Are we still in Canada? Or a banana republic?

We’ve all been hearing a lot of disconcerting stories in the last few days about the problems voters have been experiencing at advance polls for the federal election.

We also know that, generally speaking, increased voter turnout is bad for incumbent governments. In other words, there’s a very high correlation between high voter turnout and the defeat of the party seeking re-election.

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Is Harper trying to increase or reduce voter turnout?

So I have to ask the question: Is Harper actually hoping to reduce or lower voter turnout?

Even the smallest reduction in overall voter turnout will disproportionately help him since he can count on his hard-core base to vote, no matter what.

Step One in the Harper “don’t get out the vote” campaign was implementing the most severe and draconian cuts ever in Elections Canada’s budget back in 2013 — cuts the Conservatives were really slammed for at the time given Elections Canada was supposed to address of lot of procedural errors. Even worse, the Conservatives were already facing widespread allegations of cheating in the 2011 federal election.

Step Two was to bring in legislation, the so-called Fair Elections Act, that’s made it much more difficult for individuals with limited identification to vote.

The 2013 cuts have made it impossible for Elections Canada to hire the number of employees necessary to prevent unacceptably long lineups at the polls. Cuts also meant many Elections Canada employees were hired fresh off the street and put to work without adequate training.

While I am not complaining about the very helpful Elections Canada employees that I encountered when I voted at the advanced polls, I am going to tell you what happened.

I attended an advance pool with the voter card I received in the mail; my passport, which contains my photo; and a utility bill with my name with my current address. According to the criteria laid out in the new Fair Elections Act, I had with me all the ID required to be able to vote.

However, the fellow at the table indicted that it was not adequate. Fortunately, the supervisor knew better and allowed me to vote.

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While it feels like the lead up to the election has gone on for millennia, Elections Canada wasn’t given the necessary funds to be prepared for E-Day.

The other day I heard of an even more troubling example. CBC Radio’s The Early Edition interviewed the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, Josh Paterson. He was also told that the ID he had brought to his voting poll was not acceptable. Fortunately, Josh is intimately familiar with the Fair Elections Act and was able advocate on his own behalf.

If I, a lawyer, and Josh, also a lawyer, are having these difficulties, you have to conclude that there are countless individuals we have not heard about who have been improperly denied the right to vote.

This is going to be one of the closest elections in Canada’s history. Many of the ridings up for grabs will be won by no more than a handful of votes. In any of these close-call ridings where Harper is able to get out his hard-core base of voters, turning away a handful or so of eligible voters could determine the future of our country. He could win these ridings and, in doing so, may end up crossing the finish line just ahead of the runner-up!

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Harper’s plan fails.

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