A Conservative senator is pulling back after he seemed to suggest he knew of thousands and thousands of cases of voter fraud in Halifax and Dartmouth, N.S.
Senator Thomas McInnis was questioning Pierre Poilievre, minister of state for democratic reform, about the Conservatives' proposed changes to Canadian election law when he made the statement.
Part of his question focused on an element of the bill that would eliminate vouching, a process that lets a voter swear to their address if another voter vouches for them. Vouching is used when voters don't have identification that proves their address.
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Experts, including former auditor general Sheila Fraser and groups representing seniors, students and aboriginal Canadians, say eliminating vouching will mean tens of thousands of people won't be able to cast ballots.
McInnis, who represents Nova Scotia, told Poilievre on Tuesday that vouching is a concern for him.
"I can tell you that vouching is a problem, but it's not just vouching. And I've witnessed it, personally on the streets of Halifax, and Dartmouth. And it is a problem. Many of these people first of all don't even know who the candidates are, haven't been involved — that doesn't absolve them from the right to vote, I realize that. I've seen them, actually, people take them right in and almost mark their ballot. That's how serious this is and it's thousands and thousands."
Cites Elections Canada
McInnis's statement was reminiscent of one by Conservative MP Brad Butt, who said he had seen people take voter information cards out of the garbage, but then retracted his statement. The Conservatives later killed an NDP attempt to haul Butt in front of a committee to question him further.
It was also similar to comments by Conservative MP Laurie Hawn, who is set to appear before MPs on the procedure and House affairs committee on Thursday to discuss his allegation he was offered bundles of voter information cards during the 2006 election.
A day after making voter fraud allegation, McInnis's office released a statement saying that he didn't claim to have seen any evidence of voter fraud, and that he had calculated an estimate based on numbers provided by Elections Canada.
"McInnis’ number of thousands and thousands comes from the chief electoral officer of Canada on March 6, 2014. When he stated before the House of Commons committee on procedures [sic] and House affairs that 120,000 voters used vouching in the last general election. This statement, coupled with the Neufled [sic] Report where it stated that there are irregularities in 25 per cent of cases where couching [sic] was used, thus translating into approximately 30,000 votes," the statement said.
Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer of Canada, and Harry Neufeld, a consultant who studied problems in the 2011 federal election, both say there are administrative errors associated with vouching but no evidence of voter fraud.
Mayrand says 120,000 people relied on vouching in the last federal election and that they risk being disenfranchised if the proposed changes become law.
McInnis had agreed on Tuesday to do an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Wednesday, but wound up cancelling.