Elections Act overhaul would lift ban on early reporting of results
Published Tuesday, February 4, 2014 5:59AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 4, 2014 6:49PM EST
The Conservative government’s proposed overhaul of Canada’s election laws aims to impose harsher penalties on those who break the rules and tighten ID requirements for voters.
The legislation, introduced Tuesday, would also raise individual political donations limit to $1,500 from $1,200 and lift the ban on early transmission of results on election night, meaning voters in B.C. may have a good idea of which party is leading before they cast a ballot.
The bill also aims to give the office of the commissioner of elections, which is responsible for enforcing elections laws, more independence, said Pierre Poilievre, the minister of state for democratic reform.
The commissioner of elections, currently appointed by the chief electoral officer, would be appointed by the director of public prosecutions in the future.
“I believe that the commissioner of Canada elections, who’s sort of a watchdog, should not only have sharper teeth and a longer reach, which we’re giving him, but also a freer hand,” Poilievre told CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday.
“That means independence. Right now, legally, he doesn’t control his staff, his budget.”
Earlier Tuesday, Poilievre told a news conference that “the referee should not be wearing a team jersey.”
Poilievre said the commissioner can also be fired without notice, so the legislation proposes a fixed, seven-year term.
“That kind of independence will allow him to investigate potential infractions of the Canada Elections Act and to protect the integrity of our system,” he said.
“The enforcement of elections law should be done impartially.”
The incumbent commissioner, Yves Cote, has more than five years left in his term.
Opposition critics argue that the Conservative government is trying to get revenge on Elections Canada because it has been the subject of elections-related investigations.
During the last federal election, the Conservative Party was accused of voter suppression tactics. Three of its MPs have since been charged with election overspending.
"The reason I doubt anything the Conservatives say on electoral matters is they have a proven track record of consistently cheating in elections," NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said outside the House of Commons.
Inside the House, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused the government of wanting "to strip Elections Canada of its investigative powers."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded by saying that moving the elections commissioner out of Elections Canada will result in better investigations.
"That should help the independence and the effectiveness of law enforcement," he said.
Poilievre said there is no “new bureaucracy” in the government’s proposal.
“It simply moves the existing commissioner and his staff into an independent office so there is no new administrative cost associated with their salaries, nor does it mean they have to hire new people.”
Other changes in the proposed legislation include:
- A mandatory registry for all automated campaign phone calls in an effort to eliminate fraudulent robocalls.
- All recordings of automated calls, or robocalls, must be kept on a public registry.
- Increased penalties for impersonating an elections official
- The old voter’s card will no longer be enough to verify a voters’ identity and registered voters will no longer be able to vouch for others who lack proper ID.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV’s Richard Madan