Canada: Pierre Poilievre attacks head of Elections Canada | Toronto Star

As criticism of the Conservatives’ electoral reform bill continues to mount, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre launched an attack on Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.
Poilievre said Tuesday that Mayrand, the independent head of Elections Canada appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is criticizing the so-called Fair Elections Act out of a desire for more power. “The reality is that regardless of amendments and improvements that the bill potentially will have included, the CEO will not ultimately approve it,” Poilievre said.
“(Mayrand’s) recommendations really boil down to three broad requirements for him: he wants more power, a bigger budget, and less accountability.” Poilievre also accused Mayrand of “grasping at straws” and making “astounding” claims about Bill C-23 in an attempt to scuttle the legislation. Poilievre was asked to take back his comments in the House of Commons Tuesday. He declined, saying he stood by his testimony.

Canada: Elections bill ‘exacerbates’ lack of privacy, political parties micro-target voters more | Hill Times

MPs may be federal law-makers, but there are no laws restricting how political parties can collect or use personal information about voters in Canada, and with the development of micro-targeting techniques, information is more important than ever in politics, however, parties aren’t working to close this legislative gap out of “self-interest,” say experts. “It’s in parties’ self-interest to not be covered by these particular rules and regulations [privacy laws]. They want to be able to collect information and not have to worry about abiding by rules and standards … there’s no reason whatsoever that political parties shouldn’t play by the same rules as businesses and government institutions,” said Jonathon Penney, an associate law professor at Dalhousie University with a focus on intellectual property and information security issues, in an interview last week with The Hill Times. “There’s a real incentive I think for parties to collect more information, because the richer the information, the better your analytics will be, the more you can micro-target, the more you can segment your voter base and shape an individual message to target specific voters for specific reasons, and your electoral strategies and your voter messaging is going to be that much better the richer and deeper and more detailed your information is about the electorate,” he said.

Canada: Blind voters could also be disenfranchised under feds’ elections law overhaul | The Hill Times

Advocates for the blind and marginalized Canadians with a range of disabilities warned MPs Tuesday the government’s plan to legislate an end to vouching in federal elections would prevent many of the people they represent from being able to vote. Leaders from the Canadian Institute of the Blind, which lends support and volunteer services to tens of thousands of blind or partially sighted citizens, and an advocate with People First called on the Conservative government to amend key sections of controversial election legislation they said would heighten ballot box hurdles that their members and clients already face. The testimony came as a House of Commons committee hearing witnesses on Bill C-23 began a rush to jam in as many witnesses as possible in the two weeks remaining before a government-imposed May 1 deadline for the committee to complete its business and send the bill back to the House for final passage.

Editorials: Canada’s attack on democracy sets tone for Australia | Sydney Morning Herald

Australians who value democracy should turn their eyes to Canada to catch a glimpse of what might be heading our way. Two weeks ago, international academics added their names to a call by 160 Canadian experts to stop a piece of legislation being rushed through parliament that aims to radically change electoral processes in Canada. Introduced by the Conservative Party government in Canada, and with a name that would do George Orwell proud, the ‘’Fair Elections Act’’ seeks to insert partisanship and inequality into Canadian electoral procedures in a manner reminiscent of 19th century processes. The proposed act will reduce voting rights, foster partisan bias in election administration and weaken campaign finance laws. Along with Australia, Canada has a reputation for being a world leader in electoral processes, which makes the proposals all the more shocking and internationally significant. Elections Canada – the equivalent of our Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) – is considered a strong and fiercely independent electoral administrator. But, if passed, the proposed act will move the enforcement arm of the agency into the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, a government department. This will diminish the independence of the agency but also, crucially, it means the activities of the commissioner would no longer be reported to parliament.

Canada: Elections changes impact half million voters | The Canadian Press

The Harper government’s overhaul of federal election rules could make it difficult for more than half a million voters to exercise their constitutional right to a ballot, says the author of a report that’s been used to justify the crackdown. “Either amend it or pull it,” Harry Neufeld said of Bill C-23 — dubbed the Fair Elections Act — after appearing before a parliamentary committee Thursday. Neufeld, the former British Columbia chief electoral officer, was just one of five non-partisan experts in electoral process to tell MPs the legislation requires some major fixes. In fact all five witnesses said the bill, as written, would do more harm than good to Canadian democracy.

Canada: Scholars denounce Conservatives’ proposed Fair Elections Act | The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act threatens Canada’s global reputation as a “guardian of democracy and human rights,” a group of international researchers says. The open letter, provided to The Globe and Mail, comes from 19 professors from universities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Ireland. The letter lays out objections to the government bill to overhaul Canada’s electoral laws. “We believe that this Act would prove [to] be deeply damaging for electoral integrity within Canada, as well as providing an example which, if emulated elsewhere, may potentially harm international standards of electoral rights,” the scholars write in the letter. In particular, the changes would “undermine the integrity of the Canadian electoral process, diminish the effectiveness of Elections Canada, reduce voting rights, expand the role of money in politics and foster partisan bias in election administration,” they write.

