May 3, 2014 - No. 17

Bill C-23, Harper Government's Self-Serving Electoral Reforms

Constitutional Renewal and
Electoral Reform Go Hand in Hand


Ottawa rally against Bill C-23, April 23, 2014.


Bill C-23, Harper Government's Self-Serving Electoral Reforms

Constitutional Renewal and Electoral Reform
Go Hand in Hand

With the declaration by the Harper Conservatives that Bill C-23 will be imposed in an trivially altered form, a clear line has been drawn in the sand between all justice- and democratic-minded Canadians, and those who side with the wrecking of the public authority and its institutions.

A very serious problem has emerged. The electoral law, on the basis of which elected government is conferred with legitimacy, has been tainted so badly that elected governments will no longer be perceived to enjoy a popular mandate. From where then are they deriving their mandates?

Hand in hand with this, the Harper government has been undermining and attacking virtually all of the country's public institutions which comprise the public authority. This includes the independent Offices of Parliament such as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Chief Electoral Officer. It has now begun to target the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) calls on Canadian citizens and residents to think about these developments and organize amongst their peers to get the information they require to draw warranted conclusions and do something about the situation. This is the starting point to vest sovereignty in themselves and not permit their continued humiliation at the hands of an unscrupulous minority which has seized power through manipulation and fraud.

In this regard, 2017 will mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. It provides an important occasion for Canadians to sum up the experience of nation-building under this Constitution and become fully aware of the kind of democratic institutions which were created, their strengths and limitations. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to understand that institutions and arrangements created to answer to a different moment in history are no longer suitable to deal with the requirements of the times. It is time to modernize them, to renew them so that they serve to realize the striving of the people for empowerment as it poses itself objectively today.

The MLPC calls on its members and organizations across the country to spearhead committees which will start seriously looking into the Constitution and the Canada Elections Act and what is required to bring them on par with the needs of the times.

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Contempt for Parliament and
Public Authority Border on Depravity


Halifax rally against Bill C-23, April 26, 2014.

According to the dictionary definition, "'depravity' goes beyond mere bad behaviour -- it is a total lack of morals, values, and even regard for other living things, like the depravity of a serial killer."[1]

This is what comes to mind when dealing with the Harper government -- it has no morals, values or even regard for other things, especially the human factor/social consciousness. This is the essence of the April 25 announcement by Minister of So-Called Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre about the changes his government will accept to Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts.

Ever since Bill C-23 was introduced with the declaration that it would "ensure everyday citizens are in charge of democracy," the Harper government has shown the depths of its disregard and contempt for everything related to the parliamentary legislative process and institutions of public authority.

The Harperites started by unveiling the details of their electoral legislation in the Parliamentary Press Gallery rather than in the House of Commons. Then Minister Poilievre tried to dismiss any objections to the time-limit the government imposed on second reading debate by stating the bill would be debated in the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC). "All Canadians will be able to have their voice heard. We encourage them to make submissions to the committee and the committee can decide which witnesses it wants to hear from right across the country," he told the House of Commons.

In the PROC, the Harperites imposed their dictate. They voted down a motion to hold cross-country public hearings on Bill C-23, saying they would be nothing but a "gong show." They dismissed the opposition heard by PROC from witnesses who came from all over to air concerns about Bill C-23 as the insignificant chatter of "elites." "Away from the noise in political Ottawa, everyone understands that this [Bill C-23] is common sense," Poilievre said.

In the midst of the PROC hearings, the government commissioned the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to conduct a pre-study of Bill C-23. Poilievre, whose only claim to fame is his recruitment as Harper's point man in the charge against public authority and the record-breaking number of lies and diversions he can spout in one breath, was the first to appear before the Senate Committee. With meticulously managed planted questions put to him, Poilievre acted as an avowed pathological liar to get his job done.[2]


Toronto, April 26, 2014

He told the Senate Committee: "The reality is that there has been a lot of debate on this bill. The Chief Electoral Officer has indicated his opposition to it. Let me just say that I am at peace with that. The reality is, regardless of amendments and improvements that the bill would potentially have included, the Chief Electoral Officer will not ultimately support it. His recommendations really boil down to three broad requirements for him. He wants more power, a bigger budget and less accountability. ... It is not that I am unaware of his recommendations; I am very much aware of them. It is just that I disagree. We live in a democracy whereby parliamentarians decide on legislation and Officers of Parliament advise. The CEO serves Parliament, not the other way around."

