Sunday, April 17, 2011

Time to Clean House at Elections Canada

Elections Canada making its rulings up as it goes along

Following an incident at a special polling station at the University of Guelph, Elections Canada has seemingly chosen to blatantly ignore some serious violations of the Canada Elections Act.

The Conservative Party contacted Elections Canada last week after a Tory scrutineer was denied the opportunity to work at the polling station. There was also partisan campaign literature in the polling area. Both are violations of election law.

This turned out to be the least of the problems at the University of Guelph poll. When contacting Elections Canada to complain about the two violations only to be notified that the poll in question had not been authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer.

Under law, the proper course of action would have been to annul the votes cast at that poll, and call the students back to vote in a properly-authorized poll. Instead, Elections Canada validated the ballots cast, and cancelled all such special polls.

It's only the most recent in a series of episodes that casts doubt on the impartiality of the personell running Elections Canada.

There is, of course, the on-sided ruling issued by Elections Canada regarding the "in and out" scandal; one in which the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party alone, was charged over a practice that all of Canada's political parties have used.

Elections Canada would rule that the practice was different when the Tories used it, alleging that they had conspired to violate election spending rules.

Yet when Avaaz, a far-left advocacy group registered as a third party in the 2008 election, violated spending limits in three ridings during that campaign, Elections Canada looked the other way. Newspaper ads specifically identified three opposition candidates in the 2008 election, but spread the cost of the ads across numerous different ridings. Instead of spending the $3,666 per targetted riding they were allowed to under election law, they instead were able to spend $14,000 on their campaign in these three ridings.

In each case, despite the fact that the ads were specifically identified as supporting specific candidates -- the local Tory candidate in the case of the Conservative ads, and Elizabeth May, David Pratt and Mike Bocking in the case of Avaaz -- Elections Canada concluded they were national in scope and thus subject to different spending limits.

In each case, Elections Canada facilitated the decision by declining to examine the content of the ads. The rulings were entirely arbitrary.

Just as it seems that a Tory scrutineer was excluded from the University of Guelph polling station was largely arbitrary. But Elections Canada has offered no comment on this matter whatsoever, let alone have they announced how they're going to respond to the violation.

They're just letting it slide, despite the fact that the poll results ought to be invalidated.

This isn't to say that the 700 students -- actually more like 241 according to an Elections Canada spokesman -- should simply have their votes anulled. Rather, they should have the opportunity to re-cast their votes at a polling station that actually complies with the law.

Even the decision to suspend these on-campus voting stations is disappointing: there's clearly a role for these kinds of polls, provided that they comply with the law.

What is most disappointing -- and deeply disturbing -- is the fact that the people running Elections Canada seems to be making its rulings up as they go along. They have simply rendered too many rulings that are at variance with the law, and often at variance with one another.

It's time for the government to clean house at Elections Canada. The far-left will despise it, but it's the only way to ensure that Canada will remain a democracy where the rule of law reigns supreme, not the biases of those expected to enforce the law.

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