Reports, Articles and Resources Related to the Fair Elections Act

May 17, 2015

Want to learn about Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, but don’t know where to begin? Here’s a list of recent publications and news articles to get you started.

Bill C-23 – An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make Consequential Amendments to other Acts. (Short Title: The Fair Elections Act). Parliament of Canada – retrieved November 16, 2014.

  • This webpage details the legislative details and history of Bill C-23 through the House of Commons. Features include the sponsor of the bill in its introduction to the Commons and a comprehensive timeline for its passage through Parliament.

Bill C-23 – Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Evidence on Bill C-23, Thursday March 6, 2014. Parliament of Canada – retrieved November 16, 2014.

  • These minutes detail the study of Bill C-23 before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Witnesses expressed either their concern or support for the controversial legislation, with their evidence being subject to cross-examination by committee members. For the Conservative members, this often seems to have been characterized by talking points on voter fraud – the central justification for the act.

Backgrounder: Protecting Voters from Rogue Callers”. Democratic Reform – retrieved November 16, 2014.

  • This backgrounder details the provisions in Bill C-23 dealing with protecting voters from rouge robo-calls which were reported in many ridings across Canada during the 2011 federal elections. The features that were included in the draft legislation were the creation of a CRTC registry of voter contact groups, detailed operational requirements, and an increase in fines for infractions against regulations.

Backgrounder: An Independent Commissioner: sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand”. Democratic Reform – retrieved November 16, 2014.

  • The information detailed in this backgrounder contains some of the more controversial provisions of Bill C-23. Effectively calling for the division of Elections Canada into two pieces and the subsequent reallocation of its investigative branches to the Office of Public Prosecutors, critics questioned the ability of this new body to undertake impartial and effective investigations into misconduct.

Backgrounder: Fair Elections Act – Cracking down on Voter Fraud”. Democratic Reform – retrieved November 16, 2014.

  • Proposals for cracking down on voter fraud were based on misinterpretations of the Neufeld report into alleged voter fraud in the contested 2011 federal race in the Ontario riding of Etobicoke Centre. While many of the findings indicated administrative errors predominated, the Harper government used its interpretations of Neufeld report’s findings to justify an end to vouching as a means of voter identification at the polls. It also placed limits on the information that Elections Canada can communicate to voters during an elections cycle.

Backgrounder: Fair Elections Act – Easy-to-follow rules for all”. Democratic Reform – retrieved November 16, 2014.

  • This backgrounder from the Ministry of Democratic Reform argues that the rules surrounding elections are too complicated and seeks to simplify the rules that the Chief Electoral Officer would enforce on political parties. For instance, an advisory committee of political parties would be created as needed on a statutory basis to ensure that electoral laws better reflect the reality on the ground.

Backgrounder: Fair Elections Act – Respecting Democratic Elections and Defending Freedom of Speech”. Democratic Reform – retrieved November 16, 2014.

  • Democratic Reform’s backgrounder details the provisions of Bill C-23’s original text on the proposals regarding democratic elections and freedom of speech during an election cycle. These provisions would, for instance, allow an MP accused of overspending by the Chief Electoral Officer, to dispute these claims in court under the rationale that the choice of voters is violated if he/she is removed without a judge first being convinced. The ban on results from being posted by individuals in real-time on social media is also revoked, argued on the basis of freedom of speech.

Backgrounder: Fair Elections Act – Keeping Big Money Out of Politics”. Democratic Reform – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • The provisions relating to campaign finance are among the most potentially controversial in the original text of the Fair Elections Act. The provisions relating to political loans are in some respects more stringent – making it harder for loans to be walked away from by prospective candidates. While those provisions are not necessarily controversial, those relating to contribution limits and fundraising that can be viewed as potentially troubling due to the privileging of wealthier donors over ordinary citizen-donors.

Backgrounder: Fair Elections Act – Better Customer Service”. Democratic Reform – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • The original text of the Fair Elections Act argues that the main reasons for the decline in voter turnout at the polls could be solved through better customer service. These provisions would look to expand advance polling days, expand advertising on the mechanisms and procedures for voting, look to provide less congestion at voting locations, and make it easier for disabled voters to vote. However, these provisions also further limit the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer in his ability to communicate with the public – effectively limiting him to telling voters where, when and how to vote. Nothing further is said about combating declining voter turnout.

