Would the Fair Elections Act muzzle the chief electoral officer?

Pierre Poilievre explains his intent


Pierre Poilievre

Over the weekend, chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has publicly worried that the Fair Elections Act would inhibit his ability to comment on elections. When this was put to Pierre Poilievre yesterday, he noted that existing legislation requires the chief electoral officer to report to Parliament. But Mr. Mayrand’s concerns include whether and how he will be able to comment publicly and through the media and what reports Elections Canada will be available to produce and release (go to the 11:55 mark of this interview). “Basically,” he told the CBC, “my reading of the act is that I can no longer speak about democracy in this country except two points, where and when to vote.”

What is in question is clause seven of the Fair Elections Act which replaces Section 18 of the Elections Act with the following.

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

After QP yesterday, I spoke with Mr. Poilievre and attempted to sort through this. Will the chief electoral officer still be able to speak to the media openly and freely? Mr. Poilievre says, “yes.” No restrictions whatsoever on that? “No, no restrictions whatsoever.” Furthermore, in my interview, and in a later interview with the CBC, Mr. Poilievre seemed open to the possibility of amending the bill to clarify that. “If [the chief electoral officer] needs clearer wording to comfort him in speaking publicly and into parliamentary committees, frankly I have no problem with that,” he said to me. The minister of state says the intent of this section was to “focus” Elections Canada’s advertising and outreach efforts on the basics of voting and that will not change.


Would the Fair Elections Act muzzle the chief electoral officer?

  1. I think they are backpedaling. This is bizarre wording if their goal was to focus public outreach.

    • No, they are just pretending to backpedal. It is just tactics, the goal remains the same and will be pursued with the same determination. Pierre Polieivre is exactly as credible as Rob Ford in a crack den.

      • Sadly, you are probably right. I give them too much credit when they make categorical statements like this. More likely they will lie in public about intent (to muddy the waters), pass the bill as worded, then enforce the legislation exactly as everyone feared.

      • I don’t think that’s a valid comparison. Judging from videos of Ford when jacked, he’s most candid when he’s in a crack den.

    • Look at the wording of the bloody bill. They’re not back-peddling at all, this was a complete fabrication made up by Mayrand and his Liberal friends in the media.

      Did Poilievre ever say that he wouldn’t be able to speak to the media? No.

      Does the bill say anything about restricting him from talking to the media? No.
      Has any Conservative said the bill would keep him from speaking to the media? No.

      However, it does make you wonder why somebody who’s supposed to be concerned with the fairness of our elections is so bloody concerned with his ability to talk to the media.

      • Though you may not be aware, in the English language, the word “only” has a meaning.

      • The bill restricts the CEO from speaking to the public regarding anything excluding for fairly narrow topics. This isn’t just spin.

        • Speaking to the public. The media is not the public.

          • Jesus, what a putz…

            I mean, even for an anonymous coward, you are remarkably putzy.

          • My evening chuckle. Thanks. Rick’s a smart guy, but very party-before-country partisan.

          • So he’s allowed to call voters at home, individually. Right – just not use the media…

          • He can speak to the media all he likes, as long as the media doesn’t tell the public what was said…

            That’s some catch, that catch 22.

          • Speaking to the public. The media is not the public.

            Today we can mark our calendars as the day Rick found a new barrel-bottom to scrape.

          • lol Rick wouldn’t begrudge him a bull horn….maybe?

          • I don’t why they don’t put him on tv. I can’t think of a better spokesman for the party.

          • Indeed. A nice blend of idiocy meets unwavering loyalty.

  2. The wording is quite clear and so is the intent, which, along with their history of attacks on other officers of parliament, is to make the Commissioner (and the other officers) subordinate to, and unable to contradict the PMO. In other words Pollievre is full of it when he pretends otherwise.

    • He says in QP today that the Minister of Justice can not legally direct the Public Prosecutor (the Commissioner reports to Prosecutor) on election matters.
      Somehow I don’t think those rules mean much in Ottawa any more. They took care of the PBO situation pretty directly.

      • I guess the thing that surprises me is how short term the Conservatives are thinking. If they really believe what they’ve said about Liberal corruption, you’d think they would invest in shoring up the independence of parliamentary officers and electoral processes while they are in office instead of strengthening the hand of whoever lands in office next (4th election wins being a fairly rare thing in Canada historically).

        • I think this government’s actions indicate that the only thing they really believe in is power. As in they believe they would like as much as possible.

          Everything else is window dressing serving that goal.

  3. As long as there is a con party in power, there will never be fair elections in this country. The PMO is nothing but a Conservative Party Election Headquarters, at the taxpayers expense. The cons are trying to look like there not flip-flopping while they are trying to flip-flop. The cons have an inexperienced lightweight attack dog trying to clean up a mess that they, the cons made.

    • Yes. Let’s go back to the party that spread hundreds of thousands of dollars of undocumented kickback cash into ridings across Quebec. Elections were much fairer then. EC certainly didn’t complain!

      • Those are the only two options in this situation?

      • Seriously John, after the corruption and debt this bunch have committed you are still whining on about Adscam?
        I thought Paul Martin set up an independent inquiry that looked into this and apportioned blame and resulted in the election of this current bunch of muppets. When will Harper do likewise with regard to the Senate Corruption fiasco? When will Harper be open and stop doing what he accused Martin of doing back in 2005/6? after all he can’t answer simple questions directly and honestly. His judgement has been shown to be lacking especially with regard to those he appoints to government positions. Heck his judge of character has even been questioned with regard to those he plays in a band with.

        • This comment was deleted.

        • Not really fair, that crack about his band mate. It’s not like you can spot a sexual predator on sight.

