I wish I could believe that the mainstream press would analyze the Fair Elections Act bill in terms of its implications for future democracy, or that the public most affected by it could look up from Flappybird long enough to read such an analysis. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being fatalistic, but the passing of this bill is pretty much a certainty, and its implications will be felt as soon as the next federal election. It will create a political advantage for the Conservative Party because it will remove limits on campaign funding, and it will decrease Elections Canada’s ability to govern fairness in elections.
Money is able to buy very manipulative ad campaigns that distract people from “the other hand” of any debate. And if you manipulate election rules well enough, you can ensure that the your message saturates the media and the “other hand” is never heard. You can also make it harder for your detractors to exercise their franchise. The new Act allows the Conservatives, who are so well funded by oil corporations, to do all these things.
The Act will increase the Identification requirements of voters, ensuring that the most marginalized people – the homeless and mentally ill, will have a more difficult time voting. If you’ve ever dealt with people who live on the margins of society, you know how hard it is for them to complete the process of getting required government issued ID. Currently, we have a “vouch for” system, in which someone with ID can witness to someone’s ID when he doesn’t have it. This system will be removed by the act.
The more stringent ID requirement will be advertised as a way to ensure that people can’t cheat by voting more than once. And who wouldn’t think it a good idea to stop this kind of election fraud? But underlying this measure is a straw man: the measure assumes that the “vouch for” system is a big source of election fraud. In fact, it is NOT. What was certainly a problem in the last federal election was a barrage of automated phone calls (robocalls), that fraudulently told self-identified non-Conservative voters that their local polling stations were closed, thereby discouraging them from voting . But the Act does not address this type of fraud which was orchestrated by the Conservatives.
So we’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist, while conveniently giving an advantage to the party that is currently governing.
This bill is another attack on the democratic process by the Conservatives. It irks me that our more conservative governments are willing to produce legislation that is in their own partisan interest rather than the long-term best interest of Canada. Theirs is the same shortsightedness that exploits the environment for short term economic gain. But what is worse – what saddens me deeply, is the fact that no one seems to care. We’ve been anaesthetized. Cap in hand we accept these things without so much as a whimper.
When did we lose our idealism? We now have a governing party that actively tries to prevent open-minded intellectual debate, and instead tries to win through manipulation of the system, and through the use of Orwellian advertising.