Sowing doubt about the personal integrity of any individual, especially an officer of Parliament such as the Chief Electoral Officer who has honourably carried out his job of explaining and defending the electoral law, is the stock in trade of a pathological liar. It provides a false reference point -- the honour and integrity of the Chief Electoral Officer -- and it makes the issue to either defend it or disparage it, all of this to divert from the electoral law and whether or not it serves the polity. This method is the stock in trade of yellow journalism which starts by inventing a lie and peddling it with impunity.

The stated purpose of the Senate pre-study was to provide a "general review of the principle and policy of the bill (i.e., its subject matter.)" After hearing from 21 witnesses, almost all of them sharply critical of the bill, on April 15 the Committee issued its report comprised of a one sentence preamble to nine nonsensical recommendations: "Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, was introduced because it is important to protect the trust, participation, and reliability of the electoral system." If this is not proof of the Harperite wrecking, nothing is. What used to be a place where serious thought was expressed, whether or not one agreed with it, has been reduced to an echo chamber.

Finally, on Friday April 25, the Harperites capped off their contemptuous mockery of Parliament with a press release from Poilievre declaring that the government has "been following the debate on the Fair Elections Act with openness to ideas that would strengthen this common sense bill [sic]." He then listed several trivial changes the government plans to accept. He said these were "in anticipation" of the PROC's clause-by-clause review.

The PROC had not even completed hearing witnesses at the time of Poilievre's announcement, let alone summed up and deliberated on the concerns it heard from dozens of witnesses. Despite this, Polievre already announced what amendments the government would accept, dismissing every single substantive concern expressed about Bill C-23 on the part of the major experts on the subject. What this means is that for the Harper Conservatives, Parliament means nothing, the public authority does not exist and they can flout it with impunity. What is the point of the PROC's deliberations if the government has already declared what it will allow? As for the Senate Committee pre-study, Poilievre did not even bother to refer to it.

The PROC heard from the Director of Public Prosecutions Brian Saunders on its last day of hearings, April 28. It then reviewed the agenda for its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-23, on which the government imposed a deadline of 5 pm on Thursday, May 1. MP David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP) asked for clarification on this process and the following exchange ensued:

Christopherson: Point of order, just to be sure I'm clear on the process. The motion that was passed by the government said that Thursday at 5 p.m., we will be done. We have a roughly 242-page bill and we have roughly 300 pages of amendments. Common sense would dictate that we are not likely to be finished by 5 o'clock. If we're not, is the government open to the idea that we could go beyond that so we aren't limited in our discussion of the clauses and the amendments [...] ?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if we're only on page 48 of 242 at 5 o'clock on Thursday, this process ends and the bill is taken from the committee and reported back to the House, and our work is over whether or not we've actually gone through a detailed line-by-line process, which is what our job is. [...] Do I have that right or wrong, sir?

The Chair: (Mr. Joe Preston (Elgin--Middlesex--London, CPC)): Debate will end at 5 o'clock on Thursday. There would still be the voting on each as we work --

Christopherson: Right. But I'm saying there would be no further discussion, no further debate, no matter what clause we're on or how far we are. It will just stop.

The Chair: Which tells you why it's important not to be using time on clause by clause for --

Christopherson: Two minutes is going to matter in a 242-page bill with 300 pages of amendments. Three minutes is really going to matter. This is more of the farce. There are 242 pages --

The Chair: Mr. Christopherson, it's not your turn for a speech.

Christopherson: -- and 300 pages of amendments, and we're going to have until 5 o'clock [Thursday] and we're not even meeting around the clock to do it. This is insane.

The Chair: Well, some of the insanity was the two or three days taken up with a filibuster, but I see the time is 1 o'clock so the meeting is adjourned.

All of this further reveals the Harperites' contempt for Parliament, a serious enough matter in itself. However, it also shows the extent of the damage caused by the corruption of the democratic institutions resulting from the neo-liberal nation-wrecking carried out by successive governments over the past three decades and raised to the level of a Canadian emblem by the Harperites. With public authority subsumed in and subordinated to monopoly dictate, the very institutions that are supposed to regulate the disagreements within the ruling elite no longer function. Thus, the Harperites have simply manipulated themselves into a majority and use it to act with impunity and to put more laws in place to make such impunity legal. The depths to which they stoop is astounding to even the most hardened of political pundits.


Rally against Bill C-23, Winnipeg April 26, 2014.

