Harper’s end run around democracy

Posted on April 8, 2014 in Governance Debates

TheStar.com – Opinion/Readers’ Letters
Apr 08 2014.   Geoffrey Kemp

Stephen Harper’s need to hastily do an end run around democracy is doubtless caused by the dubious actions of those he chooses to surround himself with, other examples of his poor judgment and the declining Conservative poll numbers.

If passed unchanged, Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, will allow MPs to sit in the House while their election expenses are contested. It exposes and compounds a weakness in the Canada Elections Act, at times when a majority government may be elected with a very small plurality or the combined opposition have a small majority.

Currently, if an MP and the chief electoral officer disagree on an MP’s election expense return, the Canada Elections Act provides that the MP can no longer sit or vote in the House of Commons until the expense return is changed to the chief electoral officer ’s satisfaction, although the report is not due for several months after election day.

Bill C-23 allows the MP to continue sitting until a judge has ruled on the dispute and further states: “The removal of a democratically-elected MP reverses the decision of tens of thousands of voters. No one should have the power to reverse a democratic election without first convincing a judge.” If an MP’s election expenses are found to be non-compliant with the election act, by definition they were not democratically elected and have deprived tens of thousands of voters their representation of choice.

Peter Penashue, Dean Del Mastro, Shelly Glover and James Bezan are four of Harper’s MPs who faced exclusion from the House having failed to comply with or refused to supply information required under the Canada Elections Act.

In close minority government situations, the ability of “false MPs” to sit in the House while their validity is being questioned could be the factor deciding who forms the government and becomes PM. One seat can make the difference. Remember how important Chuck Cadman’s legitimate single vote was perceived by Harper.

Instead of slowing down the review of a candidate’s election expenses, someone who is truly interested in removing the possibility of election fraud would be making changes to speed up the validation of those expenses. Bill C-23 should be withdrawn.

Geoffrey Kemp, Mississauga

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