TORONTO - The New Democrats are targeting Conservative MPs in their latest attempt to stop the Harper government's controversial proposed overhaul of election laws.
The opposition party announced a plan Tuesday to publicly approach certain Tories over the coming days to convince them to vote against the Fair Elections Act — which NDP Leader Tom Mulcair described as an attempt by the prime minister to "roll the dice in his favour for the next campaign."
"We're actually going to start very structured work talking to Conservatives who are members of parliament who we believe have an interest in showing to their constituents that they care about democracy," Mulcair said in Toronto.
"If Mr. Harper is so sure that this is a good bill, he should allow a free vote of his MPs."
Mulcair said the proposed legislation, Bill C-23, posed a serious threat and could disenfranchise students, seniors and First Nations.
"This is the first time in Canadian history that we have a government that's trying to use its majority to change the fundamental rules of our democracy without consulting anyone," he said. "We firmly believe that this is a really serious matter."
Mulcair said the simplest thing for the Conservative government to do would be to withdraw the bill in its current form and start over.
The Conservatives have argued the proposed law is aimed at reducing electoral fraud.
Among its proposed changes to election laws, the government plans to ban the practice of allowing registered voters to vouch for those who don't have adequate ID.
Currently voters must present a piece of government-issued photo ID with their address (a driver's licence is one of the few such pieces in most provinces). Without a photo ID including an address, voters must have two pieces of ID, at least one of which must show a home address.
If a voter did not have proof of address, another fully identified person could "vouch'' for them, but the new laws would do away with that.
The government's bill also plans to ban the use of voter information cards, mailed by Elections Canada to everyone on the voters' list, as proof of residency.
Electoral experts have said the ban on vouching and voter information cards is a double whammy that could rob up to 500,000 Canadians of their fundamental right to vote.
There has never been any evidence of significant voter fraud in Canada, a number of experts have also said.