Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London for helping me come up with this idea for a private member's bill, the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for seconding it today, and members of all parties who have suggested they are in favour of it, some reading a lot more into it than there is. I would like to thank them all.
It would be good that Canadians could no longer go to jail for not filling out census forms.
Mr. Speaker, the member started off by saying she is confused, and I can hopefully help with that just a little.
This bill, as I have said more than once, would remove jail time and the chance that anyone could ever go to jail for not filling out a survey for Statistics Canada. She may be right that it is not an oft-enforced piece of legislation, so it should not be hard for us to collectively decide to remove it. A great compassionate government like the one that Canada currently enjoys would of course never use that legislation, but why leave it in place to provide an opportunity for bad governments that might follow in the far distant future?
On top of the other statistical data that she asked about that comes from the long form census, the short form census, and the other pieces of information collected by Statistics Canada, we currently have the household survey, a volunteer form, that complements the short form census. Ridings like Elgin—Middlesex—London, where I come from—and many members in the House have ridings exactly like it—run on volunteerism, on people being able to voluntarily help their government by supplying information or doing other things in their communities that are voluntarily driven. The national household survey would continue in that long practice.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the proposed amendments to the Statistics Act. The amendments that my colleague is proposing would have serious negative implications on the governance and accountability of Statistics Canada, the timeliness of the data collection, and the privacy rights of Canadians. This government has taken several steps to ensure that we collect reliable statistical data while maintaining the privacy rights of Canadians at the highest standard. We are committed to safeguarding this balance and we are prepared to defend it. The amendments being proposed would increase costs to taxpayers and impose an undue burden on Canadians, one that we have already eliminated. It is therefore impossible for our government to support this bill.
There is, however, one proposed amendment to the Statistics Act that we do agree with, and that is the removal of jail-time penalties for Canadians who do not fill out mandatory surveys. We are pleased to see that members of the official opposition and the third party recognize the need for this important change. Unfortunately, the proposed amendments in this bill do not go far enough. While the bill seeks to remove jail-time penalties for Canadians who do not fill out mandatory surveys, it does not speak to jail-time penalties that exist in other parts of the act.
When Canadians are asked to respond to surveys about their private lives, there should not be the threat of jail time if they do not comply. This government believes that when Canadians participate in a survey, whether as individuals or as representatives of an organization, they should not have to answer questions or divulge administrative data under the threat of jail time.
That said, this government has a strong record of being tough on crime and standing up for victims. We have committed to re-establishing Canada as a country where those who break the law are punished for their actions, where jail time is proportionate to the crime committed, and where we stand up for the most vulnerable victims. We have brought in many initiatives to ensure that victims remain a priority and that Canadian families from coast to coast to coast can feel safe in their communities. We have ensured that combatting serious crimes and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, such as children and the elderly, remain top priorities. Our justice system should put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals. Canadians expect criminals to serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes. Our government will continue to work to ensure that violent criminals face serious time.
That brings me to my point. Jail sentences are meant for real criminals—terrorists, child predators, and murderers—not for Canadians who fail to complete mandatory surveys. To threaten elderly census protestors with a jail penalty if they do not comply with a survey or if they do not release administrative records makes light of a punishment that we believe should be treated very seriously.
Canadians value the census and understand that their participation is crucial. Canadians know that their responses help to enumerate the country's population in order to define electoral boundaries and calculate important transfer payments. In 2011, the census response rate was 97.1%. Canadians understand and value supporting the collection of reliable data so that we can make informed policy and program decisions.
However, this government believes that no Canadian should have to respond to a mandatory survey or release administrative records under the threat of jail time. Instead of the bill before us that only goes half way, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London has brought forth Bill C-625, which would remove jail-time penalties in all parts of the act for those who refuse or neglect to fill out surveys or do not grant access to their administrative records.
This government has already made strides to ensure that Canadians are no longer forced to answer questions that challenge their privacy rights. This government has worked hard to find a balance between collecting reliable statistical data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians. We have found that balance and we are committed to maintaining it.
