Canada: Fringe parties fight to spread message, sway swing ridings | CBC

Depending on the party, they love pot, hate Stephen Harper or just want to have fun. Fringe parties are a perennial fixture in Canadian politics, and so far there are more than a dozen registered to run in this fall’s federal election. The best most can hope for is to scrape up a few thousand votes based on a niche platform or protest ballots from disenfranchised electors. So what drives them — and do they add or detract from the democratic process? Sinclair Stevens, the 88-year-old leader of the Progressive Canadian Party, is mobilizing yet another campaign with one sole purpose: to defeat Stephen Harper. “He has an agenda that is just not Canadian,” he told CBC News.

Canada: Stephen Harper of Canada, Hoping to Extend Conservatives’ Hold, Calls Elections | The New York Times

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada called federal elections on Sunday, hoping to extend his Conservative Party’s decade-long hold on power despite questions about its ethics and a struggling economy. By law, Mr. Harper had to hold a vote in October. But he broke with Canadian political tradition by formally opening the campaign in the middle of summer during what is a holiday weekend in most of the country. The move appeared designed to give the Conservative Party an edge in campaign spending. The campaign period before the vote on Oct. 19 will be the longest since Canadians all began voting on a single day in 1874. On Sunday, Mr. Harper said that the state of the economy, which his opponents view as his weakness, was the main reason to re-elect his government. … In a country where summer can be all too brief, it is rare for politicians to call elections early unless forced to do so

Canada: Prime Minister Calls Federal Election | The New York Times

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada called a federal election on Sunday, hoping to maintain his Conservative Party’s decade-long hold on power despite questions about its ethics and a struggling economy. By law, Mr. Harper had to hold a vote in October. But he broke with Canadian political tradition by formally opening the campaign in the middle of summer during what is a holiday weekend in most of the country. The move appeared designed to give the Conservative Party an edge in campaign spending. The campaign period before the vote on Oct. 19 will be the longest since Canadians all began voting on a single day in 1874. On Sunday, Mr. Harper said that the state of the economy, which his opponents view as his weakness, was the key reason to re-elect his government.

Canada: Imminent federal election to be costliest, longest in recent Canadian history | Daily Courier

Stephen Harper is poised to fire the starting gun for the Oct. 19 federal election as early as Sunday. Sources say the prime minister is set to visit Gov. Gen. David Johnston within days, possibly as soon as Sunday, to formally dissolve Parliament and launch what will be the costliest and — at 11 weeks — one of the longest campaigns in Canadian history. Here are five things voters should know about Canada’s imminent 42nd general election campaign: Elections law requires a minimum campaign of 37 days. It does not impose a maximum length. Harper is choosing to make this the longest traditional campaign in Canadian history. Only the first two election campaigns after Confederation were longer — 81 days in 1867 and 96 days in 1872 — but in those early days voting was staggered across the country over a period of several months, necessarily extending the length of the campaigns. Since then, the longest campaign was 74 days, way back in 1926.

Canada: Conservatives likely to lengthen election campaign: sources | Reuters

Canada’s governing Conservatives are likely to lengthen this year’s election campaign by launching it in August, three senior party sources said, a move that would benefit the cash-rich party. Canadians go to the polls on Oct. 19. Given that campaigns must last at least 37 days, the latest date Prime Minister Stephen Harper could start this year’s would be Sept. 13. Five of the last six campaigns have run about that length. But the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Harper’s party already has its machinery in place and is expected to launch the campaign in August, possibly the first week. This would benefit the Conservatives, who last year changed a law that had imposed a maximum spending limit of around C$25 million ($19 million) on campaigns.

Canada: Harper vs. Canada case a precedent to protect Fair Elections Act, lawyer argues | CBC News

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.

Editorials: Canada’s Fair Elections Act not so fair | Winnipeg Free Press

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.

Canada: Controversial election bill expected to pass Tuesday | Ottawa Citizen

The House of Commons is poised to pass contentious legislation Tuesday that will overhaul Canada’s election law — a move the governing Conservatives defend as sensible but which the opposition says is designed to keep the Tories from being caught cheating in the 2015 election. The so-called Fair Elections Act is certain to pass third reading in the Commons because Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories hold a majority in the chamber. MPs were expected to spend much of Monday voting on proposed amendments, including 45 from the government itself, after experts and the opposition heavily criticized the original bill. After the House passes it, the bill will go to the Senate, where the Conservatives also hold a majority, and where it is expected to be given a relatively quick review before being approved. But the political consequences for Harper could be long-lasting, as his critics continued on Monday to allege that the Tories are trying to rig the electoral system in their favour.

Canada: Senate panel sets up confrontation with Harper on Elections Act | The Globe and Mail

In a rare exercise of power, a Senate committee is pushing back against Stephen Harper’s Conservative government by unanimously recommending changes to the Fair Elections Act, an overhaul of electoral law that is fiercely opposed by other parties. The Senate report, which will be made public this week, amounts to a warning shot from the embattled Senate. The move is not binding, but it raises the threat of the Senate changing the bill itself if the House of Commons ignores its recommendations before passing Bill C-23. The Senate committee, two-thirds of whose members are Conservatives appointed by Mr. Harper, heard from a broad range of experts last week, the vast majority of whom called for substantial changes to the deeply divisive bill. Now the senators are set to recommend, unanimously, specific amendments.

