Canada’s election law is getting a major overhaul, aimed at making it tougher to play on the dirty-tricks side of the political game. A crackdown on automated “robocalls” and voter fraud are among the measures contained in the 242-page bill unveiled Tuesday by Democratic Reform minister Pierre Poilievre. And in what’s being widely viewed as a rebuke to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, the Conservatives have taken away his oversight of investigations into election-law abuse. The commissioner of elections, who conducts those probes, will now report to Canada’s director of public prosecutions, who has an arm’s-length relationship with government and political entities. “What we are doing is making sure that office has full independence,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the Commons on Tuesday. Poilievre said the change gives Canada a new breed of political-crimes investigator — one with “sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand.”
While the legislation is massive, the hundreds of clauses in the “Fair Elections Act” are aimed more at political operations than democratic or citizen rights. The bill is virtually silent, for instance, on aspects of elections that have assumed large, democratic significance in recent campaigns — political advertising and the huge, ever-widening voter databases that are being built by the parties in a privacy-rights vacuum.
The leaders of the New Democratic and Liberal parties said they don’t trust the Conservative government to bring in real reform, given the party’s long-running battle with Elections Canada.
Political and election experts will be poring over these measures for some time, assessing their impact on future elections and the overall shape of Canada’s democracy. There are new rules within the labyrinth of fundraising and loan limits, for instance, which could have an effect on future political access to cash and resources.
Full Article: New election law to crack down on robocalls, voter fraud.