Yesterday’s debate of the NDP’s motion on the Fair Elections Act starts here and resumes here—including speeches from the minister of democratic reform, NDP critic Craig Scott and Liberal critic Scott Simms. Mr. Scott suggested an amendment that would narrow the exclusion for fundraising that the legislation allows.
The debate was mostly overshadowed by something that occurred before the debate began—Conservative MP Brad Butt rising on a point of order during debate of a private member’s bill to report to the House that he had made a statement on February 6 that was “not accurate.” Back on February 6, Mr. Butt said that he had “actually witnessed other people picking up the voter cards, going to the campaign office of whatever candidate they support and handing out these voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into voting stations with friends who vouch for them with no ID” and that he had “seen campaign workers follow, pick up a dozen of them afterward, and walk out. Why are they doing that? They are doing it so they can hand those cards to other people, who will then be vouched for at a voting booth and vote illegally.” A YouTube user who seems to specialize in embarrassing clips of Conservatives and New Democrats, has compiled the video evidence.
A week after making those remarks in the House, Mr. Butt remarked at a meeting of the Procedure and House Affairs committee that he had “certainly heard anecdotally from members [of the Greater Toronto Apartment Association] that often when voter information cards are mailed into apartment buildings, residents will of course go their mail room, they will open up their mailbox, pull out whatever is there, a lot of it is often flyers, but also the voter ID card, or the voter notification card as I prefer to call it—it really isn’t identification, it is a notification card—is often discarded in the mailroom, in the garbage can or in the blue box, as the case may be. I have heard anecdotally that individuals have subsequently come into those mail rooms, they have grabbed those voter notification cards, and presumably for a reason I assume to use those cards to vouch for an individual who would then go to vote in place of the real voter who was the tenant in that unit.”
In hindsight, there should have been more attention directed at Mr. Butt’s original comments—he was basically confessing to having witnessed election fraud or at least possible evidence thereof. Indeed, the Globe now reports that a complaint regarding Mr. Butt’s comments had been filed with Elections Canada.
This morning, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen stood on a point of privilege to ask that the Speaker find that Mr. Butt’s original statement in the House amounted to a prima facie case of contempt of the House. Government House leader Peter Van Loan countered that Mr. Butt’s move to correct the record addresses any concern about contempt.
This afternoon, Mr. Butt returned to his feet to explain that he was relaying information that had been relayed to him “many years ago” from second- and third-hand parties when he worked in the rental housing industry. He also apologized to “all Canadians and to all members of this House,” saying it was never his intention to mislead the House.
Meanwhile, NDP MP David Christopherson talked out another two hours at the Procedure and House Affairs committee this morning, continuing his filibuster to protest the Conservative side’s unwillingness to conduct hearings on the Fair Elections Act outside Ottawa.