Despite enormous public outrage brought on by allegations of election fraud throughout the United States, news emerged last week that Ottawa is preparing to introduce significant reforms to the way federal elections are conducted in Canada.
Bill C-19, “An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response),” tabled in the House of Commons on Dec. 10, proposes a series of amendments to the Canada Elections Act “to ensure the safe administration of an election” in the context of the pandemic.
Too Much ‘Flexibility’ Opens Door to Corruption
Elections Canada is reassuring citizens that it will perform its responsibilities with impeccable honesty and efficiency.
Should the need arise, the agency says it is perfectly capable of running a smooth general election during a global health crisis. It simply proposes we give more “flexibility” both to electors and to those charged with administering the election. But as Americans learned in November, “flexibility” can open the door to corruption.
At face value, some of Elections Canada’s proposals appear seductively reasonable and eminently “Canadian.”
Among the proposed measures are more early voting, which would relieve electors from the stressful habit of following policy debates throughout a campaign; rolling elections into a three-day “long-week-end-election” instead of the tedious “single-business-day” affair that has sufficed for well over a century; and last, but certainly not least, the introduction of mass mail-in voting which, according to legacy media, produced unimpeachable outcomes in the November American election.
Incredibly, Elections Canada is even talking about mail-in ballots being accepted up until a day after polls close. For those who followed the troubling post-election day controversies south of the border, its déjà vu all over again.
The office of Dominic LeBlanc, the minister responsible for democratic institutions, said before the bill was tabled that adjustments were already underway that don’t require legislation, such as implementing physical distancing and other public health guidelines at polling places, procuring masks and single-use pencils for voters and, more ominously, increasing the capacity of our existing vote-by-mail system.
5 Million Could Vote by Mail
It is anticipated that up to five million electors could opt to vote by mail, an enormous increase over the 50,000 in the 2019 federal election. In recent Canadian provincial elections as in the U.S. presidential election, the evidence is clear that progressive partisans prefer mail-in-ballots at a much higher rate than conservative voters. Some say that mass mail-in voting in Canada could put Conservative Party candidates at a disadvantage for years to come.
CTV reports that, despite extended voting windows, election officials don’t anticipate a delay in announcing the results because Elections Canada is able to count advance votes as they come in. Federal officials say they are not anticipating any risk of fraud, should there be a surge in mail-in ballots.
This is hardly reassuring for Canadians. In the case of the contested U.S. election, it was precisely the mysterious discovery of uncounted mail-in votes that led to the implausible erasure of a significant lead for the incumbent president in crucial battleground states.
The federal government also contends that Bill C-19 will only usher in “temporary” measures, a promise somewhat reminiscent of the 1917 Income Tax Act, which was passed as a “temporary measure” to help finance World War I.
Integrity of Secret Ballot Should Not Be Forfeited
In a November Epoch Times piece titled “Save Democracy: Defend the Secret Ballot,” I argued that in the evolution of Western democracy, the secret ballot, cast in person, eventually became the gold standard for participation in free, fair, and transparent elections.
The opportunity to present oneself in person and privately cast an anonymous vote is an affirmation of the citizen’s right to make an independent decision free from undue interference by interested parties. This method of voting seeks to forestall voter intimidation, blackmail, or bribery which can occur outside the protection of a designated polling station.
Most democratic nations permit registered voters to solicit an absentee ballot and cast it through the mail. This is most often done to accommodate disabled citizens, overseas military voters, diplomatic corps, and other travellers who are unable to get to their designated polling station on election day.
But a drift toward mass mail-in voting would be a deliberate rejection of sound democratic principles and an open invitation to election corruption. Necessary health protection measures can be put in place without disrupting longstanding, trustworthy electoral procedures. We do it for grocery shopping and other essential activities.
At the close of an election day, the number of ballots inside the box has to match the number of citizens who showed up to vote and were confirmed to be eligible electors by election officials in the presence of partisan scrutineers. This is the only way of certifying that every ballot was cast by a registered elector and that none were fabricated or lost.
Canadians concerned about the integrity of our democracy should follow the debate over Bill C-19 very closely. When weighing the “consent of the governed” a democratic nation must be scrupulous about the accuracy of the scales.
It looks as if our government is about to take a page directly out of the American Democratic Party playbook, and this could have disastrous consequences for our Dominion.
William Brooks is a writer and educator based in Montreal. He currently serves as editor of “The Civil Conversation” for Canada’s Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.