The Conservative government has watered down and backed off the Fair Elections Act, but even the proposed changes to it haven’t tempered the anger of We the People.
The ad hoc New Democratic group still opposes the bill and says the government should start over.
The group held a town hall meeting Tuesday, including speakers from LeadNow, drawing about 40 people, said former Maple Ridge councillor Craig Speirs.
“Definitely, the Conservatives are lost to reason. They’re going to force this through.”
People don’t want the Canada Elections Act to be rewritten unilaterally. Instead, all parties and Elections Canada need to have input, he said.
One of the most controversial points was the proposal to remove the process of vouching on voting day, in which someone accompanying a voter who has no ID swears to the identity of that person.
Opponents said that could prevent low-income people from voting.
But despite a long list of amendments to mollify criticism, vouching still won’t be permitted under a water-down version of the bill, now before a House of Commons committee.
“The NDP continues to think that you should be able to vote without ID and we didn’t think that was reasonable,” said Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp.
“We don’t see a lot of opposition to the main things that we’re proposing.”
Polls show most people support the measures.
Under the new amendments, people will still need two pieces of identification. If that doesn’t show their address, they can swear an oath about their residence.
But Kamp said the final bill depends on which of the several amendments are accepted in committee.
“I think they have been responsive to reasonable suggestions made by a variety of sources.”
Another amendment removes what could have been a huge loophole in election expenses by eliminating fundraising expenses.
Under the initial Fair Elections Act, the only role of the chief electoral officer would be to inform the public of when, where, and how to vote; but under the amendments, the officer can tell people how to become candidates and support education programs for schools.
However, central polling supervisors still would be appointed by a riding’s incumbent candidate or the candidate’s party.
Kamp said the amendments should be through committee by the end of summer.
“It’s an adversarial system that we live in here. The official Opposition was searching for something to oppose. We weren’t hearing a lot of opposition from Canadians at large.”
Speirs, though, said the new act will make it more difficult for people to vote.
“Why in this day and age should we be making it more difficult for people to vote?”
He said some of the changes made were “helpful,” but says the legislation is flawed.
Writing an elections act should be a non-partisan process, he added.
“It’s all about voter suppression. It’s a cynical and nasty ploy on the public. Hopefully the public is paying attention.”
We the People is having another demonstration in front of Kamp’s office on Lougheed Highway on Saturday, May 10 at 1 p.m.