Monday, September 10, 2007

Read the Act, Harper. Then get back to us when you have it figured out.

Harper could have taken a higher road. He could have withheld comment by suggesting he needed more information. But he didn't do that.

Instead, he ran off at the mouth like a soup sandwich intent on casting Elections Canada in the worst light possible over an issue that simply does not exist.

Inasmuch as this whole thing is taking on a life of its own, few who are commenting have actually read the rules Harper is claiming Elections Canada is ignoring. Once you do, you realize that Elections Canada is absolutely correct in their interpretation of the means of establishing the identity of a voter at a polling station. Face covered or bared makes no difference whatsoever. Section 143 of the Canada Elections Act spells it all out quite clearly. If you need further clarification, Red Tory and Impolitical actually took the time to read the act and its implications for the identification of electors. Red Tory goes one further and describes how this red herring actually made its way onto the front pages of today's newspapers. Suffice to say that it was a non-issue from the start and I suspect was partially fueled by racism. Add sloppy journalism and a poorly researched report to the mix and you have an issue that was tailor-made to allow Harper to take a swipe at Elections Canada.

Harper and his party are in a head to head fight with Elections Canada over campaign expenses in the 2006 election. That is just the latest bit of head-butting Harper has had with the independent Elections Canada. His history goes back to his days as the head of the National Citizens Coalition and an unsuccessful attempt to have the Supreme Court overrule Elections Canada regulations prohibiting the publication of election results before the last polls had closed.

This whole issue is manufactured. It is designed to give Harper a wedge issue to initiate the breaking apart of Elections Canada, an organization Harper clearly has no use for. Far from being the champion of democracy, Harper would have election legislation rewritten completely and, given the alleged improprieties of the Conservative Party in the last election, you can bet who would be best served by any changes.

For what it's worth, Elections Canada has a global reputation for fairness and scrupulous attention to voters' rights. It's one of the reasons that body is consulted internationally and regularly invited to provide monitors for elections in countries which are attempting to improve their electoral process. Elections Canada occupies a position on the world stage and has done so for longer than Harper has been trying to crawl up the steps.

The requirement to visually identify voters at the polling station simply does not exist. The rules are clear. You can walk in and vote with a paper bag over your head if you want to. The requirement is to determine that the person appearing to vote is on the voters list, resides at the address stated on that list and can produce identification which verifies that name and address. What you look like is irrelevant.

So, Harper can put a lid on the apparent outrage. He's milking a headline and if he had an ounce of honesty he would have stated the truth and put the situation in its proper perspective. He might have even garnered some respect from people who understand the electoral process.

But then, he wouldn't have satisfied the mouth-breathing wanks who form his base. Those whose reading doesn't include acts of parliament.

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