“What problems are the Conservatives really trying to solve with bizarre Fair Elections Act?” asked Andrew Coyne in an excellent column two days ago.
I’d like to pillage that question and expand on it a bit.
Problem: Investigation into election fraud in 2011 Election, 33 months ago, being rushed along at dangerous breakneck speeds.
Fair Elections Act Solutions:
1) Deny Elections Commissioner requested authority to compel documents and witness testimony (with individual authorizations from the courts) — a power nonetheless already enjoyed by Chiefs of elections in most provinces: Yukon, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand on CBC’s “The House” yesterday: “Many people refused to talk to the commissioner even if they were not suspects. I’m afraid to say this is happening more and more in files investigated by the commissioner.”
2) Add the Del Mastro clause. Require Elections Canada to inform subjects they are being investigated while preventing EC from telling the public about it.
Problem: Public trust in fair elections in Canada at all time high.
1) Governing party rewrites election law while being investigating by Elections Canada for election fraud.
2) Don’t consult with Chief Electoral Officer before tabling major overhaul of Elections Act.
3) Deny Elections Canada commissioner access to parties’ and riding associations’ financial documentation to support claims made on their financial returns.
4) Forbid Elections Canada from communicating with public. Mayrand:
“Most reports and research will no longer be public– not only not available but probably won’t be done at all.
“I can no longer speak about democracy in this country except where and when to vote. I am not aware of any other electoral bodies around the world who cannot talk about democracy.”
Then cut off debate about the bill in the HoC, sending it to PROC with its six out of 10 Con committee members.
Problem: Election laws successfully and serially violated in 2011. but ensuing court battles lost to election watchdog.
Solution: Neutralize watchdog by moving entire elections enforcement apparatus from current independent office answerable to Parliament to inside Peter MacKay’s ministry.
Problem: Too many people vote — 61% in the last federal election — especially aboriginals, young people, old people, and poor people.
1) Forbid Elections Canada from encouraging voting, including terminating the mock elections model currently being taught to 300,000 Canadian students.
2) Voter suppression. Kill off vouching* — the provision allowing an elector to prove their residence in a riding by having someone they know in the riding who is registered to vote sign a legal document. Marc Mayrand on CBC’s “The House” again:
“Every Canadian has the right to vote. That’s a universal franchise. Vouching is meant to assist people facing challenges. We estimate that in the last election a little over 100,000 electors required vouching before they could cast a ballot. What will happen to those electors in the next election?”
Neufeld Compliance Review, commissioned by Elections Canada:
“The audit estimated that ‘irregularities’ occurred for 1.3 percent of all cases of Election Day voting during the 2011 federal election.”
and of those irregularities, “0.4 percent of ballots had irregularities due to vouching — of which the vast majority were cases of misfiled paperwork, not misidentified voters.”
Problem: Parties not spending enough time and money on elections.
1) Bump allowable individual contribution limit up by 25% with yearly increases to follow.
2) Bump party spending limits directed at new members up by 5% ($22-million).
3) Permit parties to exclude from declaring as a campaign expenditure any communication with electors as long as it’s done with an elector that has contributed before in the previous five years and that it includes a call for additional money.
Problem: Incumbents don’t have enough advantage over new candidates. Mayrand: “20 to 25% of total expenditure goes to get-out-the vote” campaigns by incumbents.
Solution: See Solution #3 above.
Problem: Not enough Pierre Poutine robocalls are being made during elections.
Problem: Not allowed to campaign on Election Day.
Problem: Might lose next election.
Solution: Fair Elections Act.
*On a personal note, I have often relied on vouching in order to vote in my riding, despite having voted in every election I have been in the country for since I came of age to do so. I have a voter ID card, a Canadian passport, a Canadian citizenship card, a BC health care card, and a deed to the house in my riding which has been my only residence for decades. None of these have my address on them, including, according to Elections Canada, the deed to my house because it lists a rural route address they no longer recognize. I pay all my bills online or through my credit union.
Just get a driver’s licence says the harried Deputy Returning Officer every time. Why? says I. Driving a car is not a requirement of citizenship.
h/t Beijing York for Mayrand interview. Highly recommended.