Skip to content

A game-changing win for voters’ rights

December 11, 2018
Today you and I have huge reason to celebrate!

After four long years of fighting in the courts to repeal the Harper Conservatives’ anti-democratic Fair Elections Act, late last night the Senate passed Bill C-76, which largely does exactly that.

And it wouldn’t have happened without Council of Canadians supporters like you!

Without question, the constitutional challenge launched in 2014 by the Council of Canadians and our friends at the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) was critical to mounting the constitutional application that prompted a Liberal election commitment to expunge the voter suppression measures we challenged, and then to assemble the evidence of leading experts to make retreat from that commitment unthinkable.

That plus intense public pressure forced the Liberal government to finally take action to restore voters’ rights that the Harper Conservatives had stripped away in order to stack future elections in their favour.

“Students have been fighting against the voter suppression elements of the Fair Elections Act alongside the Council of Canadians since 2014,” Coty Zachariah, CFS National Chairperson pointed out after the passage of Bill C-76. “This is a hard-fought victory that will allow more students, seniors, and the homeless to exercise their right to vote in 2019.”

Bill C-76 repeals the main undemocratic elements of the Fair Elections Act that formed the basis for our constitutional challenge, including:

  • Restoring the Voter Information Card as valid ID for voting.
  • Restoring vouching as an accepted process enabling people to confirm their identity and residence so they can vote.
  • Restoring the independence of the Commissioner of Canada Elections by moving it back to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
  • Ending the restrictions on Elections Canada engaging in public education on voting.
  • Restoring the voting rights of Canadians living abroad.

Together with supporters like you, we never stopped fighting to restore voting rights to hundreds of thousands of people, despite the best efforts of the former Harper government to make voter suppression the law of the land.

The result of our collective action changes the game for all future elections.

A good example of this is that Bill C-76 also gives the Commissioner of Canada Elections new investigative powers, including the ability to compel testimony, and makes increases to requirements for the protection of personal information by political parties in their databases (though unfortunately this does not include a mechanism for independent oversight), both of which the Council of Canadians called for in the wake of the 2011 robocalls election fraud scandal.

But our work isn’t over. The 2019 federal election is less than a year away – and Canadians will be facing a new form of voter suppression.

Far-right hate groups are already mobilizing to poison the election with a well-funded and sophisticated Trump-style “Make Canada Great Again” campaign of fear and fake news to sweep Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives into power.

With your renewed support in 2019, together we’ll mobilize online and in communities across the country to run positive and effective voter education and outreach campaigns to ensure people not only cast their ballot, but cast an informed one.

This is a big day for Canadian democracy, and I couldn’t be prouder to celebrate this with you! Thank you for all you do to build the better Canada we know is possible.

Read more