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Groups protest new federal elections act

The Mid-Island Council of Canadians joined protesters across the country Tuesday, rallying against the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act legislation, which it said could negatively affect future elections.

The federal government said it created Bill C-23 in response to complaints of automated calls, or robocalls, from a phone registers to Pierre Poutine, that led voters to incorrect polling stations, as well as rude calls claiming to be from the federal Liberal Party during the 2011 federal election.

But Paul Manly, B.C./Yukon council board representative, said there is much wrong with the legislation, or what he calls the “unfair elections act.”

“First of all, it doesn’t correct the problems that we had with the last election, where we had a major voter fraud through the robocall scandal and the judge in that case said that there was evidence to show that it was likely that the Conservative party’s [Constituent Information Management System] database was used to make those robocalls ... the new legislation doesn’t deal with that problem at all,” Manly said.

“It doesn’t require that witnesses are compelled to give testimony, it doesn’t compel [political] parties to let the electoral officer access the database to see whether it was used in those kind of fraudulent cases, so there’s a number of things that it doesn’t do,” he said.

Manly said what Bill C-23 does is forbid Elections Canada from promoting voting to school children, which will have a negative impact in getting the next generation of voters out and involved in the electoral process.

Another issue is removal of the voucher system, where a voter can have a fellow voter, in the same electoral riding, “vouching” for their identity, through an oath, during election time. Manly said people who use the system are being disenfranchised.

“Mostly those are people who are marginalized in society,” said Manly. “We’re trying to get them out to vote because they should have a say and so that’s the other thing we really object to in this bill.”

Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney was unavailable for comment but did express his views in a statement.

He said along with 38 recommendations from the chief electoral officer, Bill C-23 introduces measures that will protect voters from rogue calls and political impostors and will ensure fraudsters are stopped before their ballot is cast. The rules will be concise and easy for voters to follow.

Lunney also detailed why he is in favour of voucher elimination.

“There are 39 valid [identification] options, such as driver’s licence, health card, utility bill, credit card, residential lease, passport, old age security card, an attestation of residence at a shelter, or provincial ID card, only two of which will be necessary at the polling booth,” he said, adding identification options would be advertised well in advance.

It would make Canadian laws tougher, will make life harder for people violating election laws and put the focus back on citizens taking part in democracy, Lunney said.

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