I would encourage my colleagues to support the changes proposed in Bill C-625.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the proposed amendments to the Statistics Act.
Canadians expect their government to make informed decisions in order to put in place effective policies and programs. This government has been consistently committed to collecting reliable statistical data, while ensuring the privacy rights of Canadians are respected. We have a robust statistical program that governments, municipalities, associations, businesses and researchers rely on for their work.
Statistics Canada is one of the most highly regarded statistical agencies in the world. It participates in close to 200 international groups, including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the OECD. The agency is often asked to play a prominent role on committees and it is viewed as a strong leader in terms of data quality and management of its statistical programs.
The amendments to the Statistics Act that my colleague across the floor is proposing would have a negative impact on the governance of Statistics Canada, the timelines of data collection and the work that has already been done to alleviate undue burden on Canadians. These changes would be costly to taxpayers and would reverse the strides already taken to ensure the statistical program upholds the privacy rights of Canadians.
The bill proposes to change the method for appointing the chief statistician, shifting the responsibility from the Governor-in-Council to other players. This would blur the accountability of the chief statistician, who is currently appointed in the same manner as other deputy ministers. This government believes in ensuring that the lines of accountability for Governor-in-Council appointments remain clear and transparent. We cannot support a proposal that seeks to impose a separate process.
The bill also seeks to make the chief statistician ultimately accountable for the overall statistical program, including decisions regarding content for the census. This change would disrupt the important balance between the advisory role of expert officials and the accountability of elected officials of Parliament.
When Canadians are asked to provide information on a mandatory basis with legal ramifications for not responding, it is elected officials who should decide the question to be asked. It is elected officials who should be accountable for the content of these surveys as they are responsible to Parliament and ultimately to all Canadians for the overall statistical program. Furthermore, the chief statistician already has a wide range of legally mandated responsibilities to ensure the integrity of the statistical program and to maintain a high standard for protecting the privacy of Canadians.
The bill also seeks to impose unrealistic requirements on Statistics Canada by forcing the agency to comply with ambiguous international best practices. Statistics Canada already follows international standards when they are in the best interests of Canada. Instead, what the bill proposes is to bind Statistics Canada into adopting international practices that may not be suitable to our national context and that may go against the agency's better judgment.
The bill also seeks to force Statistics Canada into publishing all surveys. That is over 350 surveys annually in the Canada Gazette. This would significantly increase costs to taxpayers and add red tape to what is currently a streamlined and transparent process. Statistics Canada already publishes its surveys online and where mandated to do so, publishes questionnaires in the Canada Gazette. To legally bind Statistics Canada into putting all surveys into the Canada Gazette is an unnecessary, burdensome and costly proposal. Statistics Canada's ability to respond to data users and their need for timely information would be severely restricted.
The bill also seeks to turn back the clock and demand that Canadians answer detailed questions about their private lives by reinstating the long-form census. The proposed changes to the bill will legally compel Canadians to answer these intrusive questions. This government has already taken numerous steps to ensure that we collect necessary, reliable date, while reducing the undue burden on Canadians and protecting their privacy.
We have ensured that particular census questions, the ones that help to enumerate the population, to calculate transfer payments, and to make informed policy decisions, remain mandatory, but certain other questions that have been determined to be intrusive and challenge the privacy rights of Canadians are now voluntary. It is this government's view that no Canadian should ever be forced to answer detailed questions about their personal lives with legal recourse if they fail to respond. For that reason, we do support the notion of removing jail time penalties for Canadians who do not respond to mandatory surveys.
Unfortunately, the bill would not even properly address the issue, as it would leave jail time penalties for other sections of the Statistics Act.
This government believes that no Canadian should ever face the threat of jail time for failing to fill out a survey. Nor should Canadians who refuse to disclose certain data face the same penalty. A jail sentence is a penalty meant for real criminals, child predators and terrorists, not for elderly citizens who fail to respond to mandatory surveys.
In keeping with our election promise, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London has introduced Bill C-625, which proposes to remove the threat of jail time, both for those who refuse or fail to respond to all mandatory surveys, not only for the consensus. I would encourage my colleagues to support Bill C-625, as it would ensure Canadians never have to respond to surveys under the threat of jail time.
