Procedural wars: Fair Elections Act edition

The wrangling commences

by Aaron Wherry

Houseofcommons-story

Government House leader Peter Van Loan has now moved a time allocation motion for the Fair Elections Act—allotting three further days of debate at second reading. (How much debate should a bill have at second reading? Probably there needs to a full debate about time allocation and how the business of the House is managed, it’s not quite so easy, I don’t think, as to say time allocation is purely good or bad. But for the sake of anecdotal comparison: the Conservative government’s Accountability Act received three days of debate at second reading in 2006, while the former Liberal government’s election reform bill received seven days of debate in 2003.)

In advance of that motion for time allocation, the New Democrats pursued various moves to delay matters and attack the act—there was a motion to adjourn, followed by a slow vote, followed by a question of privilege concerning the translation services during the briefing for MPs on the Fair Elections Act and then Nathan Cullen got up on a point of order arguing that there is a discrepancy between the English and French texts of the bill.

Meanwhile, at the Procedure and House Affairs committee, NDP deputy leader David Christopherson moved the following motion on the eventual study of the Fair Elections Act.

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, upon receiving an order of reference from the House concerning C-23, amendment to the elections act, initiate a study on this legislation which will include the following:

- Hearing witnesses from, but not limited to, Elections Canada, Political Parties as defined under the Canada Elections Act, the Minister of State who introduced the bill, representatives of First nations, anti-poverty groups, groups representing persons with disabilities, groups representing youth advocates and students, as well as specific groups which have been active in society on elections rules, including Fair Vote Canada, SAMARA, Democracy Watch and the BC Civil Liberties Union,

- And that the Committee request to travel to all regions of Canada, (Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Northern Ontario, the Prairies, British Columbia and the North), as well as downtown urban settings (such as the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver) and rural and remote settings, and that the committee request that this travel take place in March and April 2014,

- And that the committee shall only proceed to clause by Clause consideration of this bill after these hearings have been completed, with a goal to commence clause by clause consideration for May 1, 2014.

The motion will presumably be dealt with at a subsequent meeting of the committee.




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Procedural wars: Fair Elections Act edition

  1. What?!

    A bill that amends our election law, tabled while the country is distracted by the Olympics and being pushed through Parliament just as fast as legally possible, might have some disturbing aspects?

    Why, it is almost as though the government does not want its citizens to totally understand all the implications of the bill before it is passed.

    Will wonders ever cease…

    • And the Ottawa media for the most part have swung into the usual PMO talking points spin mode. They are moving on as fast as they can. Nothing untoward here. Keep exploring this Aaron. Good work.
      Chantal Hebert seems to see some implications in today’s Star.

    • This is business as usual for a corrupt government. Change laws to suit there cause. This stuff happens in countries like Russia every day. The only thing missing from our Canadian flag right now, is the hammer and cycle. The reason I use Russia as an example, is because its a dictatorship that tries to act like a democracy with an iron fist.

      • What’s the significance of the hammer and cycle? I’ve never heard of that emblem, although perhaps I am just not as cultured as you are.

        • It used to be the emblem on the Russian flag before the wall came down. KGB Russia.

        • I used to think the hammer was to represent the industrial industry and the cycle represented the farming industry and unions, but then I realized after learning so much about Russia, the hammer really meant ” Iron Fist ” and the cycle meant if you didn’t pay attention to the iron fist, you may end up being beheaded with the cycle.

          • Though, it was usually spelled “Sickle”, not “cycle”.

          • you are right, it is ” Sickle ” thank you for that correction. you know I do misspell a bit, you see I never finished school when I was young, because corporal punishment in my school was rampant, I wouldn’t go back to school anymore, I never took well, to forced education, I thought as a kid it was supposed to happen naturally, so I’ve been trying to learn how to write and spell on my own as I go, since. So you will have to excuse me for my mistakes in the future if you ever read my comment again. I wasn’t as fortunate as most to be able to get a good education when I was young, and as I can see it seems to be a big problem for some. I hope to correct this mistake one day as time goes on.

    • I think we don’t need to wonder what’s the big hurry any more then.

    • Why, it is almost as though the government does not want its citizens to totally understand all the implications of the bill before it is passed.

      Hey, we should just be thankful that this wasn’t crammed in to the omnibus budget implementation bill.

      At least there’ll be a (perfunctory) vote on this bill as it whizzes past the House. As long as none of our MPs blink they’ll at least be given the opportunity to vote no, and set up the inevitable “the opposition is against fair elections (and possibly still for child pornographers)” election ads.

