Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Debate Gets Ugly as Conservatives Push Forward with Electoral Reform Bill

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Debate Gets Ugly as Conservatives Push Forward with Electoral Reform Bill

Article excerpt

Fair Elections Act debate gets ugly


OTTAWA - The Conservative bill to tighten up election laws is in the final stages of review at a House of Commons committee, and things are getting ugly.

After long hours of scrutiny of the Fair Elections Act's many clauses, only two technical amendments by the opposition had been approved by Thursday afternoon, and those Liberal measures only tweaked some wording.

The only substantive amendments allowed to pass came from the government. Changes to the legislation have been fuelled from within the Conservative caucus.

New Democrat MP David Christopherson's frustration boiled over when the committee rejected a proposal to ensure voter information cards are marked prominently to indicate they are not considered valid ID. The proposed Act has eliminated the cards as a fall-back ID for voters who discover they don't have the right documents when they show up to cast a ballot.

"If they won't even vote for this, then the last bit of the fig leaf, as ugly as that image is, is gone. And we know, and Canadians know, that this is all about trying to get the fix in for the Conservatives in every way they can, and that voter suppression is alive and well in the government of Canada," said Christopherson.

The Conservatives countered that the chief electoral officer already has authority over the markings placed on voter identification cards, and so the NDP amendment was not needed.

The opposition has argued that hundreds of thousands of voters, including First Nations, the homeless and students, will be disenfranchised by eliminating the use of the voter cards, as well as by new limitations on citizens vouching for the identity of others.

Conservative MP Scott Reid responded by saying he was offended by the accusation that the government is trying to deny the vote to certain Canadians.

"That assertion, if it were true, would mean that literally every member of the government would be unfit to be in the public square and sit in public office," said Reid. …

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