Time out for Fair Elections Act pitch
Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014 06:00 am
In 2011, I vouched for one of an estimated 120,000 people requiring that help so they could cast a ballot in the 2011 federal election.
It was for my roommate at the time. She hadn’t gotten around to changing her driver’s license after moving, and she had no bills or a lease in her name – she had moved into my two bedroom apartment after I’d been there for a year, so there was nothing “official” with her address.
We were both full-time journalists at that community’s weekly paper. There was nothing nefarious about what we were doing.
Besides in a democracy, shouldn’t we be doing everything we possibly can to enfranchise as many people as possible?
Alas, the practice of vouching would be nixed if the Fair Elections Act is passed without some significant amendments by the federal government.
If we believe the governing Tories’ hype, people are trying to vouch for busloads of people who may not be in their correct riding.
If that was the case, certainly the practice should be looked at (though maybe not axed altogether).
The practice is hardly widespread, however. It’s estimated in 2011 there were just over 120,000 cases of vouching … out of 12.4 million votes cast.
Local MP Brent Rathgeber told me something I didn’t know when I interviewed him last week – that in about 2007, the practice of vouching was tweaked so that you could only vouch for one person instead of several.
This is a good, practical tweak that allows those whose ID might not reflect their current address a chance to cast a ballot. Should my roommate have been disallowed from exercising her democratic right simply because her government-issued ID didn’t have the right address?
Of course, vouching isn’t the only problematic part of the Fair Elections Act. There are all sorts of interesting changes, from campaign finance changes to allowing the victorious party in one electoral district to recommend central poll supervisors.
Plus, there’s the exciting neutering of Elections Canada, notably curtailing its ability to advertise in an attempt to encourage people to vote.
I don’t know about you, but I hardly think Elections Canada is up to no good when trying to persuade more people to go exercise the franchise they are so lucky to have.
The bill has been panned by any number of people, from experts to average citizens.
But if the Conservatives won’t listen to the court of popular opinion, perhaps they should think of it this way: right now, they’re handing the NDP and Liberals a viable election issue on a silver platter.
Perhaps they hope voter apathy – which they would stop Elections Canada from fighting against – will save them.
But all the polls seem to suggest that, as things stand now, the Tories are hardly on deck for a homerun in 2015.
Here’s hoping they wake up and notice the potential public relations problem and significantly revise this bill before it passes, in a more significant way than proposed by the Senate last week.
Otherwise come next fall, the Tories might find themselves struck out.
Victoria Paterson is the city hall reporter for the St. Albert Gazette.