Rick Mercer says Canadians can be forgiven for thinking they are in some kind of parallel universe.
"I guarantee you, you get any member of the Conservative caucus alone in a room and you ask them who is the last man on Earth who should be put in charge of reforming democracy and they will tell you Pierre Poilievre," Mercer said in a scathing rant Tuesday.
Mercer took direct aim at the controversial Fair Elections Act, which critics argue will actually make it harder for certain Canadians to vote.
"When this bill passes it will be illegal for Elections Canada to encourage young people to vote," he said. "Because, well, there's the problem right there, isn't it? I mean, you get young people voting, next thing you know you have an entire generation of informed citizens running around taking part in democracy and feeling a real ownership in Canada."
Mercer says the Harper government will argue voter turnout is at a historic low and that's proof encouraging people to cast a ballot doesn't work. But the comedian believes many Canadians aren't voting because they are disgusted with the state of our politics.
"They feel like they've been given a feed of bad oysters," he said. "After that, they just avoid the buffet altogether."
Mercer ended his rant by saying Canadians, who love to boast about being one of the world’s greatest democracies, will forfeit that bragging right if they lose the ideal that voting must be encouraged.
The Fair Elections Act has faced criticism from New Democrats, Liberals, and even Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, who has called it an affront to democracy.
But Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the former head of Elections Canada, gave the act a grade of "A minus."
An NDP motion to have a Commons committee hold two months of cross-country hearings, where citizens could express their opinions on electoral reform, was defeated by the Tory majority on Tuesday by a vote of 145-131.
Liberals, two Green Party MPs, Bloc MPs, and former Tory Brent Rathgeber all voted with the New Democrats. The Conservatives voted unanimously to reject the idea.
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"The Fair Elections Act will ensure everyday citizens are in charge of democracy, by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule-breakers out of business," says Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre. Read more about the Fair Elections Act <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/harper-government-introduces-fair-elections-act" target="_blank">here.</a>
Crackdown On Illegal Robocalls
The legislation proposes a <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-protecting-voters-rogue-callers" target="_blank">mandatory public registry</a> for mass automated election calls, jail time for those convicted of impersonating an elections official, and "increased penalties for deceiving people out of their votes."
No More 'Vouching' For Your Buddy
In the interest of cracking down on voter fraud, the bill would prohibit the practice whereby one Canadian vouches for another's identity at a polling station. In fact, voter information cards will no longer be accepted as proof of identity. <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-fair-elections-act-cracking-down-voter-fraud" target="_blank">But the government says voters will still have 39 forms of authorized ID to choose from in order to prove their identity and residence.</a>
Independence For The Elections Commissioner
The Commissioner of Canada Elections office, responsible for enforcing the elections law, will be moved under the mantle of the public prosecutor's office, not Elections Canada. Conservatives believe this will give the commissioner <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-independent-commissioner-sharper-teeth-longer-reach-and-freer-hand" target="_blank">more independence</a> as the Chief Electoral Officer will no longer be able to direct him to carry out investigations. In future, the commissioner would be appointed by the director of public prosecutions to a non-renewable, seven-year term. The legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/04/fair-elections-act-poilievre-robocalls_n_4723565.html" target="_blank">also bars</a> former political candidates, political party employees, ministerial or MP staffers or employees of Elections Canada from being named commissioner. <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-independent-commissioner-sharper-teeth-longer-reach-and-freer-hand" target="_blank">Tories believe the legislation will give the commissioner "sharper teeth" and a "longer reach" to seek out stronger penalties for offences.</a>
More Donations Welcome
The ceiling for individual political donations would be raised to $1,500 from $1,200 and party spending limits would be increased by five per cent. Union and corporate donations are still banned, though.
The West Won't Have To Wait
A long-standing ban on the <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-fair-elections-act-respecting-democratic-elections-defending-freedom-speech" target="_blank">premature transmission of election results</a> will be lifted, meaning voters in Western Canada will get to know how things are shaping up out East before heading to the polls. Broadcasters can share results from Eastern Canada on election night, even if the polls aren't closed in the West. The government believes this change will uphold free speech.
New Rules On Political Loans
The legislation would raise the amount candidates can <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/02/04/conservatives-unveil-fair-elections-act-which-they-say-will-crack-down-on-illegal-robocalls/" target="_blank">contribute to their own campaigns to $5,000.</a> Leadership contestants will be allowed to give their own campaign up to $25,000.
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John Patrick Stanley