Angus Reid Global Canadian Public Opinion Poll: On debate over proposed Fair Elections Act, Sound does not necessarily equal fury”. Angus Reid Global. Released April 17, 2014, retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This news release details Canadian public opinion surrounding the debate in Parliament over the controversial Fair Elections Act. The findings of this poll show that for those who are familiar with the intense debate were roughly evenly split in their support and opposition regarding the Fair Elections Act. Further statistics indicated that opposition was growing as those aware of the debate as they learnt more information. However, awareness of the debate showed that approximately 1/3 of Canadians were following the debate and that among those not following the debate, support for the Fair Elections Act was greater than among those who had been following the debate.

Backgrounder: Elections Canada Advisory Board”. Elections Canada – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This backgrounder details the mandate and membership requirements of the Elections Canada Advisory Board. Brief biographies also detail the qualifications and past employment history of current Advisory Board members. The inclusion of this backgrounder is of pertinence as a consultant hired by the board (former Auditor General Sheila Fraser) appeared as a witness before committees studying the legislation. Knowledge of the Advisory Board and its concerns allows observers to better understand the objections to the legislation raised by both Sheila Fraser and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.

Remarks of the Chief Electoral Officer on Bill C-23 before the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs – March 6, 2014”. Elections Canada – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • These remarks were delivered by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand before the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the Fair Elections Act on March 6, 2014. Mayrand sums up the objectives of the proposed legislation and remarks on areas where he finds it to be lacking. These remarks detail primarily with vouching and the VIC card, as well as the campaign financing reform provisions that may negatively impact Canadian democracy.

Statement: Remarks of the Chief Electoral Officer on Bill C-23 before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs – April 8, 2014”. Elections Canada – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This statement details the remarks delivered by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on April 8, 2014. These remarks detail the fundamental objectives of any electoral system, the main challenges facing contemporary democracy in Canada, and further remarks on the Fair Elections Act. These further remarks detail the few positive aspects of the bill and areas of improvement that can be found in Mayrand’s opinion. In particular, the elimination of vouching, the severe limits placed upon the Chief Electoral Officer’s ability to speak to the public, and campaign financing changes are found to be fundamental areas requiring improvement.

Elections Canada’s Proposed Amendments to C-23”. Elections Canada – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This table effectively details the analysis of the proposals of Bill C-23 and the proposed amendments that Elections Canada would like to see implemented to improve the bill. These proposed amendments seek to maintain Elections Canada as an independent, arms-length organization and its freedom to communicate on important issues regarding democracy and elections to Canadians. Other amendments also recommend the removal of the proposal for political parties to recommend electoral officials and maintain vouching as a means of identification in certain cases.

House Government Bill – Bill C-23: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain other Acts”. Parliament of Canada – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • The final form of the Fair Elections Act as published after it received royal assent. This includes the amendments introduced by the government and many of the controversial elements still present.

What changes are needed to make the so-called ‘Fair Elections Act’, and other federal elections, actually fair?”. Democracy Watch – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • A copy of an op-ed by Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher as it was published in The Globe and Mail on April 7, 2014. In the piece, Conacher argues that certain misplaced concerns have overtaken more legitimate concerns within the bill that have been overhyped by the media debate surrounding the act. Conacher states that more productive improvements can be made would involve making offices involved in investigating elections complaints (i.e. Commissioner of Elections, Chief Electoral Officer, Director of Public Prosecutions) truly independent arms-length offices; allowing the DPP and Commissioner to disclose some details of complaints made; maintain the use of the VIC and vouching as a form of identification in certain cases; and the campaign financing changes that further privilege wealthier donors over ordinary citizens.