Canadians deserve a world-class statistical program that collects reliable data and is properly accountable to Parliament. This government will work hard for Canadians to ensure they continue to get just that.
Mr. Speaker, last week the Elgin Military Museum in my riding, including the HMCS Ojibwa, was named recipient of the Brewster Travel Canada Innovator of the Year award in the Canadian tourism awards. I was honoured to attend the awards ceremony and join Ian Raven from my constituency on stage as he accepted this prestigious award.
The HMCS Ojibwa is a retired Cold War submarine that, with the help of our government and through the hard work of many, was brought to Port Burwell, Ontario. Since June 2013, the Ojibwa has welcomed close to 50,000 visitors. I am proud, along with my colleagues the Minister of Justice and the Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), to have been a part of bringing HMCS Ojibwa to the riding.
I invite all to stop by to see this incredible museum full of naval history the next time their travels bring them to the great riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-626 and the proposed amendments to the Statistics Act.
First and foremost, the government has consistently been committed to balancing the need to collect reliable statistical data while protecting the privacy of Canadians and reducing costs for our taxpayers.
Many aspects of the bill would negatively affect the governance and accountability of Statistics Canada, the timeliness of data collection, and would force Statistics Canada into adopting standards and practices that may be unsuitable for the Canadian context. Moreover, it would increase costs to taxpayers and impose an unnecessary burden on Canadians that has already been lifted. For these reasons, it is impossible for this government to support the bill.
Our government committed to the removal of jail-time penalties for not filling out mandatory surveys. The bill before us would partially accomplish this; however, the bill does not go far enough. While the bill seeks to remove the threat of jail time for Canadians refusing to respond to mandatory surveys, including the census, it would not remove this threat from other portions of the act.
We believe that when Canadians respond to surveys about their private lives, they should be able to do so in complete confidence, without the threat of imprisonment for failing to comply. We also believe that when Canadians take part in the survey, whether as an individual citizen or on behalf of an organization, they should never have to respond to questions or provide administrative data under the threat of imprisonment.
This government has committed to being tough on crime and has brought forward many measures to meet this commitment. We have also made standing up for victims a priority, to ensure that Canadians feel safer in their communities. We have worked to combat serious crimes, protecting some of the most vulnerable members in our society against harm and abuse.
We believe that our criminal law should be focused on actual criminals and should reflect the gravity of the crimes committed. Prison penalties should be reserved for criminals, drug traffickers, murders, and child abusers, but not for people who fail to comply with mandatory surveys or fail to provide administrative data. It is just like the Liberals: they want to turn law-abiding Canadians into criminals, either through this bill or with what they tried to do under the long gun registry.
There is no utility in threatening jail time for Canadians who refuse to fill out surveys, especially when this disciplinary measure has scarcely been enforced. There is only one individual in the history of the census who has ever been sentenced to custody for failing to complete a mandatory survey. In all other cases, which are few in number during each census cycle, the penalty of a fine or community service has been sufficient.
Canadians understand that their participation in the census is important. Their responses are necessary for establishing the population of the country, which is information that we need to define electoral districts and determine transfer payments involving billions of dollars to the provinces.
Canadians value the census, and this was no more evident than in the response rate of the last census in 2011, which was 97.1%. This highlights Canadians' commitment to helping us collect the information that we need to inform policies and programs right across the country.
However, it is this government's view that no Canadian should ever face the threat of imprisonment for refusing to fill out a census or a mandatory survey, or for refusing to grant access to administrative information. This is why, in keeping with our election promise, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London has introduced Bill C-625, which proposes to remove the threat of jail time for all forms of data collection.
It was this government that stood up for Canadians and made the necessary changes to the census so that no Canadian would ever feel forced to answer intrusive questions that challenged their right to privacy. It was this government that worked to find a balance between the need to collect reliable, relevant data and the obligation to protect the privacy that Canadians value.
We have taken numerous steps to ensure that fundamental information, the information that is so important to Canadians in communities across the country that it must remain mandatory, continues to be collected.
