Preston Manning calls for Fair Elections Act to be amended

Pierre Poilievre responds to the suggestions


In his speech on the state of the conservative movement this afternoon, Preston Manning addressed the issue of democratic reform and, in so doing, recommended that the Free Elections Act be amended.

Amend the Fair Elections Act, Bill C-23, currently before the House – hopefully with all-party consent – to strengthen and expand rather than weaken the role of Elections Canada with respect to addressing the greatest challenge to the Canadian electoral system, which is not its unfairness, which you’ve got to always to be worried about, the greatest challenge to our electoral system is the steady decline in voter turnout in elections. Let’s strengthen our capacity to address that.

The prepared text includes this additional paragraph…

This legislation, which is a commendable democratic initiative, seeks to eliminate those practices – robo-calling, misuse of the vouching provision, misuse of election contributions, etc. – which discredit elections and parties associated with them. It also seeks to strengthen the enforcement of electoral law by separating that role from Elections Canada and making it the sole jurisdiction of the Independent Commissioner of Elections under the Director for Public Prosecutions. It can be improved, as I say, by strengthening rather than reducing the role of Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer with respect to promotional and educational activities designed to increase voter participation in Canada’s elections.

… and this footnote explaining what amendment he would make.

Add to Section 18 (1) listing the only topics on which the Chief Electoral Officer may provide information to the public, “(f) public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public and increase voter participation.”

This goes to the Fair Elections Act’s limits on what advertising and outreach Elections Canada would be able to do.

Pierre Poilievre seemed unmoved when I asked him about Mr. Manning’s suggestion this afternoon. Here’s some of what he had to say.

I welcome his input, he obviously has a lot of political experience in mobilizing people to participate in democracy. I think a better idea would be for the Manning institute and the Broadbent institute to actually drive up voter turnout because they’re both run by highly skilled political leaders who have inspired mass voter turnout in past elections. These practioners would be far better suited to driving turnout than a government agency. So my views remain the same…

You’ve got schools that educate our kids about politics, universities which take that education to a higher level, household kitchen tables where parents teach their kids and a vigorous media which keeps people regularly informed. I think all of those do plenty to educate people. And then it’s the job of political parties to give people somebody to vote for. Elections Canada, on the other hand, needs to get people the basic information about voting. And frankly, the data shows they haven’t done a very good job of that…

You know, when you have half of young people who don’t know that they can vote in an early ballot, 73% of aboriginal youth who don’t know that they can vote early, 60% of non-voters say their biggest obstacle are everyday life issues like being out of town, those are statistics that demonstrate the agency has not adequately educated the public about the tools that are available to help them cast their ballots. That is their singular role. I think everyone, regardless of what they think about my approach on education, everyone would agree that the first responsibility of Elections Canada when it comes to advertising is to tell people when, where and how to vote. It is demonstrably evident that they haven’t done that well, based on their own information. So when you’ve got political parties, schools, parents, media who can educate and inspire people to participate in politics, I think it’s time for Elections Canada to zero its focus in on the thing that it’s most intended to do.


Preston Manning calls for Fair Elections Act to be amended

  1. I don’t think Preston Manning is very happy about the way his party turned out….and considering Poilievre’s response here, I don’t blame him.

    • He’s as crooked as the rest of them.

      • And why do you say that?

        • He was outed trying to influence the Calgary municipal elections through his Manning Centre training programs.

          • Hmmm hadn’t heard that. I can’t imagine anything in Alberta going Lib or Dip. LOL

          • You’d be surprised at the number of Liberal supporters in the cities. Don’t forget a large portion of Albertans came here from somewhere else in Canada.

          • Edmonton has an NDP MP, several NDP and Liberal MLAs. Heck, Calgary even has Liberal MLAs and came very close to winning that federal by-election last year. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi won 73% of the vote as a liberal (if not a “L”iberal) and his chief of staff Chima Nkemdirim is going to run federally in Calgary for LPC. Liberals are a “big minority”, so to speak, in Alberta, sometimes polling around 20-30%.

