Trudeau would repeal proposed elections bill
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he will repeal the proposed Fair Elections Act “in its entirety” if he becomes prime minister, calling the bill “bad for democracy” and “bad for Canada.”
Trudeau made the comment following the Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday on Parliament Hill.
He noted that the much-criticized bill “will prevent large numbers of Canadians from voting” in the 2015 election. One of the more controversial elements of the legislation is the elimination of vouching, which Canada’s chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, estimates will disenfranchise at least 100,000 Canadians.
Vouching allows voters without proper identification that proves their identity or address to bring someone to the polls to vouch for them. The elimination of vouching will prevent some students, senior citizens, aboriginals, the disabled and low-income Canadians from voting, experts predict.
“That is why I commit, if I become prime minister, I will repeal in its entirety these changes to Elections Canada,” Trudeau said.
“I hope that I actually won’t have to, because I’m calling on Conservative members of Parliament to stand up for their constituents, to stand up for Canadians, to stand against their leadership and vote in a free vote to vote against this terrible piece of legislation.”
The minister responsible for Bill C-23, Pierre Poilievre, levelled a personal attack against Mayrand Tuesday, accusing him of making “astounding” allegations about the bill.
Poilievre told a Senate committee that Mayrand opposes the changes to election laws because “he wants more power, a bigger budget and less accountability.”
The comment drew sharp criticism from the opposition, as well as from former auditor general Sheila Fraser, another critic of the bill, who told a House committee Tuesday that Poilievre’s attack was “totally inappropriate.”
Trudeau said Wednesday that it is “entirely inappropriate for a Parliamentarian, much less a member of government, to be attacking an officer of Parliament, someone who safeguards our democracy.”
“For a minister of the Crown to engage in such blindly partisan attacks is weakening the fabric of our democracy and is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
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.”
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair demanded that Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologize for Poilievre’s comments during the daily question period.
Harper did not respond to the content of Mulcair’s question.
On Wednesday, both opposition parties hammered the government over the legislation.
Mulcair read a quote he attributed to Stephen Harper from 1996.
“‘In my view, the procedure of using time allocation for electoral law, doing it quickly and without the consent of the other political parties, is the kind of dangerous application of electoral practices that we are more likely to find in third world countries,’” Mulcair quoted Harper as saying.
The prime minister did not acknowledge the quote, instead saying that the bill has the support of the Canadian people.
“We’re strongly committed to this legislation,” Harper said.