Saturday November 22, 2014

EDITORIAL: Election act changes are welcome

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Voters in the next federal election in Canada should find the process easier, and illegal robocalls should now be a thing of the past, with the creation of a new Commissioner of elections to investigate violations of Canada’s election laws.

These are just a few of the changes that are being put in place with the new “Fair Elections Act” being put in place by the Conservative government in advance of the next election, set for 2015.

The question will be, of course, are the new laws in fact “fair”, to voters, to candidates and to the parties?

One of the intents of the legislation is to make it easier to allow Canadians to donate to the party of their choice, and to continue keeping unions and corporate donations out so there is no spectre of “vote-buying” through huge donations to parties.

The donation limit was raised by five per cent, which will be a benefit to all of the candidates and parties in the next election.

A welcome aspect of the new legislation is that the new Commissioner is to be separate from Elections Canada, which is the body that sets up and regulates the federal election process. In addition, there are stronger penalties available for those who violate the election laws, providing more strength to the bodies which regulate the election process to make it fair for everybody and for every party and candidate.

Even more welcome are new rules in regards to the robocalls; they aren’t being prohibited as such, but the requirements to use them will be much stricter. What may not be welcome is that the rules to vote may be more stringent in that photo ID will be required of all voters, and this rule may disenfranchise some people who don’t have photo ID in their possession. In Saskatchewan, there are photo IDs available for those who do not have a driver’s licence, but there is a cost to it.

For residents of Western Canada, one of the good aspects of the new rules is the lifting of the ban on releasing election results as they come available from Eastern Canada. According to the Supreme Court, this was a violation of freedom of speech, which over-rode the concern that people who could still vote in the western provinces might be influenced by knowing how the election is going in the East.

In the end, there should not be any repeat of some of the shameful shenanigans that occurred in the last federal election, but it should be a fair and open process that will benefit everyone equally.

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