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In normal times, under a normal government, the Fair Elections Act would have been withdrawn by now, or at least be in serious trouble. The past few weeks have seen the bill denounced as a threat to democracy by the chief electoral officer, the former chief electoral officer, several provincial elections officials, academic experts domestic and foreign, and newspaper editorials across the country.

Thursday they were joined by Harry Neufeld, the former chief electoral officer of British Columbia and the author of an inquiry into irregularities in the 2011 election. Mr. Neufeld’s report has been much quoted by the minister responsible, Pierre Poilievre, in particular to support his contention that the bill’s ban on “vouching” — allowing one voter to affirm another’s eligibility to vote in a riding, in cases where the usual documentation is lacking — was needed to prevent voter fraud.

But as Mr. Neufeld told a parliamentary committee studying the bill, he never suggested that voter fraud was a problem — indeed, like his federal counterparts, he does not believe it is. Like them, he is much more concerned by the number of eligible voters likely to be disenfranchised by the ban on vouching, and by a similar ban on the use of Elections Canada’s voter information cards as proof of residency: as many as half a million. Not only did the minister blatantly misrepresent his report, he told the committee, but in drafting the legislation he made no effort to consult him. As for the bill itself, his advice was blunt: “amend it or pull it...”

Andrew Coyne: Fair Elections Act proof the Conservatives are no normal government | National Post

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