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Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State for Democratic Reform, stands in the House of Commons during Question Period on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Friday, March 28, 2014. Poilievre says he's listening to the growing tide of outrage about the Harper government's controversial new electoral reform bill, but he would not commit to making changes. (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State for Democratic Reform, stands in the House of Commons during Question Period on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Friday, March 28, 2014. Poilievre says he's listening to the growing tide of outrage about the Harper government's controversial new electoral reform bill, but he would not commit to making changes. (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe editorial

Fair Elections Act: If evidence voted, this bill would die Add to ...

In the face of mounting criticism of the so-called Fair Elections Act, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre keeps repeating the same stale talking points. In the face of repeated proof that these talking points involve torturing the research of elections experts and warping their findings, the Minister insists that he is “quoting them accurately.” When the experts in question, such as former B.C. elections chief Harry Neufeld, speak out against the bill, and the Minister’s misuse of his research and his words, Mr. Poilievre responds that he does not share their conclusions, or those of apparently any impartial elections experts. When pressed to show some evidence, any evidence, in support of the most contentious aspects of the bill, the Minister circles back to the comfort of his original talking points. Which are based on no evidence at all. It is surreal.

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(What is the Fair Elections Act? Read The Globe and Mail’s easy explanation)

The Conservative government is attempting to rewrite the fundamental law of our democratic system, against the will of the opposition, the experts, the non-partisan body in charge of elections, and the facts. What’s the government got in response? Willpower. That’s it. We are being pushed through the looking glass.

Mr. Poilievre was dispatched late last week and over the weekend to make the talk-show rounds, and the cycle of assertion by talking points, denial of evidence and rejection of opponents continued, all with an able smile. He told CTV’s Question Period that, despite almost universal criticism, “it is a very fair and reasonable bill.” When asked whether he’d consider amendments, he said it was “too early to say.” (In a few weeks, it will be too late.) When asked why he wasn’t listening to Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, the man entrusted by Parliament with the job of running elections, and the bill’s most prominent critic, Mr. Poilievre said, “I disagree with his proposals, quite frankly.” Why? Because.

“I believe that we’ve made the right policy decisions on this bill and I stand by them,” he said on CBC’s Power and Politics. “I think they are supported by the evidence.” He cited no actual evidence. But he did have to face a lot of contrary evidence, including that the elimination of vouching and the use of voter-information cards could disenfranchise as many as half a million eligible voters. “The more I hear from Elections Canada on this particular point,” said Mr. Poilievre, “the more convinced I become that we need to get rid of vouching.” Why? Because.

On a matter of democratic principles, which should be above partisanship, the government feels no need to work with the other parties, to consider proof or to provide it, to consult experts or, god forbid, to listen to them. It is government disconnected from the rules of evidence, and it points the way to government disconnected from the rules.

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