|Photo of Bill C-23, Amendment to Canada Elections Act, First Reading before the Canadian House of Commons|
Since its confederation in 1867, Canada has been stuck in a representative democracy mode, in which the Canadian people are merely consulted, at best, on profound issues which affect all Canadians, and they are given one vote each in federal elections every four years or so, and the opportunity to run as candidates in these elections.
The FDA and DAPC believes that the current Canadian federal government is a top-down elitist system of governance. Bill-C-23 "Fair Election Act" showcases this top-down approach and a number of flaws with the Canadian federal system:
- The majority ruling party, with the support of its caucus, has final say over legislation before the House of Commons subject to consistency with the Canadian Constitution.
- The majority ruling party determines the laws of federal elections despite the conflict of interest of being a participant in them.
- There is no legal mandate on the majority ruling party to empower Canadians via referendums on decisions which affect all Canadians, such as which take places in countries like Switzerland and even Venezuela.
- There are no federal recall mechanisms to allow Canadians to remove Members of Parliament and Senators, including the Prime Minister.
- Due to the First-Past-the-Post system, a minority government like the Conservative Party of Canada can form a majority ruling party although it does not really represent a majority of Canadians.
Bill C-23 "Fair Elections Act" illustrates the undemocratic impact of Canada's federal system of governance.
I am not going into all the details of this 244 page document. Instead I will focus on what is not in the document, and some significant items that are in the document.
First off, I believe the notion "Fair Elections Act" is a form of Orwellian doublespeak with the likely intent to deceive Canadians as to the true intent of this Act. Case in point, if the amended Elections Act was truly fair to all registered parties and Canadians as a whole, there would be no reason to call it "Fair".
Bill C-23 "Fair Elections Act"
What is not in the Act
- There is no section which promotes a fair and equal playing field of registered parties.
- There is no section which encourages broad and balanced media campaign coverage during the election period.
- There is no section which encourages and supports new registered political parties such as the 1 percent public subsidy rule in France.
- There is no section which encourages fair and equal campaign finances between registered parties.
- There is no section which allows all registered parties to participate in the two national debates such as in New Zealand. There is no mention of the national debates.
- There is no section which establishes a fair distribution of public funds to all registered parties. The 2 percent and 5 percent rule favours large established parties over new and small parties.
- There is no section which deals with the significant shortcomings of the first-past-the-post system of valuing votes.
- There is no section which bans the use of "robo-calls" or at least sets usage limits on them during the election period.
What is in the Act
- The Canadian-Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, rather than Elections Canada, is responsible for administration and enforcement of robo call legislation. (This amendment weakens the authority of Elections Canada over federal elections, and it allows a potentially partisan government body to oversee an aspect of federal elections.)
- Contributions by candidates to their own campaigns have increased from $1, 000.00 to $5,000 for candidates and $1,000 to $25,000 for leadership candidates. (This amendment allows leadership candidates to have a potential distinct electoral finance advantage, and the amendment overall favours wealthy candidates over less wealthy candidates.)
- The current campaign expenditure limits of $2.07 for each of the first 15,000 electors, $1.04 for each of the next 10,000 electors, and $0.52 for each of the remaining electors is replaced by $0.735 for each of the electors. Although this amendment simplifies the calculation, it does not account for the difference in number of electors per square kilometers between rural and urban areas, and the increased cost of campaigning in rural areas. If there are 100,000 electors in an electoral district, under current legislation that would results in $84,500 campaign expenditure limit; under the amendment, it would result in $73,500.
- As in the current Act, the Canadian public subsidizes registered parties 50 percent of their campaign expenses subject to the 2 percent and 5 percent rule. This rule favours large established parties over new and small parties. There are no provisions to phase out the public subsidies, instead the legislation stops at a quarterly allowance of $0.1275 multiplied by number valid votes cast in election as of April 1, 2014.
- The Receiver General shall reimbursement 60 percent (less partial installment) of election and personal expenses of candidates who are elected and/or received at least 10 percent of the electoral district vote. This provision favours candidates of large, established parties over candidates of new and small parties.
- Commissioner of Canada Elections oversees election complaints and enforcement. The Commissioner is appointed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Chief Electoral Officer has no say as to who the Commissioner is. The Director of Public Prosecutions is overseen by the Attorney General of Canada who is appointed by the Prime Minister. (The provision weakens significantly the role of Elections Canada in administering elections and enforcing the Elections Act, and allows potentially a partisan individual to oversee election complaints and enforcement.)
What do you think?
Mr. Stephen Garvey, Founder and Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement and Elected Interim Leader of the Democratic Advancement Party of Canada (DAPC)