Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose today to call a Federal election. On October 19, 2015 Canada votes for the first time since Bill C-23 (Harper’s reformed Fair Elections Act) became law. Before moving on, take a moment to read my post on the Act –
Legislated restrictions banning Elections Canada from encouraging citizens to vote has me pondering – would a high voter turnout spell disaster for the Conservative party? Why did the Act abolish “vouching” for voters lacking proper identification? Could it be that Harper’s reign depends on the demographic responsible for his baffling success? Might Canada look a whole lot different if young or marginalized citizens bothered to vote?
The Fair Election Act is anything but. We can stop Harper, all Canada has to do is vote.
The last few days, ponders of democracy occupy paths normally open to cavalcades of random thought. My only hope of restoring a comfortable state of meandering contemplation is to “ponder” and move on. Consternation stems from absurd differences between American and Canadian election machines. How is democracy possible if self serving corporations fund elections, or election spending has no limit?
Elections Canada enforces allowable election expenditure and donations. Individual donations are restricted to $1000 a year, per person. Corporate donations are forbidden under any circumstance. Allowable spending for Federal elections follow a strict formula, two sets of calculations based on national and local campaigns. Nationally, parties are allowed .70 cents per registered voter in any riding a candidate is on the ballot – in translation, roughly $21 million for the 3 major parties (not a penny more from start to finish) Locally candidates are allowed $2.07 for the first 15,000 registered voters. $1.04 for the next 10,000 and .52 cents for remaining voters.
America’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) oversees U.S. election spending. Unraveling intricacies of FEC regulations exceed my patience. Individuals may give $2,600 annually to individual candidates, $30,800 to national party committees, $10,000 to local committees, $5000 to “other” committees and as of a 2014 Supreme Court ruling – no limit.
“The court’s 88-page decision reflected sharply different visions of the meaning of the First Amendment and the role of government in regulating elections, with the majority deeply skeptical of government efforts to control participation in politics, and the minority saying that such oversight was needed to ensure a functioning democracy.”
“Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the overall limits could not survive First Amendment scrutiny. “There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”
It’s important to focus on concerns of the minority justices in the decision – “oversight was needed to ensure a functioning democracy”. No shit Sherlock.
According to Wikipedia, candidates political parties and independent groups spent 5.3 billion during the 2008 election. Obama’s campaign hemorrhaged a record $730 million, John McCain squandered $333 million. The 2010 midterm elections cost 3.6 billion. On average, prevailing House of Representatives seats were secured with 1.4 million, Senate seats went for 9.8 million.
How can America bristle at the suggestion it isn’t a democracy? On what planet does a constitutional right to elect politicians translate to unlimited financial manipulation of election results? Is it “American” to mindlessly gobble assertions they live in a free and democratic society? Please tell me how Political Action Committees, sneaky navigation of loop-holes, flagrant special interest sponsorship and unfettered election spending equal fair representation. Do the American people actually believe their system represents “the people”, as in “we the people” and all that jazz.
Canada is far from perfect. Allegations percolate around over spending financial limits during Stephen Harper’s 2008 election run. That said, at least Canada strives for sanity. Canadian elections are swift, regulated and frankly a whole lot more democratic than our neighbors to the south. Why Americans aren’t calling bat shit on a system designed to coddle entitled echelons of society is beyond me.
Proposed changes to Canada’s election act have me pondering. Pierre Poilievre, at 34, Canada’s youngest cabinet minister and Minister of State for Democratic Reform is driving “Fair Election” reform through the House of Commons. His motto “sharper teeth, longer reach and a freer hand” is supposed to put Canadians at ease over his plan to squash the authority of Elections Canada and reduce voter fraud.
Call me cynical but I find his timing curious. As support grows for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau – especially among students, minorities, and the poor – what better way to limit their votes while bolstering advantages for the wealthy, than to disallow “vouching” and muzzle Elections Canada.
Vouching – much as it sounds is a system enabling those without proper ID, or proof of residence to vote.As it stands now, roughly 1% of voters had someone “vouch” for them in the last federal election. For the most part students and people who recently moved – those able to verify identity but not address. If Bill C-23 (Fair Election Act) passes – vouching is history.
I have less problem with vouching than this bat shit piece of logic – Poilievre openly criticizes Elections Canada for failing to boost voter turnout. If passed, C-23 puts an end to those voter registration cards we get in the mail – the ones with our address telling us where our polling station is. It would restrict Elections Canada from any “get out and vote” ads, they could only advertise when the election is taking place – our government believes it is up to political parties to drive voters to the polls.
It gets better – the Conservative government’s “tackle fraud” mandate is hilarious. Returning officers and poll clerks would be elected by political parties – the party with highest number of votes in the previous election, given the right to “recommend” central poll supervisors. Election Canada’s repeated attempts for jurisdiction to obtain court orders when investigating questionable election funding or practices – not happening with C-23.
A few more nuggets – post election, political parties would be handed lists gathered at each polling station – that same list of registered voters polling clerks have you sign before casting a ballot – political parties pouring over names and addresses of who did or didn’t vote. “Robo-calling” companies and those who hire them would have to keep recordings of calls and when they were made for one year – when the Chief Electoral Officer insisted records of numbers called be included in the legislation – Poilievre scoffed “that would be an invasion of privacy”. Holy crap.
Third party advertising restrictions, convoluted wording in favor of “loopholes” allowing fundraising calls to any who donated $20 or more in the past five years be exempt from “campaign finance” stipulations, and changes to how the Commissioner of Canada Elections conducts investigations, round out the “Fair Election Act”.
Wake up Canada! Bill C-23 begs a resounding “oh hell no”. “Sharper teeth, longer reach, and freer hand” – if this isn’t an alarming turn, I don’t know what is.