The government has also decided that Canadians should not be forced to respond to detailed questions about their private lives, and has since adopted the national household survey. This survey provides a better balance between collecting reliable data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
This government has the utmost respect for the right to privacy that all Canadians deserve, and we believe that when Canadians participate in mandatory surveys, they should be able to do so without the threat of imprisonment. Prison is meant for criminals, not for those who do not comply with mandatory surveys or fail to provide administrative data.
The current bill would not take the issue far enough and would not remove the unnecessary imprisonment threat for all forms of data collection.
I would encourage my colleagues to support Bill C-625 when it comes forward for debate and vote against Bill C-626.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that member along with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London for the strong work they have done over the years on co-operatives. I think that leadership was important.
As that member would know very well, for 100 years co-operatives have been a fundamental part of communities across the country in creating jobs and promoting growth.
Let me say with regard to our action plan that our government has launched a four-point action plan to support the growth and innovation of co-operatives across Canada. That is a review of Industry Canada's programs to identify obstructions that any co-operative would have. We think that is great news for co-operatives and we would like to celebrate them.
The amendment is in order.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand today to talk about economic action plan 2014.
I will cover a few things today. As a small-business owner, I am going to talk about small business support and what this budget offers. I will talk about community and families. I will talk about jobs and growth being our priority as a government and in this budget, and I will certainly talk, and perhaps brag a little, about returning to balance and going forward.
First, I will talk a little about Elgin—Middlesex—London, how this bill pertains, and why I think economic action plan 2014 is the right way to go.
Elgin—Middlesex—London is a very diverse riding in southern Ontario. As the member for London West, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, would say, it is the 10th-largest city in Canada, and it has an urban centre that comes with it. However, the rest of the riding is very diverse from an agricultural point of view, and it includes about 80 miles of the Lake Erie shoreline, where we even find commercial fishing. It is very diverse, with heavy manufacturing in one part of the riding, a pretty good urban base, a wide-open economic part for agriculture, and some great recreation.
I lead off with that so that I can talk about why small business growth is so important to me. I am a small-business person still. We have to move forward by expanding our small-business base in this country.
Small businesses create so much employment in our country. So much of what happens, certainly in small rural communities, happens because of small business, and I do not just mean the jobs those small business people create, because that is a given. Business people want to be successful and hire people.
We should stop to think of the goods and services purchased by small businesses in each of our small communities and the really unique things that happen in small communities, such as the small-business owner not only being the sponsor of the local hockey team but probably the coach too, or the small business being the place where we go to get our local news. When we can make a decision in a budget that makes small businesses stronger and gives them the ability to hire more employees, it is something that can really have an impact.
The small business job credit that is part of economic action plan 2014 would allow small businesses to not contribute some of the EI portion for their staff.
If there is anyone else in the House who is a small-business person, I can certainly share with them my own business habits and those of other small-business people I know. If money is saved by a small-business person, not very often is it profit or money that goes back into our pockets. It is spent on expansion, on hiring, or on other things. The small business job credit truly would do exactly that. As small businesses find that they are saving, they will certainly turn that into hiring new employees or buying new products or whatever else it might be.
The other piece in economic action plan 2014 that will affect small businesses in a great way is the continued reduction by this government of red tape for small businesses.
I love to go to work. I know that many small-business people love to go to work, but not one of them has said that they like to go to work and sit in the back room and fill out government paperwork. That is one thing I have never heard at a Chamber of Commerce meeting or a Canadian Federation of Independent Business meeting. It is just not what people look forward to.
I think we can certainly suggest that those couple of things in this budget, from a small business and community point of view, are very important.
I said I would also talk about communities and families. I crossed over to that when I was talking about small businesses, because in many communities, small businesses are a great part of the community and the families that go with it. If small businesses cannot succeed in rural communities, we start to lose our families. The families in rural communities are, of course, what makes them work.
