Fair vs. unfair
The Harper government’s latest assault on democratic ideals and practices with its proposed Fair Elections Act, while roundly criticized, is at least consistent in its semantic tactics with earlier attacks, notably in the 2006 Federal Accountability Act.
As the Fair Elections Act has nothing to do with fairness principles, the Accountability Act is unaccountably silent on accountability principles, adopting Lewis Carroll’s rationale in Through the Looking Glass: “ ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ ”
Neil Burk, Nepean, Ont.
The smugness of our government is something to behold. In Pierre Poilievre’s article defending the (Un)fair Elections Act, the Minister for Democratic Reform ignores one of its more egregious aspects: taking the appointment of deputy returning officers from Elections Canada and giving it to the political parties (Why The Fair Elections Act Is, In Fact, Fair – March 24). Since this government has a majority in Parliament, it will have a majority of deputy returning officers.
Assume an election were being held in a developing country and the process required government-appointed election officers to be in charge of the ballot boxes between advance voting day and the final count. What would be the assumption here? That it was a fair process? That the final result would be accurate? Of course not.
Why should we accept such a flawed process in a country that prides itself in being an open democracy?
Manuel Buchwald, Toronto
The job of political parties is to get their candidates elected and they use a variety of techniques to accomplish that. One of them is discouraging voting for other candidates.
This technique is diametrically opposed to encouraging widespread voter turnout and thus uniquely disqualifies political parties from taking that job away from its current non-partisan home.
Mark Jones, Toronto
Pierre Poilievre is quite selective in his reading of Election Canada’s compliance report. Nowhere in the report does it suggest eliminating vouching.
Rather, the report suggests that the procedures currently in place are too complicated and need to be simplified to prevent errors from occurring. It states explicitly “there was judicial agreement that, despite the presence of ‘irregularities,’ there was no evidence of fraud or ineligible voters being provided ballots.”
The bill put forth by Mr. Poilievre attempts to wipe out fraud where none exists, at the expense of potentially disenfranchising a substantial number of voters (100,000, according to the compliance report’s author, Harry Neufeld). That these voters are less likely to be supporters of the Conservative Party makes this change to election rules all the more questionable.
If this Election Act is so clearly reasonable and fair, why is the Conservative Party trying to push it through without allowing for proper debate?
Dan Schrier, Victoria
As citizens of Canada are required to provide photo identification to board an airplane or purchase an alcoholic beverage, is it really that onerous to require them to prove their identity in a similar fashion when selecting a government?
Philip Smith, Toronto
Re Harper Has Not Closed Door On Nadon Appointment (March 24): Even a hint of finding a backdoor route to get Marc Nadon on the Supreme Court would be cause for glee by the PQ and a bombshell in the Quebec election. Surely Stephen Harper will not put his bruised ego ahead of his country’s welfare?
Rochelle Fournier, Montreal
Sanctions’ other side
What upright moral leaders we North Americans believe we are in attempting to corral world support in threatening Russia for its takeover of Crimea (PM Pushes For G7 Move On Russia – March 24). How different would our attitude be, if we were as beholden to Russian gas and oil shipments as are the European countries facing the cold and dark next winter? That could be their lot if Vladimir Putin plays hard ball.
If we really expect hesitant European countries to follow our increasingly hard line in placing financial controls on the regimes of Mr. Putin and Viktor Yanukovych, what thought have we put into assuring Europeans of the replacement of the fuel which these countries may well need? Could such replacements even be possible in the time available?
Not to offer help to Europe in its potential need is not to be realistic. Mr. Putin appears to want a fight without a war. Are we prepared?
Laurence Wade, Ottawa
You’ll know that Stephen Harper is serious about sanctions when he revokes the visas of Russians playing for Canadian NHL teams.
Grant Woods, Winnipeg
Rx for pot plants
Re Wary Doctors Pressed Into Prescribing Medical Pot (March 24): There are good reasons why doctors are reluctant to prescribe marijuana. These include all the problems with prescribing whole plants as medicines, including the thousands of other chemicals delivered in addition to the intended active ingredient, variations in the potency of the active ingredient, making accurate dosing impossible, and issues of purity.
There is no reason to think smoking marijuana is any safer than smoking tobacco. If used at all, marijuana plants should be consumed only orally (for example, in brownies).
Evidence for the benefit of marijuana is limited; belief, no matter how strongly held, does not qualify as evidence. There are pure, properly tested drugs containing the active cannabinoid ingredients of marijuana, and those may be reasonable candidates for prescription.
Prescribing whole plants for the purpose of smoking them cannot be regarded as a reasonable thing to ask of physicians.
J. David Spence, MD, professor of neurology and clinical pharmacology, Robarts Research Institute
Re Internal Smears Took Down Redford (March 22): The perpetrators of the smear campaign against Alison Redford may feel that they have succeeded in assassinating her reputation, but what they’ve actually assassinated is the collective reputation of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and caucus, now under suspicion of gender bigotry, small-mindedness and malice.
John Alston, Calgary
It’s one thing to ignore the elephant in the room, quite another to seek to deny its existence. The resignation of two of our female premiers within the past six months is no mere coincidence.
The prevalent male political culture demands much of a woman and forgives little, while being far more tolerant of male faults.
Etienne Saint-Aubin, Cornwall, Ont.
Re Hughes Tests Albertans’ Support For Premiership Bid (March 22): Is Ken Hughes a “nice” gentleman – an important criterion to be premier of Alberta.
Patricia Edwards, Toronto