In the opinion of the MLPC, this troubling situation is not merely a matter of a depraved force which has seized power and thinks it is unassailable. Their actions are the product of the collapse of institutions that were created by public authority in an era when defending the public interest in various aspects served the ruling elite. The institutions which were created by this public authority no longer function as intended because public authority is no longer upheld and private interests prevail. The unfolding developments reveal the need to bring the authority on par with the demands of the times and to do so requires new arrangements that put an end to all notions and forms of privilege and power exercised by some over others and recognition that all individuals have rights by virtue of being human.

This is not a matter of self-serving partisan interests of the MLPC. There is an urgent need to deal with the disempowerment of the people. Today, even those who are called elected representatives within the Parliament  no longer have  a voice. The humiliation and disempowerment of the Officers of Parliament is another example, as is the disgraceful position in which several of the self-serving nominations to the Senate have reduced the Senate in the eyes of the polity, to mention another example.

If the Harperites succeed in using  the electoral process to manipulate another so-called mandate and the most egregious violations of the electoral law are now made  "legal," what recourse do Canadians have? They cannot rely on those seeking such positions of power to remedy the situation. With the failure of the establishment political parties to take up the renewal of the democratic institutions and process in a serious way, Canadians must establish their own citizens' committees and unite in action across the country to empower themselves. There is no other way.

Notes

1. www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/depravity

2. The American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology defines pathological lying as "falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, engaged in by a person who, at the time of observation, cannot definitely be declared insane, feebleminded, or epileptic. Such lying rarely, if ever, centres about a single event ; although exhibited in very occasional cases for a short time, it manifests itself most frequently by far over a period of years, or even a life time. It represents a trait rather than an episode. Extensive, very complicated fabrications may be evolved. This has led to the synonyms: - mythomania; pseudologia phantastica. (Pathological Lying, Accusation and Swindling Criminal Science Monograph No. 1, Supplement to the Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology)

Pseudologia fantastica, mythomania, compulsive lying, or pathological lying are four of several terms applied by psychiatrists to the behaviour of habitual or compulsive lying. "Pathological liar" definition: "a person who tells lies frequently, with no rational motive for doing so." A "compulsive liar " is defined as someone who lies out of habit: "Lying is their normal and covert yet reflexive way of responding to questions."

(Photos: TML, LauraGr, T. Whitfield, M. Elizabeth)

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Trite Concessions Made to Pass Electoral Law

The final version of the Harper government's self-serving amendments to the electoral law has been drafted under the high-handed control of the Conservative majority on the House of Commons Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC). It will now proceed to the House of Commons for third reading. While the final version of Bill C-23 has not yet been published, it is reported that there are about 45 amendments to the original draft. Although 300 amendments were put forward at the PROC, the Harper government's Minister of "Democratic Reform" had already issued a list of acceptable amendments before the PROC even started its work. In addition, the Conservative dominated Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs issued recommendations following its pre-study of the bill.

The amendments that the Conservatives say they will accept are as follows:

Voter Identification: The Conservatives say they will allow vouching for electors who can prove who they are but cannot prove where they live. Two pieces of ID will be required to prove one's identity, while an individual living in the same polling station will be able to take a written oath testifying to the elector's address.

The provisions of Bill C-23 which prohibit Elections Canada from authorizing the Voter Information Card as one of the acceptable pieces of identification in particular situations is not being removed.

The Senate recommended that authorities and administrators at places such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities be required to provide letters of attestation for identity.

The underlying premise that voter fraud is a problem continues to be pushed. In addition to its adjustment to voter identification requirements, the government says that measures will be introduced "to ensure the integrity of the vote" by instituting a "new verification of potential non-compliance [...] after polling day, and an audit of compliance with registration and voting rules [...] after every election."

Restructuring and Emasculation of Elections Canada: The Senate Committee recommended that the government "clarify Elections Canada's new, reduced role that ends democracy promotion." In this vein, the Minister of "Democratic Reform" announced that amendments to Bill C-23 would specify that "the Chief Electoral Officer may communicate with the public." He stated that "the Chief Electoral Officer may support civic education programs for primary and secondary schools." He went on to state, however, that "where he advertises to inform electors about the exercise of their democratic rights, he can only do so on how to be a candidate, when, where and how to vote, and what tools are available to assist disabled electors."