Democracy Watch proposes 10 key changes to committee to make the so-called ‘Fair Elections Act’ actually fair and 10 other priority changes to make federal elections actually fair”. Democracy Watch – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This news release details the recommendations that Democracy Watch presented to the House Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on April 8, 2014. These recommendations focus on areas of concern with the bill that the group found to require massive changes to be truly fair to ordinary citizens, as well as a further 10 recommendations regarding areas of concern that the Fair Elections Act fails to take into account. These changes are proposed as a way of making federal elections truly fair for all citizens.

Samara’s statement on the Fair Elections Act”. Samara – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • An entry from Samara’s weekly blog details the remarks delivered by Samara Executive Director and co-founder Alison Loat on March 27, 2014 before the House’s Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs. Noting research conducted by the organization, Ms. Loat argues that solving the problem of declining voter turnout – especially among young Canadians – should be of paramount concern and that all parties involved should seek to improve their outreach to citizens. Arguing for improving the ability of Elections Canada to conduct this outreach and to liaise with other interested groups, Loat appeals to all to seek to live up to the spirit initially invoked by Pierre Polievre, the sponsor of the bill at its introduction, to ‘reach Canadians where they live in their communities’.

Fair Vote Canada Called to Testify at Hearings about the ‘Fair Elections Act’”. Fair Vote Canada – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This news release details the witnesses that Fair Vote Canada introduced in its submission to the House Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on March 25, 2014. Presented by Wilfred Day, a member of Fair Vote’s National Council and Nathalie Des Rosiers, Dean of Common Law at the University of Ottawa and member of Fair Vote’s Advisory Board, the submission made clear the electoral reform organization’s concerns regarding the proposed legislation.

Fair Elections Act: Canadian democracy will have its day in court”. Council of Canadians – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This media release dated October 9, 2014 announces that the Council of Canadians, Canadian Federation of Students and three individual electors have filed a Charter Challenge in Ontario Superior Court to challenge the constitutionality of the Fair Elections Act. Arguing that the legislation violates Canadians rights to vote and equality rights under Sections 3 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, this court challenge seeks to hold the controversial Fair Elections Act to the charter’s standards and overturn this troubling legislation.

Elections Act changes long overdue, but will they prevent fraud?”. Council of Canadians – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This media release from February 3, 2014 contains the Council of Canadians’ initial reaction to the tabling of the Fair Elections Act in the House of Commons. Making the observation that changes are long overdue, based on what was initially released to the public, the Council of Canadians expresses the concern that the publicized changes may not serve as a serious impediment to those determined to win an electoral contest by any means necessary.

Let People Vote Campaign: 4 Things You Need to Know”. Canadian Federation of Students – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This overview page summarizes important features regarding the Fair Elections Act which the Canadian Federation of Students is seeking to impart to their members. The CFS notes that the bill will have far-reaching and damaging effects including barriers between Canadians and their ballots; stifling the moderator; discouraging democracy; and failing to consider that young Canadians are already absent from the polls.

Opening Remarks by Paul G. Thomas, Professor Emeritus of the University of Manitoba to the House Standing Committee for Procedures and House Affairs on Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act on March 31, 2014”. University of British Columbia, Department of Political Science – Resources on the Fair Elections Act – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • The opening remarks made by Paul G. Thomas, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Political Science at the University of Manitoba regarding the Fair Elections Act before the House Standing Committee for Procedures and House Affairs. Dr. Thomas found the overall process surrounding the drafting of the bill, as well as the strict limits placed on its debate, to be deeply troubling and standing as a contradiction to the needs of discussing democratic reform in a democracy. In these comments, Dr. Thomas makes recommendations on improving the bill and discusses its troubling aspects such as the limits placed on the communications ability of Elections Canada.

Comments on the Fair Elections Act – Patti Tamara Lenard, Research Associate of the CCPA to the House Standing Committee for Procedures and House Affairs”. University of British Columbia, Department of Political Science – Resources on the Fair Elections Act – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • In her presentation to the House Standing Committee for Procedures and House Affairs, research associate of the CCPA, Patti Tamara Lenard, discusses how the Fair Elections Act undermines political equality in Canada by making it more difficult for the right to vote to be accessed in general and how it will be most acutely felt by vulnerable groups. Dr. Lenard also points out that Canada’s voter ID requirements are already more restrictive than in many countries. This makes light of the deep difficulties which already exist in some exercising their franchise, demonstrating the further barriers that may be imposed upon the franchise by the Fair Elections Act.

