Fair? Aim higher
I found myself nodding in agreement as I read your editorial, Fair Elections Act – Fixed, But Still Flawed (May 24). Indeed, Canadian democracy can and should aim higher.
In theory, the Senate could yet address Bill C-23’s remaining flaws, but political logic and partisan expectations will undoubtedly limit the application of serious and sober second thought. Fortunately, or fatefully, the Elections Act will need to be reformed again following the next general election scheduled for October, 2015.
The compliance problems in Etobicoke Centre during the 2011 election, which led to the Neufeld report I was commissioned to write, demonstrated very clearly that Canada is urgently in need of a new model for providing voting services to citizens.
The current Canadian voting-administration model has served since Confederation, but its best-before-date occurred some time in the past century. Whichever party forms the government will undoubtedly be encouraged by the Chief Electoral Officer to give priority to addressing the legal framework changes needed to introduce a new voting services model (for use in 2019) that creates an appropriate balance between citizens’ access to the ballot, electoral-process integrity and reasonable costs of delivery.
Careful study, wide consultation and consensus among parliamentarians will be appropriate in developing the necessary amendments to election law.
One hopes some lessons about how not to draft, amend or pass changes to the Canada Elections Act will be remembered from the stormy winter and spring of 2014.
Harry Neufeld, formerly chief electoral officer of B.C., author of the Neufeld report – Compliance Review: A Review of Compliance with Election Day Registration and Voting Process Rules
The Pope, the wall
Re Unexpected Prayers For Peace (May 26): It is most profoundly offensive for Pope Francis to have stepped out of his entourage to pay homage to the separation wall in Bethlehem and to pray against it as if it were Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, the last standing residue of the Jewish Temple. He could not have missed the graffiti: “Bethlehem look (sic) like Warsaw ghetto.”
That wall, as ugly as it is, has saved many Jewish lives. Prior to its being built, it was through Bethlehem that Arab terrorists would freely enter Jerusalem to blow up Jewish Israeli civilians. The Warsaw ghetto, in contrast, was a holding pen for Polish Jews under conditions of starvation and disease before their eventual extermination at Auschwitz.
There is no comparison between Bethlehem and the Warsaw ghetto, and the Pope’s actions give assent to that supposed comparison.
This action of his (in addition to other matters) disqualifies the Pope and his church to be a moral compass for the world.
Alex P. Korn, Toronto
Where the jobs are
Re Thousands Of Approvals Belie Labour Shortage Claims (May 26): On the phone to a telecom provider on the weekend trying to straighten out a technical program, I was connected to someone who, although polite, could not help me a bit. When I asked where she was, she said India. Trying again, I reached another person, equally civil, but only marginally helpful.
Could someone please distinguish for me the difference between this and other companies’ “outsourcing” and the temporary foreign worker program?
Bill Boyd, Lakefield, Ont.
The revelations in Sean Fine’s article – High Court Drama (May 24) – are deeply disturbing.
When four of the names on the government’s short list to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court are members of the Federal Court rather than the Quebec bench or bar, and when the government appoints lawyers like former minister of public safety Vic Toews to a provincial superior court, it is clear that the government is guided by a political agenda rather than considerations of merit and diversity, with potentially serious consequences for the rule of law, judicial independence and the protection of minorities.
It is to be hoped that these revelations will alert Canadians to the urgent need to depoliticize the process of federal judicial appointments by transferring the power to determine who gets on the short list from the federal cabinet to an independent commission, as is the case in Ontario and the U.K.
Bruce Ryder, associate professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
A letter writer asks: What will the the PM do next? (Supremely Dismayed – May 26). I suspect that if the tyrant running this poor country is in long enough, we can expect a sponsorship scandal, maybe an employment insurance scandal, even a Shawinigate scandal. Perhaps a helicopter scandal for good measure.
Yes, we are in very bad hands: Maybe what we need is a young, powerful, confident and fiercely independent liberal who won’t be directed by the bishops of a once-proud party.
Jim Davis, Halifax
None of the above
Re Ontario’s ‘None Of The Above’ Election (May 24): While “none of the above” doesn’t appear explicitly on the ballot, Ontario voters can “decline” their ballot, which essentially amounts to the same thing.
Distinct from either spoiling your ballot (which will get counted together with voting “accidents”) or abstinence (which merely turns you into a statistic), declining your ballot can be a delightfully deliberate and distinctly productive electoral act. You have to accept your ballot from the clerk, then hand it right back saying you decline to vote. You can do this as dramatically as you like. Declined ballots are counted separately from all other ballots.
Mark Henschel, Toronto
Jeffrey Simpson predicts voter turnout for Ontario’s June 12 election will be the lowest ever because people will be confronting three mediocre choices.
Meanwhile, a letter writer bemoans the lack of political courage “to challenge the outmoded and unjustifiable folly of favouring one religion with its own publicly funded school system” (Election Ghosts Abound – May 24).
Both need to consider that there are more than three parties in this election. Plus, the Green Party’s platform calls for merging the public and separate school boards. Maybe Green is the new “none of the above.”
Phil Soublière, Ottawa
Re Few Food-Truck Owners Pick Up New Mobile Permits (May 24): Sorry to learn we won’t see the deftly named Frankie Fettuccine and Fidel Gastro’s on Toronto’s streets.
But hey, the field is still wide open for those with imagination. How about Sam Wich, Rin Din-Din or The Munchkins?
Better yet, might be fun to see A-Ford-Ables, and The EaTory. Maybe even Olivia Chow-down?
Gordon S. Findlay, Toronto