Canada’s election chief says he is pleased with the “significant improvements” made to the Fair Elections Act — a bill he originally slammed as a serious threat to Canadians’ voting rights. “I think there’s been substantive improvements to the legislation,” Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand told reporters on Thursday — his first public pronouncements since the Conservative government bowed to critics and made amendments to the legislation. The big improvements, Mayrand said, revolve around closing political-fundraising loopholes and allowing voters to continue to prove their identity through the vouching system at the ballot box. These were among his top concerns when he told the Star earlier this year that no election reform would be better than the first draft of the Fair Elections Act.
His criticisms provoked repeated backlash from Conservatives and Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre in particular, who accused Mayrand of trying to protect his own power. Nonetheless, after weeks of similar criticism, Poilievre eventually introduced the amendments that Mayrand is now calling “significant” and welcome changes.
Mayrand says he still has some reservations about the bill, which is due to become law as soon as it clears the Senate, likely by the time Parliament breaks for the summer. “I’m still worried that the (elections) commissioner doesn’t have the tools that he needs to do a full investigation in a timely manner,” he said.
The elections chief told MPs at a Commons committee on Thursday that he would be doing a full analysis of the bill’s impact by the fall, as his office begins to gear up for the 2015 election.