The sketch: Pin the tail on the Fair Elections Act

Pierre Poilievre faces a second day of questions

For the second day, the opposition attempted variously to pin an unflattering tail on the government’s new bill.

Thomas Mulcair’s opening gambit was to claim a redundancy—specifically, that the offence of impersonating an election official covered by an amendment in the new Fair Elections Act (see section 480.1 at page 185 here) was perhaps already covered by the existing Elections Act (see section 482(b) here)—and thus raise again the matter of 2011′s robocalls. Mr. Mulcair apparently wished for Mr. Harper to confirm that what happened in 2011 was, in fact, already illegal.

Presented with the suggestion that the robocalls were “Conservative” in nature, Mr. Harper dismissed the NDP leader’s questions, though he did, at one point, allow that what happened in Guelph was “probably illegal.”

Having covered what the Fair Elections Act might somehow be thought to imply about the previous election, Mr. Mulcair moved then to what the Fair Elections Act might mean for future votes.

First, the matter of vouching—a polling station option that the Conservatives would like to see eliminated.

“Mr. Speaker, the bill is more about suppressing the vote than helping people to vote,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “Elections Canada has confirmed that there are no irregularities with the overwhelming majority of people who vote with the help of the current vouching system. If there are problems with the system, why not fix them? Why is the Prime Minister removing tools that actually help people to vote?”

The Prime Minister was unpersuaded.

“Mr. Speaker, the opposite is true,” he reported. “The Fair Elections Act lays out specifically the jobs of Elections Canada to make sure it informs people, where, when and how to vote, and what ID specifically to use at a vote.”

A short while later, the NDP’s Craig Scott returned to this point.

“Mr. Speaker, 100,000 people had their vote vouched for in the last campaign,” the NDP critic explained. “This includes aboriginal citizens, low-income people, new Canadians, students and people with disabilities. The question is why is the government making it harder for these Canadians to exercise their right to vote?”

Pierre Poilievre stood here to enthuse that the government would mandate Elections Canada “to advertise to these very people which types of identification are required to vote.” Conversely, the minister lamented that there was a 25% error rate with vouching.

“The reality is that vouching is not safe. It is not secure,” he declared. “After the elections act is passed, it will not be allowed.”

Mr. Scott was unpersuaded.

“Mr. Speaker,” he came back, “the Supreme Court said that there was no evidence that any of those irregularities occurred with people who did not have the right vote, so this is an absolute red herring.”

And so surely it will be chased.

But now, a second issue—the matter of moving the elections commissioner out of the office of Elections Canada and into the office of the director of public prosecutions. Here Mr. Scott suggested that this was moving the commissioner beyond the purview of Parliament. Mr. Poilievre scolded Mr. Scott and advised to consult the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, in which it is set out that a vote of Parliament can remove the director from office.

“That is accountability and it is also independence,” Mr. Poilievre proclaimed. The Conservatives stood and cheered and Mr. Poilievre’s seatmate, Maxime Bernier, mimed a dramatic baseball swing (presumably to suggest that a home run had just been hit).

This particular matter might deserve further parsing, but the minister is certainly handling himself well so far—speaking confidently (and without notes), seeming knowledgeable and prepared and capable of mostly responding to whatever his critics might ask. But even if the minister has had what might be described as a good couple days, his bill is still not quite beyond question.

“Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada has been working to get people without fixed addresses registered and voting. It has been doing outreach to young people and engaging first nations communities to increase voter turnout, but the Conservatives new bill slams the door on all of that very important work,” testified the NDP’s Chris Charlton awhile later. “The minister claims his bill would target special interests but in reality it would reduce Elections Canada’s powers and remove its ability to do public education. Why? Does the minister believe Elections Canada is now a special interest?”

Mr. Poilievre pleaded here that his bill would “focus” Elections Canada’s efforts.

“Mr. Speaker, half of youth in this country are unaware that they can vote by three different methods prior to election day. That number is 73% among aboriginal youth,” the minister lamented.

“The way to fix that problem is to focus Elections Canada’s advertising on providing people with information on when they can vote, advance ballots, special vote, voting by mail. Even if they were busy on election day, younger people would have an opportunity to cast a ballot if they were aware of these extra methods. The Fair Elections Act would ensure they get that information.”

If the Fair Elections Act should somehow solve the inattentiveness of youth than it will surely be remembered as one of the more important pieces of legislation in our history. But it is early days yet.




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The sketch: Pin the tail on the Fair Elections Act

  1. No GOVT….any party…..should ever be allowed to formulate, change or amend an election act.

    This should have been done by a nonpartisan committee.

    • Agreed. Not only that, but there’s no need for that bill. What is needed is politicians with integrity (a rare breed nowadays), respectful of the election laws already in place, and the Chief Electoral Officer being given real teeth that bite for those who don’t abide by the law.

      • I’ll certainly go for real teeth! Doesn’t seem much can be done about robocalls, and overspending, and blatant lying……it’s all explained away as a little whoopsie by some lowlife in the back room.

        • Martha Hall Findlay was capable of paying of her 2006 outstanding loans under the NEW rules.

