To the editor:
Election Day is a time when all Canadians, no matter their wealth, health or status, are equal— each has the same say in choosing our government. Yet alarmingly, the integrity of our democracy is threatened by three overwhelming problems in the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act, Bill C-23.
Every Canadian is constitutionally guaranteed the right to vote, yet according to the Chief Electoral Officer, C-23 risks excluding the vulnerable and marginalized by eliminating the use of vouching to prove your address. While most people can prove their address with a driver’s license, not everyone can. Seniors living with their children may not even get a bill in their name, much less have a licence. Students move often, and may not have ID with their current address. Indian status cards do not include an address. For many in these groups, vouching by another elector is the only way to prove where they live.
Indeed, in the last election, 120,000 active voters relied on vouching—but if C-23 passes they could be shut out. The government claims it is concerned about the error rate with vouching, yet the vast majority of these mistakes are strictly recordkeeping errors by poll workers. There is no evidence to suggest that vouching allowed people to vote when they weren’t eligible.
Another pillar of our democracy is a level playing field, created through spending limits that ensure big money doesn’t drown out other voices. Yet C-23 exempts “fundraising” from spending limits, which could allow partisan messages to be sent without it being reported to Elections Canada.
Finally, C-23 also bans Elections Canada from encouraging Canadians to vote. No other country in the world imposes this restriction, and in an era when voter turnouts have declined to worrying lows, this restriction is exactly the wrong way to go.
Despite these concerns, there are some helpful measures in C-23, like adding another advance polling day or, as I proposed in a Private Member’s Bill two years ago, increasing penalties for those who break the rules.
Canada’s democracy is a model around the world. If we are going to stay that way, the Conservatives must fix the Fair Elections Act.
Dominic LeBlanc, MP,
Liberal Party of Canada House Leader