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C-31: Amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act

Honourable senators, I have attended many sessions of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on this bill for the simple reason that I partially disagree with giving Elections Canada preferred status as an employer for their part-time positions.

Not so long ago, the Commissioner of Elections asked Parliament for money and person-years in order to establish a permanent register of electors, citing difficulties recruiting people to go door to door before every election. For many years we have been hearing endless horror stories about this permanent list. It seems that the problem has never been resolved and today, we want to add requirements to this list of electors.

I would also like to talk about the amendment to the bill that would give Elections Canada the ability to have part-time employees for a period of 165 days of work per calendar year. Honourable senators, 165 days is 33 weeks per calendar year and I think that no longer constitutes part-time work.

Two years ago, when Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer at the time, asked for 165 days of work per calendar year, the House of Commons committee agreed on a maximum of 125 days. The bill eventually died on the Order Paper as a result of the election, but there was nonetheless consensus on 125 days, which was increase over 1990 figures.

I have a real problem with this for two reasons: first, if an employee is needed 33 weeks in a calendar year for operations, then it seems to me that permanent positions should be considered. These part-time employees do not get benefits or a pension and yet they are deemed necessary. Second, in 37 elections there has never been a complaint that 90 days per calendar year were insufficient.

We are in the process of giving Elections Canada a special privilege and we risk setting a precedent for part-time employees in the federal public service and Crown corporations. This goes well beyond a simple amendment. I wholeheartedly disagree with this amendment. We must not create a separate class of employees. We have given Elections Canada the funding and tools needed to create a permanent list of electors. In my opinion, this has not been successful and now they are saying that part-time employees are not enough.

For all these reasons I will be voting against the amendment and against the bill.