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by Derek Skinner (Victoria, BC)
Federal Electoral Fraud
Pierre Poilievre, as Minister of State for Democratic Reform, is responsible for introducing "The (Un)Fair Election Act". He is just the last in a string of conservative hacks who have been quietly modifying the Elections Act since the 2006 Harper Minority Government took office.
The In/Out scandal of the 2006 election showed the utter contempt the CPC (Conservative Party of Canada) and its backers had for Canadian law as enunciated in the Election Act.
Elections Canada financial auditors, following standard procedures for reviewing election campaign spending for the General Election of 2006, determined that more than 60 CPC financial reports showed election spending violations. The audits showed that CPC 'apparatchics' like Doug Findly and Irving Gerstein sent party money into the campaign accounts of candidates. They instructed the candidates to direct their agents to use the money to buy advertising with the exact same message that the CPC had used and had spent the maximum allowable under law buying for the national media campaign.
This was an obvious circumvention of the rules in the Act limiting advertising by political parties. The CPC knew this because they were advised by Elections Canada before they did it that it was illegal. Their own lawyers told them that it was illegal, others told them that is was illegal. They did it anyway.
Four months after the General Election of 2006, the scheme would have been clear to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada at the time, Jean Pierre Kingsley. The remedy prescribed in the Elections Act at the time called for anyone participating in such a scheme to be disqualified as a candidate for a period of two years and to be disqualified from taking a seat in the House for a period of two years, to be made to pay a fine of $2,000 and/or to spend up to two years in Jail.
Jean Pierre Kingsley had a tough choice to make; he could declare the Election invalid or he could resign. He chose the latter.
Harper was allowed by the Governor General to form an illegal minority government. That government appointed a new Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, and on Dec. 12th 2006 passed the Director of Public Prosecutions Act as Part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act which transferred the ability to prosecute Elections Act offences from Elections Canada to a newly created (appointed by Harper) Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Marc Mayrand, as mandated by the Elections Act, dutifully proceeded with the investigation of the "In and Out" scheme and the DPP did, in the end, lay charges against several CPC members who pleaded guilty to lesser offences and paid fines.
While all this was going on, the CPC attacked and vilified Marc Mayrand as if he was a stooge of the Liberal Party. The allegation was absurd, but the media toadied right along and the broader Canadian public was completely misled.
Because of the many changes in Voter residences, in 1995, Elections Canada assigned a ten digit unique, permanent, stable ID number to every voter in an internal data base. CPC changes to the Act externalized those numbers and they are now posted in the Voter Registration Lists which are supplied to every Party. The numbers make it easy for Parties to keep track of Voter's movements and views, functioning like a national ID card and they employ willing American corporations to do just that.
Successive Bills have been passed by the Harper Government that severely restrict the ability of political parties other than the CPC to raise money. The 2003 regime that subsidized political parties on a per-vote basis was dismantled. The CPC advocates for and defends the rich, who have money to spend on political parties, while those parties that advocate for the rest of us have to beg for money from people who already do not have enough.
Other quiet changes to the Election Act resulted in the "Bingo Card" scheme and the resulting Robocalls. The so-called Bingo Cards are issued by Elections Canada every 30 minutes during Election Day, listing the voters who have voted so far during the day. This enables Party organizers to mobilize last minute efforts to get out the pro-Party vote if they see that the result will be close. It also enables Robocalls to be started to any remaining voters who may vote against the party.
When the Bingo Card proposal was introduced to the Advisory Committee of Political Parties (ACPP) in 2007, as part of Bill C31, many members of the ACPP spoke forcefully against the scheme. In particular, the Canadian Action Party member stated that with sophisticated pre-polling, the Bingo Card scheme not only allowed political parties to know who has voted and exactly when in an election but, to a very fine statistical probability, the Bingo Card would allow political parties to know how voters had voted. This would take us within a hair's breadth of a ballot that was no longer secret.
Some 1400 complaints of misleading Robocalls, from ridings across Canada, were registered with Elections Canada. The Council of Canadians and others have identified at least 7 ridings where multiple Robocalls very likely resulted in a false election. Further an extraordinary number of ridings across the country were won or lost by razor-thin margins where Robocalls misdirecting voters other than CPC supporters were known to have occurred. Other parties made Robocalls too but none of those calls were made to misdirect voters.
The CPC announced on a Friday afternoon in November of 2013 that they had dumped the database in question as the source of the voter suppression Robocalls. No doubt the Commissioner of Elections investigating the Robocalls had telegraphed that he would be seeking to acquire access to the database as part of his investigation, an investigation the CPC has fought tooth and nail every step of the way, all the while vilifying Elections Canada and requiring the Commissioner, Ives Cote, to seek court orders for release of every piece of the puzzle in the hands of the CPC.
Now the "Fair Elections Act", as proposed, will shake 'undesirables' out of the voters lists by raising barriers for people not likely to vote for the CPC; i.e. young people unable to get a decent job and possibly progressive or even radical, poor people who cannot afford a car and so do not have a driver's license or carry a passport for photo ID or other sanctioned documents that identify a current residential address, aboriginal people likely resentful of bad treatment and new Canadians and others who will not be able to have people vouch for them. All this is quite ridiculous in light of the unique permanent ID number.
By Elections Canada's estimates the first rendition of the new voter rules in Bill C31 (2007) shook 2.2 million voters off the list. Taking away "vouching" as proposed in C23 will shake off another 100,000.
The proposed 2014 Act goes on to increase the restrictions on Election Canada's power to inform voters on many issues other than "the date of the election and where is their polling station". It also moves the authority to investigate electoral irregularities away from Elections Canada to the office of the DPP, further slowing response time in investigations and prosecutions and confusing the public about who runs what in government.
Essentially it will not matter what the law says, the enforcement will take so long the law will be moot. Now Poilievre has the effrontery to imply that the Chief Electoral Officer is showing bias because he has criticized some of the causes in the Act and is trying to do his job without bowing to the dictates of the CPC.
All this sleaze and manipulation of the Elections Act is going on while the corporate media is largely silent.
Is this how you want your democracy to be watered down for the benefit of one Party that is trying to ensure that it will maintain a majority control of Parliament for ever?
If this bothers you, call your MP – particularly if he/she is a CPC member – and demand that they stop passage of the Fair Elections Act.
Derek Skinner, Victoria BC 15/02/2014
P.S. Thanks to Will Arlow and Paul McMurray for their clarifications and corrections.
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