Monday, September 10, 2007

With friends like Elections Canada... With Update

Elections Canada is not backing down:

Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer, said the current legislation offers several ways of voting that does not include photo identification. That includes mailing a vote, a method more than 80,000 voters used in 2006, he said.

"This special procedure supposes that there is absolutely no visual contact between the voter and Elections Canada staff," he said.

Nonetheless, he said, voters will be asked to visually identify themselves. However, if they choose not to and can provide other information to verify their identity, they will still be allowed to vote.

"I have not amended the act to say that she must unveil her face," he said. "It is up to the voter to decide what procedure to use."



Meanwhile, some Muslims are wondering where this all came from and may even be concerned about a backlash:

Alia Hogben of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women agreed with the Prime Minister's position, and said too much was being made of the veil issue.

"I think he's right, I think for something like elections ... women would be happy to show their faces, I don't think it would be a problem," Ms. Hogben said. "I think it's being made into a problem and it doesn't need to be."

"For us the sad thing is it's always focusing on Muslims and as far as I know it wasn't a request made by Muslims," Ms. Hogben added. "It probably came up[from] Elections Canada-- with good intentions thinking they would try to accommodate people--but I don't think it's necessary."

Not necessary, and extremely divisive.

I know some folks are immediately going to call me up here on John Tory's faith-based funding suggestion, and try to draw a comparison.

Well, let me tell you. One is about fairness and the other is about national security.

One is actually been an on-going issue for quite a while for a number of minority religious groups, and the other was just pulled out of a hat by Elections Canada, based on Mayrand's interpretation of the legislation and thereby blindsided all federal parties and their leaders.

But yes, they may both cause some bigotry and needless tension, and that is what we must guard against.


* * * *

Bonus: Red Tory's 'Conspiracy Theory' gets shot down!

Well good on him for admitting his paranoia anyway.


* * * *

Update
: Please note that the first line of this post differs from the original published this morning.

Lord Kitchener's Own sets us all straight on this matter:

Parliament wrote an election law with a hole big enough to drive a truck through. It's not Elections Canada's responsibility to throw up a roadblock after the fact. In fact, they specifically SHOULD NOT be doing so. Elections Canada FOLLOWS the law, they don't write it, and it's the fault of Parliamentarians if they wrote a law that doesn't actually do what they (they now claim, after the fact) apparently wanted it to.



So, it really is the fault of Parliament. Elections Canada is simply following the letter of the law. Good work, LKO. Thanks for the clarification.


We're paying taxes for this?


* * * *

And still the 'Conspiracy Theory' continues...

More at CBC.

Phantom Observer spells it all out here.


* * * *

38 comments:

Brian in Calgary said...

I'd already sent an e-mail to Elections Canada calling on them to reverse this policy. Assuming Elections Canada sticks to its guns, I hope Parliament confirms the rules regarding visual ID of voters who aren't on the voters list, and in addition, gives Marc Mayrand an ultimatime: Obey the law or find another job.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Brian, I agree. Parliament needs to confer, and make the resulting changes or whatever crystal clear to Marc Mayrand.

I certainly feel that the spirit of the law was thwarted here.

bigcitylib said...

Uh, folks, reversing this decision means rewriting the legislation Harper gave them, which quite clearly states allows for voting in a veil, and which does NOT require photo ID. The problem here is that Harper either doesn't know or doesn't care what's in his own legislation.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

BCL - Did he pass the legislation all by himself?

Anonymous said...

I don't know it might be kind of nice to show up at the pole wearing your favorite halloween mask. Seeing as the Ontario election is just a joke anyway.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

It is not the business of Elections Canada to impose restrictions on voters that do not exist in Canadian law. Basically, Parliament passed a bad law, and people are complaining that Elections Canada isn't abusing it's power by retroactively amending the law themselves to add a requirement that voters be visually identified before voting that simply doesn't exist in the law itself. Lawmakers can't say to Elections Canada after the fact "I know we wrote a law that says X, but what we meant to say was Y, so ignore the written law and enforce what we're now telling you was in our minds!"

