Last week, the Globe and Mail carried five editorials and numerous letters criticizing the Fair Elections Act. Our chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, also spoke out against this new legislation; and a university professor, an expert in election law in Canada, was one of 150 (all legal and political science experts in Canada) to sign a letter asking the government to revise numerous clauses they say are dangerous to the election process.
Our minister of Democratic Reform, Pierre Poilievre, has dismissed criticisms of his bill, repeatedly asserting this new bill is the product of scrutiny and consultation. Poilievre spent one hour with Marc Mayrand last summer discussing changes to the Elections Act of Canada — that is the sum total of the consultation process.
And as for the evidence suggesting change? Member of Parliament Brad Butt claimed he saw identification cards being stolen from mail receptacles in apartment blocks. One week later, he stood up in the House of Commons and said he misspoke: he did not personally see these cards being stolen.
What does misspoke mean? Whatever it means, Butt was subsequently commended for his words by the prime minister and rewarded by Poilievre by being placed on the parliamentary committee that oversees the final wording of the new act.
Further evidence comes from the Neufeld Report, a report written by the former Chief Electoral Officer, Harry Neufeld. According to Neufeld, who spoke on Evan Soloman’s program The House on March 15, Poilievre misinterpreted passages from his report to justify claims that changes are needed in the Fair Elections Act.
The changes to the election process as proposed by Poilievre are ominous. Slowly and undoubtedly, this government is changing the face of Canada. Whether it is this new legislation, the muzzling of our scientists, the new surveillance state we now have under the stewardship of CSIS and CSEC, the lack of transparency, the loss of funding for social programs and to municipalities, the abandonment of Kyoto and environmental standards, or the abandonment of the Law Commission and the Charter Challenge Program, the list goes on ad nauseam. This list supports Stephen Harper’s previous claim in his political career (CCPA Monitor March 2014): “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.” Clearly this is foreboding.
If the government is allowed to continue in this manner after the next election, the Orwellian world into which we will descend will indeed be bleak. There are not many Canadians who would welcome jack boots and brown shirts, and a Ministry of Truth instead of a Ministry for Democratic Reform.
The irony presented in the title of this legislation (Fair Elections Act) and in the ministry of its origin (Democratic Reform) alarms me a great deal, as it should many Canadians. Legislation such as this mocks our democratic rights and institutions. Scarier still is the knowledge that our government regularly consults corporations and business more than it consults its citizens, whose rights and liberties it is elected to protect. We live with a government run like a business, and a government run for business. If we continue to blindly and unquestioningly lap up the government’s talking points, and believe its claim that the economy is fine and the unemployment rate is down, and all that matters is the economy simply because they say so, then we deserve the fate we have succumbed to — like lemmings.