02/13/2014 10:41 EST | Updated 04/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Election bill already in 'democratic deficit,' NDP says

Proposed changes to Canada's election laws are already in a "democratic deficit," New Democrat MP David Christopherson said Thursday morning.

Opposition MPs are getting the chance to grill Pierre Poilievre, minister of state for democratic reform, on his proposed changes to Canadian election law as he appears before the procedure and House affairs committee.

CBC News is carrying the session live.

The proposed changes have been contentious because they would drastically change the chief electoral officer's ability to run educational programs and speak to the public. The bill would also make major changes to political parties' ability to spend during an election and would end vouching, a process by which people without proper identification are able to cast a ballot.

Earlier this week, the Conservative majority in the House voted to limit debate on the bill. The Conservative majority on the procedure and House affairs committee also voted not to take the committee on the road to hear from more Canadians, leading the New Democrats to block any travel by all other committees.

'Un-Canadian and unacceptable'

Christopherson referred to Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand's concern that he wasn't consulted before the bill was drafted, and asked why there was no consultation with Canadians before the bill was tabled. He also noted concern about the government cutting off debate in the House.

"On process, you’ve already got a democratic deficit," Christopherson said.

The New Democrat also referred to the bill as "un-Canadian and unacceptable."

Poilievre said he listened to Mayrand's suggestions for about half an hour, until Mayrand "ran out of things to say." 

He said he also read Mayrand's past reports and committee testimony.

"That is, I think a very comprehensive consultation and furthermore we’ll look forward to hearing input from the many witnesses that you’ll bring forward," Poilievre said.

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