The Harper Conservatives are persisting in interfering with the functioning of a body that is supposed to be free of government interference in administering elections in a manner that ensures Canadians are able to exercise their right to elect and to be elected as defined by the Canada Elections Act. The only amendment that could be acceptable on this matter is that the Conservative government fully retract its position.

In regards to the transfer of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the Conservatives say that they will "allow" "the Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner of Canada Elections to exchange information and documents." They will also allow the Commissioner to "publicly disclose information about investigations where it is in the public interest." The amendments will also specify that the Director of Public Prosecutions' annual report to the Attorney-General will contain a section prepared by the Commissioner of Canada Elections on the activities of his office, "without providing information about specific investigations."

All of this does nothing to alter the fact that at a minimum the appearance of independence of the office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections will be diminished by its transfer to the Department of Public Prosecutions, a government department.

Bill C-23 changes the tenure of the CEO from a life-appointment, with retirement at age 65, to a term of ten years. The Conservatives will amend this provision to specify that the appointment is non-renewable. This does nothing to alter the essence of their wrecking attack which undermines the very conception of independent offices of Parliament that are tenured so as to protect them from blackmail, bullying and threats.

Partisan Appointments at the Polls: The expansion of partisan appointments at the polls by entitling the winning party/candidate in a constituency to appoint the central poll supervisor will be removed. It is not clear if other partisan appointments for polling clerks and deputy returning officers will remain in place.

At the same time, the Bill C-23 provision which allows party scrutineers to interfere in the voting process by entitling them to view (but not touch) voters' identification documents at the polls remains. This has a great potential for allowing partisan interference in the administration of elections. Political parties will have a ready tool to create a hostile and threatening environment and long line-ups at the polls where it suits them by asking to see everyone's identification papers.

Election Finance Provisions: The Conservatives say they will withdraw the exemption related to expenses for fundraising from people who have contributed to a political party or its candidates and riding associations in the previous five years. The increase in political contribution limits from $1,200 to $1,500 will remain in place, a provision which most informed individuals believe will favour the Conservatives.

Elections Canada Advance Rulings and Interpretation Notes: Bill C-23 will be amended to provide Elections Canada with an increased time period within which it must issue "advance rulings" and "interpretation notes" to political parties at their request. The provision which states that these advance rulings will not be binding on political parties remains intact.

Voter Contact Registration Rules: The voter contact registration rules will be changed to require voter-calling service providers to keep copies of scripts and recordings for three years instead of the one year currently contained in Bill C-23.

Third Party Spending Limits: The law will be amended so that a "third party" that cannot show a link to Canada cannot spend more than $500 in an election.

Statute of Limitation: Bill C-23 will be changed so that any infraction of the Canada Elections Act that requires proof of intent can be prosecuted at any time, without any limitation period.

The Conservatives largely ignored most of the proposals and recommendations by the opposition parties in the PROC and those presented by witnesses who appeared there.[1]

The most significant feature of the changes that the Harper government has conceded is that they retain all of the unacceptable premises on which the amendments to the electoral law are based. The main and key aspect of this is the unprecedented authoritarian and absolutist manner in which the Harperites are asserting that they have the right to determine one of the most fundamental laws of the country as they see fit. Even though they concede to some amendments, they do not concede on this.

The government has not retracted its offensive premise that voter fraud is a problem. It has not withdrawn the unfounded premise that there is a problem with the administration of elections requiring the restructuring and emasculating of Elections Canada and to that end has persisted in attempting to undermine the credibility of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections. This is wrecking of the first order aimed at undermining the impartial and independent administration of elections and enforcement of the electoral law so that impunity can prevail. It retains the premise that political parties are above the law and should be exempted from the most elemental provisions of privacy legislation and entitled to gather information on electors and use it to further subvert a political process that is already failing in its stated aim of determining the popular will so that it can be turned into the legal will in the form of a duly elected party government. The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada reiterates its position that Bill C-23 must be withdrawn in its entirety.

Note

1. The majority opinion was accompanied by a minority opinion by Liberal Senators George Baker, Serge Joyal and Wilfred Moore In their minority opinion, the Liberal Senators assess Bill C-23 to be unconstitutional because of insufficient safeguards to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised due to lack of identification and call for the restoration of vouching, along with allowing with the use of Voter Information Cards in certain cases. They also call for the restoration of the broad mandate currently in the Canada Elections Act for the Chief Electoral Officer to communicate with the public. In addition, the Liberal Senators say that the Commissioner of Canada Elections should be enabled to apply for a court order to compel witnesses to testify and that the Commissioner should be allowed to disclose any information related to his investigations. They also call for the removal of a provision requiring Treasury Board approval for Elections Canada to hire employees with electoral expertise, such as those commissioned to do studies on voter turn-out.

