Elections and democracy

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of Canadian democracy.

I write to you today as I have some very serious concerns with new legislation that has been brought forward in the House of Commons that will fundamentally change federal elections in Canada. It is a Government Bill known as Bill C – 76 and, if passed, it w ill put in place significant changes to the Canada Elections Act that will significantly benefit the present day Government when they seek reelection in October of 2019.

Bill C – 76 was introduced late last month and contains a number of provisions that will impact the way voters are identified at the polls, limit the amount of money political parties are able to spend during certain periods before an election, and will more than double the amount that third party groups (interest groups, unions, etc.) can spend (even those funded by foreign entities). Long – story short, this bill is bad for Canadian democracy and I will explain why

First, when Canadians head to the polls we expect that they are who they say they are. The most fundamental aspect of fair elections is one vote for every individual. A system that allows for voter fraud is unacceptable in today’s day and age. However, this bill will bring back a system wherein an individual may be able to vote without providing any identification or proof of residency. They simply need a friend to “vouch” for them. Canadians must show their ID when they open a bank account, when they visit the doctor, and many Canadians need to show ID every time they purchase alcohol, why should voting be any different?

Elections Canada’s own estimates reveal that due to this change, up to 1 million votes cast in the next election could be susceptible to voter fraud. Now, the Government and others will tell you that the changes made by the previous Government to strengthen the system and eliminate vouching discouraged Canadians from voting. This is categorically untrue. In the May 2011 election, there were 14,823,408 votes cast. This was a voter turnout of about 61%. In 2015, after vouching was eliminated, there were 17,711,983 votes cast representing a 68% voter turnout. Almost 3 million more voters and a 7% increase in voter turnout. These are all votes that we know were cast by those who were properly identified.

Furthermore, this legislation is an attempt by the Liberals to limit the ability of the Conservative Party to spend money in advance of an election. It is a recognition that they are unable to keep up when it comes to fundraising – now that the Prime Minister was caught participating in cash – for – access fundraisers. C – 76 will introduce a “pre – writ” period which will start on June 30 th , 2019 and continue until the election is called. It will limit spending by political parties during this period to $1.5 million. Previously there was no limit.

As I’ve said, this is simply a recognition by the Government that they are losing when it comes to fundraising. In every quarter last year the Liberals trailed the Conservatives in fundraising and in the first quarter of 2018 the Liberals raised about half of that of the Conservatives. It’s petty politics to see that you are losing and then introduce legislation to cut off your opponent.

 Finally, the legislation does nothing to combat foreign spending in elections. In fact, this legislation actually allows for more than double the amount of third party spending during the writ period. While foreign contributions to third parties will be stopped once the pre – writ period (June 30th) hits there is nothing stopping these contributions ahead of this time. Then, once the election starts, third parties will be able to spend up to $500,000 during the campaign. Currently, these organizations may only spend up to $211,200 during a 37 – day campaign . Furthermore, during the newly created “pre – writ” period (from June 30th to the start of the campaign) political parties will face a spending limit of $1.5 million while third parties will be able to spend $1 million each . This could easily result in a situation wherein two third parties with shared interest s are able to outspend a political party by $500,000. Again, as long as foreign donations are made before the pre – writ period these campaigns could be completely funded by foreign entities. This was a problem in the last election and it will only get worse under this new system. Therefore, this legislation results in greater influence for third parties with foreign backing over Canadian political parties seeking public office.

In closing, I encourage your readership to become familiar with Bill C – 76. The Government has signaled that it wants this legislation in place before the next election whether Elections Canada is ready or not. The Liberals were democratically elected in the last election. They won fair and square. That does not however give them the right to use the power they were trusted with to change the rules of the game for the next election. It is undemocratic and unfair.

Larry Miller, MP

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound


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