A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Undemocratic Election Act

The things in it that are good could have been so much better, but the things that are bad are unforgivable in a democracy.”

Recently Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had an opportunity to speak to the Commons Committee considering Bill C23, The 'Fair' Elections Act. What follows are some extracts from that presentation, for a full transcript and audio of that speech please go the her MPs website.


Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to be able to speak to Bill C-23 today. I want to pause and say that when we have these rushed processes with closure on debate and an abbreviated time to look at a critical bill, it is rare for me to have a speaking opportunity. Therefore, I want to thank the Liberal Party for giving me a speaking slot today........

We need reform. We need a fair elections act. We need to deal with the unhealthy level of hyper-partisanship, the non-stop attack ads, and the fact that we have not gotten to the bottom of the robocall scandal of the last election. However, this bill is not it.........

A lot of things now pass for political prowess, for which anyone who loves democracy should hang their head in shame and be condemned from ever standing for election again. This is not about every party getting out and urging everyone to vote, as we have heard people from across the aisle say all day. Over and over again, we have examples of efforts to do exactly the opposite. I am afraid this bill is in that spirit of reducing voter turnout..........

I do not really think it is a problem to create a commissioner for elections who operates out of the office of public prosecutions. I see that as an independent place. The problem is the government has not given that office any tools. It has not given that officer subpoena powers. What is worse is, for some reason, it has created a “black box” surrounding the work. It would amend the Access to Information Act to remove, from access to information, anything going on in the work of the commissioner for Canada’s elections. They would also remove in the Elections Act the requirement to give any information about investigations..........

(T)he bill also includes a big new loophole for the spending of money. It now will not be considered an elections expense to spend money on activities that are considered fundraising for nomination candidates. That is an open door to abuse.
What is the worst part of this bill? This cuts to the core of democracy. This is a charter issue. I turn to a most recent statement by the Supreme Court of Canada on the right of Canadians to vote.........
The right of every citizen to vote, guaranteed by s. 3 of the Charter, lies at the heart of Canadian democracy....... Our system strives to treat candidates and voters fairly, both in the conduct of elections and in the resolution of election failures. As we have discussed, the Act seeks to enfranchise all entitled persons,…
A voter can establish Canadian citizenship verbally, by oath.
That cannot happen any more, not with this bill........

We need to do everything possible to restore faith among the Canadian public in the health of our democratic system, and this bill takes us in the absolute wrong direction. Why would a governing party do this? Why is there such a rush to disenfranchise Canadians? Is there an election coming right away that we do not know about? Do we have to have all these new rules in place for first nations, seniors, young people, the poor, and the groups that advocate for those parts of our society that are more disenfranchised by having to produce government-issued photo IDs? Is that the point?
I am baffled and appalled and deeply shocked and troubled by this bill. The things in it that are good could have been so much better, but the things that are bad are unforgivable in a democracy.
Elizabeth May, 11 Feb 2014

There is not much that this lowly blogger can add to the words of someone as knowledgeable about parliamentary procedures and dedicated to the protection of our democracy as Ms May, but to say that it is a sad reflection of where our democracy has descended to when a parliamentarian, and a leader of a political party, has to rely upon the goodwill of another party in order to address a parliamentary committee. That the subject matter is fundamental to the democracy of our Country and that debate upon said bill has already been restricted says much about exactly about how much respect that the current regime has for our parliamentary democracy and the traditions of free debate and open and accountable government.
As for real electoral reform and any kind of move towards a more representative system of electing those parliamentarians, or even a study of such changes, there is not even a mention of it in this bill.

2 comments:

Owen Gray said...

The fact that Ms. May had to rely on the Liberals to get a speaking slot tells you just how low things have sunk in this country, Rural.

Rural said...

Yes Owen, it is these accumulating 'little' things that few notice that are gradually killing our democracy.