Editorials: Don’t undermine Elections Canada | National Post

We, the undersigned — professors at Canadian universities who study the principles and institutions of constitutional democracy — believe that the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23), if passed, would damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections. We urge the Government to heed calls for wider consultation in vetting this Bill. While we agree that our electoral system needs some reforms, this Bill contains proposals that would seriously damage the fairness and transparency of federal elections and diminish Canadians’ political participation. Beyond our specific concerns about the Bill’s provisions (see below), we are alarmed at the lack of due process in drafting the Bill and in rushing it through Parliament. We see no justification for introducing legislation of such pivotal importance to our democracy without significant consultation with Elections Canada, opposition parties, and the public at large.

Editorials: How the Fair Elections Act might actually hurt the Tories in 2015 | National Post

The federal government has recently introduced legislation aimed at significantly revising the powers of Elections Canada. Critics of the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) contend that the bill offers an electoral advantage to the governing Conservatives, suggesting that its provisions have been designed to suppress voter turnout among segments of the population traditionally unfriendly to the Conservatives. That may be true, though we would suggest there are at least two ways in which the Fair Elections Act might actually hurt the Tories come 2015. No wonder the Tories were so nervous. The government had been noticeably skittish about what Marc Mayrand would say before the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee Thursday: not only had it kept the chief electoral officer largely out of the loop in the months before it introduced its landmark Fair Elections Act, but there was doubt whether he would even be allowed to testify about it afterwards. A promise to that effect had been made to the NDP’s David Christopherson the night before to persuade him to end his filibuster of the Act in committee. Yet on the day Mr. Mayrand’s testimony was interrupted by the calling of not one but two votes in the Commons just as he was scheduled to speak.

Canada: Conservative bill may ‘compromise’ elections, Marc Mayrand says | Toronto Star

The man in charge of elections in Canada has warned the Conservative government that voters are going to be turned away from ballot boxes in significant numbers in 2015 and that the new “Fair Elections Act” may create real unfairness among the political players. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was blunt when he spoke to one of the lead Conservative MPs during an often-testy Commons committee meeting on Thursday. “In the next election, if those rules go through, you will see in your riding how many people will be sent away,” Mayrand told MP Tom Lukiwski. “And that will be an issue.”

Editorials: Canada Fair Elections Act attacks participation and debate | Toronto Star

For many months the Conservative government has blatantly taken away by fiat the right to strike of union members within federal jurisdiction. They are now threatening to shut down environmental charities that are talking about climate change. And they are ramming through Parliament changes to the elections act that will almost certainly mean that many thousands of Canadians will not be able to vote. In the language of fundamental rights, taken together these actions restrict freedom of association, limit freedom of speech and curtail a citizen’s right to vote. In short, there is a steady chipping away at the underpinnings of democracy. Inspired by the tried and tested voter suppression tactics used by the Republicans to disenfranchise marginalized groups in the U.S., the new election law would make it harder for certain groups to vote. The law would end the ability to “vouch” for the bona fides of a neighbour, a tool that allowed 120,000 voters — disproportionately aboriginal, youth and seniors — to cast ballots in the last election.

Editorials: Fair Elections Act would suppress the student vote | The Varsity

The federal Conservative government recently announced the Fair Elections Act, a controversial proposal to amend the Canada Elections Act. Ironically, the act is being criticized for taking steps to suppress voter turnout by implementing new rules for verifying who is an eligible voter at the polls. This new piece of legislation poses significant issues for minority voters, low-income families, and, unfortunately, students. At present, eligible voters can vouch for another person’s eligibility, such as a roommate or neighbour, at polling stations, allowing them to vote. The Conservatives’ proposal places unnecessarily stringent limits on reasonable and useful forms of identification, which will inevitably prevent young people from voting. One form of identification targeted for elemination is vouching. While the act will leave 39 identification options, these are often onerous or impossible for students or marginalized voters. Other identification options — including providing phone bills, bank statements, or ID — work for voters who have a well-established life in the riding. Students — who often live in a given riding for only one federal election, and marginalized citizens — who might not have a mailing address or ID — rely on vouching to facilitate their democratic right.

Canada: Elections Bill Would Give Incumbents Too Much Power, Expert Warns | CBC

Harry Neufeld, who wrote a report on problems in the last federal election, is warning of the potential for more abuse at polling stations if one part of the government’s proposed fair elections act goes ahead. Neufeld, B.C.’s former chief electoral officer and now an independent electoral management consultant, wrote the compliance review that identified polling problems in the 2011 election and made recommendations on how to fix them. He says Section 44 of the government’s new legislation would allow all central polling supervisors to be appointed by a riding’s incumbent candidate or the candidate’s party. “It’s completely inappropriate in a democracy, ” said Neufeld.

Editorials: The Fair Elections Act doesn’t address the real problems with voting | Adam Scheletzky/The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government’s proposed “Fair Elections Act” aims to “protect the fairness of federal elections.” Yet, rather than effectively address issues like the 2011 robocall fraud, the Act attempts to tackle supposed individual voter fraud by prohibiting the use of “Voter Information Cards” (VICs) and ending the process of “vouching.” Presumably, since approximately 120,000 Canadians utilized vouching and 36-73 per cent of youth, aboriginal peoples and seniors used VICs in a 900,000-person pilot program during the last federal election, there is compelling evidence to justify making it harder for so many Canadians to vote. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre points to the Neufeld Report for justification that the process of vouching needs to end. Yet this independent report does not present one iota of evidence that there was one case of actual fraud by an individual voter. Nor does it recommend that vouching be eliminated.