With the Harper Administration flailing on C-23, Conservative MPs need to check themselves

Yesterday in the House of Commons, Conservative Members of Parliament Pierre Poilievre (Minister of State for Democratic Reform) and Ted Opitz accused Elizabeth May, and the Green Party of Canada, of misrepresenting the photo ID provisions in the Canada Elections Act, with Opitz going so far as stating that she is seeking to advance a “deliberately misleading narrative”, with regard to the Conservatives’ much maligned Bill C-23.

Opitz stated, “In fact, I would like to quote a press release from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands… the leader of the Green Party states, ‘To improve voter turnout, we should repeal all the changes, including the photo ID requirement, that make it harder for young people, First Nations, the poor, and seniors to vote.’” He continued, “That sounds a lot like the motion we are debating today. There is just one problem: no photo ID requirement exists in the current Elections Canada Act, and the fair elections act does not propose it.” Opitz is wrong.

The press release, which can be found here, refers to Section 143(2) of the Canada Elections Act, which states:

(2) If the poll clerk determines that the elector’s name and address appear on the list of electors or that the elector is allowed to vote under section 146, 147, 148 or 149, then, subject to subsection (3), the elector shall provide to the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk the following proof of his or her identity and residence:

(a) one piece of identification issued by a Canadian government, whether federal, provincial or local, or an agency of that government, that contains a photograph of the elector and his or her name and address; or

(b) two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer each of which establish the elector’s name and at least one of which establishes the elector’s address.

“It is important to highlight that voters without photo identification do have other options to cast their ballot, but those secondary options also pose challenges. A student could bring a birth certificate and a student ID card, both among the 39 pieces of acceptable ID listed, and still not be allowed to vote. The 2007 Harper rules create barriers and confusion,” said Elizabeth May. “One of the most important alternatives for people without photo ID has been the option for vouching, which the Conservatives are now trying to eliminate.”

Given that no evidence exists of voter fraud in Canada, and that voter turnout continues to fall, the Green Party of Canada believes that any reform to the Elections Canada Act must make voting easier for Canadians, rather than significantly more difficult as the Conservatives propose to do with Bill C-23.