A proposed amendment to Canada’s Elections Act would introduce handpicked partisan elections officials into the current non-partisan election process.
The ‘Fair Elections Act,’ a sweeping act introduced by Conservative minister Pierre Poilievre, includes an amendment to Section 124 of the Elections Act which would give the incumbent candidate, riding association or political party the authority to submit a list of names from which that riding’s Central Polling Supervisor will be appointed.
Under the current Elections Act, the Central Polling Supervisors are appointed by the local returning officer, a non-partisan elections official.
It is unclear why this amendment is necessary, as it would give new powers to incumbent politicians and their political parties to hold over the election process.
In Alberta, a similar practice was stopped in 2010 by then-Justice minister Alison Redford after it was revealed that local returning officers had been appointed from a list submitted by the Progressive Conservative Party. Many of those appointed were PC constituency officers, past nomination candidates and supporters of the governing party. Nearly half of the returning officers appointed in the 2008 provincial election had ties to the PC Party.
This specific amendment to the Elections Act is particularly problematic for incumbent Members of Parliament who plan to seek re-election under a different party banner or as an independent candidate.
Reached via email, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber explained that these amendments will create advantages for parties at the expense of fairness. “These are paid positions; it is blatant patronage for local volunteers,” Rathgeber wrote.
Elected as a Conservative in 2011, Mr. Rathgeber left the governing Conservative Party to sit as an Independent MP in 2013 because of what he described as a “lack of commitment to transparency and open government.”
If this law passes and Mr. Rathgeber seeks re-election as an independent candidate, his Conservative opponent will be allowed to submit a list of Central Polling Supervisors who will supervise the election.
The amendment to Section 124 of the Elections Act is unnecessary and would undermine and introduce doubt into a process that is currently fair and non-partisan.
|CURRENT Section 124 of the Elections ActCentral poll supervisor
(2) When a returning officer establishes a central polling place that contains four or more polling stations, the returning officer may appoint a central poll supervisor to attend at the central polling place on polling day to supervise proceedings and keep the returning officer informed of any matter that adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect, the proceedings.
|Proposed by the ‘Fair Elections Act’44. Section 124 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):
(3) Each of the central poll supervisors for an electoral district shall be appointed from lists of names of suitable persons provided by the candidate of the registered party whose candidate finished first in the electoral district in the last election or by the registered association of that registered party or, if there is no registered association, by that registered party.
(4) A returning officer shall proceed to appoint central poll supervisors from other sources if, by the 24th day before polling day, none of the candidate, the registered association and the registered party has made a recommendation or all three have not, as a group, recommended a sufficient number of suitable persons.
(5) A returning officer may, on reasonable grounds, refuse to appoint a central poll supervisor that is recommended by a candidate, a registered association or a registered party and shall immediately advise the candidate, registered association or registered party of the refusal.
(6) If as a result of the refusal a position is not filled, the candidate, registered association or registered party may, within 24 hours after being advised of the refusal, recommend another person and, if no one is recommended, the returning officer shall proceed to appoint another person whose name is solicited from another source.