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: Quebec’s election: None of the above, please | The Economist

Politicians aren’t supposed to want summer elections. Voters are distracted and campaign workers are on holiday. Moreover, this year the Olympics are dominating the news. But for Jean Charest, the unpopular Liberal premier of Quebec (pictured in effigy above), an under-the-radar campaign represents his best chance of winning a fourth term. It was thus no surprise that on August 1st he called an election to be held on September 4th—long before it is required by December 2013. The rest of Canada will be watching closely. Although the Canadian economy has weathered the global recession well—it grew by 2.8% between 2008 and 2011, compared with just 1.1% in the United States—it owes its resilience mostly to the energy and commodity boom in the country’s four western provinces, where unemployment is only 5.5%. In contrast, it is 7.9% in the six eastern provinces, which rely on manufacturing and services, and 7.7% in Quebec. Home to nearly a quarter of Canada’s people, Quebec will test whether the country’s manufacturing base can recover, even as oil exports bolster the currency.

Canada: Voting rights at stake in overturned election case, Supreme Court told | The Chronicle Herald

The voting rights of people in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre were trampled by simple record-keeping errors, the Supreme Court of Canada heard Tuesday. The decision to overturn Conservative MP Ted Opitz’s win in last year’s federal election disenfranchised all the voters whose ballots were thrown out, his lawyer said. “It’s hard to think that a constitutional right of this importance can hang by so fine a thread,” lawyer Kent Thomson told the court. Opitz won the riding by just 26 votes over Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj in last year’s federal election. But Wrzesnewskyj went to court, claiming procedural irregularities. Earlier this year, an Ontario Superior Court judge found that Elections Canada officials made clerical errors at the polls. After Justice Thomas Lederer threw out 79 votes and overturned the final result, Opitz appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Canada: Elections Canada expands probe into fraudulent messages in 2011 vote |

Elections Canada has extended its probe of phony election calls to include yet another Ontario riding as the watchdog agency launches an online complaint form to help field reports from concerned voters. Canadians who think “fraudulent calls interfered with their right to vote, or who have information about such calls” are being asked to pass along what they know to elections investigators, it says. Elections Canada has enlarged its “inquiry” centre to handle the high volume of phone calls and email traffic, agency spokesperson Diane Benson said. The agency has been flooded with reports from voters — 31,000 by last Friday — about harassing or misleading phone calls in the 2011 federal election.

Canada: Canadian Conservatives Acknowledge Vote Suppression in 2011 |

Canada’s Conservative government said Saturday there appeared to have been deliberate and illegal efforts to suppress votes in one constituency during last year’s national election, though a spokesman didn’t say whether the party now thought members, or those working for them, were responsible. Canada’s election agency is probing allegations that some Canadian voters were misled about the location of polling places by automated phone calls, or robocalls, during an election in May 2011. Opposition politicians have accused the Conservatives of an orchestrated attempt at suppressing votes, a charge the party has denied. The comments by Dean Del Mastro, a Conservative legislator and the main government spokesman for the controversy, marked the first time the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has acknowledged there may have been specific wrongdoing.

Canada: Tory election official Guy Giorno wants ‘full weight of law’ applied against those responsible for robo-cal|s |

The Conservative Party campaign co-chair agrees with a former top Elections Canada official on one thing — the courts should throw the book at whoever is behind calls to deliberately mislead voters in the 2011 election. Lawyer Guy Giorno, Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff now back in the private sector, told CTV’s Question Period that “suppression of vote is a despicable, reprehensible practice and everybody ought to condemn it. “So I wish Godspeed to Elections Canada and the RCMP investigators. We want them to get to the bottom of this and let’s hope the full weight of the law is applied to any and all.”

Canada: Storm brews in Canada over election ‘robocalls’ | AFP

A probe into “robocalls” that misdirected Canadian voters to fake polling stations during last year’s election, won by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories, is casting suspicion on the results. It is not yet clear who was behind the automated telephone calls to voters in the town of Guelph, Ontario in spring 2011 that reportedly led to a chaotic scene at a polling station, and likely led some to give up on voting. The opposition parties, whose supporters were apparently targeted, pointed fingers at the Conservatives, but the Conservatives denied any involvement while hitting back at what they claimed was a “smear campaign.” Elections Canada, after being inundated with complaints, is now investigating the rogue calls, aided by the federal police, as new allegations are raised daily. At a press conference on Tuesday, outspoken New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin described the misleading pre-recorded calls claiming to be from Elections Canada as a “heinous affront to democracy.” “How is this different from a bunch of goons with clubs blocking the door to a voter station,” he said.

Canada: Government shifts blame in robo-call scandal | AFP

Elections Canada said Friday it is investigating more than 31,000 complaints of alleged dirty tricks during last year’s election won by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories. The “high volume” of complaints regarding “robocalls” that misdirected voters to fake polling stations for the May 2, 2011 election is 100 times more than the elections watchdog usually receives for any Canadian ballot. “Elections Canada is reviewing these and will take action as appropriate,” spokesman John Enright said in an email.