The Fair Elections Act is a punishment for fair elections

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The Harper government has enacted a non-binding, fixed election date, set four years after taking office; we expect an election in the fall of
this year. And, with no

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The Harper government has enacted a non-binding, fixed election date, set four years after taking office; we expect an election in the fall of
this year. And, with no
surprises, all federal political parties have begun campaigning in earnest. This has been accompanied by a great deal of media speculation on who will win, how the parties will fare, what platforms each party will endorse, and more than moderate attacks on opposing parties. All of this depends on having fair elections that reflect the desires and opinions of the electorate.  Unfortunately, the Harper government has created a few issues with its so-called “Fair Elections Act”.
Canada is a representative democracy; we elect members to parliament to enact legislation necessary to maintain our civil
society. Fair and open
elections are an essential right for Canadian citizens, but each right imposes
an obligation on our
institutions to ensure that the right is upheld and enforced. For elections, this means the government is obliged to ensure that eligibility to vote is as broad and as easy as possible. Further, the government must ensure each voter has easy access to a voting
centre, that candidates have unfettered opportunities to present their positions on the various issues, the ballot must be secret, and tabulations correct and open to scrutiny. In short, elections must be fair.
The problem is that the Harper government has, with its Fair Elections Act, compromised some of these basic requirements. The act makes it more
difficult to vote by increasing voter identification requirements; vouching is no longer accepted.
This could disenfranchise approximately 120,000 Canadians who benefited from vouching in the last election. Those most adversely affected are
students, first nations
people, seniors, and new citizens. Beyond this, corporations will be allowed to make larger donations to political parties – a move that will benefit the Conservative party. Add to this the fact that the
officers responsible for investigating voting irregularities will now report to the government (i.e., the party in power), not to an independent body.  
Just to make sure the population is kept ignorant of the election process, the Chief Electoral Officer will no longer be able to
provide educational material on proper voting
procedures. 
It all adds up to a
blatant attempt to ensure the Conservatives under Harper have an unfair advantage in the next
election. The idea of fair elections seems secondary to the desire to retain power. Added to the power dynamics is Harper’s
vindictive nature; the 2011 elections were marked by flagrant violations of the Elections Act and the Conservative party was the party most often found guilty.
In reality, the Fair Elections Act contains an element of retaliation, a punishment for truly fair elections.