Bill C23 – The (so-called) Fair Elections Act
April 25, 2014 by
MARK'S REMARKS, Politics
In my previous post, I encouraged you to write to your MP and send copies to the party leaders. I eventually took my own advice; the text of my letter to the Prime Minister follows. This has also been posted on the Fair Vote Calgary web site.
- The proposed legislation will here be referred to as Bill C-23, as the official short title is patently false and misleading.
- The absence of any provision regarding proportional representation is a ‘fatal flaw’ to Bill C-23 which should result in either withdrawal of the Bill from Parliament by the Government or in rejection by MPs in a free vote. (This legislation should not be subject to party whips – it should be a free vote where MPs can vote according to their conscience, reflecting the opinions of their constituents).
- Bill C-23 does not regulate nomination races so that local Electoral District Associations (EDAs) may be free to democratically select the candidate of their choice. The present requirement that a party leader must approve the local selection is undemocratic and should be removed. The relevant provisions of the proposed Reform Act as put forward by Michael Chong should be incorporated in a revised Bill C-23.
- A party should only be able to impose a candidate on an Electoral District if an EDA does not exist or if an EDA has been unable to select a candidate and a general election has already been called.
- An MP should be required by law to reflect the opinions of the voters in his or her Electoral District. The party caucus or leader should not be permitted to impose a political party opinion or policy on an MP who represents the constituents.
- Identification Requirements and Vouching. Canadians have a right to vote, irrespective of where they live, guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The present proposals in Bill C-23 seek to limit that guarantee by requiring a voter to provide proof of residence in the Electoral District. While this is an admirable goal, it exceeds the authority of the rights guaranteed by the Charter. The concern expressed by some, that there is an opportunity to vote twice, is of much lesser concern than that at present 40% of the electorate doesn’t vote at all. The double voting concern can be addressed by removing the present Voter Information Card at the polling station after the registered voter has voted. A (feared) second vote would have to be supported by an affidavit with severe penalties for trying to or achieving a second vote.
- Voter Information cards supplied by Elections Canada, supplemented by picture identification or an affidavit of identity and address in the absence of a card, should be sufficient information to allow a voter to cast a ballot. The present vouching provisions could be retained as an additional or alternative form of identification and geo-location. The present provisions of Bill C-23, seeking to eliminate or limit the suitability and usability of the Voter Information Card, will serve only to limit the number of people able to present evidence of their right to vote in the Electoral District. A better approach would be for Elections Canada to pro-actively maintain an accurate electoral register and for the voter to supplement the card provided with picture identification. If this cannot be done, then a voter’s sworn affidavit should be sufficient to allow a person to cast a ballot.
- Elections Canada should be encouraging voting per se; political parties should only be responsible for promoting candidates for whom they think an elector should vote. The proposed limitations on Elections Canada’s activities are unreasonable and unacceptable. The proposed limitations should be thrown out and Elections Canada’s ability to communicate the importance of voting should be enhanced.
- The proposed unfair fund raising changes should be changed again. The only permissible fund raising should be that voters (not corporations or other entities) may contribute to the EDA in which they live, the party, or the candidate of their choice to a limit such as $2500 per voter per year including election years.
- Expenses in reaching out to voters should be the same for everyone and should be fully reported to Elections Canada, whether or not the voter to be reached previously voted or donated to an EDA, party or candidate. Secret (‘unreported’) donations should be illegal and the donor should be subject to penalty.
- The authority of Elections Canada to investigate and prosecute all and any illegal activity should be unfettered.
- Elections Canada should be permitted to communicate with the public objectively and without political bias on all matters relating to elections, especially if wrong-doing is suspected and further information is sought. Any reports on suspected or proven wrong-doing, should be made public.
- Transparency around elections is a paramount requirement which trumps personal embarrassment and supposed confidentiality (except of the ballot itself). This means that all reports and audits should be prepared objectively and impartially by people who do not have an interest in the outcome, and then reported to the public through Elections Canada.
- The accelerated processing of Bill C-23 without public or inter-party consultation in the preparation of the Bill is unfair, grossly undemocratic and totally unacceptable. In proper parliamentary procedure, a brown (discussion) paper would first be produced and discussed; this would be followed by a ‘green paper’ of proposed provisions, to be followed by a white paper incorporating the firm policies of the government (after discussion). Only then would a Parliamentary Bill be produced. By the time the Bill was produced, most of the provisions and problems arising from them would have been discussed comprehensively so passage of the Bill through Parliament could be relatively swift and painless. The Harper Conservatives have taken a paternalistic and dictatorial approach guaranteed to provoke the negative reaction that Bill C-23 has received.
- Transferring the appointment of elections staff to party political nominees and appointees is egregious and biased, totally alien to the concept of democracy and an independent, fair election. Elections Canada should be solely responsible for appointing staff to operate the election based on merit and ability. Individual candidates, their representatives and parties should be limited to scrutineering. Individual citizens who are members of a political party should be permitted to apply to Elections Canada to be election staff, provided they swear to operate under the authority of Elections Canada and not under their political affiliation.
Bill C-23 is so flawed and incomplete that it should be withdrawn and wholly re-written after proper consultation and discussion as outlined above.