Fair Elections Act is 'an attack on our democracy': Sheila Fraser
Published Thursday, April 3, 2014 7:29AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 3, 2014 7:25PM EDT
Former auditor general Sheila Fraser has joined the growing chorus of opposition to the Conservative government’s proposed overhaul of election rules, saying it will impede the work of the chief electoral officer and create “operational difficulties.”
“The whole election is at the base of our democracy and if Canadians do not have faith that the elections are being run fairly and with good management practices, I think it really is…an attack on our democracy,” Fraser told CTV’s Power Play Thursday.
She said she’s “quite concerned about some of the provisions” in the Fair Elections Act, or Bill C-23, which she believes will affect the independence of the chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand.
Fraser said the bill would restrict his ability to speak out on certain issues, which is “sort of unacceptable in the world of independence of officers.”
Fraser famously exposed the sponsorship scandal involving the Liberal government in the early 2000s and drew praise from then-Opposition leader Stephen Harper for her work. She now co-chairs an elections advisory board created by Mayrand.
Fraser said the Fair Elections Act could also create “operational difficulties” if Elections Canada is forced to get prior approval to hire the thousands of temporary specialists and elections officials needed to run an election.
Fraser said she’s also troubled by the proposal to separate the office of the elections commissioner, who investigates allegations of irregularities and fraud, from Elections Canada.
She said it’s “very rare” to see regulations separated from enforcement at such government agencies, because they need to work closely together.
Most of the opposition to Bill C-23 has been focused on the proposal to eliminate voter vouching, which allows Canadians without proper ID to bring someone to the polling station and vouch for their identity.
Critics have said that the move will disenfranchise seniors, students, the disabled, aboriginals and low-income Canadians, among other groups.
Fraser said vouching is not just about proving someone’s identity -- Canadians must also prove where they live, and that’s not easy for some people, she said.
For example, elderly people who live in nursing homes but have their bills sent to family members can’t necessarily prove their address, Fraser said.
Despite widespread opposition to the bill, Minister of Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre said the Fair Elections Act makes sense and the government is moving forward with it.