The CPC's push for its absurdly named Fair Elections Act would make infamous Republican strategist Karl Rove proud. At best, it has been a campaign to mislead the public, at worst, an attempt to rig the electoral system to favour the Tories in 2015.
Last week, Conservative Senator Linda Frum, sister of former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, launched an attack against Elections Canada on the grounds that its efforts to promote voter turnout constitute a "conflict of interest."
On Monday, she doubled down on her position with a positively Orwellian op-ed in The Globe and Mail.
Here's the gist of her widely-mocked argument:
- Elections Canada is tasked both with ensuring fair elections and promoting voting.
- This is a conflict of interest because disqualifying fraudulent votes would lower voter turnout.
- Therefore, the Fair Elections Act rightly bars Elections Canada from promoting turnout and leaves the responsibility to Canada's political parties.
The failures of logic are obvious. It's difficult to imagine a group with a greater conflict of interest when it comes to turnout than a political party. There are also many public agencies that both promote good behaviour and stop bad behaviour.
Like, you know, the police.
The real conflict of interest lies with the Conservatives, who are pushing through a bill that radically reshapes our electoral process just one year before they'll seek to win a second majority government.
Fair Unfair Elections Act is packed with potential conflicts.
Elections Canada has worked in recent years to slow the precipitous decline in youth voting. The trouble, for the Tories at least, is that young people are far more likely to vote for the NDP or Liberals.
Putting a stop to Elections Canada's youth initiatives stands to benefit the Tories. Can you say conflict?
The legislation will increase donation limits. The Tories raise more money than the other parties and they do so by getting larger donations. The Conservatives raised more money than the Liberals in the last quarter of 2013 even though the Grits had more donors.
Higher limits favour the Conservatives. That's a C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T.
The bill gives the party that received the most votes in a riding in the last election the power to recommend polling station supervisors. The Conservatives won the most ridings in 2011.
Therefore the Tories will handpick the most referees for 2015. I smell a conflict.
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It's the same sort of electoral manipulation employed so effectively by Republicans in the United States.
The GOP can't win elections the old-fashioned way any more and so it seeks to gerrymander electoral districts and disenfranchise minorities, the poor and young people.
Former president Bill Clinton recently argued that voter ID laws passed in conservative states threaten to return America to the pre-civil-rights era.
Republicans say these measures are necessary to prevent voter fraud. The Tories use the same argument to sell the ban on vouching in C-23, despite the fact that there is no evidence to suggest the practice leads to fraud.
In the absence of proof, the Tories have taken a page from Rove's handbook: Just make it up and hope the public doesn't read the correction.
Democratic Undemocratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre and others in the party point to an Elections Canada's report from expert Harry Neufeld as evidence of widespread voter fraud. Yet, both the Chief Electoral Officer and the author of the paper say it contains no such thing. The Tories know this, but continue to take portions of the report out of context in the hope that we won't notice.
But Canadians are smarter than that.
Opposition to the bill is mounting. This week a Senate committee will unanimously recommend changes to the legislation. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he'll repeal the Act if he's elected prime minister. The NDP has been using every procedural trick in the book to slow down passage. Innumerable journalists, academics, public servants and former politicians have come out against it.
On my Facebook feed, it's starting to feel like the omnibus budget battle all over again. But the Tories succeeded in passing that controversial legislation with almost no debate. They will be able to do the same with C-23. Only widespread public outrage will derail their plans.
After a disastrous election in 2012, the Republican Party was forced to confront a choice about its future: Either adopt policies that appeal to more voters or use more dirty tricks to steal elections. With few exceptions, it has chosen the latter.
The Conservatives, like the GOP, are down in the polls. Most Canadians simply don't support their legislative agenda. The Tories also have a choice. Bill C-23 proves they've already made it.
On April 1, 2014, members of Parliament received a 2.2 per cent pay increase, bringing the basic pay of each MP up to $163,700 from $160,200 the year prior. But while that base salary is the same for every member, certain MPs are afforded the chance to make much more. The full list of indemnities, salaries and allowances can be found <a href="http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/lists/Salaries.aspx?Menu=HOC-Politic&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb" target="_blank">here.</a>
Tory MP Brad Butt (Mississauga-Streetsville) is an example of an MP who earns just the base salary afforded to all MPs. <strong>2014 Salary: $163,700</strong> There are currently 308 MPs.
