Before I start, I want to let you know that I'm just an ordinary Canadian who doesn't belong to any political party. Nor do I profess the virtues of one party over the over. But as a citizen, I've realized that the Fair Elections Act really isn't fair.
The Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) is as devastating to democracy as Vic Toew's Bill C-30. While Bill C-30 raised considerable public debate and even got the group Anonymous involved, it appears that the Fair Elections Act hasn't raised the same ire. Maybe it's because the Conservatives have focused public attention on vouching.
If Canadians were educated with the same intensity about the other parts of Bill C-23, maybe we'd get the reaction we saw with Bill C-30. The Fair Elections Act, when you examine all its parts, is designed to fix the next election so the ruling party who are the Conservatives win. That is not fair or democratic for 2015 or any future elections. So here are five things that are unfair about the Fair Elections Act:
Bill C-23 reduces transparency and accountability. Bill C-23 removes the enforcement power from the Commissioner of Elections Canada and gives the power to the federal public servants of the Director of Public Prosecutions. While that might sound great, it really isn't. The Director of Public Prosecutions is usually appointed by the governing party of the day and reports to the Minister of Justice. Who does that person answer to? The PM. It's like cops policing cops. Transparent or accountable? I'll let you answer that one.
We won't know about election abuse or fraud. The Elections Canada Commissioner won't have the power to compel witnesses to testify about fishy election dealings. Remember the robocall scandal? Who is Pierre Poutine? Someone knows but the Commissioner has been stymied in getting witnesses to testify even with the current legal abilities of Elections Canada. Take away that bit of power and we won't know in 2015 if the Conservatives or any other political parties are again doing illegal robocalls or employing Pierre Poutine.
Polling station supervisors are appointed by the governing party. If you really believe this makes any election fair, maybe you should visit one of the countries that the UN and Canada send election observers to make sure the ruling government isn't cheating.
"Get out the vote" gets silenced. Elections Canada can't engage in activities encouraging people to vote, instead giving that power to political parties. Letting Canadians know when and where to vote will no longer be announced by Elections Canada. Instead it will be the job of politicians to let us know.
The Conservatives claim that Elections Canada advertising where polling stations are is political. In a series of tweets released April 9 by PC Senator Linda Frum, this idea was summed up:
"Elections Canada should not have a vested interest in recording a high voter turnout. That's a conflict. Elections Canada role is to administer fair elections. Not to motivate. Not to induce. More integrity when mission is clear cut. Motivating voters to fill out a ballot inherently political. Glad we can agree to disagree." When that got public backlash, she clarified her statement: "Retry: the job of motivating people to vote and thus achieving desirable goal of high voter turnout belongs to politicians not bureaucrats."
Party and candidate donation limits are raised. We're allowing money to buy votes. Think US politics and you get the idea of where we're headed with this one.
A quote from a letter signed by Canadian professors of political science from across Canada sums it all up:
"Elections Canada reports to Parliament, not the government of the day. The legitimacy of the entire political system depends on the fair and impartial administration of electoral procedures. It is vital that the rules of democracy be debated in an open and transparent way, shielded from partisan calculations." ~ National Post
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