The so-called Fair Elections Act will be challenged in the courts if it receives royal assent — and that’s a good thing.
Introduced by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre several months ago, the Act generated considerable discussion and drew sharp criticisms from political opponents, academics and sitting members of the party from which it was proposed in both houses.
The bill, as initially proposed, sought to reform the Elections Act by eliminating vouching as a means of voter identification and stripping the Chief Electoral Officer of the ability to encourage people to vote, among many other controversial proposals.
After the outcry, it was amended, but the key concerns — those mentioned in the previous paragraph — went effectively unaddressed (though there was an amendment made to the vouching condition), and the bill was passed by both the House of Commons and the Senate.
But the bill already has legal challengers lining up.
The Council of Canadians and the Federation of Students are the first groups to step up and say they will fight the bill in courts.
Unsurprisingly, they are intent on challenging the proposed Act on the very same grievances that were ignored when it was pushed through the House and Senate.
The challengers will contend that, by eliminating vouching and replacing it with the proposed “oath” system, the Fair Elections Act will exclude students, First Nations people and seniors.
Others will also argue that the stripping of Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand’s right to promote voting may be a constitutional violation in itself.
If the Act sinks as a result of those challenges, that will be a win for the Constitution — particularly the clause protecting the right to vote.
Further, the bill will have been an utter waste of time for parliamentarians whose worth is already questioned by the more than one in three Canadians who didn’t bother to vote in 2011.
And that is, perhaps, the chief treachery in all of this: a bill that purports it will make voting more accessible may achieve the exact opposite.
In some places that’s called irony.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.