It’s Canada Day, and we ask Canadians to reflect on the state of our democracy.
Canadians have experienced our democratic processes going awry — from the 2011 robocall scandal to the increasing intrusion on our privacy through warrantless data collection, to the actions of the PMO in the Senate expenses scandal. Perhaps the most illustrative, however, is the process we recently went through with the Fair Elections Act (FEA).
The current government ignored legitimate and widespread criticism of the FEA until the final days before the bill was voted on in Parliament. It attacked such critics of the bill as the widely respected Sheila Fraser, Canada’s former Auditor General, and Marc Mayrand, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer.
And while significant amendments were made, Elections Canada was not granted the power to compel testimony, although this was one of the key reasons why the bill was called for in the first place. In fact, we have recently learned that the inability to compel testimony during investigations for the robocall scandal may have prevented Elections Canada from determining all the facts of the case.
So, after all of the sound and fury, what do we have now? Have our democratic institutions actually been strengthened? Can we say with certainty that the fraud that occurred during the 2011 election campaign will not be repeated in 2015? We cannot.
As we celebrate our country’s 147th year, we encourage you to join with us to strengthen our democracy by doing the following:
When the next election is called, please contact your federal candidates to ask them to pledge to repeal the Fair Elections Act. Ask them to bring in election legislation that truly does address the many concerns raised by elections experts, ordinary citizens and the three federal opposition parties.
Vote. And when you do, choose a candidate/party that will stand up for your democratic rights, not quietly take them away.
We write to you as Canadians who deeply believe in an Elections Act that safeguards our democracy. Together, all of us can leave a stronger democratic legacy for our children and give Canada a memorable 150th birthday present.