Also included in economic action plan 2014 is a children's fitness tax credit, which helps keep our communities more active. Members can laugh, but one of the exciting things we do in small communities is head down to the local arena or the local ball diamond to watch our kids being physically active. Something like the children's fitness tax credit being expanded in economic action plan 2014 adds to the fabric of rural communities in a way that maybe would not be noticed in a large urban centre.
The recreational facilities and the community piece is a sidebar. They are something that happens because we are doing something right with the child fitness tax credit.
There are a couple of other pieces in economic action plan 2014 that affect communities, and certainly rural communities, in a great way. One has to do with competition in the telecommunications sector and ensuring that people in rural Canada have what our urban counterparts have. It is certainly to have an increase in the ability to have broadband for our kids' use, from an educational point of view.
I already mentioned that vibrant small businesses help rural communities be vibrant. Access to good broadband Internet service for those small businesses is a huge thing and needs to happen in our rural communities.
We also talk in economic action plan 2014 about an end to pay-to-pay billing for consumers. Whether it is in rural or urban communities, not having to pay for having a bill delivered to our house is important for communities and families.
I said I would also talk about how jobs and growth continue to be what we must think of as priority one, job one. In our heavy manufacturing centre in southern Ontario, we saw a great loss with the closure of some very large car plants and the like during the recession. We trade almost everything we make in Elgin—Middlesex—London with the United States. It is a huge proportion of trade where we live, because north-south trade has always been the easiest thing to do.
With the great recession in the United States, we had to find other customers, and now as the United States is recovering, we are finding that not only can we keep our other customers, with some of the great deals this government has been able to put together around the world, but we can also go back to our trading partners in the United States and start selling them goods. Do not tell them, because it will work a lot better if they do not know that they are buying from Canada. Jobs and prosperity are very important.
I want to finish with what I think is truly the best thing that has happened under this government and in economic action plan 2014, and that is finishing the balancing of the budget to take us back to a balanced situation. A number of things will happen because of that. Certainly there will be the ability for us to lower the tax burden for Canadian families and Canadian businesses, because we will be back into balance.
There is also the psychological piece that happens in every household. There may be times when we have to put a little bit on the credit card. There may be times when we have to take out a little loan to renovate, but there is always that bit of celebration when we pay off the balance. When the mortgage is paid off, it is incredible. To compare the country of Canada with the rural family in Elgin—Middlesex—London, it is a joyous time when we can celebrate returning to balance and being able to make good financial decisions, including allowing Canadians to keep a little bit more money in their pockets.
Mr. Speaker, recently, along with the Minister of Public Works, I was pleased to celebrate major milestones of a project I have supported since 2006, the Huron-Elgin-London project for clean water, more commonly known as the HELP clean water initiative.
It is exciting to see the clean water initiative come together as a result of the funding partnership between the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the HELP clean water regional partnership. I am proud to be part of it. This initiative will enhance the quality and reliability of clean drinking water for over half a million people in 14 municipalities in southwestern Ontario between Lake Huron and Lake Erie for generations to come.
Thanks to our government's Building Canada fund, I was proudly able to see this project come to fruition during my time as the member of Parliament for Elgin—Middlesex—London. I thank all who played a part in this successful initiative.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-625, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (removal of imprisonment).
Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill would amend the Statistics Act to remove the possibility of imprisonment for the failure to fill out mandatory Statistics Canada surveys and to allow the release of data from the 2011 National Household Survey in the future.
The constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London have told me that they are happy to volunteer information to Statistics Canada and that no one should ever go to jail for refusing to do so. I hope members of the House would also agree.
I thank the member for Dufferin—Caledon for his help today.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, it is great to stand and speak to the fair elections act. As the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I have gone what seems many months not being able to say too much about what I was, I will not say forced, but forced to sit and listen to, but it certainly was a long study. I was proud to commit the time to try to move forward and work together with the members of the committee on this piece of legislation.
I would like to start with the fact that the members of the committee worked very hard together and worked fairly well together. Sure, we had our rough points, but we worked pretty hard.