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Robocall Investigation

Evidence Insufficient to Lay Charges

The investigation into alleged violations of the Canada Elections Act through improper communications with electors during the 2011 Federal Election has come to an end, the Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté announced on Thursday, April 24. The press release states: "The Commissioner has concluded that, following a thorough investigation by his Office, the evidence is not sufficient to provide reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed. Therefore, the Commissioner will not refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions."

The full title of the Commissioner's report is "An Investigation into Complaints of Nuisance Telephone Calls and of Telephone Calls Providing Incorrect Poll Location Information in Electoral Districts Other than Guelph During the 41st General Election of May 2011."

The investigation relates to complaints sent to the Commissioner of Canada Elections primarily after February 2012 when media reports about the Guelph investigation triggered Canadians to report calls they had received during the May 2011 federal election campaign. In total 1,727 electors in a total of 261 ridings filed 2,448 specific complaints about calls that provided wrong information about polling locations and "nuisance calls," described as those that involved rudeness, were repetitive or ill-timed, and calls in which the elector doubted the truth of the caller's claim to represent a particular party.

The Commissioner's report emphasizes the evidence requirements for prosecutions to be laid. Referring to provisions in the Canada Elections Act that prohibit interference with the right of Canadians to vote, Côté states: "For these provisions to apply to a call allegedly providing an elector with incorrect poll locations information, it is not sufficient to simply prove the content of the call and the identify of the caller. It is also necessary to obtain sufficient evidence to prove that the call was made a) with the intention of preventing or attempting to prevent an elector from voting, or b) for the purpose of inducing an elector by some pretence or contrivance to vote or not vote for a particular candidate. The burden of proof required in such matters is the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

He continued: "The same intent must be proved in order to apply these provisions to a nuisance call. For example, a call made repetitiously, accompanied by false claims to be representing an opponent party, might amount to an offence should proof of the intent to interfere with an elector's vote be discovered. To transmit false or mistaken information without the requisite intent, however objectionable it may be, is not, in itself an offence under the Act.

"Certain provisions of the Criminal Code may also apply in limited circumstances: Harassing or misleading phone calls, subsections 372(1) and (3) -- It is an offence to convey by telephone information known to be false 'with intent to injure or alarm any person.' It is unclear whether a court would consider that affecting an opponent's chance of electoral success would constitute an 'injury.'"

The Commissioner's report outlines difficulties encountered in gathering evidence in the course of the investigation. The first obstacle was that the people who received the calls were not able to back up their complaints with evidence that could be verified because of the passage of time. They did not file their complaints until a year after the fact and many could not provide specific details. In this regard, the Commissioner states: "This highlights how important it is that Canadians contact the Commissioner's Office quickly when they have reason to believe that their rights as electors are being interfered with."

It was not just "ordinary Canadians" who failed to see the import of filing complaints with details at the time of the alleged offences. The Commissioner's report points out that during the election, Returning Officers who received complaints about misleading calls did not keep track of them. It states: "On May 6, 2011, [Elections Canada] asked returning officers for each of the 308 electoral districts to report any information they had concerning electors who had been directed to an incorrect poll location. Their responses identified 49 complaints from approximately 40 electoral districts [...] Notably, several returning officers -- including in Guelph -- reported 'calls' or 'many calls' from electors complaining of incorrect poll location calls, without being able to provide an actual number of electors who complained. As well, between April 29 and May 2, 2011 [election day], a small number of electors complained to their returning officers of receiving phone calls directing them to an incorrect poll location. Returning officer from 11 electoral districts reported some of these calls to [Elections Canada]. According to the returning officers, the reported calls claimed to be made on behalf of Conservative Party campaigns, or provided calling numbers that, when called, led to Conservative Party voice mailboxes."

The report confirms that electors received calls directing them to the wrong polls. This was done by political parties and their campaign offices in opposition to a specific directive from Elections Canada asking political parties not to provide information about polling station locations to electors, and to direct them to Elections Canada instead. The report states:

"Investigators were told by the Conservative Party national campaign chair that Elections Canada had no authority to limit a party's use of the poll location data, as outlined in Elections Canada caveats and restrictions that accompanied the information. He said that the calling strategy was to tell supporters where to vote rather than refer them to Elections Canada, for fear the elector would not bother to call and consequently might not vote.

