Tories muzzling Elections Canada

Last week, my time away from the riding was spent working on two very different issues: the proposed new undemocratic elections law that was hastily introduced by the Conservative government and the future development of the “Ring of Fire.”
At the start of the week, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper tabled Bill C-23, which directly targets the head of Elections Canada by reducing his power to investigate complaints and communicate with the public.
If C-23 passes, it also will prevent Elections Canada from engaging in any campaigns to increase voter turnout and actually make it more difficult for many Canadian citizens to vote—the ones who don’t usually vote for the Conservative Party, of course.
That’s right. As they face numerous criminal charges for using “robocalls” to misinform Liberal and NDP voters in Guelph about the location of their voting station, accepting illegal corporate donations, and overspending on at least three campaigns (and who already have pleaded guilty to illegally transferring money between ridings and their central campaign to undermine the spending ceiling), the Harper Conservatives have decided it is just easier to declare war on Elections Canada than to obey the law.
Bill C-23 is huge–242 pages in all–would change the role and responsibilities of Elections Canada which, of course, was not consulted on the drafting of this bill about elections.
The most shocking outcomes of the bill that I have seen so far include the fact that Elections Canada will be barred from engaging in any communication with the Canadian public designed to increase voter turnout.
It also would give new powers to the unelected and unaccountable Canadian Senate by allowing it to “veto” any new voting practices (i.e., electronic voting) or other changes to the voting process, and would disenfranchise poor, homeless, aboriginal, student, and youth voters by tightening identification rules (a practice known as “voter suppression”).
The last half of the week was more positive as I hosted many NDP MPs in Thunder Bay prior to heading out on a tour of the “Ring of Fire.”
On Thursday, I was joined by MPs Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt), our aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder (Nanaimo-Cowichen), and our deputy leader Megan Leslie (Halifax) for a town-hall meeting that focused on how to develop the “Ring of Fire” in a profitable and environmentally-responsible way, with the support and approval of the First Nations’ communities that live in the area and who hold claim over much of the territory.
The four of us then were joined Friday by others for a tour of the region, including NDP natural resources critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster), Romeo Saganash (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou), and Mike Mantha, the NDP MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin.
Together, we are touring the region with several stops, include a meeting with the Matawa Tribal Council, Eabametoongn First Nation, and a site visit to KWG’s Koper Lake chromite mine, among others.
So overall it was a week of minuses and pluses.

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