If you will indulge me, Mr. Speaker, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent contributed well and even had to celebrate her birthday at a night meeting of the committee, so we thank her for that sacrifice, also the member for Toronto—Danforth and the member for Hamilton Centre whose voice rings in my ears even when I am away from this place. There was the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, the member for Wild Rose, and the member for Etobicoke Centre. A great fill-in member, the member for Oxford was there a lot. The member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands spent a great deal of time with us at committee to look at this legislation and move it forward.
We know it was long hours and I am told it was around 31 hours of study at committee. As the chair, one must pay attention and the hours seemed much longer than 31. Some 72 witnesses appeared at committee. On top of that, there were many more briefs from people who were unable to attend or who sent us briefs with their opinions. We had witnesses by teleconference from Australia, more than one from the United States, and from across Canada by teleconference and in person at the committee.
Every witness who was asked for by every party in the House to attend was asked to come. Those who could, did. Those who could not, sent briefs or at least shared with us their information. We wanted to make sure that we gave every opportunity to each person who asked could those good people attend.
From the beginning the committee set a date for the completion of its study by motion to the committee, so it was not a surprise to anyone at committee when we were going to end. The pile of work heading toward that date sometimes seemed like it would not move, but it did. The reason for the date for the conclusion is that the Chief Electoral Officer had told us ahead of time the election legislation coming forward needed to be in his hands by a certain date so that by the election 2015 in October, he would be able to run an election on that piece of legislation. We set the date.
All members knew of this deadline. Some chose to use their time for other purposes, some for much longer debate than perhaps was needed, but all in all, we shared good information with each other. As a committee, I am very thankful we were able to work together and at the end of the day, take a pretty great piece of legislation and make it even better with some amendments that we were able to move forward.
Let me discuss some of those. Canadians have spoken. The information we are hearing from them, certainly on the voter identification side, is that they are reasonably pleased with where we are headed. I can say now what I heard in my riding while in coffee shops, at church suppers and yes, I do attend the odd one. People would come to my constituency and ask questions about the fair elections act. There are a number of people who watch this on TV and say they know I am the guy from the fair elections act.
Yes, I know; I have a cult following out there now, but even in my own constituency office, I was able to share with them where we are headed.
My constituents would say, “What about this voter ID thing?” I would say, “Well, I know you as a good Canadian citizen. What part of it is bothering you?” They said they had heard that some people would not get to vote. I asked them if they believed that people in Canada, in a modern democracy, should be able to go to the polls and not have to prove who they are. Every person I spoke to in my riding, bar none, asked what I meant when I said that people could vote without proving who they were. What did I mean when I said that no identification was needed?
I told them that was the difference.That was what we were discussing at committee. What we were trying to deal with was whether it is okay for people to come in and have someone else say who they are, or whether they should have to pull out something and say, “This is who I am and this is where I live”.
We have made an amendment to the bill to help with this last part about saying where they live. We did that because we think that if someone can say, “Hi, this is who I am”, then someone else at the same poll who has identification could help them with the part about where they live.
Many people in the riding during that time talked about how there are 18 months until the next election. If someone knew right now that they did not have the identification that they needed, could they not go and get it? We even heard this from some of the testimony at committee.
There are some great community groups out there. I think it was the London Homeless Coalition member who told us at committee that the organization had a whole group that does nothing but help people get ID, because people do not need ID just for this. It is really important to them and they really want to make sure that people can vote, but the organization worries about people needing identification for some other basic things in life, so it has a group that helps people find identification.
Voters and constituents in the riding suggested that with enough notice of what the requirement might be, people should be able to go out and get ID in order to vote. Both of the parties across from me require ID to vote in specific party functions in their parties. Members of both opposition parties must show ID if they want to pick a leader, and the great citizens of Elgin—Middlesex—London at least agreed with me at the time that it would probably be a good idea to have to show ID to vote.
While we were at this committee, many people were following us, whether it was on CPAC or in other ways. A high school group in my riding was following closely on CPAC, and after one of the meetings, I had a meeting with them by Skype. I love to get out and speak to all the high school groups that I can about what the job of a member of Parliament is like.
