04/14/2014 10:51 EDT | Updated 06/14/2014 05:59 EDT

The Fair Elections Act Is Republican-Style Cheating


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.

The 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.

Both a Conservative Senator and an MP lied about witnessing vouching-related fraud during the last election. They were caught and both were forced to admit that they "misspoke."

Meanwhile, Frum, 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.


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