          • We were talking federally….and as far as I know Alberta only has one fluke NDP MP

          • Linda Duncan has won two elections in a row for the NDP, and won 53% of the vote in 2011. More than a fluke.
            CPC won Calgary Centre in 2013 with 37% of the vote versus 33% for the Liberals. I can see the LPC winning three or four urban ridings if Harper keeps turning off Conservative party members.

          • The lone dipper in Alberta is a fluke so far.

            There may be more after 8 years of Harper…..but Alberta is Con as a province even after what….40 years?

          • A fluke twice in a row? That’s… a hell of a fluke..

          • LOL well it certainly isn’t a revolution

          • Actually the idea for voter-suppressing robo-calls originated in Manning Center “campaign workshops.” Not officially, of course. It was the stuff talked about on coffee break.

            Manning’s principles are doing whatever it takes for Reformers to get power. Harper is a Reformer, who abandoned all his “principles” once coming to power. Now that he’s on the way out, the Reformers will be running against the record of the Reformers so they can install another Reformer dictatorship on 39% of the vote.

            The only way to stop the insanity is with voting reform. Do like developed countries do: ensure an actual majority of voters is represented in government. (It’s called democracy; not Manning’s idea of democracy, of course…)

          • I’d like to see them make it easier to vote for everyone. If I can bank securely on-line I should be able to vote securely on-line. All we need is honest oversight. That however has proved elusive to elected officials the world over for eons.

          • “I’d like to see them make it easier to vote for everyone. If I can bank securely on-line I should be able to vote securely on-line.”

            Yes online voting is the way to go. The Cons know increased voter turn out is a threat to them. That’s why they killed an Election’s Canada e-voting pilot project. Their “Fair Elections” act would also require legislative approval by the House and Senate before EC could implement any form of e-voting.

          • With online voting there is no way to verify that the person who cast the vote is who they should be. It would make voter fraud easier. E.g., unscrupulous party operatives head down to a poorer part of town and pay people for their voting PINs prior to the start of voting. Additionally, the usual check against coercion, secret voting, would no longer be guaranteed; so you could get a situation, for example, in which the head of a household directs family members to vote his/her way or else….

            Also, I’m one of those people that believes that it’s just not that burdensome for a person to once every few years find their way over to a voting station. People make time and effort for all kinds of unimportant things, so asking them to make a small amount of time and effort at very infrequent intervals to physicaly vote is not unreasonable IMO.

          • “It’s not the voters who count, it’s who counts the votes” – J. Stalin

  2. Poilievre keeps referring to Elections Canada as a government agency. It’s not a government agency. It’s an independent office of the Parliament of Canada, and that includes all opposition parties, and all Canadians. He also downplays the muzzling effect this act will have on the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, specifically that he will not be able to talk about democracy in Canada. What else is this but muzzling? No minister has the right to silence our elections agency, period.

  3. Frankly the data shows , someone knows who accessed the Conservative data base ,maybe if EC had the power to compel those uncooperative witnesses we would know the rack nine connection ? Fair ?

    • THE Con data base is so secure that only Cons could access this data. Why do you think the Cons have been stonewalling the investigators. Ditto the Del affair. And indeed why do you think they are gutting the powers of Election Canada, if not to avoid a court trial where some of the Con election managers would have to testify under oath. These Cons rigged the game in multiple ridings and are now trying to erase their machinations from the public mind. And believe me these robo calls were undertaken in more ridings than the public has been made aware of.

  4. “I think all of those do plenty to educate people. And then it’s the
    job of political parties to give people somebody to vote for.”

    Call me blindly partisan on this bill, but i do think PP is actually blaming progressive parties for not being able to inspire the poor, the young and Aboriginals and students to come out and vote for them; and he doesn’t feel that EC should be doing anything other than posting race time to rectify that situation.The idea that these groups are not voting principally because they don’t know when to do so is frankly a tad bizarre…

    ‘Hey progressive parties why don’t you try winning an election and throwing some tax credits at them like we do with our guys? Then they might have a reason to turn up. Is it our fault that only losers can’t even be bothered to vote for you?’

