Professors criticize proposed changes

By Kris Dube / News Editor
March 19, 2014
Professors criticize proposed changes

ST. CATHARINES - Political scientists at Brock University are saying proposed changes to Canada's election laws are a threat to the country's democratic traditions.

The federal government is pitching its Fair Elections Act, which proposes a number of changes to existing legislation such as eliminating voter information cards as one of two pieces of required identification at the polls, transferring the enforcement arm of the agency - headed by the Commissioner of Elections - from Elections Canada to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In the bill, it is also proposed that the amount supporters can donate to a given campaign per calendar year is increased from $1,200 to $1,500 and that an individual can contribute $5,000 to his or her own campaign, instead of $1,200.

There is also a recommendation to scrap the practice of an eligible voter to 'vouch' for the identity of those without substantial identification. Professors at the university argue this could cut out a vulnerable segment of the population such as students, seniors living in long-term care facilities, First Nations people and those who have recently moved.

“What is particularly worrisome about the proposed Fair Elections Act, especially the new restrictions banning the practice of "vouching" for those voters without standard forms of identification, is the way that it disguises a partisan agenda behind seemingly neutral language,” says assistant professor Stefan Dolgert.

Janique Dubois, another assistant professor at Brock, agrees the potential legislation changes in Ottawa would be harmful to the election process.

“Bill C-23 would make it harder for already marginalized Canadians to vote, gives the Conservatives an unfair advantage and disempowers Elections Canada from safeguarding our country’s democratic processes,” she said.

Dubois and Dolgert were two of four Brock University professors – and more than 150 scholars across the country – who signed an open letter to the Prime Minister last week.