Debate has been rampant across the country about Bill C-23 the Fair Elections Act, which contains a number of changes to the Elections Act.
Next week the bill arrives for debate in the senate as the legislation makes its way through the approval process in Parliament.
Many in this country from average citizens, to politicians from other parties — even Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) — have major issues with C-23.
Appearing before the Standing Committee of Procedure and House Affairs on March 6, Marc Mayrand said the proposed legislation contains some improvements, such as an additional election polling day as well as increases in fines and penalties, but he also cites many issues with the legislation — legislation that he says would disenfranchise Canadians, create financial loopholes and impose limitations on education and research initiatives aimed at increasing electoral engagement in Canada.
“In our attempts to improve the electoral system, we should not lose sight of our shared goal of ensuring the right to vote for all Canadians,” he said. “Our democracy belongs to all Canadians and should be accessible to all Canadians and be seen as fair and trustworthy.”
A strong statement from someone who is more than qualified to have an opinion — and if the CEO — the person responsible for making sure election rules are being followed under Elections Canada has issues with this bill, then what does that tell you?
A former social studies teacher from Chatelech emailed us this week citing his displeasure too. He recalled impressing upon his students how important it was to vote in a democratic society, even creating mock student elections to get young people involved. He is truly dismayed that the Conservative government is taking actions with this bill that may have the effect of suppressing voter turnout at a time when it is already in decline — especially among young people.
And we couldn’t agree more.
Making some changes to our electoral system is one thing, but to make changes that could turn people away from the political process and voting is wrong.
Residents here on the Sunshine Coast have flooded us with letters to the editor and correspondence, with many of those letters copied to our member of Parliament John Weston asking, if not pleading for him to stand up and reject this bill. To date we have not received an answer from Mr. Weston.
More than 46,000 Canadians have signed an on-line petition on Avaaz, a global on-line activist network, imploring Conservative senators to amend the act.
Will the senate stand up and fight for Canadians or will they simply pander to government and push this through? This Fair Elections Act is far from fair. We should be striving for an electoral system that is inclusive to all, not a select few.
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