  5. Preston Manning is a generation behind in his understanding of the technology. All the political parties will be well-equipped with Big Data teams, the main purpose of which is to drive turnout, a la Obama. Obama’s Big Data team changed the composition of the electorate two elections in a row, because they knew everything about everyone, and exactly how to push their voters to the polls. (Obama put more effort into getting competent people to implement his Big Data electoroal strategies than he did into getting competent people to implement Obamacare…i.e. he cared more about getting elected than his policies actually being implemented and working effectively.) Romney was convinced he was going to win. FOX was convinced Romney was going to win. They believed 2008 was a fluke. But Obama’s two Big Data victories were a triumph is identifying your voters and making sure they voted. You had Obama representatives on TV election panels telling the punditry pretty much where the early results were wrong, and that their vote would eventually show up exactly where they said it would.

    There is no need for Elections Canada to do it. It is an utter waste of money, because the political parties will do it themselves. It is much more important for EC to make sure that the playing field is fair, and the rules are enforced in the era of Big Data.

    Turnout is going to be a given.

    • Just like its always been, right!

    • In the 2011 election Elections Canada sponsored advance polls at universities. There was one incident where a conservative supporter attempted to make off with a ballot box claiming that it was NOT EC sanctioned (it was). Students tend to vote liberal you see, and the conservatives really hate that.

      The name of the ballot box thief? — one Michael Sona.

      So now Poilievre wants to privatize one of the traditional roles of EC? Just leave it up to the political parties or lobby groups with the most money? OK then.

      One of the big reasons for the drop in election participation is the disgusting perpetual negative ad campaign that the CPC has conducted and mastered over the last 8 years.

      This Fair Elections Act is just another chapter in the massive fraud being perpetuated by the current government. No accountability and only minimal consequences for any misdeeds.

      • EC had to apologize later that some polling sites were improperly authorized by a local official. i.e. A local official did not follow the correct processes with proper notice about some of these polling stations.

        The problems in Etobicoke Centre which where the Liberals went to court to throw out vouched votes was mainly poorly trained Elections Canada staff.

        Until they train and educate their own staff so they are competent and know their own rules and processes, how can they train and educate anybody else.

        • “Affidavits filed by three Elections Canada polling staffers at this poll, number 427, describe a Conservative named Roman who arrived at the poll in the morning and “suddenly started screaming and waving his arms wildly … He was raging in a bullying fashion, which caused confusion, and frightened many voters.”

          Seems like Opitz’s own campaign manager was a pretty huge problem in Etobicoke Centre. Opitz won by 26 seats. I wonder how many Liberal votes went un-cast while Roman Gawur deliberately obstructed the voting.

          Same tactic as Michael Sona. Probably just another huge coincidence.

          • Lame. Try again.

        • EC wanted increased funding to do exactly that and the Cons turned them down.

    • “It is an utter waste of money, because the political parties will do it themselves.”

      Further amplifying the role of money in electoral success. Does that seem like the right direction to you?

      • What is wrong with political parties spending money identifying their voters and motivating them to go to the polls, especially where the donation limit is from individuals only and not excessively large, and with corporate and unit money banned?

        In the future, because of Big Data, the parties will be able to tell you what their vote will likely be before the writ is dropped.

        Big Data means every day is election day for political parties, and EC does an independent count every four years. Obama, arguably, had better population data than the US Census Bureau.

        In the future, because of technology, confidence in the government, might be something that can be determined weekly or monthly. Every day will be election day eventually.

        Poilievre is right looking forward in that EC should focus on their processes. The reality of Big Data means that the political parties will do the grass roots education and vote motivating work.

        • I would prefer it if political parties did not teach elementary and high school children about voting. Only 1-2% of Canadians belong to a political party- it appears partisan politics is not our life blood.

        • I didn’t ask about Big Data, I asked whether you believed that more money in party politics would be a good thing for Canadian democracy.

          The Conservative Party certainly believes it. The biggest theme of this election bill is to allow parties to spend more.

          Personally I find it nauseating that a government would push legislation that gives them increased advantage in the very next election. Doesn’t that bother you?

    • Ah, no.
      Loved the part about Fox and Romney being surprised by the US election result, though.

