Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Sept. 14, 2015. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)Marc Mayrand doubts there'd be enough time to organize a more complicated referendum that gives Canadians multiple voting systems to choose from and asks them to rank their preferences — as was done in Prince Edward Island's recent plebiscite on electoral reform. "Administratively, I must say it would be difficult. Let's be very clear on that," Mayrand said in an interview marking the imminent end of his 10-year tenure at the helm of Elections Canada. "We don't have the technology in place to manage a ranked ballot. A ranked ballot requires technology to compute the results. By hand, you'll be at it for a long, long time."
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'There's still time to have it before the summer'According to Mayrand, Elections Canada needs at least six months to organize a national referendum. And it needs at least two years to adjust to a new voting system if it's to be implemented by October 2019. Ideally then, if there is a referendum, it should take place before the summer. "There's still time to have it before the summer," he said. "Time is running out." Complicating matters, outdated legislation governing national referendums would likely have to be amended to, if nothing else, adopt the strict spending and donation limits that now apply to political parties. The 25-year-old Referendum Act allows for multiple questions but requires that they be subject to simple Yes or No answers; there is no provision for ranking multiple options on a preferential ballot.
Grits move on gutting Fair Elections ActWhile the Trudeau government's commitment to electoral reform is dubious, Monsef last week followed through on other campaign promises to repeal some of the most controversial provisions of the previous Conservative government's Fair Elections Act that she said erected unnecessary barriers to voting. Among other things, her new bill would restore the use of voter information cards as a valid piece of identification at polling stations. Mayrand had stoutly opposed the Tories' measures, arguing that they could disenfranchise up to 500,000 voters. For his pains, he was vilified by Conservatives as biased and motivated by a desire to pad his budget and his power — an unprecedented attack on an independent officer of Parliament.
Tory attacks 'unfortunate'Mayrand said he never "dreamed nor had a nightmare" that he'd be subjected to such personal attacks for doing his job to protect the integrity of Canada's elections. And he found the assault on Elections Canada's internationally renowned reputation as an independent watchdog "saddening." "I found it was unfortunate but, again, I had to accept that it comes with the territory." In the United States, president-elect Donald Trump similarly alleged that the electoral process was "rigged" against him. Mayrand said such allegations aren't unusual in "the intensity of a campaign" and people don't generally take them seriously. Still, he said: "We need to be careful because public trust is something that is fragile and we need to cultivate it."
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