Conservative Senators plan to support the government’s recent amendments to the Fair Elections Act when it reaches the Senate later this week for what is likely to be a swift passage of the controversial electoral reform legislation. Conservative Senate Whip Elizabeth Marshall told The Hill Times that there were concerns within the Conservative Senate caucus before the bill was amended by the Procedure and House Affairs Committee earlier this month, but she’s hearing a lot less dissent over the legislation now that it’s headed for the Upper Chamber. “The Senators were talking before the hearings, but compared to what I heard before the report, and what I heard after… it’s subsided now with the [Senate] report, but I would expect that when the bill comes if there are any other issues or concerns they’ll be raised, because the Senators do tend to speak quite freely amongst ourselves if we have concerns,” Sen. Marshall said in an interview.
The House is expected to pass Bill C-23 this week, leaving the Senate with four weeks to study the amended electoral reform legislation that has been the focus of heated debate since Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) tabled it in early February. The Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee conducted a pre-study of the bill in April, issuing nine recommendations unanimously supported by the Liberal and Conservative members.
Senate recommendations included authorizing communications between the commissioner of Canada elections and the chief electoral officer, allowing for attestations of identity and address, closing a loophole that would have allowed parties to exclude the cost of fundraising from prior donors from campaign expenses, and permitting Elections Canada to continue promoting student democratic participation.
The government included most of the recommendations in its amendments to the bill at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. The changes address some of the major criticisms of the bill, namely that it would disenfranchise disadvantaged voters and muzzle Elections Canada. “As the government whip in the Senate, when a government bill comes forward, I would expect our Conservative Senators to support it,” Sen. Marshall said.