Elections Canada is tasked with ensuring that Canada has free and fair elections. Part of this responsibility includes communicating with Canadians, encouraging voter turnout, and ensuring voters can exercise their democratic rights. The Fair Elections Act, however, is an attempt to muzzle Elections Canada's ability to promote voting among our youth and other marginalized groups in society.
Under the 2007 rules, getting vouched requires finding a qualified voter living in your electoral riding, whose name appears on that riding's list of registered electors, who possesses Elections Canada-approved identification, and who agrees to testify in person, at your polling place, in your presence, that you are legally eligible to vote. A voucher can only vouch once per election, and vouchers can't vouch for other vouchers. And the poll clerk has to buy his story. I don't know about you, but that strikes me as a bit complicated.
Changes proposed in the Fair Elections Act are top of debate, particularly when one of the proposed changes could dramatically hinder access to the polls for our country's most vulnerable people. Under the proposed Act, the option of voter vouching is on the chopping block. Individuals without appropriate ID, including homeless people, have relied on this option in order to vote. If the discussion is about fairness, then ensuring all citizens can participate in the electoral process should be a top priority. This includes keeping a system of voter vouching. Not only is it the right thing to do, but democracy depends on it.
The bill eliminates two methods of voting that have proven effective in enfranchising voters. One is the long-standing Canadian practice of vouching that allowed 120,000 people to vote in 2011. The other is Elections Canada's expanded use of its Voter Identification Cards (VICs) for youth attending university, seniors in residence, and Aboriginal people living on reserve.
On Tuesday the Conservative government introduced the Fair Elections Act, a comprehensive list of reforms aimed at modernizing Elections Canada and Canada's whole electoral system. Bill C-23 was introduced by Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre and proposes to implement a number of recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).
Poet, Anatole France, once observed that, "it is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel." He could just as easily be commenting on two recent actions of our present federal government that fly directly in the face of what is supposed to be good politics: giving the people what they want. How else to explain the undue harshness against this country's veterans, or the outright attack and manipulation in the Harper government's attempts to revamp Elections Canada to its own purposes? What makes both of these instances so remarkable is the sheer arrogance of a government acting against the best interests of its own people.