I write this blog for a number of reasons, the most important one being the hope that I might contribute a little something to the general body of knowledge on political and social issues. The progressive blogosphere seems especially well-informed, and I often find myself reading sources and commentary that would have otherwise escaped my attention. So in that sense, I write for my fellow-bloggers.
Another audience I always hope to reach consists of those who may have come upon my blog seredipitously; they may see a perspective that offers some food for thought, which in turn may lead some into additional avenues of inquiry. While that may sound like a somewhat grandiose aspiration, one lives in hope.
Finally, I find writing a blog cathartic. Rather than simply allowing passions, anger, frustration and outrage to roil about internally, writing is a way of trying to create something positive out of, let's face it, negative issues (politics, corporate depredations, exploitation, etc. ad nauseam
I wrote the above preface because my topic today is Ed Broadbent's op-ed piece
in today's Star, in which he offers a withering assessment of the 'Fair' Elections Act. While his critique breaks no new ground and his points are likely well-known to those of us well-acquainted with Herr Harper's tactics and world-view, I offer some of them here in the spirit of the above:
Broadbent begins with the following:For many months the Conservative government has blatantly taken away by fiat the right to strike of union members within federal jurisdiction. They are now threatening to shut down environmental charities that are talking about climate change. And they are ramming through Parliament changes to the elections act that will almost certainly mean that many thousands of Canadians will not be able to vote.
Taken in the aggregate, these measures, he asserts, are an unprecedented attack on our fundamental rights, restricting as they do freedom of association, freedom of speech, and our right to vote.Inspired by the tried and tested voter suppression tactics used by the Republicans to disenfranchise marginalized groups in the U.S., the new election law would make it harder for certain groups to vote. The law would end the ability to “vouch” for the bona fides of a neighbour, a tool that allowed 120,000 voters — disproportionately aboriginal, youth and seniors — to cast ballots in the last election.
Among the other measures in the Act that will limit, not expand, democratic participation:
- The Prohibition of Voter-identification Cards
: Elections Canada had only in the last few years piloted the use of the cards to make it easier to cast a ballot at polling sites serving seniors’ residences, long-term care facilities, aboriginal reserves and on-campus student residences.
Clearly that kind of easy enfranchisement is anathema to the Harper cabal.
- Limiting Elections Canada's Outreach Program
will prohibit it from encouraging people to vote. Gone would be its ability to support programs in our schools, like Student Vote’s mock elections, or the outreach work in aboriginal communities.
- Removing Elections Canada's Power to Investigate Electoral Crime
will mean that things like robocall fraud will be be beyond its purview.
I hope you will take the opportunity to read Broadbent's entire piece, but I will leave you with two more of his observations:It is fitting, then, that the new election law is being rammed through Parliament. Once more, Harper is using closure — a way to end debate early — to prevent people asking, for example, why school programs that teach kids how to vote are so bad. Why let MPs actually debate democracy when it’s not valuable enough to educate children about? Having spent more than two decades in the House of Commons, I can think of no prime minister who has been so focused on undermining electoral participation and public debate.
I suspect few would dispute Ed Broadbent's analysis or his conclusions.