I like Guy Lauzon. I really, really like Guy Lauzon and I plan to vote for him in the next federal election unless someone, somewhere - and this may require more than just a touch of the supernatural - can come up with a very compelling reason for me to vote for Stéphane "Dion of the Dead".
And I’m sure there are thousands of voters across Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry who feel the same way. Guy’s an exceptional constituency politician. He’s been here in North Dundas more often in the past year than his predecessor, Bob Kilger, was during his lengthy career as MP for Cornwall-Whatever and it’s a truly noteworthy occasion if there’s a beanfest, barbecue, bun toss or bazaar in the United Counties at which he and Frances are not present.
And unlike the CBC and The Ottawa Citizen’s Susan Riley, I also like Stephen Harper. It’ s been a long, long, long time - maybe harking back to the days when Bob Stanfield was the best Prime Minister Canada Never Had - since we’ve had a PM of such principle and I know I can rest safely in my bed at night in the knowledge that he has a healthy public opinion poll lead over the Grits’ Dead Man Talking.
But there is a huge problem for over one-million Canadians - about 4.4 percent of the electorate - when it comes to supporting Harper’s Tories in the next federal election.
Put simply it’s this: recent changes to Canada’s federal election laws make them ineligible to vote.
Why? According to a Canadian Press story in late October, the changes, passed quietly about a four months ago and with only the NDP opposing them, mean that in order to vote you must have a street or a civic address and the identification you present in a polling booth to back up who you say you are must have this address printed on it. Otherwise, pal, you’re outta luck.
The changes, brought in by the Tories to tighten up election security, have achieved precisely the opposite of what they were intended to do.
Were 4.4 per cent of the ballots cast in the last election fraudulent?
A shift in voter preferences that large would create or destroy majority governments (except under an MMP system in which it would guarantee the election of candidates from a flock of beyond-the-fringe parties). In effecting a cure, the Tories have euthanized the patient and the fact that it got through the party, through the bureaucracy (Hello, is anybody in here awake?) and Parliament just demonstrates that the rural-urban divide is now a chasm, if not a canyon. With the stroke of a pen the federal Tories have disenfranchised more than a million Canadian voters - many of them here in SDSG adn many mor eacross teh reqdership of The AgriNews - because someone in the party, or sometime server in the federal mandarinate failed to take notice of the simple fact that many Canadians don’t yet have civic addresses printed on their driver’s licenses or similar pieces of identification.
And many voters, particularly those in remote areas like stretches of Northern Ontario and Nunavut, just don’t have civic addresses. Period.
Take Northern Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus as an example. His driver’s license lists his address as Mileage 104, a reference to the original railway line distance markers through Northern Ontario showing that he lives 104 miles from Timmins (and this hasn’t even been converted to metric yet). The problem is similarly acute on many Native reservations where residents’ addresses are often listed simply as the name of the reserve.
About 27 per cent of Saskatchewan voters don’t have civic addresses and would be similarly ineligible to vote in the next federal election.
Even Elections Canada has pointed out the flaw to the government and this is the same institution that, given its own inclinations, would allow voters who cover their faces to cast a ballot. In fact, legislation that would have prevented just that from happening failed to clear the Commons Oct. 26 and is teh talk of the town in Québec where the Taylor-Bouchard Commission is discovering just how hospitable that province can be when you try to weave a few coloured threads into the pure wool.
Are there changes to this legislation on the way? Tory House Leader Peter Van Loan has stated that it was never the government’s intention to disenfranchise rural Canadians, it just sort of happened that way and gosh darn it all we’ll have some sort of rules in place by the next time the country trots to the polls to make sure that you little people out there get to vote just like your big brothers and sisters in, say, Montréal’s West Island or Toronto’s West Bank.
But of course that’s just another hurdle in the process that far too many Canadians (almost 48 per cent in the last Ontario election) find too onerous. Imagine the chaos that would ensue in any riding if every voter whose addresses were, say, RR3 Chesterville or RR2 Brighton or RR10 Podunk Corners, showed up at a polling station on election day and had to be sworn in or was made to sign an affidavit to prove that you are who you say you are to a scrutineer or polling clerk, who, chances are, would be his or her next door neighbour.
And it would be even more chaotic since we’re the ones who tend to vote. Chances are you and your family have been on your farm for several generations and you trend to take your politics pretty seriously. You know the area, you know the issues and you know the candidates. Chances are you’re on a first-name basis with at least one, if not several of those names will appear on the ballot, and unlike many urban voters, you know which riding you live in.
So come on Guy, let’s get with it. And get your pal Gord Brown up in Leeds-Grenville and ton ami, PIerre Lemieux, over in Glengarry, Prescott, Russell, on the same page. There are a lot of voters out here who are not particularly enthralled with the idea of being made strangers in their own land.
Maybe in the meantime, though, we could just slip on our burkas to cast our ballots.