'Fair' may not be the right word

If you were to ask any Canadian how to make Canada's electoral system fair, most could suggest a few ideas. Addressing the dismal voter turnout rate, the rising campaign costs, negative advertising, or the absurdity of a system in which a party can win a majority by capturing less than 40 per cent of the popular vote are all worthy places to start.

Unfortunately a new bill proposed by the Conservative government recently called the Fair Elections Act proposes no such changes.

Instead, the legislation will require registered voters to present more ID on election day, increase campaign contribution limits and sterilize Elections Canada.

As the government agency responsible for running elections and enforcing rules, Elections Canada's neutrality and oversight abilities should be paramount. Under the Fair Elections Act, however, the organization will be prohibited from investigating allegations of electoral fraud. Any such investigations will be carried out by the Justice Department, a ministry that is directly accountable to whichever government is in power.

Marc Mayrand, Canada's chief electoral officer, said he considers the bill an affront to democracy.

Of even greater concern is the Conservative Party's desire to rush the bill through Parliament with as little debate and consultation as possible.

It's not surprising that MP Elizabeth May of the Green Party is concerned about the Fair Elections Act, but when a fellow like Andrew Coyne, one of the country's more right-leaning political pundits, describes the legislation with adjectives like "curious," "absurd," and "bizarre," it's time to take notice.

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