This high school spent a great deal of time following this committee, and because of the length of the meetings, I could not always be in my riding, so I met with them on Skype one day. Online, we went round the room, and I asked if there was anybody there who could not vote tomorrow. They all said no, that ID was or could be available to them if they wanted to go out and get it, and that they could certainly get it by the October 2015 deadline.
Again, we can make a great piece of legislation even better by amending it to include taking an oath. If a person goes to vote and can prove who they are but not their address by showing ID, and they are at a polling station with someone else who has ID displaying who they are and where they live, both of them can sign an oath attesting to the address of the person who does not have the ID with an address on it.
As one of my constituents who I believe was a farmer said to me, “I can get all the ID I need to go vote, yet other people could go into a voting station without all that ID. Why don't they just do the same work I did to get it?”
I also wanted to share that there have been a number of elections over the years I have been on this committee, and after every election the Chief Electoral Officer sends a report to our committee for us to review. I have now been through three of them, perhaps four, and three times the Chief Electoral Officer sent us a group of recommendations to look at. Many of the recommendations over the years from the Chief Electoral Officer for additions or changes to the Elections Act are in fact in the fair elections act. I wanted to make sure we shared that also.
While I am talking about the Chief Electoral Officer and his powers, his ability to run elections, we should compliment Elections Canada on what it does. In my riding, there are over 200 polls. There are 308 ridings across this country, so Elections Canada runs an event that has many points of interest and many places someone can go. Hopefully it gets all the people to the right place at the right time, which is part of why I think the great suggestion is that Elections Canada spend the majority or all of its time telling people when and where and what time to go vote.
Many of the surveys that we heard during this study and have heard at procedure and House affairs when looking at previous Chief Electoral Officers' reports tell us why people do not vote. The question is always asked after every election, after the votes are cast and we are all here. Elections Canada does a pretty good job of doing surveys itself or of hiring other people to do surveys to find out whether an individual voted, and if not, why not. In every case the leading answer was, “I was really busy. I did not find the time”. In this piece of legislation we have created another whole day of pre-election dates that we can now vote on.
Many citizens say in those same surveys that they did not know they could go to the election office and vote at any time during an election. They say they did not know there was a special ballot or that there were different election days. They thought that they had to show up on election day but did not really know where it was. That is why they did not vote, so telling people where and when and what ID to bring is pretty important.
I was searching through the paper on the weekend, trying to decide what else I might do. I was in the movie section, and there were some great ads for movies. The ads told me what time the movie started and what theatre they were at. Based on that, I could make my decision about what I might do that evening. There was no place in the ad that told me why I should go to see that movie. It might have listed who the stars were, and that might help me make up my mind. However, I think it is our job as the 308 men and women in this House to really provide the why to voters. It is our job to tell people why they should come out and vote for Joe. or why they should come out and exercise a ballot at any time.
It is not clear that it is the job of anyone other than the political people in this country to do the why. If Elections Canada does a great job of telling people the where, the when, the ID to bring, the different methods, the visit to the returning office, or the using of the special ballot for voting offshore, that would be one job absolutely taken care of. They can leave it up to us to talk about the why.
As I said, I spent some time in this job talking at schools. I love going to schools and talking to students about my job as a member of Parliament, which, by the way, is the best job one could ever have, and we certainly share that.
I mentioned in my statement about even using Skype to talk to high school classes. We have asked the Chief Electoral Officer to keep that in place as another way of making a great bill better. There was an amendment to ask Elections Canada to please keep things like the student vote in place. I have been active, and I know many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle have been very active, in student votes in past elections. We get high school students talking about how elections work, what they look like, what it takes to be a candidate, and then they actually hold an election at the high school level. We get them very interested in being voters from that point on.
I am glad with the changes allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to use a program called “Student Vote”. Getting it back into the schools is a fantastic change in this piece of legislation.
One of the other things we talked a lot about and heard about at committee was something we heard about more before the legislation came forward and maybe less afterward. It was using the CRTC as a way of watching and regulating voter contact. I think I can safely say that in the last election—and I will try to underestimate it—I made about 200,000 phone calls in my constituency. We had two town hall meetings calling every house in the riding, and then there were a number of others, whether it was to get out the vote or to tell people about advance poll day. We called just about everyone there too. A great number of phone calls were made in the riding. Did I ever hear from anyone from CRTC? No, because if there are rules and we follow them, this is not a problem.
