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 9, 2014

The (UN)Fair Elections Act

As is usual with so many of the Bills proposed by the Harper Regime the 'Fair' Elections Act has so many changes buried in the fine print that it is almost impossible for all but the most dedicated and knowledgeable researchers to really understand the implications of it all. Whilst there is little doubt that some changes were needed (in particular in view of the robocall issue) I must question that our election Act was so problematic that it needed a 247 page rewrite, and that just for the CHANGES to it!

I intended to read the whole thing as I was, and still am, very suspicious of this sudden proposal from our Minister of UnDemocratic Reform who it seems did not consult with Elections Canada on the suitability of these changes. I now have to admit to having to leave such dissection to others with more patience than myself, as is normal with such bills it is replete with references to previous legislation similar to this “24. (1) Subsection 52(1) of the Act is amended by striking out “or” at the end of paragraph (b), by adding “or” at the end of paragraph (c) and by adding the following after paragraph (c):” and “The heading before section 82 and sections 82 to 88 of the Act are repealed. - Section 90 of the Act is repealed. - The heading before section 92.1 and sections 92.1 to 92.6 of the Act are repealed” which means that a researcher (or parliamentarian) who wants to know the effect of these clauses must constantly refer to the existing legislation. That such legislation already contains similar gobbledegook leaves the average persons head spinning. Why such documents do not say that the entire Act is repealed and replaced with the following (with changes highlighted) so that our MPs actually know what they are voting for I have never understood.

So, all that said here are a few things highlighted by others starting with the one thing which is fairly clear that being that any opinion expressed by the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the interpretation of the rules shall not be binding upon the Partys or the Politicians!

16.1 (1) The Chief Electoral Officer shall,
in accordance with this section, issue guidelines
and interpretation notes on the application of
this Act to registered parties, registered associations,
nomination contestants, candidates and
leadership contestants.
(8) The guidelines and interpretation notes
are issued for information purposes only. They
are not binding on registered parties, registered
associations, nomination contestants, candidates
or leadership contestants.

I found this one 'interesting'
21.1 (1) A committee is established, to be known as the Advisory Committee of Political
Parties, consisting of the Chief Electoral Officer and two representatives of each registered party appointed by the party’s leader.
(2) The purpose of the committee is to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with advice and recommendations relating to elections and political financing.
(3) The committee’s advice and recommendations are not binding on the Chief Electoral Officer.
(4)The committee shall meet at least once a year and its meetings shall be presided over by the Chief Electoral Officer

I wonder what a committee of POLOTICAL individuals, no matter how well meaning, are doing “advising” the head of an independent arms length NON political body?

The other thing that is fairly obvious and has been picked up by many observers are the changes to some of the financial rules which appear to benefit the affluent and disenfranchise those partys and individuals less well heeled.
Democracy Watch decried the bill's increase in the amount election candidates would be able donate to their own campaign (to $5,000 from $1,200), and the amount party leadership candidates would be able to donate to their own race (to $25,000 from $1,200).”
It would also allow parties to exclude money spent during campaigns to solicit funds from donors who have contributed $20 or more to them at any point over the previous five years. That the partys need not itemize donations under $200 and that it is impossible to police such exemptions and that even if strictly controlled it helps partys with extensive databases going back 5 years and hurts those with less funds to devote to such exercises means nothing to these self serving Ologarchs.

Moving on we get this “The commissioner of elections, the agency's investigator, would be appointed (for a 7 year fixed term) by the federal director of public prosecutions in future, and completely severed from Elections Canada.”
This may or may not be a good thing, one question I have is if the commissioner who is responsible for enforcing the Election Laws is separate from those responsible for seeing that they are followed how will any wrongdoings be identified and prosecuted. Will it be more or less responsive than the almost snails pace current investigation re Con robocalls.
And finally (for this go around) we note that those without two pieces of government issued ID will not be allowed to have a neighbour vouch for them. This is of course due to the voter fraud that happened at one Toronto polling station whereby a number of questionable people were allowed to vote by such means, that the main problem was due to the polling station clerks not following procedure mandated for such things does not seem to have been addressed but making it more difficult for those who perhaps only have their OAS card and no drivers licence to register is not the answer. Also that Elections Canada will not be able to promote voting and encourage folks to vote! Whats wrong with that picture?

In an interview on CBC Radio Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand said "my reading of the act is that I can no longer speak about democracy in this country." it "limits the chief electoral officer's power to provide information to the public."
Under the proposed bill, the only role of the chief electoral officer would be to inform the public of when, where, and how to vote.
Elections Canada would be forbidden from launching ad campaigns encouraging Canadians to vote. Surveys and research would be forbidden under the new bill, Mayrand said.

Whilst there are some good things in this bill I suspect many more questionable provisions will emerge in the next few weeks. This would be of much less concern if I thought for one moment that during the legislative process in the HoC, in committee, and in the Senate that amendments to the bill would be considered and adopted to fix these flaws. Given the past behaviour of Harper cabal it is most improbable that such will ever take place, in fact it will be rushed through so that more money can be spent (by the established partys) upon bullshitting the public into democratic oblivion.
In fact the push to limit debate has already started......
“The governing Conservatives moved Wednesday to cut short debate on a new election bill that critics say helps the Tories and weakens oversight by Elections Canada.
House Leader Peter Van Loan gave notice Wednesday afternoon, a day after the 242-page bill was tabled, that the government will vote to send the bill to committee on Thursday, a move that seemed to signal the government plans to push the bill through the legislative process without changes.”
The above link also contains several more problematic areas of concern with this bill – also see the series Theft of Democracy here!
Sigh..... Democracy is not only dead withing the Con ranks but they are determined to bury it so deep that it can never be resurrected.
Lead Now has a petition to be presented to parliament available here

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

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