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, however, makes double the salary of your average MP. <strong>2014 Salary: $327,400 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong>
Tory MP Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu'Appelle) earns the base salary, plus $78,300 for serving as Speaker. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car allowance: $1,000</strong>
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair earns the base MP salary, plus $78,300 for leading the Official Opposition. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong>
Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound–Muskoka), like other cabinet ministers, earns $78,300 on top of the base MP salary. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong> There are 39 cabinet ministers in Harper's government (including ministers of state who make slightly less).
Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton), like all other ministers of state, earns $58,700 on top of his base MP salary. But junior ministers do not received a car allowance. <strong>2014 Salary: $222,400</strong>
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the Green Party and Bloc Quebecois earn the base MP salary, plus $55,600 for serving as their party's top dog. <strong>2014 Salary: $219,300</strong>
Tory MP Peter Van Loan (York-Simcoe) earns $78,300 on top of the base MP salary. <strong>2014 Salary: $242,000 Car Allowance: $2,000</strong>
NDP MP Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster) earns the base MP salary plus a $40,600 pay bump for serving as Opposition House leader. <strong>2014 Salary: $204,300</strong> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/03/21/nathan-cullen-ndp-finance-critic-salary_n_5007937.html" target="_blank">Former NDP House leader Nathan Cullen recently took a $40,000 pay cut to move from that role to NDP finance critic.</a>
Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour), earns the base MP salary plus $16,300 for serving as House leader for his party. <strong>2014 Salary: $180,000</strong>
Tory MP John Duncan (Vancouver Island North) earns the base MP salary, plus $29,400 for serving as the Harper government's whip. <strong>2014 Salary: $193,100</strong>
NDP MP Nycole Turmel (Hull—Aylmer) also earns an additional $29,400 for serving as the Opposition's whip. <strong>2014 Salary: $193,100</strong>
Tory MP Paul Calandra (Oak Ridges—Markham) is one of 31 parliamentary secretaries who gets a $16,300 pay bump on top of their salaries. <strong>2014 Salary: $180,000</strong>
UP NEXT: Pierre Poilievre Through The Years
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises in the House of Commons to apologize for making an obscene gesture yesterday, in Ottawa Wednesday June 14, 2006. (CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
Ottawa-area Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre smiles as he talks with reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday Feb. 27, 2007. Poilievre referred to "extremist elements" in the Liberal party that want to ease anti-terror laws and shut down the Air India inquiry last week.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson) Canada
Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan (right), with Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre looking on, makes an announcement on the introduction of the Accountability with Respect to Loans legislation at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec across the river from Ottawa, Tuesday May 8, 2007.(CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand) CANADA ,
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises in the House of Commons to apologize for saying in a radio interview Wednesday that native people need to learn the value of hard work more than they need residential schools compensation, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday June 12, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson
With copies of the Conservative accountabilty booklets, Conservative M.P. Pierre Poilievre waits for the start of the Commons House affairs committee looking into allegations of Tory election spending misconduct during the last election, on Monday Sept. 10, 2007 in Ottawa. (CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand)
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday June 16, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, leaves a news conference after speaking with the media about the gun registry in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday September 14, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday October 15, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre poses with a bust of Sir John A. Macdonald after announcing the former Bank of Montreal building would be renamed in honour of Canada's first prime minister during a ceremony in Ottawa, Ont., Wednesday January 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday February 28, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre holds up copies of legislation as he responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Friday October 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Pierre Poilievre is sworn in as the minister of state for democratic reform during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, July 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
The Honourable Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State (Democratic Reform), poses for a group photo after the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, July 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Minister of State Pierre Poilievre stands in the House of Commons during Question Period, in Ottawa Friday, February 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Pierre Poilievre responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, February 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
"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>
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."
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>
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>
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.
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.
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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