Maynard's not being attacked because he won't obey the law, he's being attacked for not adding provisions to the law that are not there.

The Galloping Beaver has a somewhat partisan, but nontheless refreshingly ACCURATE post on this whole "controversy". The best paragraph is this:

"The requirement to visually identify voters at the polling station simply does not exist. The rules are clear. You can walk in and vote with a paper bag over your head if you want to. The requirement is to determine that the person appearing to vote is on the voters list, resides at the address stated on that list and can produce identification which verifies that name and address. What you look like is irrelevant."

Now SHOULD voters be required to visually identify themselves before voting? I think probably yes. Should Elections Canada be responsible for arbitrarily adding such a requirement to the law and then enforcing it, despite the fact that no such requirement appears in our laws? I think definitely no.

Better that Elections Canada follows the requirements set out in a bad law passed by our democratically elected Parliament then that they enforce any requirements above and beyond the law (however good) through their own fiat.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Joanne,

No, Harper didn't pass the law by himself. He passed it with overwhelming support. Which makes this criticism of Elections Canada even stranger.

People are complaining that Elections Canada should arbitrarily add a provision to our elections laws despite the fact that our elections laws (as bad as they are) received overwhelming support in Parliament.

If Parliament wants to require voters to be visually identified before voting, they should write a law that requires voters to be visually identified before voting. There's no such requirement in the recently passed law.

Now, if the law required PHOTO ID, but was mute on whether or not one is permitted to vote with a covered face THEN I could see an argument that Elections Canada must require voters to uncover their faces, despite the fact that the law doesn't specifically say you can't vote with a covered face. Because, under that hypothetical, it would be obvious to anyone that a requirement to produce photo ID is meaningless if people are allowed to keep their faces covered, so Elections Canada couldn't argue that they were just following the letter of the law. However, THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT IN LAW THAT VOTERS PRODUCE PHOTO ID. So why should Elections Canada refuse to let someone with a covered face vote if there's nothing in the law requiring them to uncover their faces, AND there's nothing in the law requiring they show photo ID to which their faces could be compared??? What exactly is the point of looking at someone's face if you have no idea what the person is supposed to look like?

That politicians are complaining that Elections Canada is refusing to do their job for them is the real controversy here. It's not the job of Elections Canada to add provisions to our Elections laws that are not passed by Parliament. No matter how much one may want them too.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

LKO - Good point.

It is unclear and needs to be revised.

Dion and Duceppe were just as outraged as Harper. It obviously doesn't adequately convey the intention of the legislation, but somehow it got by them all.

I'm just wondering why Elections Canada didn't speak up sooner.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Well Joanne, this all came out from Elections Canada about three months ago. It's just re-surfaced because of the Quebec by-elections, and because Harper decided to make a fuss from Australia (why now, I'm not sure). I'm not sure it's so surprising that the politicians didn't clue in earlier though. They clearly don't read the legislation they pass either.

You're totally right about the criticism not being partisan, Dion and Ducceppe were "outraged" too, and even Layton didn't seem thrilled. Which just goes to show that NONE OF THEM read the legislation they passed.

This is all about Parliamentarians realizing that the law they passed doesn't REMOTELY do what they apparently thought it did. The fact that they're ALL idiots, regardless of partisanship, just isn't comforting to me.

If Parliament enacts election legislation with holes large enough to drive a fleet of trucks through, it's not the responsibility of Elections Canada to put up road blocks. Elections Canada doesn't make election law, they follow it.

That's all they're doing here.

chicken little said...

Well, Joanne, don't you look silly.

Cranky or Just A Crank said...

OK gang, what is so unclear about the law (c.21, 2007) that says:

" . . . 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;"

How, other than comparing the photo on the required ID document to the person presenting such document, is this supposed to work? I would be shocked if you asked any number of people on the street what the above excerpt meant and how it would work that you would get any answer than the obvious match of between voter and ID picture.