      • Re: your last point. Don’t go giving them any more ideas please.

      • And thank god we’ve got a chamber of sober second thought to give the bill proper scrutiny.

  2. I don’t think the power should rest with one person. If you think about it, one non elected person has the power to overthrow our elections. That is scary. The panel plan seems a lot better idea. As for the Council of Canadians – that means you have to persuade more than one man to attack the Tories. Deal with it. These people run around as though they are spokespersons for all Canadians when they aren’t.

    • it really really doesn’t seem this way at all.

    • Party above country for ever and always, CPC supporters!

    • “…one non elected person has the power to overthrow our elections.”

      Not without things like evidence and due process. And he has very little power to gather that evidence or move investigations forward, as we have been seeing over and over again.

      Nice try though – lack of facts notwithstanding.

      • Tell that to MP James Bezan who was accused of over-spending by $500 on signs. Elections Canada head Marc Mayrand wrote to the H of C Speaker recommending that Bezan be stripped of his seat in the House. Two years from now Mayrand will be hiring election officers and running the election for Bezan, and all MPs. The Commissioner should be hived off of EC into a separate body and given more power.

        As you may know, this case was set to go in front of a judge when Elections Canada backed down and accepted Bezan’s paperwork.

        http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/dispute-over-mps-campaign-costs-resolved-243907191.html

        • Remember, there were two politicians getting the same treatment. One – Glover – admitted her guilt (a point you conveniently ignored). In Bezan’s case, there was a legitimate dispute in the valuation of some signs; ultimately, Mayrand accepted Bezan’s valuation (reasons as yet unavailable). So procedure and due process were followed, were they not?

          • They were only after the case was sent to the court system. Mayrand wanted to dismiss and MP and if he had the power he wants he could have done it. We should separate the investigator from the administrator. Powerful investigators, prosecutors and judges are better than EC bureaucrats.

          • As long as they aren’t in the PMO’s pocket.

            This Bill has some good things in it, but much of it is written to make legal the very things the CPC has been busted for doing, and to make it next to impossible for citizens to know not just the status of any investigations, but whether there even ARE any investigations.

            In its entirety, the good bits are overshadowed by the sleazy ones.

  3. There’s nothing hidden. All 118 pages of detail have been made public for all of Canada to scrutinize. Pundits can pontificate, the opposition can oppose, and use whatever details they like to hold the government to account come next election. Yes, the CPC has a majority, but passing laws is what majorities get to do. If the public doesn’t like the laws come next election the CPC can be voted out having undergone just such public scrutiny.
    The suggestion by some that there is something sinister here is ridiculous.

    A 118 page public document can be dissected inside and out. Meanwhile Justin’s contribution to electoral reform consists of surprise (even to those most affected within his own party), bizarre public fiats that leave virtually everyone wondering what it even means.
    118 pages of public dissectible substance versus reform by surprise unilateral decree. Yes, yes, its the conservatives who are avoiding the democratic process. Of course, of course.

    • Party above country for ever and always, CPC supporters!

      • Yes, I must confess, I’m very impressed with the outrage that ensues by the Liberal supporters on this site when they disagree with the Liberal (or Justin’s) take on things – it happens so often I can hardly keep track. (Fun fact, even Trudeau taking ten grand a pop from charities, when it is well known that he was paid to speak as an MP and he didn’t need the money as he is independently wealthy – was vociferously defended on these pages as being completely, perfectly, wonderfully fine.)
        Most importantly, no one could possibly agree with the proposed electoral changes, right? Coming from a conservative, the changes are inherently illegitimate, and hence any support of those changes must mean malice towards one’s country.
        Casting opposing viewpoints as wholly illegitimate? How completely “progressive”.

        • This comment makes more sense if you substitute Liberal with Slytherin, Trudea with Snape and Conservative with Gryffindor.

          Kinda puts the quality of the argument into context.

          • That sorta makes Charles the Peter Pettigrew of these boards – at least when he’s the rat.

    • “A 118 page public document can be dissected inside and out”

      Sure it can. It only require a few hours of debate according to VL. Time’s ticking. Sochi is calling.

    • The lack of self awareness amongst CPC apologists is only surpassed by their capacity for glib mendacity which, in turn, is exceeded by utter sanctimony.

      By all appearances, after so many have have churned through the ‘light reading’ you tout (BTW, it’s closer to 180 pgs. in my my Acrobat…so discrepancies!) whattya know? Questions arise. But surely these will be only posed by disloyal, anti-democrats, socialists, ‘tolerant progressive leftists’ and their fellow travelers in the attack-dog, yellow press. Right?

