First, the good news: organizing works.
While the Unfair Elections Act passed third reading in the House of Commons this week, it could have been much worse. The campaign to stop the bill has already made a difference and we’re not done yet.
The government was intent on passing a truly horrible piece of legislation. But because of public pressure, the government has backed down on some of the worst elements of the bill.
Since February, the Council of Canadians has been campaigning to stop the Unfair Elections Act. We built a common front to stop the bill, in partnership with a broad range of allies, including the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Leadnow, human rights and civil liberties groups, peace and environmental organizations, trade unions, anti-poverty and social justice groups and more.
The Council has organized and supported a range of actions including:
- Publishing an open letter signed by high profile individuals and organizations.
- Organizing a Democracy 24/7 petition signed by tens of thousands.
- Delivering our petition with allies and getting it tabled in Parliament.
- Presenting at the Parliamentary Committee studying the bill.
- Applying pressure to Conservative MPs to vote against the bill
- Taking to the streets in two days of action in March and April.
- Jointly commissioning a public opinion poll (with CFS and Leadnow) that found a majority of Canadians opposed key provisions in the original bill, several of which were removed or weakened (though some remain in the amended version).
- Engaging over 1 million Canadians through social media ads, thanks to the generous donations of our supporters.
Now for the bad news.
While our campaigning has made a difference, there are still many problems with the amended bill that is now making its way through the Senate.
The Unfair Elections Act still has the potential to disenfranchise thousands of voters and still stacks the deck in Harper’s favour for the next federal election.
Some provisions in the bill may also impact four upcoming federal by-elections in June (which are already conveniently timed to suppress votes) if it becomes law in time.
The Unfair Elections Act still doesn’t address the widespread, orchestrated 2011 election fraud (which was allegedly the original reason for the bill in the first place) and would make it easier to get away with election fraud in the future.
And so our work is not yet done. We still have a chance to stop the Unfair Elections Act, which means we must not relent in our vocal opposition to this dangerous legislation.
It will likely be an uphill battle to take the campaign to defend democracy in Canada to the Senate, given the institution is not the most democratic to begin with. But we’ve faced long odds before and won.
You can take action now by calling on the Senate to kill the bill. Our democracy depends on it.