Ottawa – February 7, 2014 – As this is being written, the Harper conservatives have just passed a ‘Time Allocation Motion’ limiting debate on their new Bill C-23, Fair Elections Act. The
242-page bill had only just been introduced and already debate is being restricted.
It is no surprise that Conservative Boss Harper wants to change the rules governing elections. Conservatives have been at odds with Elections Canada since they were first elected. From the In and Out scandal; to robocalls; to illegal campaign spending from the likes of Peter Penashue and Dean Del Mastro; the resulting investigations by Elections Canada and Marc Maynard, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer have angered Conservatives, resulting in the independent agency and its chief officer being added to Harper’s enemies list. Maynard, who has had made many suggestions in the past on improving Canada’s election laws, was not even consulted by the government on the changes.
Instead of providing Elections Canada with more powers to investigate wrongdoing as suggested, the new bill, when enacted, will strip them of their investigative powers. The powers of the head of Elections Canada investigation division – the commissioner of Canada’s Elections who makes decisions to investigate complaints – will be transferred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is appointed by the government. So basically a Harper appointee will now direct investigations into possible electoral fraud
Under the bill, Elections Canada would be allowed to tell voters where and when to vote, but that is about all. Elections Canada would no longer be permitted to launch outreach and educational campaigns to encourage people to actually vote. While other countries are looking at ways to increase voter turnout, the bill also makes it more difficult to look at adopting alternative voting methods such as electronic voting.
The bill will make it more difficult to vote for those who lack proper identification by eliminating “vouching”. This will make it even harder for a number of not usually Conservative-friendly voters to cast a ballot, such as First Nations, students, people who live in poverty, and the homeless.
The bill increases donation limits to $1500 annually, increases spending limits, and exempts more expenses from the limits. Who does this help? Those who are struggling to make ends meet, or those who have the wealth to make even greater donations? In 2013 the Conservatives had as many donors giving $200 or more than the Liberals and NDP combined.
No wonder the rush to get the bill through without a full debate on its partisan goals to discourage voters, open the door to bigger donations from elites, and to take the power of the Chief Electoral Officer to commission an investigation into electoral fraud, and hand it over to a Harper appointee.
"What I note from the Bill is that no longer will there be referee be on the ice," said Chief Electoral Officer Marc Maynard said. "The referee won't be able to call an offside."
The Fair Election Act or the Fair to Conservatives Election Act?