Democracy Soup

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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper, Pauline Marois import GOP dirty tricks to reduce voting

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.

Stephen Harper and Pauline Marois rarely have something in common, but that something is a trend that has been sweeping throughout the United States.

Though using different methods, Harper and Marois are trying to deny the right to vote to people who are eligible. We’ve seen these “voter ID” laws in several U.S. states designed to prevent those likely to vote against Republicans a chance to cast their ballot, even though they are registered to vote.

While the target audience for Harper and Marois are different, the target audience for both is those who aren’t likely to vote for their party.

Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, is working its way through Parliament.

Canadians have voter identification cards, which help identify them, and Elections Canada has allowed their use with another form of ID as proof of being able to vote. Bill C-23 would take away voter identification cards as a proof of ID. The bill also disallows vouching, where someone in the precinct of the riding can vouch for that person.

Bill C-23 allows bans Elections Canada from encouraging turnout, especially among groups that aren’t as likely to vote: youths under 30, ethnic minorities, Aboriginals and the disabled.

The legislation also removes the Commissioner of Canada Elections (investigators) from Elections Canada to be a separate office. The Conservatives have been the target of numerous allegations from overspending their budget to robocalls telling voters their voting spot had changed when it hadn’t. The change reduces the impact they can make on parties that violate election laws.

Previous coverage:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper copies Bush tactic of ejecting people from campaign stops

Like their U.S. counterparts, conservatives in Canada don’t have actual examples of voter fraud. Unlike their U.S. counterparts, conservatives have the power to change the law nationwide.

In Quebec, university students who are otherwise eligible to vote are being told that they aren’t eligible. The requirements for voting in Quebec is to be a “Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, be domiciled in Quebec for six months.”

The key word is domiciled. The stories are pretty consistent. Even if people have been living in Quebec for longer than 6 months, and can prove those facts, they are still denied registration.

The Civil Code of Quebec states that “change of domicile is affected by actual residence in another place, coupled with the intention of the person to make it the seat of his principal establishment.”

In other words, you can be a student in Quebec, but if you no intention of living in Quebec after university, you can’t vote. And since that can’t be proven, those who aren’t francophones are being targeted as not likely to stay in Quebec.

These students are primarily living in Montréal, where anglophones and allophones are much more likely to be found.

Previous coverage:

2014 Quebec election preview; election set for April 7

Marois was also vocal about those outside Quebec (i.e., Ontario) were trying to pull the election away from the Parti Quebecois. The premier said there was an influx of illegal anglophone voters in 5 ridings. However, Chief Electoral Officer Jacques Drouin said that there was no abnormal rise in registrations.

Vote fraud would be if these students or anyone else were voting in Quebec and in the province where their parents live. There is no proof or accusations of that happening. In fact, if a student from Quebec were going to school in Ontario or New Brunswick, by Quebec standards, they wouldn’t be eligible to vote where they go to school and would also be legally barred from voting in Quebec.

The students can’t vote in two places, but legally have to be able to vote in one place.

Reading the mind of the voter is literally an impossible task. As to whether graduates will stay in the province, this would depending on being able to find work. Quebec’s jobless rate is not good, yet the campaign has been more about sovereignty and language than the economy or infrastructure.

Residency is where you live. College students in the U.S. run into similar troubles, especially with the new anti-democracy “voter ID” laws since these states “magically” won’t take a college ID as proof of identity.

Voting is a civic duty that comes with being a citizen. The voting process is about opportunity and choice. Political parties — Republican, Conservative, and Parti Quebecois — that take away opportunity and choice from citizens are no better than the Third World dictatorships that the First World likes to admonish.

Canada has done a much better job in running elections than its southern neighbor in great part because a non-partisan group such as Elections Canada works to open up voting to citizens and fights back against rampant partisanship. The Harper Government wants to make elections more like the United States in the spirit of their cousins, the Republican Party.

Politics is supposed to be about ideas. When you run out of ideas, you try cheap, undemocratic stunts such as these. These tactics go against being a democracy. The best way to punish them is to respond at the ballot box.


2014 Three Amigos preview

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Three Amigos summits are rare and brief, not a combination you want from three side-by-side countries that have a lot to say.

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama for the latest Three Amigos summit in Toluca, Mexico.

Technically, the name is the North American Leaders Summit but the Three Amigos nickname has stuck for this event.

Despite what you might think based on the U.S. media, agenda items other than the Keystone XL pipeline will come up in the discussions.

For more on what we might see during the brief summit, check out our analysis from our sister blog,

Canada’s Michael Ignatieff on sovereignty and what government must do

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Sovereignty is not something to dissect in the sound bites that make up our presidential campaigns. But sovereignty is a great 21st century topic for a lecture, and you couldn’t ask for a better person to talk about sovereignty in 2012 than Michael Ignatieff.

