The Fair Elections Act, the document in full

The full text of the bill in question

by Aaron Wherry

Pierre Poilievre is presently describing the Fair Elections Act to reporters on Parliament Hill.

The bill, measuring 247 pages, can be viewed in its entirety here (pdf). It covers donation limits, voter identification, spending limits and the powers of the chief electoral officer, among other things.




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The Fair Elections Act, the document in full

  1. Just started reading it, and immediately in paragraph 2 of the preamble/summary: “It also limits the Chief Electoral Officer’s power to provide information to the public.”
    Not a good start. I’ll have to see exactly what they mean by that.

    Edit 1: Hey.. remember all that stuff about how Stephen was getting money out of politics? “Increases campaign limits for contributions to $1500/yr, and by $25/yr after the first year.”

    “(c) Permits registered parties and registered association to make transfers to candidates before their nomination is confirmed by the returning officer” Party Pay Off Time.

    “(k) Exempts from what constitutes an election expense the commercial value of services provided to a registered party for the purpose of soliciting monetary contributions only from individuals who have made at least one contribution of $20 or more to the registered party or to one of its registered associations, nomination contestants, or candidates in the last five years” “Yeah.. that radio ad we bought.. that wasn’t a campaign ad, we were soliciting money from our donors, a high proportion of which listen to that radio station, so we’re exempting that from our expenses, ‘kay?”

    And this is all just in the preamble.. I haven’t even gotten into the fine print of the bill yet.

    Edit 2: Can anybody out there explain (8)? It changes the value of commercial assets to be the lower of the value of the rental of such an asset or the commercial value of the same kind of asset if one were purchased. What does this mean with respect to, say, the rental of a bus or truck? Could they buy a bus to be used over multiple election periods, but then just charge the campaign as if it were only rented, or vice versa?

    Edit 3: Anybody care to speculate on why they’re getting rid of section 92.2 in the elections act which reads: Wait.. okay, they’re redoing the whole funding section later and making it more general. So just any contributions period all count as the same, so this is fine. Housekeeping and grouping.

    Edit 4: It seems the CPC also has an issue with (ie, deleted) this section of the current legislation: Editing the edit: They bring this back in in section 436, so nothing to see here.

    Edit 5: Some good news. 78(1) of the bill changes s.350(1) of the elections act to read “A third party shall not incur election advertising expenses of a total amount of
    more than $150,000 in relation to a general election.”

    The previous 350(1) read: “A third party shall not incur election advertising expenses of a total amount of more than $150,000 during an election period in relation to a general election.” They’re making it harder to get around campaign spending laws by doing it just before the campaign writ drops. So kudos.

    LOL.. apparantly I’m hitting the limits that DIsqus can handle, it’s having trouble formatting things now. I’ll start a new message with more edits. This one’s too long anyway.

    • it means exactly what it says… the Chief Electoral Officer is being gagged.

      • Yup. It’s a gag order. Part 7. of the document replaces s.18 of the act with “The Chief Electoral Officer may provide the public, both inside and outside Canada, with information on the following topics only:” with a short list of the approved topics. Of note, whether the government has consulted with the Chief Electoral Officer or not when changing elections law is *not* on the approved list of topics

    • Here is specific language…

      18. (1) The Chief Electoral Officer may

      provide the public, both inside and outside

      Canada, with information on the following topics

      only:

      (a) how to become a candidate;

      (b) how an elector may have their name

      added to a list of electors and may have corrections

      made to information respecting the

      elector on the list;

      (c) how an elector may vote under section

      127 and the times, dates and locations for

      voting;

      (d) how an elector may establish their identity

      and residence in order to vote, including

      the pieces of identification that they may use

      to that end; and

      (e) the measures for assisting electors with a

      disability to access a polling station or advance

      polling station or to mark a ballot.

      Full stop. My italics on “only”

      • One additional thing…

        (3) The Chief Electoral Officer shall not

        provide information under this section by the

        use of calls, as defined in section 348.01, that

        are unsolicited…

        In other words, he is forbidden to speak about robocalls, at all, ever.

        • I think that means that Chief EO may not *use* robocalls to provide information… “by” the use of call, not “about” the use of calls. Which, if I am correct, amounts to little comfort.

    • The teeth the cons are talking about putting into this reform are false teeth, because it seems this government can pull them out at anytime it wants to.

