"Away from the noise in political Ottawa, everyone understands that this is common sense."
That was Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre speaking last Thursday about his controversial bill, the Fair Elections Act. And at HuffPost Canada, we've been wondering: What do Canadians really understand about the Fair Elections Act?
So we asked them. We put the topic to our readers in an unscientific online survey on April 15. Within six hours, we had 500 responses from readers. Within four days, more than 1,600. Readers shared their views -- often strong ones -- about everything from voter information cards to robocalls to vouching. It turned out Canadians had a lot to say, with many questioning Poilievre's version of "common sense."
These are issues that clearly matter to our readers, and today we're launching Fair Game, a series examining the act and how political parties can influence voters. To kick off our series, HuffPost's Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj delves into the issue that launched election reform: robocalls. She outlines the 14 ways critics say the Fair Elections Act won't fix robocalls (and could actually make things worse) and talks to Michael Sona about why he thinks the act won't stop fraudsters.
On robocalls, more than 75 per cent of readers surveyed said they supported a registry. Many of those said a registry didn't go far enough, and called for an outright ban.
"I would prefer that we didn't allow robocalls, period. If we have to have them, then there should be a registry," wrote Derek from B.C.
Christine from B.C. wondered why the Fair Elections Act doesn't mandate that robocall firms hold on to their records longer. So did Kevin from Ontario:
"I think robocall records should be kept for a minimum of 7 years -- exact same requirement as the CRA has for taxpayers for income tax," he wrote.
A whopping 94 per cent of readers who responded to our survey said they voted in the last election. The nitty-gritty of how we cast a vote is rarely discussed, but the debate over the act prompted many to share their stories.
Seventy readers, or about four per cent of those who took our survey, said they had either been vouched for or had vouched for someone else during a past election. Many used vouching because they lacked proof of address, but others had no ID at all:
- "One year I lost my passport, citizenship card, and didn't have a driver's license. My dad had to vouch for me. It was really important that he did that because it helped me feel like a part of society to be taking part in that election. I was in a debilitating state and it was a big turning point in my life," wrote Hemant, who lives in Ontario.
- Sylvia is a superintendent at an Ontario senior citizens' residence. She vouched for several seniors who didn't bring any ID with them to vote. "They would have had to return to their apartments to find some ID and might not have come back," she wrote.
- One British Columbia high school teacher told us about how she has vouched for her students: "I take students to vote every election. Each time, at least one student does not have the proper ID but wants to vote. I have vouched for students in the last two or three elections."
- 43 per cent of respondents said they brought the voter information card they received in the mail to a polling station to corroborate their address. The Fair Elections Act proposes to phase out voter information cards.
- Almost 50 per cent of readers surveyed said past efforts from Elections Canada to encourage voting (such as ad campaigns) made them more likely to cast a ballot. Last week, Poilievre loosened restrictions in the act on the ability of Elections Canada to communicate with voters.
For full coverage on the Fair Elections Act, follow Fair Game: The Battle Over Bill C-23 And The Future Of Elections.
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