      Chuck, just admit it. Storm clouds gather. You can’t win on the old field, so…by golly, by gosh, change the goalposts!

      “All that crap we did that EC said was illegal? It’s okay. Now. All the crap we’ll pull? Legal! Have at ‘er, boys!”

      If you can’t win the hearts and minds, just disenfranchise them. Strip the oversight, suck the bucks from the rubes and, like Charlie Sheen…Winning!

    • Hi Biff!

      Although I totally disagree with your first paragraph, as I was reading it I was pleasantly surprised that you were both staying on topic and not blatantly lying.

      Then I got to your second paragraph, and saw that once again you are desperately trying to distract us from the topic of the bill so you can make your silly comments about Trudeau.

      Next time I will read the whole thing before I start getting optimistic that you are trying to be relevant and sincere.

  4. Elections Canada has been on Harper’s enemies list for years , Skippy and the “Bryne ” unit follow orders and issue attack ads . Fair has never been their way !

    • Dude, ELECTIONS have been on Harper’s enemy list. Why vote, if they won’t vote for the party whose extremist vision is best for them? We’re all better off this way.

  5. http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/As+It+Happens/ID/2435104110/

    Very interesting interview with the former CEO of EC. The previous cbc piece[written] was awful merely quoting Kingsley as giving the FEA an A. Kingsley is far more ambivalent here. He even goes as far as to point out there was nothing wrong with EC’s set up with the commissioner until Harper screwed with it in 06. Although he has no real objection to this proposed change to put the Commish in the prosecutors office. I suspect he’s sick of listening to Tory whining as well.

    • Excellent interview. I did not know about the changes implemented by Harper in 2006 until I heard it. I haven’t done enough reading yet to know, but It makes me wonder if the Commissioner’s investigations into the CPC election actions might have been done more effectively under the prior system.

      • I wasn’t aware of the changes in 06 either. Must have slipped PPs little mind…him being so busy an’ all.

        • I haven’t listened to the interview so do not know if this is relevant to that, but I can say that changes were made to the EA in 2006 partly because EC was unable to go after the Liberals for the sponsorship scandal.

  6. Seems to me most of the reporting so far has missed the point that this bill is very personal and partisan and is aimed squarely at letting future Conservatives get away with the cheating they got caught for in the last three elections.

    It would have specifically permitted the 2006 In and Out scam that the Conservative Party of Canada was eventually convicted of.

    It would have prevented Elections Canada from disclosing complaints about robo-calls and prevented citizens from discovering the wide-spread pattern of voter suppression connected with the use of the CPC CIMS database

    It would have tipped-off Dean Del Mastro he was being investigated.

    It would have allowed Peter Penashue, Shelly Glover, and James Bezan to ignore Elections Canada insistence they reconcile their campaign over-spending because it would have allowed them to continue to sit as members even after they were convicted as long as they were appealing.

    “Conservatives seek to legalize election cheating” is an obvious headline. That no media outlet seems willing to print that, roundly refutes the frequent claims by CPC partisans that there is a left-wing media bias in Canada.

    • EC clearly tipped off the NDP that it was being investigated for illegal union donations in the form of mispriced advertising, because a settlement was announced before the public was even informed that there were charges. EC shouldn’t be able to decide who it can and who it cannot refuse to inform. If it informs some, it should inform all.

      I believe the same thing happened with Paul Dewar and illegal robocalling.

      Why are the NDP and the Liberals informed that they are being investigated and the Conservatives not?

      EC retroactively changed their own interpretation of the rules in the in-and-out scandal, and didn’t tell the parties that they had changed the interpretation until after they accused the Conservatives.

      • EC tipped off Shelly Glover and James Bezan but they refused to do anything so the Commissioner was forced to write to the Speaker.

      • By the way, the argument about EC changing the interpretation of the rules might have some validity if the CPC hadn’t submitted falsified invoices to hide what they did. Clearly they knew at some point what they were doing was against the rules.

        • There is also that painful little fact that the CPC used In and Out to exceed spending limits, which is unique to their interpretation of the rules.

      • Yes – why is a Harper appointee so clearly biased? Why did Harper go out of his way to appoint someone who so clearly hates the CPC?

        Get real!

  7. The Tories talk “tough on crime” and PP pats himself on the back about how he’s made our election watchdog independent. But they continue to deny the commissioner the needed ability to compel testimony and gain access to party financial records. And will now require that those under investigation be notified in advance! Independent? Perhaps, but this watchdog is toothless.

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