    • My favourite is this one:

      “increases the amount that candidates and leadership contestants may
      contribute to their own campaigns to $5,000 and $25,000, respectively”

      After two Liberal leadership contests plus an NDP one at a measly $1200 limit, amidst prospects of a potential CPC leadership campaign, NOW they raise the limit to $25,000.
      Raising the limits isn’t a bad move, doing it only now is self-serving.

      • There is probably a good chance that there will be leadership campaigns in both the Liberal and NDP camps before Harper leaves.

        • Nah; I think both parties can hang on til 2015…

        • I wish people who thought this actually believed it, that I knew them personally, and they were eager to place large sums of money to back it up.

          I could retire early.

    • Thanks, Thwim, for taking the time to read through this monstrosity & trying to make sense of it.

    • “■Limiting the chief electoral office’s role to sharing information with the public on how to be a candidate, how to be added to the voter list, how to vote, what identification to use, and ensuring people with disabilities can get into polling stations to cast a ballot.”

      This is an affront to Canadian Democracy. If the Conservatives are allowed to interfere with investigations against them in this manner then we might as well call ourselves Nazi Germany. Doesn’t anyone else find suspect that shortly after a Conservative signed an immunity deal in the Robocall case in return for testimony that Harper is attempting to introduce legislation that punishes the office responsible for the investigation and will effectively kill the case. This should be the last straw, Harper and his gang of criminals need to go now, not at election time, now.

      • How is keeping an investigator from using his soapbox a “punishment”? Don’t you think it’s much more responsible for an investigator to complete their investigation without publicly accusing someone of something they may not have done? Why should Elections Canada be allowed to continue to slander people?

        • They are eliminating the investigator and the fraud itself has been proven in a Federal Court in a related case. This is not slander, it is fact.

  2. Check out this one…

    “exempts from what constitutes an election expense the commercial value

    of services provided to a registered party for the purpose of soliciting

    monetary contributions only from individuals who have made at least one

    contribution of $20 or more to the registered party or to one of its registered

    associations, nomination contestants or candidates in the last five years.”

    In other words, they can spend whatever they want to squeeze more money out of previous donors and none of it counts as an election expense. Only new solicitations would be considered an election expense. You can squeeze the existing suckers, but new suckers will count as an election expense.

    • Can we call that the let’s stop Trudeau’s momentum clause?

      • Or, the slightly longer name: We have our suckers locked in, so screw you guys. clause. Also known as the Cartman clause…

        • You may have meant Cadman? I’m surprised they didn’t up the tax credit up to 110% for seniors who vote. Since it is they only category they still lead in for now. Seniors may be stubborn and loyal, but they’ll come around eventually.

          • No, Cartman from South Park. In my head all CPC talking points are delivered in Cartman’s voice.

            His entire worldview is … Screw You Guys!!!

          • Dang…i must go out and get a tv with some channels on it some time.

          • You can stream it off comedy network’s website for free.

  3. The intent of this bill alone is troubling, never mind the small print. What democratic purpose is served by suppressing public comment by the agent of parliament who knows the most about how an election was conducted? What if there are false accusations about election irregularities? Who will defend the conduct of the election? Who will explain, and be accountable if Elections Canada makes mistakes?

    The irony is that if either Elections Canada or its Chief Electoral Officer were actually biased against the Conservatives, like the partisan fantasists are so fond of imagining, this bill creates a system under which a future Chief Electoral will be prohibited from transparency or accountability. A question about an unusually high number of spoiled ballots or any irregularity will be answered with “Under the Canadian electoral system you are eligible to vote if you are a Canadian citizen and over the age of 18.”

  4. Here’s my favourite: subsection 5.1 So called missleading [robo] calls to the public shall be deemed unacceptable only if the recipient isn’t given clear instructions on how to get back home again and or a lift at nominal fee or contribution to the party of our choice. [ ok made that up mostly. It ought to read "their" choice and or walk home.]

    The Chief Electoral Officer ought to call a presser and publicly and forcefully trash this pile of partisan horse pucky, prime time too. He wont though. The Cons are probably hoping he will step over that line. My view is he should call their bluff. Enough of the public wont like this if it is clearly explained and the row itself might cause some retrenching.Time to put on the brass knuckles with these guys Canada!

    • The government’s liability for wrongdoing is also limited to Mississauga persons who are eaten by polar bears while trying to follow the telephone directions to their polling station.

