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.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meaningful Changes or Lipstick on the Pig?

In the unholy rush to jam their Unfair Elections Act through before the majority of Canadians realise just how bad and self-serving piece of legislation it is the Harper regieme has asked the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to “pre-study” it. In short order the Conservative-dominated committee has come back with a number of changes that it would like to see, remember this is just a “pre-study” not full hearings and that the House of Commons has yet to finish its initial study of this bill. The House Affairs Committee studying the bill will conduct one more day of hearings when MPs return from a two-week break April 28, before going into a rushed clause-by-clause review ending May 1. “Clause-by-clause review will begin Tuesday, April 29 with morning and evening meetings for three days until it wraps up May 1.” 'Rushed' hardly covers it, this is legislation that changes the very fundamental way in which elections are held and funded and should not be rushed or subject to any limitations of debate or public scrutiny. In May it will then (presumably) go to the senate for a full (rushed?) committee study.

There are those who feel that the changes that the senate so quickly proposed are simply “putting lipstick on the pig” or as Tim Harper of the Star puts it:- “What Conservatives senators have really done is give the government cover to suddenly shift course, drop their bullying demeanour and pretend to be reasonable and conciliatory then go ahead and pass a deeply flawed bill with nothing more than cosmetic tweaks.”
I cannot help but agree with his opinion that “That {this} adds to the odds that somehow the proposed amendments will be given more weight than they are worth, wrapping this saga up with a nice bow, as the Senate flexes its muscle and the Harper governments feigns flexibility.”

Indeed whilst the changes propose include 'that attestations of name and address be given by authorities such as homeless shelters, student and senior’s residences, removing a spending loophole that would allow parties to exclude money spent on certain fundraising activities, and permitting Elections Canada to continue with certain education programs' that hardly touches the edges of what is wrong with this bill. Are these amendments just a distraction from the core faults, as Elizabeth May of the Green Party and long advocate for democratic reform said she thinks there’s a willingness from the government to consider amendments to the bill’s provisions on vouching. She’s worried that if all the focus is placed there, though, the bill could still pass without amending other provisions concerning the appointment of partisan poll workers, the muzzling of Elections Canada, and a fundraising loophole for party election financing.
The list of things that are wrong with this bill is a very long list. If the vouching provisions have settled in the public imagination as what’s wrong with the bill, fixing those might make people think that the whole process is okay. It won’t be okay,” she said.

The issue of vouching has indeed received the majority of the public criticism but is perhaps the one issue where this bill could be challenged in the courts in that it would possibly disenfranchise some voters Pierre Lortie, who chaired a royal commission on electoral reform in the early ’90s, told the House Affairs Committee the bill would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

That however is no guarantee that the bill will be changed in any meaningful way or that other antidemocratic and self-serving measures will not remain and be jammed though and become law. As Ms May puts it in an interview to the Hill Times “I think it sets a new record for a government bill that can’t find a single expert to support the government bill,” “[Conservatives] keep claiming they have everyday Canadians who support the bill. I haven’t seen any of those, either.”

As I said above and Ms May has indicated the vouching thing may well distract from some of the other terrible proposals in this bill but never the less she has, as always, clearly outlined this particular problem in her recent article for the Times Colonist.

The repetition of the 39 pieces of ID has become part of the disinformation that could lead to a loss of voter rights in the next election. A passport won’t work by itself because it does not include an address. A driver’s licence only works if it includes a street address and not a post office box, as is the case in many rural areas. If you have moved and your driver’s licence shows your previous address, you won’t have adequate ID. The requirement is for something with a photo ID and your address or just the right combination of two (or more) other identifiers, even without a photo ID.
Here’s a hypothetical. Imagine my daughter, currently a student in Halifax, went to the polling station bringing along six pieces of ID from the list — just to be on the safe side — her birth certificate, her student ID, her driver’s licence, her health card, her passport and her transcript. All are listed as acceptable on the Elections Canada website.
Could she vote? No. None of these forms of ID will include her current address. She does pay for utilities in her Halifax apartment. The utility bill is listed as an acceptable proof of address, in conjunction with her other ID. So, she runs back to her apartment, prints out her online utility bill and gets back to the polling station.
Can she vote now? No. The utility statement must be one mailed to the customer, not one printed out from online billing.”
As a rural resident whose wife worked on the 'revisions' for voters in the last elections I can say that rural addressing in particular is a major problem in this regard. It is improving with the use of 'fire numbers' in many municipality’s but the vulgarities of rural addressing DO create some unique problems where the address on you identification is expected to match that in the Elections Canada listings!

Wake up Canada, our democracy has become a shadow of its former self ever-since the Harper Regime received their false majority, it is now being threatened with a poison pill that would put it in further jeopardy. Speak up, only immense public pressure will stop these Oligarch from destroying our long internationally admired election oversight system and even that may not be enough to stop them!

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