Elections Canada and critics of proposed government legislation that will restrict communications between the chief electoral officer and the electorate say the measure will also limit information the chief electoral officer will be able to distribute to news media. A source told The Hill Times the electoral agency remains concerned despite assurances Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) made on a political talk show that he was open to amending a section of the legislation, Bill C-23, to address Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand’s concerns. And Ottawa lawyer Steven Shrybman, an expert on Canada’s electoral law who represented voters in a Federal Court challenge of results from the 2011 federal election, said the statement from Mr. Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) will have no effect unless the government eliminates the section entirely.
As well, NDP MP Craig Scott (Toronto Danforth, Ont.), a constitutional lawyer and former law professor, said it would be “grotesque” if the section remains intact and prevents the chief electoral officer from communicating with the public outside of what the bill states.
Mr. Mayrand recently said the legislation will prevent him from publicly speaking about anything beyond how, where and when to vote and would prevent him from conducting surveys with Canadians on Elections Canada services.
The contentious clause in Bill C-23, among many sections at the centre of an NDP-led filibuster of the House Affairs Committee as the opposition parties attempt to force cross-country hearings on the legislation, would eliminate wording in the existing Canada Elections Act that gives the chief electoral officer a mandate to use any media he or she considers appropriate to provide Canadians with any information “relating to Canada’s electoral process, the democratic right to vote and how to be a candidate.”