Fair Elections Act: Facts
I would like to take this opportunity to discuss Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, and the important measures proposed within. I am proud of the level of democratic engagement in the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. It has become obvious that a significant amount of misinformation has been presented in regards to this legislation. This letter seeks to present the specific measures this bill will take in regards to elections in Canada.
The ability to vote and making every vote count is at the heart of our democratic system in Canada. Any irregularity in the electoral process creates the potential for the legitimate vote of a Canadian citizen to be cancelled out by an ineligible vote. The Fair Elections Act takes concrete action to address irregularities that were identified by Elections Canada in the 2011 election, strengthening the integrity of our electoral system.
The Fair Elections Act proposes important updates to the Canada Elections Act that will increase the independence of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, create new rules governing the use of automated phone calls during campaigns, preserve the integrity of the voting process by addressing issues identified by Elections Canada, and modernize campaign financing laws. In fact, the Fair Elections Act directly incorporates 38 recommendations that the Chief Electoral Officer has made to the government to improve elections in Canada.
The bill proposes significantly increasing criminal penalties for election-related offences, including increased fines and jail time for the existing offences. It will also aim to prevent rogue calls by creating a registry of voter contact calls, requiring voter contact services to register automated and live call scripts with the CRTC, and increasing the disclosure requirements for political parties, candidates, and electoral district associations.
In addition, the act proposes the creation of new criminal offences making it illegal to impersonate a candidate; a candidate’s representative; a registered party or registered association; the Chief Electoral Officer; a member of the Chief Electoral Officer’s staff; an election officer or a person authorized to act on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer or an elections officer; as well as a new offence making it illegal to provide false information to an investigator and obstruct an investigation; and new penalties for non-compliance with the proposed voter contact registry.
The removal of the ability to vouch for voters, proposed in this bill, is in direct response to studies commissioned by Elections Canada that showed mass irregularities in the use of vouching, and high rates of inaccuracy on voter information cards. In the 2011 election, Elections Canada’s own post-election review found that there were irregularities in 25% of cases where vouching was used. This is not insignificant, and could change the result of an election. It should be noted that this is not an assault on rural areas where the practice of vouching is used honestly. This is to target cases of voter fraud and to ensure that honest votes are not cancelled out by fraudulent votes.
I should note the identification requirements to cast a ballot are not changing under this bill. It is important to emphasize, contrary to some common misinformation, that photo identification will not be required to vote under the Fair Elections Act. Furthermore, with the exception of limited pilot programs in recent elections, voter information cards have never been on the list of valid identification as issued by Elections Canada. The amendment contained within the bill seeks only to prevent Elections Canada from adding voter information cards to the list of acceptable identification in the future, and has been introduced as a result of Election Canada’s own post-election data showing that roughly one-in-six voter information cards contained inaccurate or outdated address information.
The Fair Elections Act makes no change to the list of allowable forms of identification, which currently includes 39 unique forms of identification. Furthermore, Elections Canada retains the ability under the bill to add additional pieces of identification to the allowable list as they see fit. All electors will continue to have a choice of providing one piece of approved government ID that shows their name, photo, and address, or two pieces of approved ID showing a voter’s name, with at least one item that also proves their address. For your information, I have included a full list of acceptable identification at the bottom of this letter.
Furthermore, individuals with more than one address will continue to have the choice to exercise their vote at the address that they consider to be their primary residence. Elections Canada will continue to have mail-in Special Ballots available upon request for all voters, including those that are living away from their permanent home address on Election Day. Special Ballots are especially helpful in ensuring that students, who may not wish to vote in the electoral district of their temporary school address, will continue to be able to vote in their home electoral district by mail.
These are by no means onerous identification requirements, but they will go a long way to ensuring the integrity of the voting process. However, we recognize that it is important that these requirements are well-communicated to electors, ensuring that all Canadians are aware of when, where, and how to vote. For this reason, the Fair Elections Act in fact requires future advertising from Elections Canada to be focused on disseminating information about the electoral process to Canadians. We believe that requiring Elections Canada to advertise this important information to Canadians is the best use of Election Canada resources, and will prove to be the most effective approach to encouraging voter turnout.
Under our parliamentary system, all bills receive rigorous study and debate through all stages of the legislative process. The most intensive study is conducted at the committee stage, where a committee of MPs will hear from witnesses, consider amendments, and study each individual clause of the bill. Our government is committed to having this bill brought before the House and Procedural Affairs Committee at the earliest available opportunity, to ensure that this important piece of legislation can be fully studied, passed, and implemented in time for the 2015 election. In closing, should anyone have constructive suggestions on how to improve this bill please contact my office as soon as possible and I will ensure that your proposals are brought to the attention of the Minister of State for Democratic Reform.
Larry Miller, MP
Elections Canada Identification Requirements (source: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=vot&dir=ids&document=index&lang=e)
Show one original piece of identification with your photo, name and address. It must be issued by a government agency.
- Driver’s Licence
- Ontario Health Card
- Note: Not all electors in Ontario will have cards with photo, name and address
- Provincial/Territorial Identification Card for the provinces/territories of
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
- British Columbia
- Northwest Territories
Show two original pieces of authorized identification. Both pieces must have your name and one must also have your address.
- Driver’s Licence
- Health Card
- Canadian Passport
- Certificate of Canadian Citizenship (Citizenship Card)
- Birth Certificate
- Certificate of Indian Status (Status Card)
- Social Insurance Number Card
- Old Age Security Card
- Student ID Card
- Provincial/Territorial Identification Card
- Liquor Identification Card
- Hospital/Medical Clinic Card
- Credit/Debit Card
- Employee Card
- Public Transportation Card
- Library Card
- Canadian Forces Identity Card
- Veterans Affairs Canada Health Card
- Canadian Blood Services/Héma-Québec Card
- CNIB ID Card
- Firearm Possession and Acquisition Licence or Possession Only Licence
- Fishing, Trapping or Hunting Licence
- Outdoors or Wildlife Card/Licence
- Hospital bracelet worn by residents of long-term care facilities
- Parolee Identification Card
Original documents (with name and address)
- Utility Bill (telephone, TV, public utilities commission, hydro, gas or water)
- Bank/Credit Card Statement
- Vehicle Ownership/Insurance
- Correspondence issued by a school, college or university
- Statement of Government Benefits (employment insurance, old age security, social assistance, disability support or child tax benefit)
- Attestation of Residence issued by the responsible authority of a First Nations band or reserve
- Government Cheque or Cheque Stub
- Pension Plan Statement of Benefits, Contributions or Participation
- Residential Lease/Mortgage Statement
- Income/Property Tax Assessment Notice
- Insurance Policy
- Letter from a public curator, public guardian or public trustee
One of the following, issued by the responsible authority of a shelter, soup kitchen, student/senior residence, or long-term care facility: Attestation of Residence, Letter of Stay, Admission Form or Statement of Benefits