Poilievre's attack on chief electoral officer 'vicious,' 'totally inappropriate'
Published Tuesday, April 8, 2014 11:03AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 8, 2014 9:51PM EDT
The minister responsible for the contentious Fair Elections Act launched into a personal attack against Canada’s chief electoral officer Tuesday, accusing him of making “astounding” allegations about the proposed legislation because he wants more power and less accountability.
Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre accused Marc Mayrand of opposing the proposed overhaul of election laws because he wants more power for himself. Poilievre told the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee that Mayrand is making “astounding” and “amazing” allegations about the Fair Elections Act, or Bill-C23.
"He wants more power, a bigger budget and less accountability,” Poilievre said.
Independent Sen. George Baker told CTV’s Power Play later Tuesday that Poilievre “viciously attacked” Mayrand and Elections Canada.
Former auditor general Sheila Fraser, who has spoken out against Bill C-23, told a House committee Tuesday night that Poilievre’s comments were “totally inappropriate.”
The attack also drew sharp criticism from the Opposition and demands that Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologize for Poilievre’s comments.
"Will the prime minister stand in this House and apologize to parliamentarians, and apologize to Marc Mayrand, for that cowardly, baseless attack on Canada's chief electoral officer?" NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair asked during question period.
Harper did not answer the question. Instead, he rose to congratulate Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, whose party won a majority in Monday night’s provincial election.
When Mayrand appeared before the Senate committee Tuesday, he called several provisions in Bill C-23 “deeply concerning.”
Outside the committee, he said his role is to “point out to Parliament some issues that may arise from any legislation that governs elections.”
Mayrand has warned that tens of thousands of voters could be disenfranchised if the most controversial aspect of Bill C-23 -- eliminating voter vouching -- is passed.
Under the proposed changes, voters without proper documentation that proves their identity or address would no longer be able to bring someone to the polls to vouch for them. Critics have said that will present serious obstacles for low-income Canadians, the disabled, aboriginals and seniors, among others.
Mayrand told the Senate committee Tuesday that only three provinces and the federal government require voters to prove not just their identity but that they live in the polling district in which they want to vote.
Back at question period, Mulcair also brought up Fraser and her criticism of the Fair Elections Act. When Fraser exposed the Liberal sponsorship scandal in the early 2000s, Harper was the Opposition leader and a big supporter of her work.
“Why does the prime minister no longer respect Sheila Fraser?” Mulcair asked Tuesday. “Is it because she is now helping expose Conservative’s dirty dealings?”
Harper responded by saying that the rules proposed in Bill C-23 are simple: voters must prove their identity before they cast their ballots.
With files from The Canadian Press