Hearing Ignatieff speak for 5-10 minutes, he demonstrates why is a professor. But Ignatieff also was a politician, head of the Liberal Party in Canada and candidate for prime minister in 2011. Ignatieff lost his seat in the election, and retired from politics.

His political/academic perspective, especially on the heels of the G8/NATO summits here in the United States, and Igantieff’s background in Canada, England, and the United States made him well-suited for the talk.

For more on the lecture and conversation, check out this column from our sister blog,

G8/NATO preview: Hiding at Camp David before coming to Chicago

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The G8/NATO summit was supposed to be all inclusive in Barack Obama’s hometown … in an election year. Well, we can’t seem to handle that so the awkwardness of breaking the summit into two locations appeared to be the “better” of the two options.

Protesters have a hard time getting their message out to the people who need to hear how they feel. In Chicago, as we’ve seen in Toronto and Pittsburgh, the goal is to keep the protesters and their messages as far away from people in power as humanly possible.

Of course, the violence estimates are high. Perhaps if people knew that those in power were listening to them, the reaction wouldn’t be as extreme. Some bad eggs will always come around to destroy things, but that can be true just about anywhere.

How much of a perspective we’ll get at Democracy Soup depends on how close I can get to the action. Even in the hometown of the NATO summit, getting close to the story may not be that easy. We’ll report back on what we see.

As for a look at what’s coming, and some Canadian perspective, check out this update from our sister blog,

Canada cuts back on food safety, even if it is still ahead of the United States

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The Harper government is taking a teabagger type look at the federal budget in its significant cuts. Ares important to liberals, NDP supporters, and Green members suffer disproportionally. Even in Canada, food safety is a political issue by conservatives.

The irony, if you want to call it that, is that in the last Canadian federal election, the Conservatives promised $100 million more in spending over a 5-year period for food safety. Guess that didn’t work out.

At least Canada has a federal agency — Canadian Food Inspection Agency — devoted to food safety. The U.S. can’t even spare that as a concept, real or weak.

While Canada doesn’t have the scares of eggs, spinach, and tomatoes that Americans have recently had, the country to the North did suffer from a listeriosis outbreak in 2008 from tainted deli meat that led to 22 deaths. And yes, the Harper government was in charge.

For more on this story, check out our perspective from our sister blog, And you can keep up on Canada and its politics (and more) at

Canada’s Harper government robocalls scandal similar to tactics from the George W. Bush days

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If in this political season you are feeling forlorn for the “good ol’ days” of George W. Bush, you might enjoy the latest political scandal of Canada.

The Conservative Party is being accused of incorporating one of the Bush’s team classic tactic of steering people away from voting, this time using robocalls to misinform where people are supposed to vote in the last federal election in 2011. The Conservatives in Canada are also accused of making calls pretending to be Liberal candidates (unethical) and Elections Canada representatives (illegal).

The Conservatives aren’t taking this lying down, accusing the Liberal Party of being behind the calls. A Conservative backbencher from Saskatchewan puts the blame on Elections Canada.

Robocalls are nothing new in U.S. politics, but they are geared mostly toward slamming fellow candidates. These robocall accusations go much further, dipping into pure deception. Elections Canada is now reviewing more than 31,000 reports of robocalls.

U.S. conservative tactics have involved flyers in minority neighborhoods, telling them that Election Day has changed to a later date or intimating threats of deportation for Hispanics who go to vote.

Elections Canada has more power than the U.S. Federal Election Commission, but is running into a problem of not having enough people to investigate the extensive number of complaints.

If my friends in Michigan are any indicator, robocalls are alive and well. But when they try to throw people off from their democratic (small d) voting rights, then someone should have to pay substantially. These are tactics that First World democracies write off as happening in Third World dictatorships. We have plenty of examples that this is and has been going on in the United States and Canada. The only question is what we’re going to do about it.

Mitt Romney does know Canada, unlike other GOP contenders

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If the GOP nomination process came down to knowledge about Canada, Romney would have clinched the nomination long before now.

Romney’s family spent many summers in Canada. The infamous dog story was when Romney took his wife and kids to Canada. Then again, John McCain traveled to Canada during the 2008 presidential campaign to give a speech in Ottawa.

Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, including oil (even without the Keystone XL pipeline). We haven’t had much about foreign policy in the 20 GOP debates (other than attacking Iran), so we don’t know where the candidates stand on too many issues, other than the Keystone XL pipeline.

For more, check out this analysis from our sister Web site, You can now access its Twitter feed #canadian_xing.