Who was investigated, charged and eventually convicted in an election overspending scheme following the 2006 federal election?
If you guessed Conservative Party of Canada members, you’d be correct.
Four people were convicted in the famous in-and-out scandal, which saw national Conservative money funneled into and out of local campaigns in order to cover up overspending.
The convictions were later dropped in exchange for a plea deal that saw the Conservative party admit to the fraud.
So, what do you do when you get caught red-handed cheating in elections? Well, you change the law so it works more in your favour.
As incredible as it sounds, that is in large part what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing in a new election bill unveiled this week.
The proposed Fair Elections Act was handed out to reporters Wednesday in a rushed briefing that left little time for review or questions. The Conservatives have also taken measures to shorten debate in the House of Commons.
The amendments were touted by democratic reform minister Pierre Poilievre as a move to crack down on robocalls and make parties more accountable. But the finished product seems more targeted at sapping the powers of the Elections Canada office and giving the Tories an edge in elections.
The biggest eyebrow-raiser: the
Commissioner of Canada Elections will now work out of the Public Prosecutions office, rather than with Elections Canada. Some critics compared it to taking the referee off the ice, since the commissioner holds all the investigative power.
As well, it opens the commissioner up to political interference, since Elections Canada is a parliamentary office, not a government department.
The bill also raises party fundraising limits.
At this point, that may benefit the Liberals as much as any other party, but the Tories have been notorious for exceeding limits in the
Another curious move: the bill reins in
Elections Canada’s ability to communicate
with voters, even if only to promote voting to groups who are less likely to get out to the ballot box. That, Poilievre says, should be the job of political parties themselves.
The act would also tighten the rules of identification at voting stations. This would primarily tend to disenfranchise voters such as young people and aboriginals — essentially those less likely to vote Conservative.
It’s not exactly Orwellian, but the self-serving elements are hard to ignore. And the public is likely to see past them, especially if the bill is rammed through without amendments.
There comes a time when voters no longer fall for euphemistic titles on legislation and the burying of unpalatable measures in omnibus bills.
If it ever hopes to win back its lead in the polls, the Harper government would be wise to stop reaching into the same old bag of tricks.