Before the Conservatives took over, lying in Parliament was considered to be completely unacceptable; a Minister caught lying was expected to resign. But that was back when governments believed in democratic principles.
By Larry Brown
National Secretary Treasurer
National Union of Public and General Employees
Ottawa (14 Mar. 2014) — When the Conservative government first introduced legislation to completely overhaul Canada's election rules, we raised several flags about its anti-democratic tendencies.
By now, it must be clear to all but the most ardent party loyalists that the current Conservative government in Canada is contemptuous of democracy, working actively to weaken our democratic systems and traditions. They are, to put it simply, dangerously anti-democratic.
The so-called Fair Elections Act — more appropriately titled, the Preventing Fair Elections Act — is proof, if more were needed.
Let's review the record on this blighted piece of legislation.
Conservative party governing Canada in its, not the people's, best interests
The new Elections Act was introduced with no consultation with other parties, or with the people in charge of our electoral processes. No experts were consulted. No attempt was made to canvas the views of anyone but Conservative party leaders. This behaviour is all part of the mindset that says the purpose of government is only to reflect the narrow partisan wishes of the ruling party. L'état est nous.
There is only one actual report that the Minister of Democratic Reform — a bizare title under the circumstances — and his Conservatives, are relying on to justify his attack on voting rights. Yet, the author of that report says the Minister is completely misrepresenting the findings.
One dictionary definition of 'lying' says it is “the telling of lies, or false statements; untruthfulness.” According to that dictionary definition, the Minister is lying — repeatedly.
Even when the report's author says the Conservatives are misrepresenting the report, the Minister continues to lie about its contents. In Parliament. Before the Conservatives took over, lying in Parliament was considered to be completely unacceptable; a Minister caught lying was expected to resign. But that was back when governments believed in democratic principles.
New legislation will prevent many from exercising their right to vote
The Commissioner of Elections Canada, and the Supreme Court, have both found that there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Canada, no fraud from people wrongly claiming to be entitled to vote. The fraud that courts have recognized has been committed by one party in particular, not the voters.
The new Elections Act, though, is going to deny large numbers of Canadians the right to vote solely based on Conservative allegations of voter fraud. Most of those who won't be allowed to vote are people the pollsters tell us would be unlikely to vote Conservative. Do two and two still equal four?
No evidence found to support change to elections
This Bill is so bad, so riddled with egregious provisions that the Globe and Mail has been devoting a full week of editorials detailing all the different ways in which the Bill is unacceptable. A full five days of editorials devoted to the disapproval of one Bill. The Ottawa Citizen has run at least one disapproving editorial. The Toronto Star has published one as well.
If there is any editorial agreement with this Bill, anywhere in Canada, it has escaped notice. Newspapers everywhere have been filled with learned and factual opinion pieces about how unacceptable and undemocratic this Bill is.
The Commissioner of Elections Canada has thoroughly eviscerated the Bill, section by section. His testimony before the Parliamentary Committee, by itself, should have been enough to convince any reasonable politician with decent objectives that the Bill needs to be yanked back and completely rewritten. Need it be said that his testimony had no effect on the Minister of Democratic Reform?
A long list of academics, “professors at Canadian Universities who study the principles and institutions of constitutional democracy,” have endorsed an open letter condemning the Bill. Together, they say that, among other things, “this Bill contains proposals that would seriously damage the fairness and transparency of federal elections.”
Conservatives basis for changes to Elections Act is to trample democracy
One could go on. But the simple point is this: the new Elections Act has no support from anyone who can claim even a modicum of expertise or knowledge about the subject. Zero support. None. Rather, it has generated an outpouring of opposition and negative assessments.
In the face of this enormous backlash, this overwhelming concern that the this legislation is going to harm our democracy, the Minister of Democratic Reform and fellow Conservatives just repeat the simplistic and dishonest talking points. And smile with smug satisfaction.
Way back when, Shakespeare nailed it, “That one may smile and smile, and be a villain.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE