Poilievre refutes claim he misinterpreted election report
Published Sunday, March 30, 2014 9:59AM EDT
The minister in charge of a controversial new electoral reform bill is refuting claims that he misinterpreted a report on voting irregularities in the 2011 election in order to make the case for abolishing the practice of vouching.
Pierre Poilievre, minister of democratic reform, is defending the reform package as widespread opposition to bill C-23, also known as the Fair Elections Act, grows among political parties and electoral experts.
Speaking to a Commons committee Thursday, former B.C. electoral officer Harry Neufeld, the author of a report used by the Conservatives to justify strong measures to prevent voter fraud, added his voice to the growing chorus of condemnation.
After the 2011 federal election, Neufeld wrote a report for Elections Canada. His report said there were serious irregularities in 42 per cent of cases in which voters vouched for others.
Neufeld accused Poilievre of misrepresenting his position by “selectively reading and quoting” the report, saying the irregularities were a result of administrative errors, not voter fraud.
Poilievre has been citing the report as the Conservatives promote the controversial bill, which includes eliminating the practice of vouching.
In an interview on Question Period that aired Sunday, Poilievre said he quoted the report “verbatim,” but disagrees with the recommendations contained in Neufeld’s report.
“I never claimed that I was following his recommendation, I was looking at the facts in his report and quoting them accurately to the House of Commons and in the public forum,” Poilievre said.
Critics say C-23 undermines the integrity of the Canadian election process by diminishing the effectiveness of Elections Canada, reducing voting rights, and expanding the role of money in politics.
Canada’s chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has expressed concern that more than 100,000 voters could be disenfranchised if vouching is eliminated, including students, low-income residents and on-reserve aboriginals.
The Conservatives say the bill promotes greater fairness within democracy by cracking down on voter fraud, robocalls and give greater independence to the elections commissioner.
Poilievre on Question Period said the vouching ban is “fair and reasonable.”
“I think most Canadians would think it reasonable that when you go to vote, that you bring some identification to show who you are,” he said, adding voters can still use 34 approved forms of ID that are permitted under the system.
Critics have also slammed the ruling Conservatives for not consulting with experts on the sweeping changes.
NDP Deputy Leader David Christopherson said on Question Period that “the only people” who say the bill is good for Canadians are Conservatives.
“Virtually anyone who knows anything about the details of running an election campaign, a fair election in a modern democracy says this is a bad bill,” Christopherson said.
Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said it is “shameful” that the government will not entertain any significant reforms to a bill that has “so many flaws.”
“At the end of the day, if this bill does not get changed, then it will be a great tragedy for all Canadians,” said Lamoureux, who represents the riding of Winnipeg North. “You should never, ever bring in legislation of this nature in the manner in which the Conservatives have done.”