I can only assume that the defenders of of Mayrand's position are doing so to disingenuously try to make politcal points out of something that, other than the strange view of a petty bureaucrat, makes no sense in the real world.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I don't think Joanne looks silly at all!

In fact, her post was quite intelligent and thoughtful compared to most on this subject. I disagree with the characterization "stubbornly sticking to its guns" since I think what they're stubbornly refusing to do is retroactively amend Canadian law by Elections Canada fiat, ignoring the law as actually written by Parliament (which, and who knows why, seems to be what Parliamentarians would like them to do) but other than that Joanne's laid out exactly what's going on for her readers pretty well in this post.

If you want silly, may I direct you to Parliament Hill?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Crank,

There's nothing unclear about that at all. However, that's also just the first of THREE options for establishing one's identity that a voter can use, and neither of the other two options require a photo ID. So yes, if one wants to establish one's identity using that particular photo ID method, then perhaps one would need to de-veil (even though that's not actually spelled out in the law). And Elections Canada has said as much, and said that they will ask voters to visually identify themselves. However, if the voter chooses to present two NON-PHOTO pieces of identification, or to swear an oath that they are who they say they are (backed by another voter in the riding who has used option A or B to establish their identity) then what's the point of seeing the voters face if you have nothing to compare it too anyway? And both of those are ALSO acceptable forms of identification under the law. The law gives you three ways to prove you're eligible to vote in a riding. All Elections Canada has said is that they will not force voters to use the first option, because the legislation gives voters all three. If that's a problem, it's a problem with the law, not Elections Canada.

Mayrand has said (it's right there in the fourth paragraph of Joanne's post) that voters will be asked to visually identify themselves. However, if they choose not to and can provide other information to verify their identity, they will still be allowed to vote. That's the way it is because that's the way the law is written. Again, that's PARLIAMENT's fault, not Elections Canada's.

Those other two methods of establishing one's identity are right there in the law passed by Parliament. It's not Elections Canada's job to add or stregnthen requirements for voting under the law because our Parliamentarians wrote a bad law.

As I've said before, if Parliament passes a law with a loophole big enough to drive a truck through that's Parliament's issue to fix. It is not Elections Canada's responsibility, nor do they have the power, to put up roadblocks to stop the trucks that our Parliament lets through.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

If you want silly, may I direct you to Parliament Hill?

Exactly. Last time I checked nobody was giving me a huge salary and pension for passing laws.

LKO - Your contributions here lately have been invaluable. Thanks.

PGP said...

Don't you just LOVE getting lectured by bureaucrats??

LKO - you're right about the law!

wayward son said...

IS it just me or do most conservatives seem pretty inconsistent?

Boo! Down with activist judges. They shouldn't be making the laws or interpreting the constitution as they feel fit, after all they are not elected. They should be strictly enforcing the laws as written by our elected parliament. Boo!

Boo! Down with non-activist elections Canada. They shouldn't be following the law written by our elected parliament. They should be changing the laws as they feel fit. Boo!

In a democratic country, elections Canada is doing exactly as they should. People blaming EC for this should be ashamed of themselves.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Wayward Son,

Except that this isn't exactly a "conservative/liberal" split (Dion's been similarly critical, so has Duceppe).

I'd say it's a "politicians/bureaucracy" split where the bureaucracy wants to follow what the law says, and the politicians want them to follow what they (they now claim) INTENDED the law to say.

It is ironic that sometimes politicians want officials to strictly conform to the letter of the law, and sometimes they want officials to creatively extrapolate what the law says into something more specific, but in this case, it's not JUST "conservatives" doing this (though I'll give you that Harper got the ball rolling, and everyone else was just reating... clearly without doing much THINKING first!).

And Joanne, thanks for the compliment!

Now vote for MMP!

:-)

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

PGP,

It's true that it's never fun to be lectured to by bureaucrats.

