The government’s proposed overhaul of the Elections Act includes elements that constitute an affront to democracy, according to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Mayrand said “my reading of the act is that I can no longer speak about democracy in this country.” “I’m not aware of any electoral bodies around the world who can not talk about democracy,” Mayrand told host Evan Solomon. Under the proposed bill, the only role of the chief electoral officer would be to inform the public of when, where, and how to vote. Elections Canada would be forbidden from launching ad campaigns encouraging Canadians to vote. Surveys and research would be forbidden under the new bill, Mayrand said. “Most of the research will no longer be published because these are communications to the public.” The chief electoral officer and the commissioner of Canada elections would also no longer be allowed to publish their reports, Mayrand said. “These reports will no longer be available. In fact, not only not available. I don’t think it will be done at all.”
At a time when voter turnout appears to have stagnated around the 60 per cent mark, this bill would take away efforts to increase voter turnout from the agency’s hands and leave it to would-be politicians to figure out.
Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, who introduced the bill in Parliament on Tuesday, said candidates are better placed to get the vote out. “Political candidates who are aspiring for office are far better at inspiring voters to get out and cast their ballot than are government bureaucracies,” Poilievre told the Commons on Wednesday.
Persistent and declining voter turnout could undermine the legitimacy of an election’s outcome, warned Mayrand. “Nobody owns [voter] turnout. I think it requires a collective, collaborative approach of the whole society.”