          Why are Dion and Fry and Dryden not being charged with circumventing EC rules???

          • Because they’re not.

          • Really? Are you incapable of reading the explanation I posted the last time you tried this line?

            Or were you hoping for something less factual than what I posted.

          • Tell me o beacon of truth, fair play and justice: why is the government looking to cut short debate on it’s election act? How does this serve democracy? How does it serve the people? How is it Justin Trudeau’s fault?
            Please enlighten me as to why this is in everyone’s best interests?

            http://o.canada.com/news/tories-move-to-cut-short-debate-on-new-elections-act/

          • And you’re complaining about youth’s attention span?

    • Canadians vote in governments to lead this country. Canadians do not want to be overseen by unelected elitists.

      • DO be serious…..

      • Y’know Francien, this government made a solemn vow to provide Canadians with new heights of accountability and transparency. Instead I get less of both and empty headed “unelected elitists” slogans via it’s cheerleading street corner pamphleteers.

        I’ve read your comments for a very long time and watched you spiral from a thoughtful commenter to a desperate, grubby vassal a là Paul Callandra.
        A shit sandwich is still made with shit, and still tastes like shit even when the bread is blue.

        • lol…Boy you guys are getting mean. What with this and Keith telling Rick he delights in letting Harper sh*t on his head. He still owes me a screen for that one.

          • Francien can dine at Café Harper all she likes; that’s her business. And when she tells me the sandwiches there are delicious, that’s her business too. Bon Appétit

            But when she masquerades as a professional restaurant critic and her endless “5 star reviews” of Café Harper consist entirely of sloganeering and listing the problems with other restaurants, then I’m calling her on it.

          • Mean or just finally sick and tired of their idiocy? Canucks are very polite but eventually, even that thin veneer of manners will disappear. Personally, I just hear a shrill, shrieking cackle of nonsense when she arrives, shitting on people’s comments like a dirty old pigeon.

          • I was just kidding about the mean bit…i got no room to complain there.

          • You are a really nice guy, kcm2, I wasn’t trying to pick at you at all. You are waaaaay nicer to FV than I find it possible to be, and that’s why I just skip her remarks now. Even when you get pissy, you aren’t very pissy.

          • Now you’re embarrassing me :)

          • Does it matter? You’re constantly embarrassing yourself.

          • Your so droll Rick…if only your brain worked as fast as your fingers[or thumbs]

          • I’m not persuaded he has opposable thumbs. Perhaps a prehensile tail … another one for the “ignore” box.

          • Seems to spend a lot of time slipping on banana peels too.

          • And a cute little shearling jacket.

      • You’re fine if they oversee our elections though, right?

    • Are we a democracy or not?

      The NDP says a simple majority vote 50%+1 where fewer than 100% of the people vote, so less than 50% of the people is sufficient to break up the country.

      Trudeau say a bunch of unelected elites should pick an entire co-equal branch of government.

      And you are complaining about the Conservatives?

      • Sorry….I don’t do red herrings

        A democracy means the govt doesn’t get to make the voting rules.

      • Yessh, that was dumb enough that i had to look twice to see if FV’s or Rick’s handle was attached to it.

    • And how will the new Commissioner operating independent of Elections Canada and in a different office and reporting to the PMO? be appointed? This will be a purely partisan appointment whose mandate will be to look the other way. Much like the PBO system. We are moving “the longer Harper is in office” to a caricature of democratic state.
      And I don’t expect the current occupant of the post to be around too long. Gone by the next election for sure.
      Why is debate on this Bill being cut short and closure imposed?

      • Considering Canada has had 150 years of Royal commissions, committees, hearings and the like….I really don’t think there would be a problem.

        The one thing we shouldn’t do is allow all the rules to be changed by one man….Harper. Same with the citizenship laws.

        Harp wasn’t elected to do any of the things he’s doing.

        • Apparently the Election Commissioner will now be appointed by PMO and report to PMO. Previously he reported to Chief Electoral Officer who reported to Parliament. The Commissioner is in charge of investigations. This is a huge change.

          • Yes, it is. Why isn’t Parliament in an uproar about it?

  2. Agree with EmilyOne. And failure to mention, in the article, that the Act will only have two hours of debate, is a glaring omission.

    To paraphrase the old aphorism “Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done”, democracy must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.

    By limiting debate, the tide of suspicion rises; what nefarious dealings with come up in the next election?

    Considering what’s in the Act, we will not know. No one is allowed to speak of these things if it is passed.

    How democratic is that?

  3. Mr. Speaker … we are proposing solutions to problems that
    we are creating. And we think that by doing so we can create
    bigger and better problems. It’s what we do.
    And … if our Republican senior partners say that suppression
    of certain voters must be done .. then we do that too. Thank you.

    • You’ve done it now, gone and made that link. You, you, trouble maker you.

  4. So youth inattentiveness is a chronic problem. And that is why youth voter turn-out is so low.

    Thank you, Wherry, for at least being honest about that.

    • And Wherry`s guy wants to legalize the $hit that` making them so inattentive !

      • Ah, the Internet’s been legal for years.
        Never use it myself.