    • We do not need to open a vacuum in our schools ( elementary/ high) for partisan politics to fill. Future voters are Canadian citizens with rights too. EC has a non- partisan role to play. Elections Canada inspires school children to become good citizens.  I would prefer this type of education continue to be delivered in a non-partisan structured manner. 

      “Welcome Teachers

      Spark Interest in Voting in Your Classroom – We Provide the Tools!

      Educational Products and Resources

      As educators, your role is more crucial than ever in showing the relevance of our parliamentary and democratic institutions to students – the voters of tomorrow.

      Elections Canada offers elementary, secondary and ESL teachers free educational resources, tools, activities, information and links, all designed to make your work a little easier.

      Educational Products
      Elementary level
      Secondary level
      ESL, low literacy
      Educational Resources
      Annual initiatives
      Elections Canada Partners
      Online order form
      Available to order”

      • Why should Elections Canada be involved in what should be basic teaching any social studies class? Why should Elections Canada be using it’s limited resources on educating kids who can’t even vote?

        • They will vote soon? ( Perhaps EC needs more resources – voting is an important aspect of our democracy )

          Why shouldn’t EC provide non-partisan guidance to teachers – some of whom may be partisan themselves?

  6. What gets me is their lamenting the lack of right-wing chop
    shops … aka propaganda mills … aka think tanks .. gawd.

    • Your tax $ at work, but not for you or me.

  7. I’d prefer our children continued to receive non-partisan voter education programs from Elections Canada:


    “Welcome Teachers

    Spark Interest in Voting in Your Classroom – We Provide the Tools!

    Educational Products and Resources

    As educators, your role is more crucial than ever in showing the relevance of our parliamentary and democratic institutions to students – the voters of tomorrow.

    Elections Canada offers elementary, secondary and ESL teachers free educational resources, tools, activities, information and links, all designed to make your work a little easier.

    Educational Products
    Elementary level
    Secondary level
    ESL, low literacy
    Educational Resources
    Annual initiatives
    Elections Canada Partners
    Online order form
    Available to order

    Available for download”

    • Then tell Justin Trudeau to stop campaigning at high schools.

      • Can you explain why EC should have no role in our schools ?

        • EC “To educate young Canadians about democracy and elections and to help them develop the habit of voting before they turn 18, Elections Canada has worked with Student Vote to provide students in both elementary and secondary schools with the opportunity to participate in parallel elections at the same time as federal general elections. The Student Vote Evaluation was commissioned by Elections Canada to evaluate the effectiveness of the Student Vote Program (SVP) in achieving civic education objectives among elementary and secondary school students, teachers and parents. During the May 2011 federal general election, 3,750 schools participated in the SVP, with 563,498 student ballots being cast. This study shows that the SVP has a significant positive impact on many factors associated with voter turnout, including political knowledge, interest and attitudes, such as a sense civic duty. The study also makes recommendations for strengthening and improving the program and civic education in general.”

          • EC “Summary of Findings

            Teachers and Parents

            The SVP was well received by teachers, who praised its materials and the support they received from Student Vote. Both teachers and parents reported that the SVP had a significant, positive civics-related impact on students.
            Teachers felt that their own confidence in teaching civic education had increased as a result of the program. Teacher satisfaction was very high, with 95% of participating teachers saying they would very likely participate in the program in the future.
            Over 60% of parents reported an increase in their own political interest and knowledge as a result of their child’s participation in the program. Parents further stated that the program provided their family with more opportunities to learn about and discuss politics. Among parents who voted, 20% reported that their child’s participation in the SVP positively affected their decision to vote.”

  8. Meanwhile almost no one is talking about fixing the way we appoint Returning Officers and other polling officials. Incumbents can actually control who oversees the ballot boxes and counts their votes in the election. Ironically the elections expert the Conservatives cite to defend their concerns about vouching is the one who is calling for that to change.

  9. Why remove an actor? Maybe Elections Canada has been on the scene during a time that voter turn out has not improved, or gotten worse. But this is completely illogical and unreasonable to make the connection that Elections Canada should not be involved in improving the turn out of the electorate. The brain fart here is that one would imply Elections Canada failed. They can only imply it, since there is no proof that without them it might be even worse! There is no proof that Elections Canada failed in any way and one would, in a very Canadian spirit, expect that more players workign together will eventually be able to do better than fewer players.

