I have just come back from a press conference on Parliament Hill and I am outraged.
I was there on your behalf to send the Trudeau government a blunt message: Get on with passing Bill C-33 and your promise to repeal the so-called Fair Elections Act once and for all – before it’s too late.
For more than 33 years, the Council of Canadians has worked to protect and enrich Canadian democracy – including exposing the Robocall Scandal and challenging the Harper Conservatives’ Fair Elections Act after it was rammed through Parliament. Backed by generous donations from supporters like you, the Council filed a court challenge, with our friends at the Canadian Federation of Students, to stop the Act on the grounds that it violates Canada’s Constitutional right to vote – and our court challenge continues to this very day!
But the fact is this should have been resolved years ago. One of Prime Minister Trudeau’s clearest and earliest commitments in the 2015 Liberal election platform was that, if elected, he would repeal the very sections of the Act that you have helped us challenge in court.
While the Trudeau government did introduce legislation to undo these changes with Bill C-33, it has been stalled for nearly a year and a half, not moving past first reading since November 2016.
Not only that, government lawyers are actively thwarting the Charter challenge we launched, preventing the court from righting these wrongs.
It’s not too late to get Bill C-33 passed. But if the Trudeau government doesn’t act swiftly, its changes to the so-called Fair Elections Act cannot be implemented in time for the October 2019 federal election. And that could mean tens of thousands of Canadians will be deprived of their right to vote.
I need your help to make this an issue the Trudeau government can no longer ignore.
If you need a refresher, the Council of Canadians first challenged the so-called Fair Elections Act because it:
- Makes it more difficult for the Chief Electoral Officer to communicate with Canadians about the electoral process and their right to vote.
- Strips the Chief Electoral Officer of their authority to authorize the Voter Information Card as a means for proving an elector's residence or identity.
- Diminishes the independence and accountability of the Commissioner of Canada Elections;
- Eliminates vouching as a means for people who don’t have the necessary ID, to obtain a ballot.
By permitting Bill C-33 to stall, the government is sanctioning continued voter suppression – especially of the most vulnerable in our society, including youth, Indigenous peoples and the homeless. As it is, there have been 12 by-elections held under the regressive rules of the Act since the last federal election and more by-elections are scheduled.
As Canadian Federation of Students Executive Director Justine De Jaegher said at today’s press conference, “one of the main reasons this government was elected was because of a massive turnout of students and young voters. One of the primary reasons for that historic turnout was the response to the previous government trying to prevent them from voting with the Unfair Elections Act. Many young people and students had challenges casting their ballots because of that voter suppression. Breaking this promise is not going to go over well with students and young voters.”
The Trudeau government has already dropped the ball on electoral reform by breaking its promise to do away with Canada’s first-past-the-post system. You and I can’t let them drop the ball again.
In the meantime, the Council of Canadians, with the Canadian Federation of Students, is preparing to go to court to defend democracy and stop voter suppression so that you and all Canadians are able to access their right to vote.
With your help in pushing the Trudeau government to act, hopefully it won’t come to that.