"Through information obtained from the Conservative Party, investigators learned that during the final days of the election some electors complained to one local Conservative Party campaign of Conservative Party callers providing incorrect poll location information to supporters. The local campaign challenged the accuracy of the CIMS [Contact Information Management System] poll location data, and one campaign worker suggested to the national campaign that the callers stop giving electors 'polling advice.' In one e-mail response, the party's Coordinator of Director Voter Contact noted that the incorrect information arose from CIMS placing electors in the wrong polling division. He concluded that 'this is a very small group of people, but there will be a handful in every riding.' This statement is consistent with the number and distribution of complaints of calls providing incorrect poll locations outside the electoral district of Guelph."

Other parties also gave out incorrect poll location information. The report goes on to state: "Investigators have confirmed that errors were made in some calls, directing electors to incorrect poll locations. Some electors were told to vote at a poll other than the one assigned on their Voter Information Card, while others were told to vote at a different poll but were counselled to confirm with Elections Canada. Some RMG (Conservative Party voter contact service provider) calls gave erroneous information, and some calls from two local Liberal Party campaigns may have made errors while giving out addresses of poll locations. It is clear that these errors caused confusion for some electors."

The report concludes: "For the purpose of considering whether or not to refer a possible offense to the Director of Public Prosecutions, however, it is not sufficient to find evidence of misdirection to an elector. There must be evidence of an intention to prevent the elector from voting or, by some pretence or contrivance, to induce the elector to vote or not vote for a particular candidate. No such evidence was found."

As it now stands, a single individual, Michael Sona, faces charges of willfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent electors from voting through misleading robocalls in the riding of Guelph, Ontario. The calls, allegedly engineered by Sona, directed voters to wrong polling stations. He was charged in April 2013 and his trial is set to begin on June 2. With the conclusion of the investigation into similar calls in other federal ridings, no other charges will be laid.

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Report Confirms Corruption of Electoral Process and Violation of Right to Privacy

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) has read the Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls issued by Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté on April 24. The report was issued with a press release from Elections Canada that states: "The Commissioner has concluded that, following a thorough investigation by his Office, the evidence is not sufficient to provide reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed. Therefore, the Commissioner will not refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions."

For his part, in the press release announcing the end of the investigation, the Elections Commissioner speaks to the confidence of Canadians in the electoral system. He states: "The concern expressed by Canadians during this investigation demonstrates the high value they place on their democracy and the rule of law. Canadians must continue to have confidence in the electoral system, and, in my view, they have every reason to do so. However, when they believe their rights as electors are being interfered with, they should contact my Office without delay."

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada does not question the integrity of the Elections Canada investigation, but believes that the Commissioner's optimism that the system will work for Canadians is not well-founded. After all is said and done, the belief persists among many that wrongdoing took place during the 2011 Federal Election. Just because there is no trail of evidence which leads to the person who took the cookies from the cookie jar, it does not mean there was nobody stealing the cookies.

One conclusion people are drawing is that an electoral law based on a presumption that the players will play by the rules is the problem. The law is not designed to catch those who intend to commit fraud which is not surprising because those who stand to be caught are also the ones who design it.

Far from the findings of the Commissioner of Elections Canada restoring the credibility of the 2011 election in which the Conservative Party won a majority of the seats, doubts persist that the results were not fairly obtained and importantly, that the electoral law will not be capable of holding fraudsters to account in the future.

The investigation examined almost 2,500 complaints filed about live and automated calls that the recipient electors believed constituted electoral wrongdoing. Many of the complaints involved calls that targeted electors on the basis of personal information compiled about them by political parties, a practice that has become a very controversial, manipulative abuse of voters' lists provided to political parties by Elections Canada as required by the Canada Elections Act. This permits what is called micro-targeting election tactics, based on personal information compiled in "elector data bases" by all the political parties which buy into this.

The political parties in the House of Commons have also exempted themselves from the oversight of Canada's privacy laws and from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulations that give Canadians some ability to control the calls they receive, such as the CRTC Do-Not-Call List. Bill C-23 leaves these exemptions intact.

This problem of the violation of the right to privacy and a corrupt party-dominated electoral system are not the scope of the Commissioner's investigation which was restricted to the particular complaints of electors. However, in his report he does outline various obstructions to gathering evidence that could prove whether or not there was a deliberate intent to obstruct electors from exercising their right to vote and why this is the case merits attention.

