February 14, 2014
Hon. Pierre Poilievre
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Poilievre:
The purpose of this letter is to express the deep concern of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation regarding some provisions of Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act. While we agree that the Canada Elections Act should be updated to address issues like
unsolicited calling, we are concerned that this Bill goes far beyond the scope of what is needed and does damage to the education of students about responsible citizenship and the fundamentals of Canadian democracy.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation is a non-partisan federation of teacher
organizations that speaks for nearly 200,000 teachers across the country. Many of these teachers have been involved in preparing their students to participate actively in their democracy. As a partner in Elections Canada’s annual Democracy Week, CTF believes in instilling civic engagement among Canadian youth through public education. CTF has applauded and supported the education initiatives organized by and through Elections Canada. We are deeply interested in maintaining the education of Canadian youth about democracy, citizenship and voting. Unfortunately, your Bill puts an end to this valuable outreach.
We are further concerned about the potential disenfranchising of voters by the removal of the voucher system. As you know, there are many people in Canada who, for
legitimate reasons, do not possess the type of identification proposed in this Bill.
Canadian teachers believe that voting is a fundamental right and responsibility within a representative democracy. Any proposal to take this right away, for whatever reason, must be considered very judiciously. According to Elections Canada, over 120,000 voters needed to be vouched for in the 2011 election, which represents 1% of the voting population. These Canadians must be able to exercise their right to vote, and should not be hindered from participating in the democratic process by their own government. We are further concerned about some of the funding provisions in the act and the removal of the Commissioner of Canada Elections from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer. As you know, the Chief Electoral Officer reports to Parliament while the Director of Public Prosecutions reports to the Attorney General – a Cabinet post. Couple this with proposed rules limiting the public disclosure of investigations, and the Canadian practice of open democracy may be severely hampered.
Perhaps of greatest concern is the speed with which this Bill is being pushed through the Parliament. Change of this magnitude takes time and consideration by all those involved and affected. This should be especially true of legislation aimed at making changes to democratic processes. Democracy works best through consultation, consensus-building, and respect for diverse voices. Teachers encounter the diverse voices of children, parents and families every day in the schools and communities throughout our country. They work hard to ensure that those diverse voices are respected and heard. Our federal government must do no less.
I would be pleased to meet with you at your convenience to discuss further our concerns with this legislation.
cc: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party
Joe Preston, Chair Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC)