Should you vote? Is voting important to a democracy? Should young people, new Canadians, and the elderly be encouraged to vote?
If you said yes to any of these questions, you disagree with the Conservative governmentâ€™s new Fair Elections Act. However, you do agree with the head of Elections Canada, a host of scholars and academics who study the democratic process, and Preston Manning, godfather of the new Canadian conservatism.
The Fair Elections Act (roll your eyes while you say it) contains a number of provisions that seem to be directly designed to reduce voter turnout.
First, it bans Elections Canada from promoting the act of voting, or from publishing its own research reports.
This seems like an exceedingly good idea, especially considering that young people have been abandoning the polls in great numbers for the last few decades. And why would you want to reach out to educate those who have just received their citizenship cards? Bah, let them fend for themselves! Educating the electorate is a waste of time!
There is also the elimination of both voter identification cards and of the â€œvouchingâ€ system.
You have probably been receiving voter cards in the mail for years, which help voters identify themselves at the polls, especially voters who donâ€™t have a lot of traditional ID.
Who doesnâ€™t have traditional ID? Mostly the poor and the young. But their votes shouldnâ€™t count for as much, because they donâ€™t contribute as much labour value to society, and of course, because they might not vote Conservative.
Conservative MP Brad Butt tried to improve the governmentâ€™s case for this measure by saying heâ€™d seen people picking voter information cards out of the garbage and using them to vote illegally. He later had to retract this, claiming someone else had just told him about this. In either case, itâ€™s curious that he didnâ€™t see fit to report the crime to either Elections Canada or the RCMP.
Vouching is the system by which I, a voter with proper ID, can vouch for you, my friend Stan, and say, yes, this is Stan Smith, Iâ€™ve known him for years, he is who he says he is. And then we sign documents affirming this, and Iâ€™m essentially on the hook if Stan turns out to be a vile infiltrator whoâ€™s trying to vote twice.
The Tories claimed that vouching has given rise to widespread electoral fraud. However, there is no evidence of fraud.
In fact, the head of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, explained this at great length in front of a Parliamentary committee recently. The author of the report the government cited to back up its fraud claims popped up to explicitly deny that heâ€™d ever said any such thing.
What else is in the bill? Increased donation limits for individuals, because money has always been good for politics. And the right for sitting MPs to recommend names to Elections Canada of poll supervisors. That would give things that touch of non-partisan legitimacy.
The Tories do not seem to have much to say in support of their legislation, even as they are getting hammered from both right and left over various, or all facets, of the bill.
I briefly thought that I might be interested in hearing the Conservatives defend this bill.
Then I changed my mind. Iâ€™m not interested in a defence of an indefensible piece of legislative garbage. When Preston Manning tells you itâ€™s a bad idea, Tories, you should listen.
Listen, and scrap the whole bill, then pretend it was all a bad dream. It would have been better had that been the case.