The divisive Fair Elections Act has resumed its fast-track passage through Parliament, after the federal government submitted 45 changes in a bid to quell opposition to the bill. The amendments were submitted to the committee and obtained by The Globe as MPs returned Monday from a two-week break, and are among roughly 275 presented by MPs of all parties. They all must be considered and voted on by Thursday evening – a short window that all but guarantees only cursory consideration of many changes. The government’s 45 proposed amendments include backing down on both the elimination of vouching and a proposed campaign-finance change that critics said would have opened loophole. They also include elements that raise new questions – strengthening a new limit on the Chief Electoral Officer’s term, by saying no CEO can be reappointed after a 10-year term, and making no mention of a previous promise to back down on expanding partisan appointments of poll workers.
The opposition and critics, who have nearly unanimously panned the bill, warn the Fair Elections Act still has major problems, despite the amendments. “I’d say it’s significantly improved in about one-third of the problematic areas, but there’s two-thirds of very problematic areas it doesn’t touch,” NDP critic Craig Scott said.
The bill nonetheless appears set to pass. After the committee finishes Thursday, the bill will be sent back to the House and then the Senate, where a committee already studied the bill and made nine recommendations. The government didn’t take all of them, but the Senate Tories nonetheless appear satisfied. “I see no reason why the bill will not be adopted by the Senate once it is amended by the House,” Tory Senator and committee member Linda Frum said in an e-mail.