    This is just really primitive. It is really smelly. It can only be a pretense for making changes that allow the party in power, which is for the time being the Conservative, to benefit. They were cheaters before, you can only smell tricks here to entrench the trickery. For example, as was noted elsewhere, in this new Act the governing party would now choose the electoral officer in each jurisdiction— which is a severe conflict of interest. And: there are an *average* of 500 errors in each jurisdiction, most of which are of a partisan nature. Will that get less with politics reaching directly into the management of elections?? Hardly.

    • Increasing voter turnout is nowhere to be found in Elections Canada’s mandate. It seems to be a roll that they’ve voluntarily stepped into while ignore the key elements of their mandate. This bill should fix that.

  10. CBC : ”

    Harry Neufeld, who wrote a report on problems in the last federal election, is warning of the potential for more abuse at polling stations if one part of the government’s proposed fair elections act goes ahead.

    Neufeld, B.C.’s former chief electoral officer and now an independent electoral management consultant, wrote the compliance review that identified polling problems in the 2011 election and made recommendations on how to fix them.

    He says Section 44 of the government’s new legislation would allow all central polling supervisors to be appointed by a riding’s incumbent candidate or the candidate’s party.

    “It’s completely inappropriate in a democracy, ” said Neufeld.

    Under current legislation, central poll supervisors are appointed by returning officers, who are hired by Elections Canada. The supervisors are put in place at polling stations to make sure voting unfolds smoothly.

    In Neufeld’s report to Elections Canada, he called on the agency to put more polling officers in place at every polling station as a way to prevent further voting irregularities. It is a recommendation Elections Canada accepted.

    Now Neufeld is concerned that changing how those supervisors are appointed could “tilt the balance” in favour of the incumbent candidate or party.

    The fair elections act also suggests that if the winning candidate from the previous election do not appoint the central polling supervisor, it can be left up to the candidate’s electoral district association or even the candidate’s political party.

    Neufeld said that people committing errors at polling stations are often “making them for partisan reasons” and for this reason he finds the proposal worrisome.

    But a spokeswoman for the minister of state for democratic reform says the Elections Act already allows for candidates and parties to appoint other polling station officers.

    “This is the case for revising agents in s.33, deputy returning officers in s.34, poll clerks in s.35 and registration officers in s.39 of the existing Canada Elections Act,” said Gabrielle Renaud-Mattey.

    Renaud-Mattey also points out that the idea was recommended by the Commons procedure and House affairs committee and that the returning officer can refuse to appoint the central polling supervisor recommended by the candidate or party.

    Neufeld’s report on the last election said there were an average of more than 500 “serious administrative errors per electoral district.””

    • Will Mr Manning please share his thoughts on Mr Newfeld’s concerns.

  11. How about this. Lets change to a real democracy where a MP/proxy answering to others now answer to the people.

    Instead of lobby dinners and back room deals, we have the people become the lobbyists? Make lobby groups illegal, and criminal corruption. Then replace party funding with the first $50 of everyones income tax. Harder to lobby/bribe 14,000,000 people who pay for it than just 3 party leaders. And since its annual, you don’t have to wait for a 5 year dictator term to change it.

    Next up, why cannot people in Canada electronically vote, get recall, get referendums that government must comply. Want Air Canada, CBC, bank, auto corporate corruption bailouts….MPs have to SELL it to the people, and people vote. No more tell the people one thing and do another. Less corruption and Ottawa waste too.

    Because the real problem is we have a faux ruse democracy where the ballot is statism only and MP proxies that don’t any accountability to their constituents.

    • Hm. Mixed bag here. Some stuff I agree with, some stuff I don’t.

      However, I will tell you that we don’t want electronic voting. The reason is because there is no way to ensure that the button you click to vote is the response that gets stored in the database unless the specific votes are identifiable. But if they’re identifiable, that opens us up to extortion and other means to take our vote from us.

      Electronic voting is fine for smaller elections, but when it comes to deciding who is writing our laws, it simply isn’t good enough.

  12. I totally agree with Pierre Poilievre.

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