          Harper’s political judgement is the issue, not the fact that he has a casual relationship with an alleged pervert. There are literally dozens of scumbugs that Harper has chosen and promoted precisely because of their scumbuggery. He needs to answer for that…

          I bet you could name 100 if you wanted, I will go the 1st ten…

          1) Rob Anders
          2) Dean Del Mastro
          3) Peter Penashue
          4) Arthur Porter
          5) Vic Toews
          6) Mike Duffy
          7) Pierre Polievre
          8) Arthur Hamilton
          9) Irving Gerstien
          10) Dimitri Soudas

          Jenni Byrne, Tom Flanagan, Patrick Brazeau, Ted Opitz, Bev Oda, Peter McKay, Peter Kent, Julian Fantino…

          sorry, couldn’t stop.

          • mea culpa on the criticism.

            But in the original comment it was more a throw away line, the second one was a bit more snide.

          • How could you have forgotten my personal favourite – Bruce Carson? Anyone who could show up at Hy’s with a hooker, for dinner with the Stockwell Day’s deserves to be remembered.

          • I couldn’t remember his name or I would have included him…

            There are just so many to choose from… Gazebo Tony Clement, a man who should be in jail for the money he stole from Canadians, was promoted to head of treasury board. Christ the entire 90% of the Conservative caucus participated in the in and out scheme knowing full well that it was a fraud and a theft from the public purse and they all played along. Some reluctantly, some cheerfully. This is a morally bankrupt government and the dirtier you are, the higher you will rise in the ranks of Harpers inner circle.

          • Ten of those people were directly elected by the people.

          • Yes, and promoted to positions of additional responsibility by Stephen Harper. It is not the decent and capable and honourable people that enjoy Harper’s confidence, it is the creeps and the cheaters and the liars that he prefers.

            Which was exactly my point, Sig.

          • And Peter P was soundly rejected by the people after he got caught. I suspect several more will be in 2015. We can only hope.

          • He was soundly rejected by the voters but firmly embraced by Stephen Harper and his Party, “the best member from that region, ever” was their judgement.

        • Hell, even if we confine it to money, there’s still some 3.1 billion dollars which isn’t “properly accounted for”, and no sort of inquiry whatsoever into what’s happened to that.

      • When was that, Grampa John?

      • Since there appears to be no statute of limitations on political malfeasance, the CP scandal didn’t exactly ennoble Cons either.

      • How come harper had to use metal detectors on children during a Halloween visit, and he(harper)allowed an accused child molester to become a drummer in his band. With all the millions sunk into protecting the PM, how did this guy get past ” Harpers Iron Curtain ” (paid by taxpayers) or do you think he(harper) knew this guy was ” good to go ” over the RCMP internal investigation ?

  4. Moving the Election Commissioner under PMO control was the big thing. Harper will now police elections.

  5. Who is watching the watchers?

  6. We need to get rid of first past the post system and replace it with proportional representation. The five years of Harper majority rule shows how a majority government can and has abuse its power to the point that it has little difference from an authoritarian government. That’s not the democracy that Canadians bought into.
    Will the Liberals commit to replace FPTP with proportional representation?

    • No. Because the Liberals can see the post and might just get past it next year.

      • Actually you’re wrong on that. Going into convention Trudeau has signaled he will consider it, even though he has spoken forcefully against PR before this. I believe his caucus put pressure on him. I’ll post the link sometime.

        • Every opposition leader or 3rd party leader says that. Amazing what happens once they get into power. We’ve had many conservative and liberal parliaments, as well as conservative, liberal, and NDP provincial legislatures for 130 plus years and none has been willing to try PR yet.
          Hope springs eternal, but I’m unfortunately a pessimist.

          • I’m just surprised to see JT cave this much. Apparently the caucus insisted …a good first step at least.

  7. This is why ALL bills should be debated fully in the House. Stuff like this can only be highlighted in a back and forth of opponents. Scheer, Harper and all the party apparatchiks do not do their jobs properly with respect to composing laws and fail to take into account how new laws and amendments affect other existing legislation.
    This is illustrated by PMO orders that government lawyers should not point out when their proposals might conflict with the Charter and also Scheer’s failure to do his job in allowing Van Loan to shut down discussion. Scheer is a travesty and has overseen this state of affairs and in any sane society would have been sacked months ago.

    We pay them a lot of money to get this right, yet all we get is to pay more to cover the court cases challenging the fruits of their incompetence.

    • “Time Allocation” or shutting down discussion has been allowed since Confederation, but was rarely used until Mulroney took over. Since then Chetien, Martin, and Harper have used it commonly. Kady O’Malley had a good post on this last year (I’ll try to find it.)

      • It’s such a terrible tool and those who use it do not do so in order to serve democracy. They certainly have never heard of the adage “less haste, more speed.”
        They are there to debate law and that is what they should do.

        • Yes. And they should do away with omnibus bills.

  8. Poilievre could make Bizzaro world seem normal.

  9. No, no, no …. never mind what I said … read my
    mind … it’s over there …

  10. “If [the chief electoral officer] needs clearer wording to comfort him in speaking publicly and into parliamentary committees, frankly I have no problem with that,”

    Remove the word “only” from 18(1). Done.


  11. Why is Marc Mayrand so concerned with his ability to speak to the media? Running elections does not require him to speak to the media, he has a multi-million dollar advertising budget that’s specifically to be used to communicate with voters, through the media.

    He would be fully capable of doing his job without having a single contact with the media, but doing his job doesn’t seem to be his primary concern. It seems his primary concern now is to criticize the Conservatives whenever he possibly can.

    • Why are the Cons so worried about what he might say. I guess you don’t want us to know what infractions are happening in the next election. Anyway, there obviously has been a lot of blowback from the public because an amendment is being entertained.

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