Today political parties are no longer primary political organizations which connect the citizenry to the governing and decision-making process. They form a Mafia-type cartel to keep themselves in power by waging effective turf wars. This is the setting within which the Commissioner's investigation into the Robocall Scandal must be viewed in order to draw warranted conclusions.

If this is not done, then the Harper government can once again get away with its pathological lying. In response to the report of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, the Harper government's Minister for "Democratic Reform" Poilievre told reporters: "It confirms what the Conservative Party has said all along. We followed the rules. We ran an ethical and honest campaign and won fair and square and all of the allegations to the contrary have been proven false and phony."

Clearly, the Minister does not even think it necessary to read the Commissioner's report. The investigation and findings drew no conclusions on whether or not the Conservatives "ran an ethical and honest campaign and won fair and square." This was not the subject matter of the investigation. To ascertain that the Conservatives won fair and square would involve a thorough investigation into the use of the Conservative Party's Constituent Information Management System (CIMS), which the party itself claims accounted for its margin of victory in more than 40 ridings. It has been established that at least some of the electors that received robocalls directing them to wrong polling stations corresponded to a list downloaded from CIMS.

In this regard, the MLPC officially records its opinion that the Commissioner's investigation in no way vindicates the Conservative Party of Stephen Harper whose very operation has always been rooted in manipulation and what most people perceive to be fraud -- starting with the way his party was formed in the first place. Its response to the Commissioner's findings and its vow to ram through the electoral law amendments it wants will further undermine the integrity of the electoral process and favour its own bid to remain in power. All of this shows that Canadians are in deep trouble as concerns the failure and anachronism of the democratic institutions.

The issue at the heart of the robocall affair is how private information on electors is used by corrupt political parties to communicate with them both during and between elections. This development is one that disinforms and affects the electoral process in a fundamental way. It has been aptly described as a political process in which "the parties know everything about the electors and the electors know nothing about the parties."

The Mafia-style cartel system formed by the established political parties makes it impossible for Canadians to participate in governance. Far from being political, these parties are wrecking machines upholding the privatization of power demanded by the neo-liberal nation-wrecking agenda of the most powerful international financial interests. These parties have been reduced to appendages of the state which use funds from the state treasury to hire marketing agencies and "voter-contact" service providers fed with personal information from their "elector data banks." All of this gathering of information on electors serves the vicious competition for state power in which the competing financial interests are engaged. Far from ending such immoral practices, the Conservative Party is acting with impunity to destroy all state arrangements which impede direct unfettered access of private interests to the state machine. The destruction of the electoral process as it hitherto functioned to gauge the popular will and turn it into the legal will in the form of party government is part of this wrecking of the public authority. The fact that it is all done in the name of democracy, freedom and rights is pathetic.

This is a matter which concerns all democratic-minded Canadians. No government brought to power on the basis of the violation of the democratic rights of Canadians, including their privacy rights and right to conscience, will ever be conferred with legitimacy, no matter how much it screams that it won "fair and square." It does not matter how much of the state treasury it absconds with to finance its efforts to convince the people otherwise.

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Harper Government's Response to Supreme Court of Canada Decisions

Childish Response to Senate Reference

The Supreme Court of Canada issued a 73-page opinion on Senate Reform on April 25. The request for the reference was filed by the Harper government on February 1, 2013 under Section 53 of the Supreme Court Act which entitles the Governor in Council to refer to the country's highest judicial body for its opinion on important questions of law or fact concerning the interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutionality or interpretation of any federal or provincial legislation.

The Harper government asked the Supreme Court to make a determination on its Senate Reform Act which sought to use federal legislative powers to unilaterally limit the term of office for senators and establish a framework for voluntary provincial and territorial consultations on senate nominees. In total, it laid out six detailed questions on how the Parliament of Canada could reform and/or abolish the Senate.

The Harper government's stated aim was to "accelerate the pace of Senate reform and to lay the foundation for further reform to the Senate," meaning it wanted to reform the Senate without having to reopen the Constitution. The Supreme Court has answered by saying that Parliament can indeed engage in meaningful reform so long as it upholds the Constitution.

While the Supreme Court issued a detailed opinion on the government's questions regarding Senate reform, the Conservative government issued a same-day 135-word statement evocative of a child's response to parents not allowing the child to play with explosives. The main content: "Canadians overwhelmingly believe the Senate must be reformed. Our Government has always been committed to reforming the Senate. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has decided Parliament cannot make meaningful reforms. Our Government does not have any intention of reopening constitutional debates at this point."

