidates. Are you against it even if they are Canadians? Canada is vast. Could you elaborate on what you mean by that?

[English]

Mr. Nicula: I said that. This bill is basically trying to prevent people who do not have a permanent residence in a certain district to vote in that district. So if my address is in Guelph and I'm a student in Toronto, I should go back to Guelph to vote on election day and not vote in Toronto, because I would be voting in a Toronto riding.

The same does not apply to candidates. A party leader, like myself, has the power to approve or to block the nomination of a candidate. There's nowhere in this bill and there's nowhere in the elections law that says that the candidate has to be from that riding.

I gave an example of Ms. Chrystia Freeland. She still had her address in New York, U.S.A., when she registered to be a candidate in Toronto Centre. Mr. Trudeau preferred her because she had a better chance to win, by basically blocking the locally elected candidate. This has happened many times before.

I got a call from a candidate from the Conservative Party in Mississauga who was upset because he just won the nomination of the party in his riding and Mr. Harper wanted somebody else. So this is not fair to start with.

The fact that there is no requirement for a candidate to be residing in their district makes it hypocritical for the government to turn around and say, well, it's fine for a candidate to be from somewhere else.

The Chair: This is not a platform. We want you to deal with the legislation. I'm going to move on to Senator Batters.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: When you are a candidate parachuted into a riding and you do not live in that riding, you can ask the Chief Electoral Officer to allow you to vote in the riding you were parachuted into. I am well aware of that. I was a parachute candidate, sir.

[English]

Senator Batters: Mr. Nicula, you spoke in response to one of my colleagues' questions. You mentioned that Elections Canada gave you a briefing on this particular law this morning. Was it just you who was there?

Mr. Nicula: No.

Senator Batters: Who else was there?

Mr. Nicula: Representatives from all 18 registered political parties.

Senator Batters: When were you invited to this briefing? Was it after you were already scheduled to appear at this particular committee?

Mr. Nicula: No, before.

Senator Batters: Who gave the briefing?

Mr. Nicula: The whole leadership of Elections Canada.

Senator Batters: Marc Mayrand?

Mr. Nicula: Yes, he was there.

Senator Batters: Who else was there?

Mr. Nicula: The entire leadership.

Senator Batters: What were you told at that particular briefing? Were you told about all the reasons that Elections Canada opposes this bill?

Mr. Nicula: It was a technical briefing. They have not made any comments.

Senator Batters: They have made comments.

Mr. Nicula: They just explained the technical aspects of the bill.

Senator Batters: Did they also explain the reasons that they were opposed to numerous provisions of this bill?

Mr. Nicula: No, not to me, not in public.

Senator Batters: What sort of information did they provide you with?

Mr. Nicula: They explained what changes this bill brings, in terms of, for example, political financing, what is going to change, the limits. Then they took questions from us, all kinds of theoretical situations. ``What happens if I donate this much money to a candidate in my riding, can I donate in some other place? What kind of ID can I use? Is the voter identification card going to be allowed or not as a piece of ID,'' and so on.

Senator Batters: Did they give you information about the voter information card? Did they say that they would continue to send out the voter information card but it just could not be used as ID?

Mr. Nicula: Yes. It could not be used as one of the identification forms.

Senator Batters: True, it can't be used as identification under this bill, but did they indicate that they would still be continuing to send out the voter identification cards, or did anyone ask that question?

Mr. Nicula: Nobody asked that question, but since you cannot use it as an identification, it kind of becomes redundant.

Senator Batters: Not really. It has some pretty important information on there, including where to vote, when to vote, advance polling days, special ballot, all kinds of important information for people who want to exercise their ballot.

Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for making the effort to appear here today and presenting your views to the committee.

Members, we are going to suspend and reconvene at 3 p.m. and give members an opportunity to attend the Senate chamber. We will return and deal with our report at that time.

(The committee suspended.)


(The committee resumed.)

The Chair: I'm looking for a motion to move in camera for the consideration of a draft report.

Senator Moore: So moved.

The Chair: Moved by Senator Moore. All in agreement?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed. Can I have a motion to permit senators' staff to remain in the room? Moved by Senator Plett. Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

(The committee continued in camera.)


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