Opposition Motion — Instruction to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Regarding Bill C-23

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, it is hard not to pick up on the point from the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington on removing the per vote system, which was the only way many Canadians felt their vote actually counted.

Moving on, the member cited the Supreme Court decision that dealt with the current member for Etobicoke Centre while missing one of its central features, and that is the majority decision of the judiciary. I want to draw the member’s attention to this sentence: “The goal of accessibility”, that is the goal of being able to fulfill the section 3 right to vote under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “can only be achieved if we are prepared to accept some degree of uncertainty that all who voted were entitled to do so”.

In other words, the ability to have vouching to make sure that people have the right to vote and can exercise that at the polls is so important that it is why the court found, in that instance, that the results of that election would not be overturned. We must have the right to vote and ensure that Canadians are not ensnared in a series of complicated ID proferrings that require multiples of different forms of ID.

I ask my hon. colleague if he does not think the Supreme Court was right on that point

Scott Reid: Mr. Speaker, I think the court actually was absolutely right on that point. Remember that this decision revolved around the eligibility to vote of senior citizens at a limited access, 24-hour care facility serviced by a mobile poll.

The argument being presented by the Liberal Party in this case, and supported by the dissenting judges in this ruling, was that the right to vote under the charter is a pro forma right. People must be qualified voters, and there can be very severe restrictions on what that means, including purely technical restrictions.

There is no question that the people who voted in that case could not be vouched for. There was no one living, including their spouses, if they had living spouses, at the same poll who could vouch for them. They were going to be deprived of their vote on that basis and an election overturned. The Supreme Court was entirely right to say that just because they did not have someone vouch for them was no cause to disallow their vote.

This is, in fact, the exact opposite of the point the member is making. This is about people who could not be vouched for. At no point in these discussions have I heard anyone talk about the people who did not benefit, who could not benefit, from the vouching system who were nevertheless being deprived of their right to vote by this kind of technical argument. Therefore I am very supportive indeed of that part of the Supreme Court’s ruling.