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A big omission in Harper’s ‘Fair Elections Act’

The Globe and Mail reports, “When Pierre Poilievre, the Democratic Reform Minister, unveiled a revamp of elections laws on Tuesday, he mixed a few good changes with a big omission and some self-serving items.”

The Globe’s chief political writer Campbell Clark notes:

Good changes

– “There are good changes in this bill – extending advance polling days, and creating a registry for automated calls, to help track the kind of demon diallers used in the robocalls scandal, and making it illegal to impersonate an Elections Canada official. Many of those were suggested by (Chief Electoral Officer Marc) Mayrand.”

Big omission

– “Mr. Mayrand’s top request was for the elections officials to be able to compel testimony and demand to see parties’ financial records. That was ignored. Instead, the Conservatives … took the small investigations wing, the Commissioner of Elections, out of Elections Canada and moved it to the office of a federal prosecutor, the Director of Public Prosecutions. …What would Canadians want in elections law? Certainly stronger investigations to the get to the bottom of allegations of abuse. But there’s no increase in investigators’ powers, or budgets.”

The Council of Canadians has demanded that, “The Chief Electoral Officer must have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.”


– “One was raising the limits on political donations by 25 per cent. That will give the Conservatives an edge. The increase, from $1,200 to $1,500, isn’t a big deal in itself – the Canadian limit will still be relatively low. But who benefits most? The party that finds itself bumping up against the current limit in its fundraising, and that just happens to be the Tories. …Raising the limits is likely to give the Conservatives the edge: they have more big donors who give the maximum. With a higher limit, they can turn more of those $1,200 donors into $1,500 donors.”

– “The new bill also includes a 5-per-cent increase to election-spending limits for each party, which was about $21-million in the 2011 election. That means all parties can spend more – and the three main parties usually do spend close to the maximum. But that also means the party that raises the most has less to spend between elections – an advantage the Conservatives have used since 2006 to run advertising campaigns between elections.”

– “There is a special soft-touch provision for politicians: The new law requires the commissioner to inform people right away, in writing, if he starts to investigate them – unless he has reason to believe it will impede the investigation. Who else, apart from politicians, gets a statutory heads-up when an investigation into penal-law offences is started? It’s ‘not common’, an official admitted.”

Further reading
Election Act changes long overdue, but will they prevent fraud?
Harper’s ‘Fair Elections Act’ prompts concerns