My previous post dealt with the Elections Act and why the government should let its most contentious bill die a quick death. Shortly after writing my letter, I received this response:
On behalf of the Prime Minister, thank you for your correspondence regarding the Fair Elections Act. We appreciated the opportunity to review your comments.
Our Government is strongly committed to reforming Canada’s elections laws to uphold the integrity of the voting system. The Fair Elections Act will ensure our laws are tough, clear and easy to follow. These necessary changes will be implemented prior to the next federal election.
This legislation is the result of consultations with Elections Canada, parliamentarians, think tanks and other relevant groups. It will implement 38 of the Chief Electoral Officer’s past recommendations. Most importantly, it will make it much more difficult to violate elections laws and put the focus back on honest people exercising their franchise in our democracy.
Some of the highlights of the Fair Elections Act include:
- Protecting voters from rogue calls with a mandatory public registry for mass calling, prison time for impersonating elections officials, and increased penalties.
- Giving more independence to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which is the enforcement wing of Elections Canada, allowing them control over their staff and investigations, empowering them to seek tougher penalties for existing electoral offences, and providing more than a dozen new offences to combat big money, rogue calls and fraudulent voting.
- Cracking down on voter fraud.
- Making the rules for elections clear, predictable and easier to follow.
- Banning the use of loans that are used to evade donation rules.
- Repealing the ban on reporting election results as they become known across the country, upholding free speech.
- Providing better customer service to voters, and establishing an extra day of polling.
We have noted your specific concerns with respect to vouching procedure changes. These reforms are necessary in light of Elections Canada studies that demonstrate mass irregularities in vouching and high rates of inaccuracy on Voter Information Cards. While vouching will no longer be permitted, voters will have 39 authorized ID forms to utilize when proving identity and residence. Elections Canada will communicate clearly to voters what form of ID are accepted before they head to the polls.
For more detailed information on each of these measures, we invite you to visit the following link: http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/harper-government-introduces-fair-elections-act.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to share your views on this important legislation.
Assistant to the Prime Minister
Here is my response:
Dear Honorable Prime Minister (and [name redacted]),
I would like to thank you for your office’s response to my original letter on the subject of the proposed Elections Act. I am grateful that you took the time to write it and to note one of my two primary criticisms of this bill (vouching).
I remain very much dismayed, though, by the willful blindness, if not outright deceitfulness demonstrated by your government in communicating with both me specifically and the public in regards to some aspects of this bill, particularly as regards the matter of vouching. For instance, your office has written:
“These reforms are necessary in light of Elections Canada studies that demonstrate mass irregularities in vouching and high rates of inaccuracy on Voter Information Cards.”
Unfortunately, Elections Canada has not said anything about “mass irregularities in vouching.” Indeed, the author of the report cited by Minister Poilievre in this regard has specifically said of the Minister: “I think any fair-minded person who reads that report would come to the conclusion that he has not been fair in his assessment of my findings” (CBC News, “Pierre Poilievre ‘selectively’ reading election report, author says“). Furthermore, the Globe and Mail has noted how the Government is grossly misrepresenting the positions of several experts (“Fair Elections Act: If evidence voted, this bill would die“). There was no “mass irregularity” at all connected with vouching in the last election. Mr. Prime Minister, you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
Furthermore, your office did not at all acknowledge my other point regarding the proposed Elections Act: namely, how it greatly weakens both the mandate and the power of Elections Canada. The Elections Act is adamantly opposed by the non-partisan head of Elections Canada and by pretty much everyone connected with the administration of our elections. It is supported only by your own political party. Why?
Finally, I now see that you are trying to rush this bill through not only the House of Commons, but the Senate, too. This (together with your singularly poor choice of Senators) shows that you do not appreciate the value of the upper chamber as one of “sober second thought.” In forcing this bill too quickly through the Senate, you are denying Canadians what we are paying for: a governmental body that is less hyper-partisan and more careful in its examination of proposed laws than the House of Commons.
I believe that the pursuit of knocking off as many as half a million potential unfriendly votes has clouded your judgment and your ethics–and I say this as someone who does not believe you are the Parliamentary equivalent of Darth Vader. (For example, I have noted before your steady hand at the helm of our economy during the recent global economic crisis.) But much of what you are doing with this bill is very wrong. Please put this bill to rest.
Thank you for your consideration.