The list of people the Conservatives claim cannot be trusted to opine on electoral reform grows – encompassing almost everyone who knows anything about elections.
Should the government relent and revisit Bill C-23, the electoral reform bill they're currently ramming through Parliament, they'll be reduced to consulting the possum living under my barbecue.
This week, Pierre Poilievre, Minister for Democratic Reform, dismissed the Chief Electoral Officer's well-articulated concerns about Bill C-23: Marc Mayrand (a Harper appointee) is only critical of the bill, sneered Mr. Poilievre, because "he wants more power, a bigger budget and less accountability."
That's a striking statement given that Bill C-23 would exempt calls made to previous donors from campaign spending limits while increasing allowable contributions overall – leading to a bigger budget for the Conservatives. It would also permit the party that secured the most votes in a riding to nominate its central poll supervisors – giving the Conservatives more power. And the bill fails to give Elections Canada any of the tools it requested to investigate robo-calls or campaign finance irregularities – all but ensuring less accountability for the Conservatives.
(What is the Fair Elections Act? Read The Globe and Mail's easy explanation)
If Mr. Poilievre were in therapy, one might accuse him of "projecting."
Former auditor general Sheila Fraser – surely one of the most trusted people in Canada – also testified this week in Parliament that Bill C-23 risks weakening the public's "faith in government, in chief electoral officers or our democratic system." Various Conservatives insinuated she was in the tank for Elections Canada.
Elections Canada! Benign and independent since its inception, the agency that admittedly didn't like those robo-calls and successfully prosecuted the "in-and-out" affair, has now become Canada's Illuminati, a dark force to be defeated, another NDP. Indeed, Conservative Senator Linda Frum said on Twitter, "Elections Canada should not have a vested interest in recording a high voter turnout. That's a conflict."
It's true that Ms. Fraser sat alongside other credible experts on Elections Canada's advisory board and, yes, one does get paid for these efforts, despite the fact that Treasury Board President Tony Clement insisted "ordinary Canadians" aren't interested in the input of "self-styled experts."
When Mr. Clement said this, he was referring to the likes of former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who served in that position for 17 years – that flim-flam man.
Mr. Kingsley has said that by eliminating vouching, whereby someone in the same polling division swears to a voter's name and address, Bill C-23 will "directly affect the constitutional right to vote of a significant number of Canadians without justification." Many others, at home and abroad, with vast knowledge of election reform have expressed similar concerns about this aspect of the legislation.
However, the elimination of vouching (a provision that would likely not stand a constitutional challenge) is perhaps a distraction from aspects of the legislation that may indelibly tilt our electoral tables in favour of incumbent governments.
Our current government has, in a rather unseemly manner, curtailed debate on the act and put all hands on deck to promote it, led by Cabin Boy (cannon fodder?) Poilievre.
For more than four weeks, Mr. Poilievre has stood dutifully in the house and defended his despised bill, arguably becoming one of the most disliked men in Canada.
I may one day forgive the current government for cancelling the long-form census (I can be sentimental about hard data) but I'll never forgive them for making me feel sorry for Pierre Poilievre. And I have those moments.
I find myself wondering how Mr. Poilievre's sleeping at night. Is he eating okay? How credible does Mr. Poilievre find Mr. Poilievre, and does that help? Does he really believe that Mr. Mayrand is essentially playing some sort of grand-scale petty office politics with Canada's democratic system?
Is he truly convinced that on some level this is about Fisheries and Oceans perhaps having better staplers than Elections Canada? And that Mr. Mayrand's nefarious budget-padding scheme is aided by the likes of Ms. Fraser and former British Columbia Elections Chief Harry Neufeld, whose report Mr. Poilievre B.C.-cherry-picked from – much to Mr. Neufeld's dismay.
Was Mr. Poilievre shocked when Conservative Senator Thomas McInnis retracted his claim, made earlier this week, that he'd "personally" seen "on the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth" roving gangs who are gathered up one by one by people who "take them right in and almost mark their ballot," and, adding to Treasury of Later Retracted Tory Election Fraud Stories, that there are "thousands and thousands" of them?
Does Mr. Poilievre call around the caucus at night checking to see if any other MPs witnessed vast public voter fraud on the way home? Then stare out the window, watching?
Editor's note: The print version and an earlier online version of this article misspelled Marc Mayrand's name repeatedly. This version has been corrected.