However, in this case, I'll take a lecture from a bureaucrat who is right over a lecture from a politician who is wrong! I'm at least confident that Mark Maynard has READ the election laws of our country. I'm afraid I'm no longer so confident that the Parliamentarians who actually passed those laws (from any party) have bothered to do so!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

And Joanne, thanks for the compliment!

Now vote for MMP!


I must admit, it did cross my mind that maybe that was behind all of this... ;)

I'm afraid I'm no longer so confident that the Parliamentarians who actually passed those laws (from any party) have bothered to do so!

I agree. They've all got some 'xplainin' to do!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Interesting note here on the Star website from CP:

Ontario doesn't require unveiling

Ontario’s eight million voters could wear a goalie mask or a paper bag on election day and still cast a ballot under provincial law.

The provincial Election Statute Law Amendment Act recently brought in a series of changes to how elections are run in Ontario, including a new requirement that voters present identification before voting.

But chief electoral officer John Hollins says all that’s needed a card with a signature on it, and veiled voters won’t be required to show their face.

The Muslim Canadian Congress says Elections Ontario should require everyone to show their face when casting a ballot.

A spokesman for the group says veils and burkas are worn for cultural and social reasons and have nothing to do with the Muslim faith.

--Canadian Press

Red Tory said...

It didn't get shot down. The Conservatives may not have initiated it, but they've certainly been exploiting it for all its worth. You and others are more than happy to oblige it seems.

SouthernOntarioan said...
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SouthernOntarioan said...
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Joanne (True Blue) said...

It didn't get shot down.

It? Meaning?

Anonymous said...

Elections Canada can't just go and change things on their own - parliament had to change the rules - duh!

SouthernOntarioan said...

Okay, I'm going to try this again...

To Red Tory, LKO and everyone else who thinks that Harper either a) initiated this discussion or b) is exploiting it for all its worth...

Dion and Duceppe were the first two leaders to say anything about this issue. Duceppe and the Bloc started it as a way of trying to win the 'unreasonable accommodation' crowd that Dumont used to win big last provincial election. Dion chimed in on Friday before any Tory had a chance to react as a way to try to outflank the Tories and steal some votes from them. Ever since then, Dion has continued pounding away at this topic in the news.

Harper didn't speak on the issue till about Sunday. And today is Monday.

So to accuse Harper of 'exploiting' the issue or 'initiating' the discussion is either premature or wrong. Dion has tried much harder than Harper to harness this issue by not even waiting a second before jumping on this issue.

And maybe, just maybe, conservatives actually believe it when they oppose this decision and aren't just all pretending in order to win votes...

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I think what Red Tory is saying is that he's still suspicious, and that his "conspiracy theory" hasn't been "shot down". I think he's curious that no one raised a fuss about this back in JULY when Mayrand warned lawmakers that their legislation required neither photo ID, NOR uncovered faces at polling stations, and yet somehow, on the very day that the Commons Committee on Procedure and House Affairs convened a special session specifically to discuss suspicious Tory election spending in 2006 (that's why they were meeting even though Parliament is not in session) the PM attacks Mayrand for saying what he'd been saying for well over a month, and the Committee has to switch gears to talk about electoral law on voter identification rather than Tory advertising in Quebec (What my progressive friends are now referring to as "ConAir").

I agree the conspiracy theory's a way off. I'm supposed to believe that a Prime Minister who apparently didn't read his own electoral legislation is cagey enough to pick a fight with a bureaucrat in order to divert attention from a Quebec advertising scandal? I DON'T THINK SO. Also, it would appear that Layton, Dion and Duceppe don't understand the electoral law they passed any better than Harper, so am I supposed to believe they're ALL in on it?

Nonetheless, one can't argue that the timing isn't, at least, odd. However, personally, I never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence. And this electoral identification stuff has "PARLIAMENTARY INCOMPETENCE" written all over it.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

SouthernOntarioan,

Your post came up while I was writing my last, so let me just state EXPLICITLY that I don't think Harper "initiated this discussion". Whether he's "exploiting it for all its worth" is another question, but you're quite correct, imho, that he's not exploiting it any more than Duceppe, or Dion, or Layton, etc... etc...

