UBC’s Andrew Irvine has published a useful column in Postmedia explaining why “quick fixes” like electronic voting or proportional representation aren’t likely to improve the sorry state of Canadian democracy. Instead, this man who is paid to teach and write says what we need is more teaching and writing about citizenship and the rule of law. In this case, I agree. But he’s missed what I think is a more important point, and a more important “quick fix”:
Enforce the damned law.
At this point, the Canada Elections Act is virtually a dead letter. The last several years have shown that you can run roughshod over it with impunity. The Prime Minister of Canada lost a court case over election law violations. The Conservative Party of Canada has been convicted of election law violations (and paid a pathetically nominal fine). The Liberal Party has confessed to an election law violation in 2011, apparently without consequence, while someone else pulled off the largest electoral fraud in modern Canadian history last year and it looks like they will never be successfully identified and brought to justice by Elections Canada.
A lot of people have complained that we need new laws to tighten restrictions on robocalls, etc., and this falls into Irvine’s column of “quick fixes” that actually miss the point. There’s no point making new bans if you’re not prepared to enforce the ones that exist.
And the problem isn’t that the law doesn’t provide the appropriate restrictions. 5053 calls successfully placed by Pierre Poutine in Guelph, multiplied by $5000 for every attempt to falsely lead a voter to the wrong polling station, equals over $25 million. Assuming a 1.5% report rate (which is the confirmed rate in Guelph — about 70 complaints for over 5000 phone calls), 800 complaints under investigation by Elections Canada equals about 55,000 fraudulent calls. That times $5000 equals $275 million. I doubt whoever pulled off the Poutine conspiracy has a spare $275 million kicking around.
The first problem at this point is enforcement. There is no point encouraging greater participation in a system where what few laws exist go routinely unenforced.
He’s missed another obvious “quick fix,” though, to which there is no real counterargument: voting should be mandatory. Everyone should be required to vote, no exceptions. This would have the convenient side effect of forcing Elections Canada to seriously follow up on successful vote suppression operations, even if they don’t really want to.Tweet