Voters in ridings across Canada reported confusion at the ballot box on Monday, with many attributing the issues to the Fair Elections Act, a controversial bill that ushered in many changes to the electoral process, from campaign finance to voter identification. “Canadians shouldn’t have to be experts in electoral law to cast a ballot,” said Josh Paterson, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. The group intervened in an ongoing case against the bill that sought to have its provisions suspended for this election. That argument was turned down in July, but a full court challenge will be heard after the voting. “We’re stuck with it for today, and hoping to get changes for next time around,” said Mr. Paterson, who himself was asked for unnecessary ID when he voted at the advance polls.Full Article: Fair Elections Act blamed for confusion at polls - The Globe and Mail.
Fair Elections Act
An international observer mission has set down in Ottawa to monitor and report on the federal election — including whether controversial changes to Canada’s election law help or hurt the democratic process. The six-person mission, deployed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), is the first to monitor a Canadian election in nearly a decade. It was prompted by widespread concern inside Canada over recent changes introduced by the Conservative government’s controversial Fair Elections Act. “The legislative framework is a key part of any election process. It’s the rules of the game,” said mission leader Hannah Roberts, a British national who has monitored elections in 30 countries. “As we know, there have been some changes here in Canada, and there are different views about those changes. So our job is in part to come and look at that legal framework and be looking at how it works in practice, to see what issues come up.”Full Article: Observers arrive to monitor federal vote under changes to election law | Ottawa Citizen.
Despite the uproar over the Conservative government’s new election law, the country’s chief electoral officer said Monday he’s confident those who want to vote on Oct. 19 will get a chance to do so. Marc Mayrand said his agency is going to great lengths to inform people, particularly online and in aboriginal communities. New, legislative requirements for identification should not cause problems, as long as voters prepare themselves, he said. “I think we’ll see a good election,” he said. “We have taken various measures to ensure no one is denied the right to vote.” Mayrand downplayed opposition party warnings, which resounded during the divisive debate over Bill C-23, that thousands will be unable to vote because of the new rules. However, he placed the burden of exercising democratic rights on the shoulders of electors. “If anybody is turned away from the polls, or anybody stays home because of concerns, I think there should be no concerns there,” he said. “I think there is a way (to vote). If you’re concerned about your ability to establish your ID and address, please contact us.”Full Article: Elections Canada chief hopeful voters won't be turned away because of new ID rules | CTV News.
After almost having its chief electoral officer “muzzled,” Elections Canada is launching a new advertising campaign this week, and will target youth, seniors and aboriginals, in a pilot project to help Canadians cast ballots Oct. 19. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was expected Monday to lay out what voters need to know to register and vote. The agency will also launch the first phase of its ad campaign. The Conservatives have been criticized for changes to Canada’s election laws that some say will make it more difficult for students, seniors and indigenous people to vote – and also make it tougher for Elections Canada to communicate with Canadians. The original version of the Conservative government’s Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, would have significantly limited the chief electoral officer’s ability to talk to Canadians about their right to vote — something opposition parties and other groups called an affront to democracy that would have “muzzled” the elections boss.Full Article: Freed from constraints, Elections Canada set to launch its own campaigns | Ottawa Citizen.
Introduced in February 2014, the Conservative-backed Fair Elections Act (Bill C-25), which aims to crack down on voter fraud, is now a fully enacted bill that raises major red flags for its disenfranchising effects. With the federal elections coming up in October of this year, many Canadians are questioning if this is actually the most effective method to ensure secure voting. The motivation behind the act seems fair enough, at face value. However, the implementation methods detailed in the bill have many damaging side effects, including the disenfranchisement of multiple vulnerable voting blocks, potentially giving the Conservative Party an unfair advantage in the upcoming federal election. The objective of this act, according to the Canadian government, is to crack down on voter fraud. One of the central tactics it employs is changing the documents required to demonstrate voter eligibility. In April 2014, Minister of Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre claimed that “in a 21st century democracy, where people are required to produce ID to drive a car […] it is common sense to expect people to show ID to demonstrate who they are when they vote.”Full Article: The Unfair Elections Act | The McGill Daily.
The marathon election campaign will be a test of more than voters’ patience and attention span. It will be a test of the Fair Elections Act, the controversial and sweeping legislation that has introduced changes to how Canadians prove they are eligible to vote, the way elections are financed and how voting shenanigans are investigated. It puts more money in the pockets of political parties for a longer campaign, while capping how much third parties can spend on election advertising. To its boosters, the changes are a necessary update, motivated in part by the need to guard against voting fraud. … However, critics of the legislation fear some of the changes will leave people in some particular groups — such as students, the homeless and First Nations — unable to vote. Critics argue that many of the changes were deliberately designed to skew the advantage in favour of the Conservatives on Election Day. “There’s no question it will have an impact in the current election,” said Garry Neil, executive director of the Council of Canadians.Full Article: Fair Elections Act will bring big changes on voting day | Toronto Star.