  5. Reviewing the bill, part II

    Edit 6: Interesting. It used to be that your last will & testament was not subject to donation limits. They’ve changed that. You can only donate up to your contribution limit in the year that you die, and that takes into account any donations you’ve already made. I’m neither for nor against this one, other than generally against private money in politics at all, but hey.

    Edit 7: In an Out will never happen again. They’ve written it into law now that any transfer of funds between party and party associations, is not a contribution to a campaign. Also, possible candidate can get paid leaves of absences from work while campaigning and it doesn’t count as a campaign contribution, which is awesome if your employer happens to be the party. Oh.. and your party membership fees? Those no longer count as campaign contributions.

    Edit 8: CPC funding drives are officially not contributions. If donations of less than $20 are received “in response to a general solicitation at a meeting or fundraising event.” no specific details as to the donor need be recorded. So all those mailers asking for money now? They’re now going to come from “fundraising events” so that any donations less than $20 are in response to it, and can be left completely anonymous. How many $20 cheques do you think one person can write in a day?

    Edit 9: There is some good news. Now if you exceed your campaign spending limits, not only do you not get the extra back, but the Chief Electoral Officer is allowed to claw back some of the refund you would receive from even the expenses within the limits.

    Edit 10: Weird.. I found a part that says no individual shall make contributions that exceed $1200 in total. Yet earlier it said $1500. I think their eyes started to glaze over as well. Page 53 if you’re interested. Edit: LOL.. guess what? Someone noticed the problem, so instead of changing it back on page 53, instead on page 184 they change their own amendment so that it reads the right amount. Classic.

    Honestly, a vast chunk of this bill is simply administrivia that’s been repeated for nomination contestants, candidates, and leadership contestants. Each do have a few differences, but there’s so much that’s the same which was forced because of their choice to reorganize the bill based on whether the person is an actual candidate or something internal to the party (nomination or leadership contestant)

    Edit 11: Here’s a fun one. The expense limits for a riding are higher/person for low density ridings. $2.1735 for each of the first 15,000 electors, 1.092 for each of the next 10,000 electors, and 0.546 for all the electors after that. And if the number of electors in your riding is under the average for ridings across the country? Your election expense limit include all of your electors, plus half of the difference between your riding and the average riding. (p. 136) Combine this with being allowed to freely transfer money and services between riding and party HQ and you can see how having a sewn up rural riding can be a significant benefit.

  6. Probably just a glitch. It’s happened to twice in a couple of days now, but is macleans now removing what it deems as unacceptable comments without any kind of indication they’ve been removed… Cuz that would be unacceptable imo.

    • Disqus is a bit flakey. It happens on other disqus sites as well.

      • Thx. They’re usually pretty good about giving notice of removals.

  7. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/is-this-democratic-reforms-big-bang-moment/article16680743/#dashboard/follows/

    I know this CPC bill has been in the works for some time now. But you have to wonder how this looks as a response to Trudeau’s reform move. Perhaps JT should make another such move and see if he can get Harper to make a move toward requiring the removal of a sitting PM with more than 3 election victories under his belt to need a constitutional amendment a note from the Queen and or a super majority in AB…to take effect immediately.

  8. Transition stuff:

    Any action, suit or other legal proceedings
    to which the Chief Electoral Officer
    is a party relating to the former portions
    that is pending in any court immediately before
    the day on which this section comes into
    force may be continued by or against the Director
    of Public Prosecutions in the same
    manner and to the same extent as it could
    have been continued by or against the Chief
    Electoral Officer.

    Or in other words, once this comes into force, the Chief Electoral Officer is off the case, and it goes to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Of course, we’re sure that transfer will be seamless.

    Here’s another fun one, modifying the Access to Information Act.

    16.31 Subject to section 541 of the Canada
    Elections Act, the Director of Public Prosecutions
    may refuse to disclose any record requested
    under this Act that contains information that
    was obtained or created by or on behalf of a
    person who conducts an investigation, examination
    or review in the performance of the
    functions of the Commissioner of Canada Elections
    under the Canada Elections Act.

    Or in other words.. once they pass this, Mr. Brian Saunders takes over the Elections Canada cases, and can choose to not only not prosecute, but also to not give any indications as to his reasoning.

    • thanks for your efforts at analysis, only had time to read the preamble

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