Don Martin's Last Word: Is there some 'conscious uncoupling' going on with election laws?
Published Friday, March 28, 2014 4:25PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 28, 2014 6:16PM EDT
Our Prime Minister has spent the last week on a referendum-ripping tour of Europe. Stephen Harper has denounced the Crimean annexation and threatened more sanctions while vilifying Russian aggressor and President Vladimir Putin.
Good for him. Applause all 'round in the chronically hostile House of Commons. Even the polls are starting to thaw on Mr. Harper’s frozen flatlined position trailing the Liberals.
But there has to be conscious uncoupling going down as the same Stephen Harper moves to unilaterally change Canada’s democratically-sacred election laws to solidify his grip on voting in this country.
You can’t claim the high ground on global democracy if you're fiddling with voting regulations to help maintain power in your own back yard.
At first blush, the Fair Elections Act seemed a well-intentioned bid to clean up dirt in the ballot box. Even the country’s longest serving chief electoral officer told me it rated an A-minus grade.
But as with most Harper government megabills, the small details are devilish. It takes time to digest the truth and the consequences of so many weasel words.
So as the weeks pass since Minister of State Pierre Poilievre rolled out his bill, the backlash has grown from a sputter to a howl and gone from national to global.
"So what?" you may well say. Afghan detainee documents, Senate scandals and the death of the long-form census were all supposed to put this government on life support and didn’t.
But this bill is particularly squeamish. As a change which affects all parties equally, reaching out for consultation if not consensus is essential. Yet all amendments have been rejected, debate has been limited and all dissent dissed as wilful ignorance.
The groin kicker came yesterday when the author of an electoral reform report appeared before MPs to attack the government’s use of his findings. Harry Neufeld accused Minister Poilievre of declining to consult with him before selectively using quotes out of context to justify a bill customized for partisan gain.
In other words, he accused the minister of tainting evidence to craft laws to tilt future elections in the Conservative’s favor.
Protest deafness? Twisted evidence? Voter manipulation? Designed to help a leader retain power?
If you listen closely, that’s democracy with a Russian dialect.