Remarks of Professor Yasmin Dawood, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto on Bill C-23 before the House Standing Committee for Procedures and House Affairs”. University of British Columbia, Department of Political Science – Resources on the Fair Elections Act – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • Professor Dawood, one of the co-authors of an open letter of concern to the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament regarding this act, discusses the concerns of herself and her co-authors before the standing committee. Focusing on the most contentious elements of the bill that their letter discussed, Professor Dawood formally recommends retaining vouching as a means of identification in some cases; placing no limits on the communications of Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer with Canadians; removing the fundraising exemption on the spending caps for all political parties; recommend that central poll supervisors be appointed through a neutral non-partisan process; provide the Elections Commissioner with the ability to compel testimony from potential witnesses; and remove the confidentiality gag order on the Elections Commissioner.

Bill C-23 – the Fair Elections Act”. Openparliament.ca – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This is a published transcript of all aspects of the debate of the Fair Elections Act in the House of Commons, as provided by the published version of the bill. A timeline and transcript of all speakers during the bill’s progress through the Commons is provided.

The Broadbent Institute Blog- How the (Un) Fair Elections Act would play out on the ground – Trevor McKenzie-Smith”. Broadbent Institute – retrieved November 17, 2014.

  • This piece, first posted on March 20, 2014, determines to analyze how an unamended version of Bill C-23 would play out on the ground. Without amendments to temper the worst aspects of the bill, federal elections would see a limit placed on who can vote due to the removal of vouching used most often by vulnerable groups of voters, open up polls to partisan interference, removes some important limits to abuse of campaign overspending, and the failure to deal with sometimes inaccurate voters’ lists. These issues would not only further serve to further curb already abysmal voter turnouts but illustrate a focus on the wrong problems in improving Canadian democracy.

Keeping Current – Canada’s Proposed Fair Elections Act Bill: More Can be Done to Restore Integrity in Election Process”. Stephan Thiele, Gardiner Roberts LLP. Gardiner Roberts LLP – retrieved November 18, 2014.

  • Released on February 10, 2014 just after the introduction of the Fair Elections Act, this analysis by the lawyer who represented former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj in his court case regarding the 2011 election in Etobicoke Centre argues that more work needs to be done in restoring faith in the electoral process. While he feels that the bill’s repeal of vouching as a means of identification represents a triumph of his client’s case, Thiele argues that more might be done to further restore faith and integrity in the electoral process. Thiele specifically, however, argues against some of the customer service provisions of the original bill due in large to the muzzling of the Chief Electoral Officer.

CARP opposes Fair Elections Act, Bill C-23 at Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs”. CARP – retrieved November 18, 2014.

  • This media release summarizes the objects the Canadian Association for Retired Persons regarding the Fair Elections Act, calling for its withdrawal or significant amendments to be worked into the legislation. Much of the case presented by Susan Eng, Vice President for Advocacy of CARP, centred on an opinion poll conducted by the organization on the bill’s contents and the elimination of vouching as a means of identification – a move that would greatly impact CARP members in retirement homes.

Bill C-23- The Fair Elections Act: Brief Submitted to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs”. Canadian Teachers’ Federation – retrieved November 18, 2014.

  • Presented to the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, this brief summarizes the concerns of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation in regards to the Fair Elections Act. The three areas of concern for the CTF were the speed, with which the legislation was being forced through Parliament; the removal of civic education provisions that would prevent students and other Canadians from learning about responsible citizenship and the fundamentals of Canadian democracy; and the potential disenfranchisement of voters by the removal of the voucher system.

Elections Canada: Voter Identification at the Polls.” Elections Canada Online – retrieved November 18, 2014.

  • This webpage provides an online overview of the new voter identification rules put in place under Bill C-23. Classified under three categories, 39 pieces of identification can be used by a voter to identify themselves at the polls. This includes the modified version of vouching via swore affirmation paperwork signed at the poll where one voter from the same division can swear to the identity of one voter but that voter cannot in turn vouch for another.