When Stephen Harper’s Conservative government passed the Fair Elections Act last year, 160 university professors warned in an open letter it “would damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections.” The proof of the pudding will be in the eating once we see whether voting rates are affected by the new law. The Oct. 19 federal election is ushering in new rules on voting that experts fear could discourage participation by certain groups, like youth and indigenous peoples. “It will have an impact, but just how big it’s going to be is open to debate,” said Brian Tanguay, a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. The turnout in the 2011 election was 61.1 per cent, up slightly from 2008’s all-time low of 58.8 per cent.Full Article: Stricter voting rules could affect turnout at polls | Montreal Gazette.
An Ontario Superior Court justice has rejected a bid for an injunction to suspend voter identification provisions of the Fair Elections Act, despite acknowledging the risk eligible Canadians will be denied the vote in the next federal election. Lawyers for the Canadian Federation of Students and the Council of Canadians had argued that the law, passed by the Conservative government in 2014, was an act of voter suppression, and could prevent as many as 250,000 voters — those least likely to vote for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government — from voting in the Oct. 19 election. They had argued that the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, had gone on record saying he would be willing to replace the 28 million voter information cards (VICs) already printed with the words “Please note that this card is not a piece of ID,” if the injunction had been allowed.Full Article: Federal election 2015: Voter ID rules stand, judge rules - Politics - CBC News.
What voters will decide on Oct. 19 is beyond the Conservatives’ control. But one thing is firmly in their grasp: when to drop the writs that will take them to the polls. Exactly what day Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit the Governor General to make the formal request to dissolve Parliament and call the election has been the source of weeks of political speculation. And with good reason: it’s ultimately a political calculus of the Conservatives’ own devising. Although a law passed in 2007 set a fixed election date for Parliament, it didn’t set a fixed length on how long the election campaign could be, only how short — no less than 37 days long including the day it begins. Fast forward to 2014 and the introduction and subsequent passage of the contentious Fair Elections Act, which among other things changed the rules around campaign finance. In short, the longer the campaign, the more everyone can spend.Full Article: Timing of election call will affect parties’ campaign spending | Toronto Star.
A bid to stop a key provision of the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act from being implemented in this fall’s election has been denied by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Justice David Stinson ruled on Friday that a request by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students for an interim injunction against new rules for voter identification could not be granted. The activist groups that brought forward the challenge had been seeking to allow Canadians to use the voter-information cards they receive in the mail as proof of identity at polling stations – something that Elections Canada had been planning to allow before changes to the Canada Elections Act were passed by Parliament in 2014. They argued in court that the effect of those changes, which require government-issued photo identification with proof of address in order to vote, would effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of people – especially aboriginals, students, the homeless and elderly people living in care homes – who might not have driver’s licences, the easiest such form of ID.Full Article: Court denies injunction on controversial Fair Elections Act rule - The Globe and Mail.
A lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada is citing an old court challenge Stephen Harper launched as a private citizen as precedent for stopping an injunction seeking to stay some sections of the Fair Elections Act before this fall’s federal election. Government lawyer Christine Mohr cited the 2004 case in which Harper, then president of the National Citizens Coalition, attempted to get an injunction on the restrictions against third-party spending in elections. The attorney general is fighting an attempt by the Canadian Federation of Students and the Council of Canadians to get an injunction against key provisions of the new Fair Elections Act.Full Article: Harper vs. Canada case a precedent to protect Fair Elections Act, lawyer argues - Canada - CBC News.
Fraud and reduced public confidence in the electoral system could result if voter information cards are used as valid ID at the polls, lawyers for the federal government argued in court Friday. The government is fighting an injunction request to suspend a key identification provision in its Fair Elections Act. The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students are asking the court to restore the power of Canada’s chief electoral officer to recognize voter information cards as one form of valid ID — a power taken away in the act — in time for the fall election.Full Article: Voter ID cards not enough at ballot box, government argues | Toronto Star.
The Ontario Superior Court is hearing arguments today and Friday from a coalition of groups seeking an injunction against a couple of key elements of the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act. The group, comprised of the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students, and three private voters, wants to restore the ability of Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer to allow the use of voter information cards as proof of address, and reinstate vouching provisions that would allow electors to prove their identity. The applicants filing the motion say they are concerned that provisions in the Fair Elections Act will systematically affect the ability of certain groups to vote, including youth, seniors, indigenous people, the homeless and people with disabilities. “We know that youth historically have low voter turnout and so we want to see changes to elections law that encourage students and youth to vote,” said Jessica McCormick with the Canadian Federation of Students. “The Fair Elections Act did the opposite,” she said in an interview with CBC News.Full Article: Fair Elections Act critics seek injunction, arguing new ID rules block voting - Politics - CBC News.
