Proposed Changes to Electoral Law Seek to Strengthen State Control Over Political Discourse

Proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act found in Bill C-65 would tighten the grip of the state over political parties and further restrict the ability of citizens and residents to participate in a meaningful way in the affairs of concern to the body politic. Elections are no longer a forum for political debate and discourse on the direction of the economy, social, cultural and political affairs. On the contrary, they increasingly disempower the citizenry as well as fail to sort out any problem facing the polity, even in the short term.

Bill C-65 is in part the product of the Liberal-NDP Supply and Confidence Agreement which has a section called "making democracy work for people." This declares "a shared commitment" to "maintaining the health of our democracy and the need to remove barriers to voting and participation." Not surprisingly it is posturing and fraud.

Bill C-65 is informed by the reduction of citizens to nothing more than voters, so it is not without irony that the short name given to the bill is Electoral Participation Act. There is certainly nothing in the bill that enables greater participation of the citizenry in any substantive way. In terms of voting, the bill will expand polling from one day to three and allow electors the convenience of voting anywhere in their constituency instead of only at a particular polling place. These changes, if adopted, would not take place until the 2029 fixed-date election. The legislation directs Elections Canada to determine their feasibility. Other voting related amendments formalize polling locations in educational institutions and institutional residential settings.

As for removing other things that the NDP and Liberals seem to view as barriers to participation, the number of signatures needed to become a candidate will be reduced from 100 to 75. This may be because cartel party members are not prone to doing mass work and they are tired of having so many doors slammed in their faces. As well, the election spending threshold which triggers the requirement for individuals and groups to register as third parties will be increased from $500 to $1,500.

Some changes that have been introduced in Bill C-65 concern "False Statements." They too will do nothing to increase the participation of citizens and residents in the decision-making process.

New "False Statements" Provisions

There are several provisions in the current Canada Elections Act which can capture false information that is used to subvert elections, such as occurred with the 2011 Robocall Scandal. In that case, electors received false information about where they should go to vote through automated telephone calls claiming to be from Elections Canada. There are also provisions against making false statements about "a candidate, a prospective candidate, the leader of a political party or a public figure associated with a political party." It is a crime to falsely state that any of these entities has been charged with or is being investigated for violating any federal or provincial law. Also prohibited are false statements about "citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications or membership in a group or association."

Bill C-65 will amend these provisions by adding that the offence applies "regardless of the manner or medium in which the false statement is made or published," presumably to capture AI-altered photos and videos and the like. There are also more specific violations regarding false information in Bill C-65.

Candidate Registration and False Statements

As mentioned, the number of signatures required to be nominated as a candidate will be reduced from 100 to 75. Of greater significance is a new offence that has been introduced concerning nomination forms. It will now be a crime to convey false or misleading information on the nomination form. The signatory, the witness to the signature and the person who files the document are potentially culpable. This would mean, for instance, that should an ineligible elector such as a permanent resident sign a nomination form, it could be treated as a criminal offence. It will also provide grounds for "opposition research" to discredit and disqualify candidates by inspecting the publicly available nomination forms.

False Statements about the Voting Process

In its recommendations to Parliament, Elections Canada proposed that "knowingly making false statements about the voting process in order to disrupt the conduct of the election or to undermine the legitimacy of the election or its results" should be an offence.This has not been included in Bill C-65. Concerns were raised with Elections Canada by several of the parties without representation in the House of Commons about the sweeping character of this proposed prohibition. They pointed out that the definition was vague and open to abuse and violation of the right to freedom of speech. Would it be a "false statement," for instance, to say that a newly-elected government with a particularly small voter share and particularly low turnout is not representative and has given rise to a government with no legitimacy?

Instead, Bill C-65 adds specific subjects about which "false statements" are criminalized. This includes falsehoods about who is eligible to vote, how to register to vote, locations of voting locations, how an individual becomes a candidate, and how votes are counted and validated. It is also an offence to make a false statement about "whom an individual may vote for at an election."

No false statement will be required however for the reform to the Canada Elections Act which moves the date of the 2025 election back a week to not overlap with the Sikh festival of lights known as Diwali. Moving the election back a week means that some 80 MPs would qualify for their pensions, regardless of whether they win or lose their seats. While the original election date is set for October 20, 2025, after serving for six years in office, MPs would qualify for pensions on October 21, 2025. Out of the 80 MPs who will be locked in for their pensions regardless of election outcome, 32 are Conservative, 22 are Liberal, 6 are New Democrat, and 19 are from the Bloc. According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation the decision to move the election one week later, rather than earlier, could cost Canadians up to $120 million, the total pension amount for all 80 MPs.

Also, on April 1, the base salary of a rookie MP rose to $203,100, up from $194,600. This compares to the average annual salary of a full-time employee in Canada of $54,630.

This article was published in
Volume 54 Number 4 - May 2024

Article Link:


Website:   Email: