Conservative maneuverings

By Pat Watson Wednesday April 16 2014 in Opinion
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Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal once observed, “The world now understands the concept of ‘desk murderer’. We know that one doesn’t need to be fanatical, sadistic, or mentally ill to murder millions; that it is enough to be a loyal follower eager to do one’s duty.”


And, political theorist Hannah Arendt after studied observation of the trial in Israel in 1961 of Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief architects in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, coined the term ‘the banality of evil’ in which she raised the question of whether acts of evil are extreme or whether such acts are simply not considered with any depth by those who carry them out, but rather are carried out by people just following orders without conscientious assessment of the consequences.


I raise this aspect of behaviour as the public conversation continues around the strangely named Election Reform Act. It should be called the Electorate Reduction Act since, given the numbers from the last federal election, enacting it would affect some 120,000 would-be voters. Doing away with voter identification cards, which this Act also includes, would affect another 400,000. Furthermore, with Canada Post planning to stop home delivery, many who would have used utility bills and other similar documentation as identification may now switch to e-bills. Would printed copies of these be accepted as legitimate ID?


So, millions may not be considered eligible to vote with whatever ID they take with them to polling stations.


Wiesenthal and Arendt’s observations could find parallel with the battle charge being led by Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre as he defends this Act. I don’t know the politician personally so what there is to go on are his public pronouncements and a sense of what an idealistic individual, 34 years of age, might be like. It takes a particular dedication to following orders with blinders on to do what Poilievre continues to do almost daily now in Parliament and in regard to debate connected to this Act, also known as Bill C-23.


Among the chief criticisms of Bill C-23 is that it attempts to disenfranchise a significant demographic of voters, by disallowing the practice of vouching. Vouching is the term used when a voter whose identification has been verified vouches for another voter who has no other form of ID. Using information coming out of the report on election compliances by independent elections expert Harry Neufeld, Poilievre’s proposal takes aim at vouching as evidence that there is rampant cheating going on at the voting booth.


Yet, the Neufeld report raised questions not about those who were vouching for other voters, nor about the voters who were being vouched for. Rather, it raised questions about the procedures being carried out by elections officers and about the need for proper training of elections officers.


Somehow, Poilievre has taken that concern and reconfigured it as rampant voter fraud. Sticking to this story line, he has now gone on to attack not the content of the arguments that oppose the bill but those who do the arguing. Not just Neufeld and Chief Elector Officer Marc Mayrand, a Conservative appointee, for whom they now bear a grudge for calling them out on their own electioneering misconduct, but also former auditor general Sheila Fraser.


What does it matter to the Harper Conservatives that even the Senate, which is stacked with Conservatives and Harper appointees, in an unusual move has decided to take a first look at the bill, a “pre study”, that recommends changes including keeping the voter information cards, rather than wait to give it their second reading?


This entire controversy points to a larger issue that has characterized the Harper Conservative government, which is that in their social engineering practice, at every step of the way, they have been working to upend Canada as we know it. The Conservatives want very much to stay in power as long as it takes to reconfigure this nation into the image they have for it. Could limiting voter numbers help?


While some Canadians are content to think this government is managing our economy, a great many are unsettled by the other agenda, the likes of which Poilievre is now urgently foisting on us.

A note on ‘the change’…


On Monday, 21 Celsius, on Tuesday wet snow and icy sidewalks. Enough already!

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose. 

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