Saturday, September 15, 2012

Elections Canada makes exceptions for Liberals to break Elections Act

How rotten the Liberal election campaign in Guelph really was in 2011 is only beginning to be exposed.

The Canada Elections Act is clear on a number of important rules: landlords cannot stop political party representatives from canvassing an apartment building during a writ period; a person cannot make a false statement in order to vote; a candidate cannot accept "gifts"; and a bunch of other rules most of us accept as warranted and appropriate to conduct fair and free elections.

One such law is that partisan materials and identification are not allowed at polling stations.  It's right here:

  • 166. (1) No person shall
    • (a) post or display in, or on the exterior surface of, a polling place any campaign literature or other material that could be taken as an indication of support for or opposition to a political party that is listed on the ballot under the name of a candidate or the election of a candidate;
    • (b) while in a polling station, wear any emblem, flag, banner or other thing that indicates that the person supports or opposes any candidate or political party that is listed on the ballot under the name of a candidate, or the political or other opinions entertained, or supposed to be entertained, by the candidate or party; and
    • (c) in a polling station or in any place where voting at an election is taking place, influence electors to vote or refrain from voting or vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.

You read that, right?  No posting partisan materials outside a polling station and no person may wear anything that indicates partisanship while inside a polling station.

Well, don't worry.  If you're a Liberal and break the law, Elections Canada will simply say the rules don't apply to you!

> From: CommissionersOffice <>
> To: Kenneth Morgan
> Sent: Monday, October 31, 2011 1:46:06 PM
> Subject: Complaint
> File # E11-322
> Dear Mr. Morgan:
> This correspondence is further to your complaint that the Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer allowed the Liberal Party to distribute literature and wear political paraphernalia at the special ballot voting activity held at the University of Guelph on April 13, 2011, during the 41st general election period.  You also indicate that at the same activity, after “adhering to all relevant articles of the Canada Elections Act”, your scrutineer (candidate representative) was not allowed to scrutineer at the poll.
> For each allegation this Office must determine if the elements of an offence under the Canada Elections Act (Act) can be met.  Enforcement action, including a warning, compliance agreement or referral for possible prosecution, will not be contemplated if the elements of an offence are not met.
> The Act provides that electors can vote on polling day, at advance polls and by means of a special ballot.  The voting at the University of Guelph was a special ballot activity. The rules governing voting by special ballot are found in Part 11of the Act and differ from voting at a “polling station” within the meanings of the Act. 
> The prohibition of the distribution of literature and the wearing of paraphernalia indicating support for or opposition to a political party, applies to a “polling place” or “polling station” as defined by the Act.  Voting by special ballot does not take place at a polling place or polling station; consequently, the prohibition does not apply.
> The same is true with respect to the presence of candidate representatives to witness the vote. The Act does not provide for scrutineers in the case of voting by special ballot (representatives may be present when the special ballot votes are being counted “at the office of the returning officer”).  Scrutineers of all parties present at the University of Guelph special ballot activity were asked to leave because election officers believed there was no basis in the Act for them to be present.
> Based on the law and the evidence available to me, there is no reasonable basis to believe that the conduct described in your complaint involves a violation of the Act.
> Thank you for your interest in the electoral process.

> Yours truly,
> The Commissioner of Canada Elections

Reminder: the only reason this was a special ballot vote in the first place was because "a well-intentioned Returning Officer" set up a polling station without the authorization of Elections Canada.  A rogue Returning Officer operating without the knowledge or consent of her bosses is one thing; it's far worse to retroactively change the rules by saying they don't apply to one party.