Were average citizens given to much political reflection, they would realize that from start to finish, the 'Fair' Elections Act has been almost exclusively about both discouraging people from voting and suppressing the vote of those who do not fit the Conservative Party's target 'audience.' Even in light of yesterday's announced amendments, that remains the case.
While the Act has provoked a flurry of steady, relentless, critical coverage, both in mainstream and social media, to view yesterday's ostensible retreat as a real victory is to misread the situation badly. Two aspects of the bill will, I think, support my thesis.
First, and less contentious in the public's mind, is the fact that the Chief Electoral Officer is still fettered when it comes to encouraging people to vote. To be sure, the amendment is less Draconian than the Harper regime originally sought:
In the original draft, Bill C-23 restricted the CEO to communicating only where, when and how to vote, raising concerns of an attempt to muzzle the independent agency.
Elections Canada advertising would still be limited to the nuts and bolts of the voting process, but the agency could continue to fund third-party education campaigns with elementary and secondary school students.
In other words, the CEO is still limited to encouraging people who can't vote (elementary and most high school students) to vote. While that may or may not bolster future civic participation, it does nothing to prompt those of voting age to attend the polls.
Secondly, the issue that received the bulk of media criticism, vouching for those without an ID with an address, continues to be a problem.
First, a slight digression. As you will recall, Pierre Poilivre et al. have consistently ruled out the use of voter information cards as an acceptable proof of address. The argument, proven repeatedly to be specious, was that it contributed to voter fraud in past elections.
But think about it for a moment. As a voter, you present valid identification, such as your birth certificate or health card, and then attempt to use a voter information card to establish your address. The card is rejected because you could be perpetrating a fraud. How? Well, even though you have proven who you are, you might have moved into another riding, but you might have also gone to your old address, either broken into your old mailbox or house to retrieve the card, with the express purpose of deceiving Elections Canada.
Sound ridiculous? Of course it does.
But not to Mr. Poilivre and the rest of the cabal.
Like a dog that is regularly beaten by its cruel owner but is ever so grateful when that master/mistress gives it a few crumbs from the table, we are supposed to be ever so thankful for the following:
“The government will not support amendments to allow voting without a piece of identity,” Poilievre said in a press conference on Parliament Hill.
“(But) if someone’s ID does not have an address on it, they will have to sign a written oath of residence. Another voter with fully proven ID will need to co-sign attesting to that voter’s address.”
In other words, the voter is infantilized because he or she, lacking proof, not of identity but of address, must be in the company of an 'adult' who has the proper accreditation. Perhaps someone can explain to me how that does not just continue, in a slightly diluted form, the process of voter suppression of the young, the elderly or the homeless who may not be able to secure the proper accompaniment to the polls.
Watch the following video, as the oleaginous Minister of Democratic Reform tap dances around the truth of this bill. Unfortunately, his interlocutor, Rosie Barton, seems more interested in playing 'gotcha' than uncovering the truth about these very weak and very disappointing amendments. Start at the 10-minute mark: