The Leader-Post can’t include this whole letter by Mr. Bray because it’s over 250 words, so here’s the full version.
Fair elections are the heart and soul of our hard won democracy. Anyone who dares to tamper with the fairness principle should suffer the wrath of the citizens. Not happening- so far.
That may be due to the sneaky attempt to ram through the Fair Elections Act without attracting much notice. 70 weeks behind schedule, then wait for the distractions of the budget and Olympics to ram this Act through 2nd reading in just 4 days. How about public hearings across Canada so that we can understand the ramifications? Nope. Every Conservative M.P. obediently voted against public hearings. And this Act has escaped public notice-so far. A recent survey found that only 20% were very or fairly familiar with the bill. 38% had not heard of it at all.
Why all this sneaking in under the radar? Consider that last election 9,435,000 eligibles did not vote. Only 24% of eligible voters voted Conservative. Only about 6500 crucial votes in close ridings gave Mr. Harper his majority. If you can suppress the vote of those who are not likely to vote for you and make it even harder to investigate and report on any election “irregularities”, you tilt the scale in your favour in a close election. That is what this Act is about.
Even Conservative icon Preston Manning says that Conservatives should be strengthening, not weakening, the powers of Elections Canada. He says the greatest challenge to our electoral system is declining voter turnout. I agree.
What nasty business is in this Act and what is left out?
The role of the Chief Electoral Officer – who reports to Parliament-has been gutted to one of only the who when and how of an election. He cannot say if fraud has occurred. No more outreach programs to encourage youth, First Nations and the poor to vote. No more programs in schools to teach students about the importance of voting. No more research, no surveys. Elections Canada still has no authority to compel political parties and riding associations to provide financial documentation to support financial returns.This bill will discourage people who do not tend to vote Conservative from voting.
The investigative branch has been moved from Elections Canada- under Parliament- to the Director of Public Prosecutions- under the government. The subject has to be notified when an investigation begins. No one can know that an investigation is happening unless the suspect allows it. It is less likely that electors will learn if an offence has occurred or that those involved are prosecuted. This infringes on the right of individual electors to seek a court order annulling the results of an election when fraud occurs. This depends on electors discovering the fraud in time to act, which this bill makes far less likely to occur. No problem for M.P.s who have been found in violation of the rules. They can continue to sit as M.P.s while they appeal the ruling in court- which can take years.There are still no requirement that suspects cooperate with investigations. They can- and do as in the still incomplete robocalls case- tell investigators to take a hike. Why not the power to compel testimony as the Competition Bureau has? Isn‘t election fraud more important?
Party spending limits are to be increased. Money spent on fundraising will now be exempt from campaign spending limits- to the Conservative advantage. The maximum donation limit has been increased- which happens to help the Conservatives- who by far have the donors who can and do give the maximum. There is no public oversight of spending by parties in an election. Candidates yes- parties no.
Election frauds are not happening as a result of individual voters actions. It is happening due to the actions of political parties with the Conservatives by far the most implicated. We had the in/out scheme in 2006, we have the robocalls scheme using the Conservative database- which should have really outraged them if innocent, but somehow did not, numerous cases of candidate overspending, taking illegal donations and asking for inappropriate donations.- with few meaningful penalties.
Canadians deserve a robust national debate. The fact the Harper regime is not allowing it tells us how fair the next election will be…
Mike Bray, Indian Head
How can it be “Fair” when there’s such large opposition to the new bill?