I DO think the PM may have spoken before he thought, which didn't serve him well, and that this is all PARLIAMENT'S fault, not Elections Canada, but on this one, I blame PARLIAMENT, not the "GOVERNMENT" (i.e. the Tories). There's plenty of blame to go around on this one, but it's our elected officials, not Marc Mayrand or his staff, that screwed this one up.

Let's hope they fix it, now that they seem to be paying attention.

Hey, did the PM just say something about the Senate? Hey look, the election's on in Ontario! Check it out, a shiny penny!

What were we talking about again....

SouthernOntarioan said...

Oh I'm not disagreeing with your point LKO. You've convinced me that our Parliamentarians really just were incompetent with this bill. Either that or all of them were planning on playing this issue to try to win votes later.. (especially considering that Elections Canada warned the politicians 3 months ago about this problem...)

At first I did think it was just a case of a bureaucrat playing fast and loose, but it seems that they are just obeying a poorly written law.

But I was responding to your comment (and mostly Red Tory's comments) about this issue resurfacing because of the bi-elections and Harper's statement from Australia. While it is obvious that Harper threw oil on the fire, it was a fire already burning quite brightly without his foolish input.

Pardon my cynicism but its a ploy to win the 'intolerant' vote. Duceppe, Dion, and Harper all want to win votes with the intolerant francophone community and so have built this straw man to beat on.

SouthernOntarioan said...

Thinking about it, I should clarify my 'intolerant' comment. No, just because you think that people should show their faces to vote doesn't make you intolerant.

But there is a group, a sizeable group of voters out there, who become extremely agitated by these sort of issues. (Think Herouxville crowd) To these people, the issue of 'reasonable accommodation' has gone too far (even though many wouldn't support any accommodation at all..). In the last Quebec election, Boisclair and Charest ignored this demographic to their peril, and Dumont seized on them and succeeded.

As Mayrand said, tens of thousands of people mailed their ballots in without showing their faces. The number of muslim women who will refuse? a few hundred at most. In these bi-elections, maybe a dozen or two. Are those few dozen a threat to our society? No. So why are our politicians and media making it out to be? Because they realize that if they can play off the fears of francophones who are intolerant of immigrants then they can win big, especially in francophone Quebec where people are already hypersensitive to different cultures.

The law, of course, should be changed, but the hysteria needs to be tuned down.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I think what Red Tory is saying is that he's still suspicious, and that his "conspiracy theory" hasn't been "shot down".

Oh, right. Now I see what he's saying.

Well, that's a matter of opinion. Time will tell.

Red Tory said...

Southernontarian — You’re misrepresenting what I’ve written on my blog. As I set out the timeline, it was Van Loan on Friday who was the first federal politician to rouse himself from confusion and capitalize on this issue that had erupted in the press and on the radio talk shows in Quebec (that was confirmed by the blogger who “shot down” my theory). I had initially thought that it was the ADQ, perhaps working as a proxy for the Conservatives who had initiated this.

But no, it was “shock jocks” and Quebec bloggers and others who started the fuss. All of the politicians then scrambled to get on one side of it or another. The ADQ and the Conservatives were the first to start screaming loudly about it being a case of “political correctness” and “accommodation” on the part of Elections Canada. Many on the Right quickly followed suit and started piling on the “out of control bureaucrats” (presumed to be packed with Liberal appointees) at Elections Canada. Dion then scrambled himself into “action” by getting on board with the Conservatives calls for Elections Canada to reverse their “ruling” (which had been nothing but the mandated issuance of what the voting regulations were – required notification of the voter ID changes having actually been written into the law).

The Bloc apparently wrote a nasty letter to Elections Canada which Maynard said he’d politely ignore. Dion also issued some mincing statements to try and come to terms with the issue and appear moderate, compromising, etc. Whatever… Layton and the NDP were the last to join in the fray. So, all the federal politicians were on board condemning Elections Canada. And they were all DEAD WRONG.

