How do you talk for eight hours?
Dave Christopherson, NDP Deputy Leader and MP for Hamilton Centre, ended a long-winded workday at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday after speaking to the Procedures and House Affairs Committee meeting for eight hours (with breaks) reviewing the “Fair Elections Act”.
Chistopherson started his speech at approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. To keep the floor he had to stay on topic and not repeat himself.
“[Talking] is easy to do in the beginning but as hours go by... the real challenge was finding relevant material that was new, that the Chair would accept,” said Christopherson. “And the Government members were jumping and pouncing at the first opportunity to say he’s repeating himself or irrelevant.”
Christopher tried a few times to run deep into the fine details of small sidebars—things like travel and summer vacations in the ‘North’—but was always quickly steered back into “relevance”.
The NDP was trying to encourage cross-country hearings on Bill C-23, also known as the “Fair Elections Act”, while the Conservatives have been quickly trying to pass it through the House.
Among many points, Christopherson read word for word from several documents he brought in a large green binder.
“The key thing for us was to go long enough that we inflicted as much political pain on the government members on the committee as possible, but also finding the moment in time that we would pivot and leverage me shutting up in exchange for things we wanted from the government,” said Christopherson.
“I know what the game plan is,” Christopherson said in the meeting. “The game plan is to force me to eventually let go of the floor, mostly through exhaustion or other pressures, then [Conservatives] get the floor next, then they’re going to move a motion that effectively shuts everything down.”
The “Unfair Elections Act” says the NDP
This bill as it stands will raise the limits for political donations, separate election administration from the enforcement of election law, and get rid of “vouching”, which allows voters without government photo ID to still cast votes.
The NDP says the majority of voters this bill will affect are seniors, students, and First Nations people; demographics, according to NDP Leader Mulcair, the Conservative government knows do not typically vote for Conservatives.
“This is a government that threw away all the traditions of how Canadian Government is supposed to operate,” said Christopherson. “Now they’re refusing to get out of the safe and secure Ottawa bubble.”
Christopherson said he and the NDP would continue to use every tool available to them in order to let Canadians know what the elections bill could mean for them.
Mayrand called to testify at open meeting
After the eight-hour speech, the NDP did gain the ground they wanted. Now, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand will join the Procedures and House Affairs Committee meeting Thursday.
Christopherson says the NDP is looking forward to hearing what Mayrand has to say.
“His list of what’s important to know about this bill is, quick frankly, more critical than mine,” said Christopherson.
FIVE THINGS ABOUT THE FAIR ELECTIONS ACT
Voters who show up to the poll but do not have valid government photo ID, would no longer be allowed to vote. Previously someone who knows a person without photo ID would be able to verify their identity in order to let them vote.
2. Electoral Education
The Chief Electoral office may no longer be given the mandate to promote and educate our electoral process to Canadians.
The hiring of staff on the part of the Chief Electoral Officer will have to go through the treasury board.
4. Campaign Funding
The legislation would increase the amount of money candidates can put towards their own campaigns from $5,000 to $25,000.
5. Social Media
Currently, there is a ban on sharing election results on social media before the election has been counted entirely. For example, Eastern Canadians cannot share result information until counting is complete in Western Canada. This rule would be repealed.