Elections Canada contradicts minister, says no consultation on elections bill

Opposition critics say they’ll be scouring the fine print when the Conservative government introduces legislation Tuesday morning to overhaul Elections Canada.

OTTAWA — Opposition critics say they’ll be scouring the fine print when the Conservative government introduces legislation Tuesday morning to overhaul Elections Canada.

Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has long been calling for reforms, including tighter reporting rules on automated phone calls during election campaigns, penalties for impersonating election officials, stronger investigative powers and more protections for voter privacy.

The government was poised to introduce a bill last April but balked at the last minute after Conservative MPs who were briefed on its contents objected to some of the measures.

The latest version isn’t getting off to a much better start.

Pierre Poilievre, the minister responsible for democratic reform, told the House of Commons on Monday that he’d consulted with the chief electoral officer before the new bill was drafted.

Poilievre labelled as “false” opposition accusations that he hadn’t consulted with Mayrand.

“I did meet with the CEO of Elections Canada some time ago and we had a terrific and a very long meeting, at which I listened carefully to all of his ideas,” said Poilievre.

Not so, Elections Canada confirmed just minutes later.

“The chief electoral officer has not been consulted, and we heard the minister’s comments,” said spokesman John Enright.

“There’s been no consultation on the contents of the bill.”

Craig Scott, the NDP democratic reform critic, accused the Conservatives of taking “a completely bad faith approach” to the reform legislation.

“What kind of game is Mr. Poilievre playing?” said Scott.

“It could well be that he sat down with Mr. Mayrand for some kind of a courtesy, I’m-the-new-minister, you’re-the-chief-electoral-officer meeting, and now he’s trying to spin that as a consultation. This is not a good start.”