If the phone call comes in and it is “Hi, I'm Joe Preston. I'm your Conservative candidate, and I—”
Mr. Speaker, I want to celebrate the successes of this Conservative government's renewable fuels strategy.
In my riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, the Integrated Grain Processors Co-operative very recently produced its one billionth litre of ethanol. IGPC Ethanol Inc. began producing fuel ethanol in October 2008. Located in the town of Aylmer, IGPC produces 150 million litres of ethanol annually. The distiller's grains, which are a co-product of ethanol manufacturing, feed area beef, dairy, and pork operations. This bio-refinery provides a local market for grains and employs over 50 people in my riding.
Our government's approach to reducing greenhouse gases spurred the construction of plants like IGPC. Our renewable fuels strategy would reduce emissions while creating economic growth in rural areas. This is in stark contrast to the NDP and Liberal tax on everything, which would just hurt farmers and small businesses.
Mr. Speaker, I will try another one:
Madam Speaker, the government each day and every day continues to show the Canadian taxpayer that it does not care. [...]
One of the most recent examples of this is the use of the Challenger jets as flying limos, as party taxis, as a way of not having to sit with the regular folk.
[...] In just a few hours of travel the government has spent the annual earnings of a family in Canada.
[...]...if a year's salary spent on these flights home is okay. Let us ask seniors or farmers who just had the oil tank filled for the winter if these flights are okay.
Who said that? That was the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London. Come on down and show us that you stand for accountability and that you are not going to hide behind a government of corruption. Stand up and stand with us. We are calling on you. This is your chance.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to share that one of my constituents recently received a prestigious honour, the Volunteer Service Award, bestowed upon him by the Province of Ontario.
Dan Kelly has been a lead volunteer for Junior Achievement, an international organization that has been working with students in the London-St. Thomas area since 1967. This fantastic program helps high school students run their own businesses and actually sell products to consumers. This includes product development, assembly packaging, and marketing. Consultants oversee the program as volunteers each year from November to April, and over the past several years the St. Thomas operation has been led by my friend Dan Kelly of Dowler-Karn Fuels.
Volunteers like Dan Kelly and the teaching of young people the skills of business is what makes communities like Elgin—Middlesex—London a richer place. Congratulations to Dan. We are proud of him.
When the House last left the question, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London had seven minutes remaining in his remarks.
The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Mr. Speaker, I was reminded earlier that yesterday was the trade deadline in the NHL. New Democrats are so much against trade that they wanted to cancel that day too.
I cannot speak specifically to the member's riding; I can tell him what it means to Elgin—Middlesex—London, my riding. I am certain that if that is the case, it would help all places across Canada, but certainly it would benefit in the area of agricultural goods and the movement of beef and pork, as I mentioned in my speech.
Ours is an area of southern Ontario that drastically needs the trade that fell off from the United States during the economic downturn. It would benefit the manufacturing equipment that we make, and the chemicals that Canada can sell around the world.
I mentioned industrial machinery. Vehicles and auto parts are another sector. All of these things currently have very high trade tariff levels in Honduras, up to 15%, and they would disappear with a free trade agreement. That would certainly mean that manufacturers, small businesses, and small machine shops in my own riding could have work through free trade with Honduras.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London for that excellent question. I am pleased to report great news. According to the Canadian Press, there is “...broad support for budget balance as feds poised for black ink in 2015”.
A new Harris-Decima poll finds a remarkable consensus about deficit reduction.... ...a clear majority...believe the deficit should be eliminated before any increased spending occurs....
Today's great news is about to get even better. The world's greatest Minister of Finance will table economic action plan 2014 shortly, which will pave the way to a balanced budget in 2015.
The electoral district of Elgin--Middlesex--London (Ontario) has a population of 110,028 with 79,894 registered voters and 218 polling divisions.
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