GuelphToday has received the following letter to the editor from Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield on the meaning and importance of Elections Act, Bill C-76, a bill which he says, if enacted, will give Elections Canada more power to compel witnesses, make it easier for Canadians to vote and better protect our elections from foreign meddling:
Last week, I spoke in the House about our Government’s proposed changes to the Elections Act, Bill C-76. This is an issue of personal importance for me and for our community.
As you may remember, Guelph was the primary target of robocalls that provided false information to voters in the 2011 election. We were not alone – 247 of the 308 ridings in Canada were affected by these misleading calls. This meant that voting was made more difficult and confusing for an untold number of residents across the country, including in Guelph.
Misleading voters is a crime that undercuts our rights as Canadian citizens to vote.
When it came time to hold the perpetrators of the robocall scandal responsible, they had all but disappeared, making collecting evidence extremely difficult. Here in Guelph, the Conservative campaign manager moved to Kuwait, changed his email, left no phone number and refused to speak with Elections Canada.
This bill would change all that. It would give power to Elections Canada to ask to compel testimony and ensure thorough investigations and where warranted, prosecution under the Act. But that’s not all.
Our government also believes every Canadian should have the opportunity to vote, and that voting should be as easy as possible to encourage participation. The more people that vote, the fairer our election system is. The previous government made voting more difficult for Canadians in several ways, including not allowing voter cards to be used as identification, and restricting the ability of Canadians living abroad to vote.
This bill would reverse those decisions, because we know that youth and indigenous Canadians are groups that traditionally have low voter turnout. Canadians living on reserves, in long-term care, or students studying away from home often have difficulty providing identification with a current address, which makes it so they are unable to vote. The ability to use voter ID cards has been proven to be an effective way to get these Canadians to the ballot box.
There are also approximately one million Canadians living abroad. Whether they chose to live abroad for work, or to help with family, these Canadians have a right to vote, and this bill will return their right to vote again.
Our government firmly believes that a high level of engagement and high voter turnout makes Canada stronger. Our democracy is something to be cherished and protected, which is why the recent reports of foreign agency interference in elections around the world are so troubling.
Bill C-76 will do more to protect our elections from this type of meddling by modernizing the guidelines around computer use during an election period. It will prevent foreign buyers from purchasing ad space online to influence voters during a Canadian election. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
The freedom and independence of Canada’s democracy is foundational to who we are as Canadians, and we must ensure proper protections are in place to protect those values. Our bill will give Elections Canada and the CEO the powers to conduct robust and secure elections in Canada.
Thankfully, with Bill C-76, our Liberal government is restoring and modernizing the crucial parts of the Act to reflect the challenges that democracy is facing globally, and right here in Guelph.
Member of Parliament for Guelph