But of them all, it is the Conservatives that have had the most to gain from this. And it was started before Harper weighed in with his comments on Sunday by accusing Elections Canada of “making up laws” and essentially circumventing the will of parliament. Complete and utter rubbish. But also very convenient in creating the impression that the independent agency is wildly out of control, run amok and unaccountable. That is the impression that was meant to be fostered and one happily, gladly and eagerly promoted by Joanne and others. That’s why I called her a “useful idiot” the other day. Not because she’s an “idiot” per se, but didn’t bother to check the facts of the matter and just bought the propaganda the government was peddling, hook line and sinker.

And what do we have now? A “probe” to look into… what? The fact that all of these politicians are dumb or mendacious? What changes are they going to make to the regulations at this late stage of the game. How will they rectify this “non-problem” about a “non-issue” that only the ADQ and right-wing xenophobes really give two shits about? But happily… in the meantime… the committee’s work looking at allegations of election financing shenanigans gets taken off the table and ignored for a while longer. It’s not gong away of course, but it certainly won’t be the issue it might otherwise have been in the by-elections.

This is quite an interesting case study really. A complete failure by the politicians, the press, and much of the “blogosphere”…

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

What I love (and HATE) most about this is that it looks like our elected officials are about to drag Mayrand before a Parliamentary Committee to demand that he explain his (SHOCKING!) decision to follow the law that was enacted by Parliament, instead of just adding stuff to it on his own authority.

I wonder. I've always thought voters should get a bag of jelly beans from officials at the polling station after they vote. There's absolutely nothing requiring this in the elections laws enacted by Parliament, but I figure, as long as our MPs are going to demand that Mayrand arbitraraily add things to our electoral laws that have not been passed by Parliament, perhaps they could demand he add that provision as well.

'Cause I loves me some jelly beans!

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I know this source won't impress your more Conservative readers Joanne, but the Toronto Star really nailed this controversy, imho, so I thought I'd share!

"Veils and Blindfolds"

Brian in Calgary said...

Joanne, thanks for the update.

LKO, thanks for the clarification. I feel a little silly about my first comment here, other comments I've made on this topic, and my e-mail to Elections Canada.

Whether this issue gets revisited by Parliament is anyone's guess.

On another (OT) issue, likewise non-partisan, check out this post from Calgary Grit.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Brian,

Peter Lougheed, eh? Interesting.

Fun LKO trivia - I once knelt before Peter Lougheed!

(Get your minds out of the gutter!)

Lougheed was Chancellor of Queen's University when I graduated, and at Queen's, undergraduates kneel before the Chancellor as part of the degree granting ceremony (kinda like a man being knighted with a sword, except the Chancellor uses his hat!).

SouthernOntarioan said...

Since I haven't read your blog Red Tory in a long, long time (maybe 1-2 years?) it is very difficult for me to misrepresent it.

I am referring to your comment here about Harper 'exploiting it for all its worth'.

Sure, Harper is wrong on this issue, but what I find annoying is your attempt to try to deflect blame off Dion by attacking Harper. Dion is as much at fault here as Harper.

Oh, and for the record, you don't have to be right wing to be xenophobic. Last time I heard, Quebec was too 'left wing' to ever support someone as 'right wing' as Harper. It sounds to me like there are plenty of left wing xenophobes out there too.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

In case anyone missed it (and anyone's still looking at the comments to this old post) Mr. Mayrand finally got dragged before a Parliamentary Committee today!

So, we got the wonderful and entertaining spectacle of a civil servant being told by members of a Parliamentary Committee that it is his responsibility to ignore the law Parliament wrote, and instead enact the rules the Committee tells him too.

As I've said before, if this Committee really does have the power to tell government employees to ignore the law and do what they say, are they taking suggestions? Because Parliament has written some laws I don't like either, but I never realized there was a Committee out there that had the power to just IGNORE the written law when they decide after the fact that they don't like it!