Yesterday, for over 8 hours, David Christopherson spoke in a filibuster at the Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs (PROC). The committee is attempting to study the so-called Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23). PROC has heard from a total of one witness- Pierre Poilièvre, the Minister who introduced the Bill. After that point, the opposition, led by Christopherson, has been trying to pass a procedural motion that would require cross-country consultations so that Canadians would have an opportunity to speak about a bill that will affect how they participate in elections.
The Harper Conservatives introduced the 252-page bill on February 4th, forced the end of debate on the 6th and sent it to committee after second reading on the 10th. The speed of passage was obvious in its intent to silence opposition voices. Now, the Conservatives have announced at committee that once Christopherson cedes the floor, they will move to end the procedural debate and rush through the committee hearings.
All of this could rate a big ho-hum from all but the most ardent political watchers. The problem is that this bill hits at the very core of our democracy – our ability to have our voices heard at election time. If passed, among other things, the bill will disenfranchise voters and cut Elections Canada’s ability to reach out to young voters; encouraging them to participate in the democratic process. The Conservative’s use of closure and, as Christopherson says, the “tyranny of the majority” in committee to further silence voices adds insult to injury.
Teachers across the country encourage their student to think critically about their community. Students are asked to act positively to effect change when necessary. Obviously, Christianson has taken this lesson to heart. He is doing everything in his power to point out to Canadians not only the problems with this legislation but also the undemocratic tactics being used to force adoption.
We all have a responsibility to make sure that our MPs represent our voices as well. Read the legislation – not just the rhetoric coming from the government. If you disagree with the content of C-23, does your MP know?
Bob McGahey, Canadian Teachers’ Federation