Inside Politics

UPDATE - Senator Janis Johnson pledges 'due diligence' on election bill

Think the continuing kerfuffle over the government's bid to rewrite the electoral laws of the land isn't raising a ruckus outside the so-called "bubble?"

Allow Winnipeg resident Alan Milne to prove you wrong.

Earlier today, he sent a letter to his current MP, Conservative Joy Smith, as well as Manitoban senators Joanne Buth, Maria Chaput, Janis Johnson and Don Plett, imploring them to exercise due diligence in reviewing the bill.

"I have seen everyone interviewed on the content of this act come out against its content, with the exception of the current party in power who wrote the Bill," he points out.

"Now the Commissioner of Elections Canada has also come out against it, stating that, if it passes, he will report to prosecutors representing the people being investigated."

This, he notes, "is not democracy as you, or any other Canadian, has come to know it."

"All that I am asking, as a constituent of Kildonan St.Paul and a resident of Manitoba, is that you do your job in the best interest of ALL Canadians."

Milne, who told CBC News that he's not affiliated with any party, and doesn't contribute to any party or politician, says hasn't yet heard back from any of the recipients, but it's early yet -- he just sent it out this morning, after all.

At least one of the Upper House denizens on his distribution list has already expressed concern over the bill in its current form.

On Tuesday, Manitoba Conservative Senator Janis Johnson told CBC reporter Julie Van Dusen that the job of the Senate "is to look at bills like this."

In any case, I've asked Mr. Milne to let me know if he hears back from any of his designated parliamentary representatives.

In the meantime, reprinted with permission, here'ss the full text of his email:

As my Member of Parliament and, as the Senators from Manitoba, I ask you to do your due diligence in your review of the "Fair Elections Act" and not, use our political process for party gain.

I have seen everyone interviewed on the content of this act come out against it's content with the exception of the current party in power who wrote the Bill. Now the Commissioner of Elections Canada has also come out against it stating that, if it passes, he will report to prosecutors representing the people being investigated. This is not democracy as you, or any other Canadian, has come to know it.

Why would it contain language that restricts Elections Canada from publicly trying to get people out to vote? The only possible reason would be that limiting voter participation would somehow benefit the country and, as we all know, engaging the entire population in exercising their right to vote is in the best interest of any democratic nation.

I personally find it incredibly disheartening that, in the last election we only manged to get a 61.1% turnout. Somehow, we have created a country that 9,434,184 registered voters did not see any value to entering their vote.

Instead of chasing the ghost of Voter Fraud through what would equate to voter suppression, my government should be working tirelessly to re energize the voting public and increase participation in the democratic process.

All that I am asking, as a constituent of Kildonan St.Paul and a resident of Manitoba, is that you do your job in the best interest of ALL Canadians.

Thank you for your time.

Alan Milne
Winnipeg, MB


UPDATE: Senator Johnson has replied with a promise to bring both due diligence and sober second thought to bear on the bill, which, she points out, will soon be subject to pre-study by the Upper House.

"I will be keeping a close watch to see how the hearings proceed, always keeping in mind there are dissenting views on the legislation coming from the Canadian public, including many expert critics who are calling for changes to the bill," she assures her fellow Manitoban.

"I assure you that as a Senator charged with the duty to practice sober second thought on all bills before the Senate, I will indeed be giving my due diligence to C-23 over the next few weeks and months," she concludes.

Here's the full text of her reply:

Dear Mr. Milne,

Thank you for conveying your concerns to me about Bill C-23, The Fair Elections Act. I understand that there are a number of provisions within this bill which have been highlighted as matters of concern, not only by elections and governance experts, but by the general public.

As has been indicated, the legislation is currently being reviewed by the Minister, with a view to making certain changes. Amendments to the vouching provision could follow the Manitoba model, whereby voters without two pieces of identification that definitively prove their address will be required to sign a declaration attesting to their residency.

The Senate will be doing a pre-study and there will be due diligence given to the bill by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. I will be keeping a close watch to see how the hearings proceed, always keeping in mind there are dissenting views on the legislation coming from the Canadian public, including many expert critics who are calling for changes to the bill.

The Senate is the institution, constitutionally, charged with giving sober second thought to all legislation that is passed in the House of Commons. This bill is no different and we should give it independent study and not be rushed. The Minister's proposed amendments are also very important to our deliberations.

Overall, there are a number of positive reforms within this bill to strengthen the integrity of our elections and which will be examined in more depth by the Committee.

Once again, thank you for bringing your concerns with the draft bill to my attention. I assure you that as a Senator charged with the duty to practice sober second thought on all bills before the Senate, I will indeed be giving my due diligence to C-23 over the next few weeks and months.

Sincerely,

Janis G. Johnson

Senator for Manitoba

Tags: blackberry jungle, election bill, senate of canada

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