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September 10, 2007

Farce, or tragedy?

I happen to believe that if a Muslim woman can vote while wearing a veil, then I should be able to vote while wearing a a Richard Nixon mask, à la Point Break. But then again, I don't believe I should be able to vote while wearing a Nixon mask. And that rule requiring everyone except veiled Muslims to show photo ID when they vote — the one everyone from Stephen Harper to Stéphane Dion and back again is furious about? As far as anyone can see, it doesn't exist. And our Prime Minister doesn't seem to know the first thing about what's in Bill C-31, which only received Royal Assent in July. Nor does Tory MP Joe Preston, who's on the committee what hatched this bizarre legislation that doesn't do what everyone thinks it does. “I'd love for [Mayrand] to come here and try to explain to us what he doesn't understand about photo ID,” said Preston, bewilderingly.

What the hell is going on in this country?

UPDATE: Harper just accused Elections Canada of adhering to the laws they wished existed instead of the laws that actually exist. Which is exactly what he's doing. Seriously, is this a dream? Is this purgatory or something? I am not easily shocked by the vacuousness of Canadian politics, but I can scarcely believe what I'm hearing today.

Posted by Chris Selley at September 10, 2007 05:24 PM

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But don't you know that Mayrand is "flouting the will of Parliament" through his "lethargic interpretation of a recent reform of the Elections Act."

Posted by: sacamano at September 10, 2007 09:42 PM

I am a little confused. From my reading, it seems that all the elections people care about is that the person who shows up to vote is who they say they are. In other words, facial recognition, though convenient, is not necessary, as is outlined in the second and third option for identification.

If this is the case, what would be wrong showing up with a Richard Nixon mask on? As long as the guidelines/law was followed, who cares about the mask? Am I missing something here?

Posted by: lk at September 11, 2007 11:55 AM

A: He's pandering to Quebec xenophobia
B: He's trying to discredit an organization that is catching his party breaking the law

Posted by: Anonymous at September 11, 2007 04:08 PM

OMG - what a complete waste!
Can't we get back to issues of substance in Ottawa ?
For example, I'm sure Shane Doan must have done something else recently that warrants a committee hearing.

Posted by: Nbob at September 12, 2007 12:34 AM

You should read Media Scout

by Daniel Tencer
September 12, 2007

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper attacked Elections Canada last Sunday for allowing veiled Muslim women to vote without showing their face, it appeared he had finally found an issue on which the vast majority of Canadians were on his side. In an unscientific poll conducted on the Globe’s website, fully 97 percent of respondents agreed that voters should be required to show their face before voting. The opposition—united behind Harper on this issue—and the public turned a glaring eye to chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand, demanding an explanation. On Monday, he gave one. The law is quite clear, he said, in that it doesn’t require voters to show their face. Also, Elections Canada had already informed Parliament of this in May. At this point, Harper’s Conservatives should have turned red-faced with embarrassment, having shown that they either did not understand or did not pay attention to the electoral legislation they passed in June. But, as the Globe reports, the Conservatives are staying on the attack, with House Leader Peter Van Loan accusing the arm’s-length electoral agency of going "against the clear intent" of the law—this despite the fact that he was in the room last May when a Senate committee was informed of the fact that the law does not require veiled voters to show their face.

So what’s behind the Conservatives’ stubborn insistence on attacking a high-ranking bureaucrat, even when the topic has proven to be an embarrassment for the government? According to NDP Member of Parliament Pat Martin, quoted in the Citizen, it has everything to do with Elections Canada’s assertion that the Conservatives went $1.2 million over the legal spending limit in the last election. The Globe describes today how defensive behaviour by some Conservative MPs after the January, 2006, election tipped them off to the practice of “in-and-out” transactions, in which the federal Conservative organization sent money to local candidates and then siphoned it right back to the federal campaign, thus avoiding federal spending limits. Several weeks ago it emerged that Harper’s Conservatives are now involved in a lawsuit against Mayrand—the same person Harper attacked over veiled voting—regarding Mayrand’s decision not to recognize the “in-and-out” spending as legitimate. At a House committee hearing yesterday into the practice, the Citizen reports, Conservative MPs deflected allegations of corruption by challenging the opposition parties to open their campaign spending books for the past decade. So, thus far, Harper’s cynical plan to divert attention from campaign misspending by kicking up a firestorm over veiled voters has worked.

But history is replete with examples of political leaders who exploited ethnic, religious and racial tensions in order to consolidate their power. Very few democratic leaders are counted among them; it is usually the domain of nationalistic dictators. Harper should consider carefully from whom he takes his leadership cues.

Posted by: wsam at September 12, 2007 04:44 PM

I swear, this whole sad story has taken me from thinking that our MPs don't read the legislation they pass to suspecting many of them may actually be incapable of rational thought.

Posted by: Lord Kitchener's Own at September 13, 2007 04:34 PM

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