Having had their unconstitutional plans to reform the Senate by virtue of their phony majority nixed, the Conservatives say the issue of Senate reform which Canadians "overwhelmingly" demand is now aborted through no fault of their own. Now, even the Supreme Court of Canada has become a thorn in the Conservative side despite all the judicial appointments made in hopes that its own brand of neo-liberal nation-wrecking would prevail.

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada is studying the Supreme Court opinion on Senate reform. Its initial impression is that the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada was guided by the law and not the ideological bent of individual judges. This is a welcome development in light of the Conservative government's flagrant violations of the norms which inform a public authority.

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Unprecedented Attack on Chief Justice

The Harper Conservatives recently released a statement directed at Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, suggesting improper conduct on her part.

The matter concerns the September 30, 2013 attempt by the Harper dictatorship to fill the Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada with the appointment of Judge Marc Nadon of the Federal Court. On March 21 of this year, the Supreme Court rejected the appointment in a 6-1 ruling because, constitutionally, Nadon is not eligible to represent Quebec. While Nadon had been a Federal Court judge in Ottawa for the past 20 years, he has not been a sitting Quebec superior or appeals court judge, nor a current member of the Quebec bar, as required to fill the vacancy. The PMO claimed surprise at this ruling, saying its appointment had been vetted by two former Supreme Court Justices.

More than one month later, on May 1, the Prime Minister's Office has now issued a statement regarding related events in which it is claimed that Chief Justice McLachlin inappropriately contacted the government in July 2013 to offer advice regarding the Quebec vacancy in the Supreme Court. The statement says that Justice Minister Peter MacKay informed Prime Minister Stephen Harper that taking a call from the chief justice would be "inadvisable and inappropriate. The prime minister agreed and did not take the call."

The PMO statement also says, "Neither the prime minister nor the minister of justice would ever call a sitting judge on a matter that is or may be before the court."

When McLachlin called MacKay at the end of July, it was shortly after she had spoken to the selection committee examining a short list of candidates for the court vacancy. At that point, there was no nomination, let alone a court case. Nadon wasn't appointed to the Supreme Court until two months later, which was challenged by a Toronto lawyer in a federal court in early October.

On May 2, Chief Justice McLachlin issued a statement to set the record straight. She addressed the "insinuations of improper conduct from the Prime Minister's Office and reported widely in the press." According to the media release from the Chief Justice:

"At no time was there any communication between Chief Justice McLachlin and the government regarding any case before the courts. The facts are as follows:

"On April 22, 2013, as a courtesy, the Chief Justice met with the Prime Minister to give him Justice Fish's retirement letter. As is customary, they briefly discussed the needs of the Supreme Court of Canada. On July 29, 2013, as part of the usual process the Chief Justice met with the Parliamentary committee regarding the appointment of Justice Fish's successor. She provided the committee with her views on the needs of the Supreme Court.

"On July 31, 2013, the Chief Justice's office called the Minister of Justice's office and the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Mr. Novak, to flag a potential issue regarding the eligibility of a judge of the federal courts to fill a Quebec seat on the Supreme Court. Later that day, the Chief Justice spoke with the Minister of Justice, Mr. MacKay, to flag the potential issue. The Chief Justice's office also made preliminary inquiries to set up a call or meeting with the Prime Minister, but ultimately the Chief Justice decided not to pursue a call or meeting."

This  attack on Chief Justice McLachlin is unprecedented and unacceptable. The Supreme Court of Canada is established constitutionally as an impartial body which means that it must be above partisan political considerations. The credibility of what is called a democracy, versus a dictatorship, resides in there being a clear division of powers between the judiciary and legislative institutions of the state. The Harper government's attempt to impugn the integrity and honour of the Chief Justice is its modus operandi to disparage the public institutions and justify its own dictatorship and use of privilege to act with impunity. The practice of defamation to declare a subject outside the law was the practice in medieval times. It is not permissible within a democratic set-up where it is supposed that there must be prima facie evidence of a crime prior to the laying of charges. This hit and run method of the Harper Conservatives is despicable, to say the least.

(With files from CBC News, Toronto Star, Supreme Court of Canada)

For more coverage on Bill C-23 and the position of the Marxist-Leninist Party
and others, visit the website of the MLPC:


www.mlpc.ca

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