PSAC joins Chief Electoral Officer Mark Mayrand, Canadians across the country, experts and organizations such as the Council of Canadians, LeadNow, and the Canadian Labour Congress among others in expressing grave concern about the government’s so-called “Fair Elections Act.”
The bill purports to target “voter fraud,” but if implemented, would actually severely weaken our democracy. It would prevent Elections Canada from encouraging people to vote and would make it harder for some people to cast their ballots.
Chief Electoral Officer Mark Mayrand recently told a House of Commons Committee that Canadians could be denied the right to vote if this bill is passed. He also raised concern that the bill could exempt political leadership candidates from spending caps. He said that political parties would not have to provide receipts or back up their spending claims, therefore decreasing accountability over this kind of spending.
A group of political science professors recently expressed alarm in the National Post at, “the lack of due process in drafting the bill and in rushing it through Parliament.”
Here are some of the many flaws with the bill:
- It eliminates the “voucher system” – whereby a person without identification can have another person vouch for their identity at the polls. This would significantly impact the ability of students, senior citizens in long-term care facilities, First Nations citizens, and others who have recently moved to cast their votes.
- It prevents Elections Canada from publicly reporting on election fraud, and cancels Elections Canada’s research and public education programs.
- It forbids Elections Canada from launching ad campaigns to encourage people to vote.
- It denies election officials the investigative power to compel political parties and their riding associations to provide financial documentation to support their financial returns.
- It gives incumbent MPs and political parties the power to appoint poll supervisors who manage the election process in each polling station, instead of the current system of non-partisan appointments by Elections Canada.
- It fails to give the Commissioner of Elections the authority to compel witnesses to give evidence. Commissioner Yves Côté has said that his inability to legally compel witnesses was hampering the investigation of more than 1,400 complaints about false or misleading telephone calls to electors in the 2011 election.
The Council of Canadians released a poll this week, showing that a majority of Canadians oppose central features of the bill.
“This bill is an affront to democracy,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC’s National President. “It does nothing to address the voting irregularities that happened in the last federal election and only puts up road blocks that would make it harder for people to cast their ballots.”
Seventy per cent of respondents to the Council’s poll said that the act’s elimination of Elections Canada’s ability to publicly report on voter complaints it receives, including about fraudulent calls, makes them less supportive of the legislation.
To register your opposition to the Bill, sign the Council of Canadians petition.