Changes to fair elections act announced


The federal Conservatives have announced they’re making changes to a bill that critics say would rig the next election by disenfranchising voters. Friday, the minister of democratic reform announced amendments to some of the most contentious aspects of the “Fair Elections Act.”

Minister Pierre Poilievre says his government is prepared to remove the requirement for all voters to show residency ID in the next election. This, after some experts and the opposition said eliminating vouching would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. But it’s not just the content of bill C-23 that has sparked outrage among critics.

Bill C-23 would have eliminated the practice of vouching — and forbid the use of voter information cards Elections Canada sends out as proof of residency.

A Canada-wide online petition called it an outrageous move that would silence hundreds of thousands of voters. Local activists say its especially concerning for those without a permanent home.

Tom Cooper is with the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction: “There are four-thousand people who are homeless on any given night in Hamilton and certainly the changes to the fair elections act may mean they won’t be able to vote.”

It’s this type of concern. As well as early pushback from the senate, that has caused the Conservatives to back down on some of the most controversial aspects of the act:

Minister for Democratic reform Pierre Poilievre announced Friday afternoon that citizens will now be able to sign an oath attesting to their local residence, but must still provide at least some proof of personal identification. But it’s not just the content that has sparked outrage among the opposition. “We think it’s completely reasonable that people present identification when they cast their ballots.”

NDP MP David Christopherson: “They dropped the bill in the House of Commons and within a couple of days one of the first things they did was move a closure motion to shut down debate.”

Hamilton NDP MP’s were among dozens of local residents at Hamilton city hall Friday morning, voicing their concern about the lack of public consultation on the act.

McMaster University’s Peter Graefe: “The main problem with the bill is that it’s fundamental to our ability to vote and our rights as citizens and yet as citizens we haven’t had a chance to debate it.”

But St. Catherines MP Rick Dykstra says the Conservatives did consult the public: “It’s had two iterations previous. It’s had thousands of minutes in the House of Commons debating it.”

Other changes to the bill include:

Allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to speak freely to the Canadian public about elections issues — something that was originally limited under the bill.

It will also allow Elections Canada to continue to fund voter outreach programs — but only to people too young to vote.

The changes will close a proposed loophole that would allow parties to spend an unlimited amount of money contacting former donors during an election campaign.

And voter contact services will have to keep robocall recordings for three years instead of one.