NEWS

Senate panel to push for substantive change to Fair Elections Act

04/14/2014 04:46 EDT | Updated 06/14/2014 05:59 EDT
A Senate committee report is set to recommend substantial changes to the government's Fair Elections Act, including nixing a loophole in the bill that would allow fundraising calls to previous donors not to be counted as an election expense.

The nine recommendations would not have passed without the consent of some, if not all, of the Conservative senators on the committee.

Removing the exemption for for calls or solicitations to political donors who have previously given at least $20 is widely thought to benefit the major parties, especially the Conservatives. That exemption should be disallowed, the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs says.

Another significant change recommends the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada be allowed to continue the relationship with Student Vote or other electoral educational programs in elementary and high schools.

Elections Canada should also be able to inform the public of problems uncovered in the voting system, as the agency did when it realized misleading robocalls were occurring in the Ontario riding of Guelph last election..

Other changes recommend by the committee are:

- Extending the retention of robocall records by the calling service companies to three years from the one year proposed in the bill

- Mandating that heads of institutions such as retirement homes, homeless shelters and reserves issue letters of attestation about proof of address for people who reside in those places.

- Encouraging Elections Canada to allow the use of verified electronic correspondence as proof of address at polling stations rather than the current requirement for original hard copies.

- Encouraging Elections Canada to put photographs of candidates on ballots for voters who have trouble reading

The changes the committee advises in respect to the public role of Elections Canada seem to fly in the face of sentiments voiced by Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre.

Last week, Poilievre accused Elections Canada head, Marc Mayrand, of pursuing "more power, a bigger budget and less accountability" in his objections to some provisions in the election reform bill.

The interim report, expected to be tabled this week, will be sent to the equivalent House of Commons committee to consider before starting its clause-by-clause evaluation of the bill.

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