Harper Government Introduces Fair Elections Act
Ottawa, ON, February 4, 2014 – Today Democratic Reform Minister, Pierre Poilievre, introduced a sweeping bill designed to protect the fairness of federal elections.
“The Fair Elections Act will ensure everyday citizens are in charge of democracy, by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule-breakers out of business,” said Minister Poilievre.
“The bill also makes it harder to break elections law. It closes loopholes to big money, imposes new penalties on political imposters who make rogue calls, and empowers law enforcement with sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand.”
The Fair Elections Act will implement 38 of the Chief Electoral Officer’s past recommendations.
The Fair Elections Act:
- Protects voters from rogue calls and impersonation with a mandatory public registry for mass calling, prison time for impersonating elections officials and increased penalties for deceiving people out of their votes.
- Gives law enforcement sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand. “Sharper teeth” means allowing the Commissioner to seek tougher penalties for existing offences. “Longer reach” means empowering the Commissioner with more than a dozen new offences to combat big money, rogue calls and fraudulent voting. Finally, a “freer hand” means the Commissioner will have full independence, with control of his or her staff and investigations, and a fixed-term of seven years, so he or she cannot be fired without cause.
- Cracks down on voter fraud by prohibiting the use of vouching and Voter Information Cards as replacements for acceptable ID. Studies commissioned by Elections Canada demonstrate mass irregularities in the use of vouching and high rates of inaccuracy on Voter Information Cards. Voters will still have 39 forms of authorized ID to choose from to prove identity and residence.
- Makes rules easy-to-follow for all. Since the last election, the Commissioner has had to sign 15 different compliance agreements with those who have breached elections law. Some are due to honest mistakes. Members of all parties have noted that the rules can be unclear. Complicated rules bring unintentional breaches and intimidate everyday people from taking part in democracy. That is why the Fair Elections Act will make the rules for elections clear, predictable and easy-to-follow.
Parties will have the right to advance rulings and interpretations from Elections Canada within 45 days of a request (a service similar to one provided by the Canada Revenue Agency). Elections Canada will also be required to keep a registry of interpretations and provide for consultation with and notice to parties before changing them.
- Allows small donations in, and keeps big money out. Big money from special interests can drown out the voices of everyday citizens. That is why our laws strive to keep it out. The Fair Elections Act will ban the use of loans to evade donation rules. However, the Fair Elections Act will allow parties to better fund democratic outreach with small increases in spending limits, while imposing tougher audits and penalties to enforce those limits. It will let small donors contribute more to democracy through the front door and block illegal big money from sneaking in the back door.
The Fair Elections Act’s modest adjustments in the donation limit (to $1,500) and election spending limits (up 5%) will let parties raise their own funds to reach out to Canadians. The total ban on union and corporate money remains.
- Respects democratic election results. Members of Parliament and the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) sometimes disagree on an MP’s election expense return. When that happens, the Canada Elections Act provides that the MP can no longer sit or vote in the House of Commons, until the expense return is changed to the CEO’s satisfaction. The removal of a democratically-elected MP reverses the decision of tens of thousands of voters. The Fair Elections Act will allow an MP to present the disputed case in the courts and to have judges quickly rule on it, before the CEO seeks the MP’s suspension.
- Upholds Free Speech. The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the ban on premature transmission of election results infringes on freedom of expression. The Fair Elections Act repeals this ban and upholds free speech.
- Provides better customer service for voters by focusing Elections Canada advertising on the basics of voting: where, when and what ID to bring. Also, the Fair Elections Act would explicitly require Elections Canada inform disabled voters of the extra help available to help them vote. The Act will also establish an extra day of advance polling. The proposed change would give Canadians access to four advance polling days – the 10th, 9th, 8th and 7th days before Election Day.
“The Fair Elections Act will make our laws tough, clear and easy-to-follow,” said Minister Poilievre. “It will make life harder for election law-breakers, and put the focus back on honest people taking part in democracy.”
For additional information, please visit: http://democraticreform.gc.ca/.
For further information (media only):
- Gabrielle Renaud-Mattey
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of State (Democratic Reform)