The NDP wants to keep talking about the Fair Elections Act

Bill C-23 returns to the House

The first day back for the House after a two-week break is an opposition day for the NDP and so the New Democrats will have the House debate the following motion.

“That, in the opinion of the House, proposed changes to the Elections Act that would prohibit vouching, voter education programming by Elections Canada, and the use of voter cards as identification could disenfranchise many Canadians, particularly first-time voters like youth and new Canadians, Aboriginal Canadians and seniors living in residence, and should be abandoned.”

This will be the second opposition day the NDP has used to debate the Fair Elections Act.

When last we left the House, David Christopherson had finished his filibuster, by a vote in the House Brad Butt had been spared further scrutiny of what he had not actually seen and chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand had appeared before the Procedure and House Affairs committee.

Since then, the NDP has held a series of town hall meetings across the country in hopes of airing grievances about the bill, 150 Canadian scholars and 19 international scholars have added their criticism of the legislation and the New Democrats have raised concerns about the future of Student Vote. The Canadian Teachers Federation and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario are both now organizing against the bill now as well.

Harry Neufeld, the author of Elections Canada’s compliance review, who has criticized C-23 and lamented for how the government has used his report is apparently set to testify before the Procedure and House Affairs committee on Thursday.

For now, we have the testimony of the Globe and Mail editorial board, which now appeals for the bill to be killed outright, and Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre, who defends his bill and makes this neat attempt to turn around Mr. Neufeld’s criticism.

Supporters of vouching mistakenly believed they had an “Aha!” moment a few weeks ago when the report’s author, Harry Neufeld, restated his long-standing support for vouching. That was nothing new. Nor had anyone ever suggested otherwise. The very fact that a devout supporter of vouching has acknowledged the appalling irregularities in its use is all the more troubling.

Probably it should be noted that Mr. Neufeld recommended that Elections Canada “investigate ways to reduce the number of voters who must have their identity and address of residence vouched for on Election Day.” He suggested this might be accomplished by “Improving and extending the pre-vote advertising campaign that encourages electors to bring appropriate identification to the polling site with them and “Widening use of the Voter Information Card as a valid piece of address identification for all voters.”

The Fair Elections Act, on the other hand, would prohibit any use of the voter information card as a valid piece of address identification.

Update 12:33pm. The Procedure and House Affairs committee has now posted notices for its hearings on Tuesday and Thursday. Tomorrow, the committee will hear from former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, British Columbia’s chief electoral officer Keith Archer and the chief electoral officer for the Northwest Territories, David Brock. On Thursday, in addition to Mr. Neufeld, the committee will hear from representatives of CIVIX (the group that runs Student Vote), Fair Vote Canada, the Institute for Research on Public Policy and Samara.

See previously: Would the Fair Elections Act muzzle the chief electoral officer?Is there a spending loophole in the Fair Elections Act?The cases for and against vouchingHow often are voter information cards being abused?Preston Manning calls for the Fair Elections Act to be amendedThe anecdotal, philosophical matter of the Fair Elections Act and How would you like your electoral reform?

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