Elections Canada is urging all voters who may be missing appropriate identification to get their paperwork done in the few months remaining before the country goes to the polls. “We’re encouraging electors to be aware now, moving into the general election, that if they don’t have two pieces of ID, they really need to act on that,” an Elections Canada official told reporters Tuesday during a technical briefing on recent changes to the process in. The list of acceptable forms of identification voters can use when they cast their ballots this Oct. 19, however, is quite long.Full Article: Elections Canada warns voters about new ID requirements for 2015 election | Toronto Star.
Editorials: It could get ugly at Canadian polling stations this fall thanks to Fair Elections Act | Stephen Maher/National Post
When Elections Canada mails out Voter Information Cards this fall, a new sentence in bold letters will appear at the bottom: Please note that this card is not a piece of ID. This means that on election day, tens of thousands of people will likely turn up at their polling station, voter cards in hand, only to learn that they can’t vote. In the last election, 400,000 Canadians used these cards to identify themselves. Another 120,171 had someone, usually a neighbour or relative, vouch for their identity. This time there will be none of that, thanks to the Fair Elections Act passed by the Conservative government last year. If you see lines of angry, confused people at your polling station on Oct. 19, you can thank Pierre Poilievre, minister of democratic reform.Full Article: Stephen Maher: It could get ugly at polling stations this fall thanks to Fair Elections Act | National Post.
According to the Council of Canadians, there were 100,000 Canadians who got the chance to vote in 2011 because someone vouched for them. And there were 400,000 Canadians who used voter-information cards to gain access to the ballot box. The council claims that with amendments put in place by Stephen Harper’s government through the Fair Elections Act, those votes could be in jeopardy. The new act does not allow for individuals to vouch for more than one person and it also prohibits the use of voter-information cards.Full Article: Another view: Fair Elections Act not so fair.
While the courts are making it easier for Canadians to exercise their right to vote, the federal government seems committed to making it harder. The Fair Elections Act elicited unprecedented condemnation for restricting access to the ballot box. The government has now introduced the Citizen Voting Act, after a court granted the right to vote to some Canadians living outside the country. The Act puts in place rules on how non-resident Canadians can exercise their constitutional right. These rules are so onerous that they will effectively prevent voting by many non-residents. The implications for the more than one million Canadians of voting age who live out of the country deserve close scrutiny.Full Article: Michael Pal: The government is making it harder for Canadians to vote | Ottawa Citizen.
Elections Canada has budgeted up to $1 million to help First Nations cope with new voter-identification rules that could make it harder for indigenous people to cast ballots in this year’s federal election. The agency is hiring the Assembly of First Nations to warn its 634 bands and others about the tougher rules, which are doing away with “vouching,” commonly used on reserves where relatively few voters have identity cards that show their home address as required. Previous federal elections have allowed a second person to vouch for the identity of a voter who lacks documents that contain an address. But last year’s controversial Fair Elections Act essentially ended the practice after the Harper government said it was open to abuse.Full Article: Elections Canada budgets $1M for aboriginal ID issue in federal vote - Politics - CBC News.
Canada: Conservatives denying some Canadians the vote, group says in legal challenge | The Globe and Mail
The federal government’s recent overhaul of Canadian election laws is facing a Charter challenge, one alleging the changes will deny some Canadians the right to vote. The groups behind the case argue that the Fair Elections Act, an amended version of which became law in June after the bill received widespread criticism, will suppress the vote of certain Canadians and make it difficult for some to obtain a ballot on election day. A legal challenge was filed Thursday in the Ontario Superior Court by the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students and three individual electors. They are challenging the law under section three of the Charter and Rights of Freedoms, which guarantees citizens the right to vote, and section 15, which says every individual is equal before and under the law. “We believe [the bill] will disproportionately impact disadvantaged groups,” lawyer Steven Shrybman, who will argue the case, told a news conference Thursday.Full Article: Conservatives denying some Canadians the vote, group says in legal challenge - The Globe and Mail.
Canada: ‘Fair Elections Act’ will be challenged in court by Council of Canadians, Federation of Students | National Post
The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students announced Thursday they will challenge the Harper government’s new election bill, hours before Gov. Gen. David Johnston was to grant royal assent, making it law. The council and federation will go to Superior Court of Ontario to challenge the law on the grounds that it violates section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the “right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.” The two groups intend to challenge voter-ID provisions that critics say will make it harder for students, aboriginals and seniors to vote, and changes that limit the mandate of the chief electoral officer to promote voting.Full Article: ‘Fair Elections Act’ will be challenged in court by Council of Canadians, Federation of Students | National Post.