    • Sans sarcasm, i must compliment you on your gift for stating the bleeding obvious.[that's sarcasm by the way]

    • If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.

      Emma Goldman

    • Youth don’t vote because they don’t pay taxes. Once people grow up and are making enough money that they become net-tax payers, they generally start voting Conservative, unless of course they’re line of work benefits from larger government, then they’ll vote for the left-wing parties to take more money from the productive part of society and transfer it to the wasteful big government part of society.

      • it’s amazing what Conservatives need to tell themselves in order to maintain their worldview. Fascinating folks.

  5. The Fair Elections Act…even the name is a sort of sneer.A finger to the opposition and EC. And inference that if things haven’t been previously fair it is none of this govt’ doing. In fact they’re the cure for unfair elections. I suspect the real irony flies over squealer’s head as in the novel.
    Doubtless some of this is ok, even good. Any time this govt does the right thing[mostly] we ought to be worried what their other hand is up to.
    I’ve been saying all day…follow the money. To the degree this is a poison pill bill the secret lies in their proposal to exempt fundraising and donor expenses; and in their desire to see services rendered not counted in some areas. This is a very bad move as far as the voting public is concerned; even if well intentioned.[ which with these guys i don't believe for a second it is] It may well open the door for all kinds of sleight of hand[ in and out anyone] depending on how “fundraising” is defined and tracked.
    There is no good purpose to be served by letting political parties free up more money to send each other love letters. Particularly when it is on our dime via tax credits for donations. If there is any argument at all to be made for raising the spending cap, then make it, but leave the present accounting safety catch on. Less is more in this case.
    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/02/05/election_bill_reveals_conservatives_view_on_voter_turnout_hbert.html
    Chantal is way ahead of me. She kicked PP right where it hurts; that’s gonna smart for a while i bet.

    • Just ran across a little gem via NDP tweet – complaints to the CSEC Commissioner will only be accepted if they are sent by mail – as in Canada Post. Apparently this is because the complaints may contain sensitive material. They must be really spooked about emails at this point – wait until they find out about scanners.

      • Wow! Don’t they know bombs can be sent by mail? Cripes that’s torn it. I think i hear them at my door now. Wonder if they like dogs at all?

        • We will be ordered to report to the nearest airport with wifi so that our communications can be monitored. Watch for a manila envelope in your mailbox. Good luck, comrade!

          • I’m hanging my ass out the winda just to annoy them as we speak. Not a pretty sight.
            What’s a scanner by the way, when it isn’t a police tracker?

  6. No one has yet made the link between the vouching proposal and the Republican attempts to suppress the poor black vote i see…bit not good you think?

    • Yes, when you can’t find anything substantive about a bill to criticize, just do what Liberals always do and shriek “raaaacisssm”!!!!

      It’s no wonder you clowns like the current vouching system. It allows non-Canadians to vote for your left-wing parties because REAL Canadians won’t vote for you losers.

      • http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/02/05/election_bill_reveals_conservatives_view_on_voter_turnout_hbert.html

        Non Canadians??? Where’s that coming from? Most of the serious complaints against vouching seemed to be against your party last time out.
        Racism!!! Are you for real? Sure Cons are racist against Youth, poor people, Aboriginals, and the homeless, that was my point exactly? O you meant black folks in the US…i see the obvious link now.Couldn’t possibly be my larger point was about voter suppression, not racism, right! Idiot!

        I could listen to you, but why bother?

        • Yes, indeed, why bother when you can sit in your little echo chamber and have your fellow socialists simply reconfirm all of your own feelings despite a complete lack of evidence. Have fun with that.

          • Is it my fault most of the decent journalists in this country aren’t particularly large C conservatives, or irrational for that matter?
            People who live in echo chambers shouldn’t oughta throw brick bats.

    • You seem to forget it was the Liberals who were trying to suppress the vote in Etobicoke Centre, and have votes thrown out, and took the case to court, where if they would have won would have made it much more difficult for people to vote.

      • Nice spin. They had a gripe and took it to court. How’s that the same as crafting a bill that actually does suppress the vote?[ potentially anyway]

    • Or the Democrats who mobilize the Black Panthers to suppress voters!

      • Suppress whom? The white folks…is that what you’re saying?

  7. The ‘inattentiveness of youth’? How about the lack of mobility of our most senior of citizens?

    The people who’ll be hurt by this are any persons who have difficulty attaining their identification. Our senior citizens tend to just not do this. They seldom leave their homes, except (with almost uniformity) to vote.

    They’re also the sort not have legal ID, as they typically don’t need it. Why update your driver’s license, if you don’t drive? Why get a photo ID card, if no one in their right minds would

    And it is exceptionally difficult for them to both make the trips to where they need to, to replace health cards, and to have to wait there, sitting.

    This article has some insight, but I don’t buy the spin in the slightest. This bill is shameful, and it’s being pushed to hinder those who too often simply don’t vote for the CPC. The elderly are those I particularly care about, but this includes youth voters, and those too poor to replace their ID. This doesn’t take any ‘pining of tails’, or any other dishonest jingoism.

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