The Harper government is refusing to disclose how much it will cost taxpayers to separate the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada — a move Conservatives insisted upon even though electoral experts said it was unnecessary. The government says all briefing materials on the cost and logistics of transferring the election commissioner’s operations to the director of public prosecutions are cabinet confidences. As such, they can’t be released in response to an access-to-information request. Moving the election commissioner under the auspices of the public prosecutor was a key measure in a controversial overhaul of election laws pushed through Parliament by the Conservatives last spring despite near-universal condemnation by electoral experts at home and abroad. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre insisted the move was necessary to ensure the commissioner’s independence from the chief electoral officer, who Conservatives contend is biased against their party.
Poilievre was unmoved by electoral experts — including current commissioner Yves Cote and former commissioner William Corbett — who argued the commissioner already had unfettered independence to carry out investigations into suspected electoral wrongdoing as he saw fit.
Corbett and Cote also said they had never experienced any interference from chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand or his predecessor.
The chief electoral officer administers election laws while the commissioner enforces them and investigates breaches.
The director of public prosecutions decides whether or not to lay charges.