The phrase “attack on democracy” gets thrown around a lot, by people on all sides of the political spectrum. So I’m not going to use it here in describing the Harper government’s proposed “Fair Elections Act”.
I don’t have to, because Shelia Fraser already called it exactly that. The same Shelia Fraser who Harper praised for “her competence and her courage” for her work as Auditor General exposing the sponsorship scandal of Chretien’s government.
To avoid such hyperbole, I will simply say that if passed it may well be the worst thing to happen to democracy in Canada and anyone supporting it should be charged with treason.
In the interest of full disclosure I’m a card carrying member of the Liberal party. I have donated both time and money to the party. Dismiss this as partisan ranting if you will. Let me assure you though if it was a Liberal government trying to introduce this legislation, particularly in the manner the Conservatives have, my membership card would be lighting my next cigar.
Mr. Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State for Democratic Reform, and Harper’s front man for this bill has described it as “terrific the way it is”. I have to agree with him. If you were trying to create a bill to undermine democracy and help your government get re-elected you would have a hard time drafting a better one.
That Harper’s government has tried to make sweeping changes to election laws without any sort of consultation with either the other parties, election officials, or the Canadian people is bad enough. In fact the only thing worse is those changes themselves. There are a number to be concerned with, and both Canadian and international academics have done a better job covering them all then I could.
Suffice it to say we should be deeply suspicious of an act which gives the government an advantage in appointing local election officials, more than doubles the amount of money candidates may donate to their own campaign, and in one of it’s most concerning features forbids Elections Canada from encouraging people to vote.
Aside from knowing low voter turnout most often favours incumbents, if Elections Canada doesn’t have a mandate to encourage voting who does? The political parties themselves, say Conservatives, which seems odd since lack of interest was a top reason given by non voters last federal election. To put it another way as West Wing junkies all know, the marketing campaign for New Coke failed because no one liked New Coke.
The title of this posting is a nod to a Beatles song. The lyrics to which include “we all want to change the world”. The Conservatives aren’t trying to change the world with this bill, just the rules for elections upon which our democracy is built.
To borrow from Ringo and the boys again all Canadians should tell Harper’s government, “when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out”.