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No one should be surprised by low voter turnout in Trudeau’s selfish, unnecessary summer snap election

Snap election call during August holiday period, party misleaders, voting system, weak political ethics laws and platforms, and pandemic combine to lower voter turnout to about 62 percent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, September 24, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, in response to low voter turnout in Prime Minister Trudeau’s selfish and unnecessary summer snap election, Democracy Watch called for democratic changes to the federal political system to increase voter turnout. Initial results show that the Trudeau Liberals have won 47% (159 out of 338) of the seats in the House of Commons with the support of only 20% of eligible voters, which raises serious questions about their mandate to govern, let alone implement any specific law or policy.

Only about 62% of eligible voters cast a ballot, which puts the election among the five federal elections with the lowest turnout in Canadian history (2011, 2008, 2004, 2000 and 1896). A total of about 32.5% of the ballots cast were for the Liberals.

Voter turnout likely decreased in part because of Trudeau’s summer snap election call which led to the cancellation of on-campus polling stations and the reduction in polling stations in many ridings that caused long lineups on election day, as well as problems with the mail-in ballot system. However, even the 67-68% turnout in the 2015 and 2019 elections is still significantly below the turnout levels of 75% or more in many elections in the 1970s and 1980s.

“With only about 62 percent of voters casting ballots in the federal election, the fifth lowest turnout ever, and only 20 percent of eligible voters supporting the winning party, alarm bells should be going off and questions raised about the legitimacy of the federal government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Voter turnout will go up significantly only if honesty is required in politics, the voting system is changed to a proportional system with the right to vote none-of-the-above, and political ethics and government accountability laws are strengthened.”

Federal parties must ensure make the following changes if they want to increase voter turnout to the past level of about 75% in many elections in the 1970s and 1980s, or even higher:

  1. Pass an honesty-in-politics law that gives voters an easy, low-cost way to file complaints to the Ethics Commissioner, and requires the Commissioner to penalize misleaders (and requires MPs who switch parties in-between elections to resign and run in a by-election), and also enact effective measures to stop false claims during elections, especially online;
  2. Add the right to vote “none of the above” and to give a reason on election and by-election ballots;
  3. Move the fixed election date to the last Monday in October to make it easier for people with kids, and students, to follow and participate in the election campaign and have the identification needed to vote. Democracy Watch has filed a court case challenging Trudeau’s snap election call as a violation of the fixed election date measures in Canada’s election law,
  4. Change the voting system to provide a more accurate representation of the popular vote results in each election in the seats held by each party in the legislature (as in many other countries) while ensuring that all elected officials are supported by, and are accountable to, voters in each riding/constituency (with a safeguard to ensure that a party with a low-level, narrow-base of support does not have a disproportionately high level of power in the legislature), and;
  5. Strengthen federal political ethics, political finance, lobbying, open government, and whistleblower protection laws (the Green Party received the best grade of C- in overall bad grades in DWatch’s Report Card on the parties’ election platforms);
  6. Mandate Elections Canada to spend the $5 million or so it spends each election on voter education advertising on ads that include the following two key messages in their voter education advertising and communications – the real reasons to vote – which its partner organization Democracy Education Network includes in its VoteParty.ca and VotePromise.ca voter turnout initiatives:
    1. “You never know when your vote may count” — with examples from past elections, and from specific ridings in various elections, which show clearly that election results cannot be predicted in advance, and;
    2. “If you don’t vote, you don’t count” — making it clear that politicians don’t really care about you if you don’t vote because non-voters do not help them get elected or defeated.

These changes will make it easy and give voters many more compelling reasons to vote as they will know that voting for a specific party will mean their vote will count and the party’s promises will be kept, and they will be more assured of democratic, accountable good government overall no matter which party wins.

“More and more voters know from their experience of the past few decades of elections that they are not going to get what they vote for, and are likely to get dishonest, secretive, unethical, unrepresentative and wasteful government no matter which party they vote for, and as a result no one should be surprised to see voter turnout at such a low level,” said Conacher.

These problems exist in all the provinces and territories across Canada. All of these changes should be made by the federal and provincial and territorial governments, and for their municipalities, before mandatory voting is even considered because forcing voters to vote creates false legitimacy for political parties and politicians (and mandatory voting must never be implemented unless “none of the above” is one of the options on the ballot). Internet voting should also not even be considered currently given it would dangerously undermine the integrity of the voting system.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign

Green Party receives C- grade – best of overall bad grades in Report Card on Federal Parties’ 2021 Democratic Reform Platforms

NDP and Conservatives tie with D- while Liberals, Bloc and PPC all receive an F

Great to see Green Party promise to enact an honesty-in-politics law but, given lack of law and past pattern of ruling party breaking half of democratic reform promises, voters should be very skeptical of every promise made by every party

8 key, written rules needed to have a fair post-election, and fair minority government

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Saturday, September 18, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released its Report Card on the Federal Parties’ 2021 Democratic Reform Platforms (See the summary Report Card below, and click here to see the full Report Card).

The Green Party received a C- as the best grade of overall bad grades for all the parties, as their platform was weaker than their 2011 election platform when they received a B- grade.

The NDP and Conservatives tied with D- while the Liberals, Bloc and Conservatives received an F.

One breakthrough is that the Green Party promised to enact an honesty-in-politics law to ensure parties tell the truth during election and referendum campaigns – the first federal party to make such a promise – and the Green Party and NDP also both promised measures to address misinformation and disinformation, especially online.

However, given the current lack of an honesty-in-politics law, and the fact that Prime Minister Chrétien, Prime Minister Harper, and Prime Minister Trudeau all failed to keep half of their democratic reform promises (Prime Minister Martin didn’t make any), voters should be very skeptical of every promise made by every party.

The Liberals’ platform is a failure compared to their 2015 election platform that received a B grade, and is as weak as their democratic reform record since 2015:

  1. the Liberals broke most of their open government promises;
  2. Prime Minister Trudeau broke his electoral reform promise;
  3. they failed to make the political finance system more democratic;
  4. they ignored recommendations to strengthen whistleblower protection in a unanimous House Committee report;
  5. they ignored recommendations to stop secret, fake online election ads in a unanimous House Committee report, and;
  6. Prime Minister Trudeau and Liberal Cabinet ministers have been involved in many secrecy and ethics scandals.

The Conservatives platform was very weak compared to their 2006 election platform when they were elected into power – in that platform the Conservatives promised 60 democratic reform and government accountability changes in their so-called “Federal Accountability Act”, and earned them a B grade.

The NDP’s platform was also very weak compared to their 2015 election platform when they earned a B grade.

Many surveys over the past 15 years have shown that a large majority of voters do not trust politicians, and want honesty, ethics, lobbying, open government and other reforms to stop politicians from abusing their power. Hundreds of thousands of messages have been sent to federal party leaders and politicians through Democracy Watch’s campaigns calling for the 100 changes needed to ensure fully democratic and accountable federal government and politics.

“All the federal parties have unfortunately failed to respond to high voter concern about democracy and trust issues,” said Duff Conacher, Founding Director of Democracy Watch and chairperson of its four nation-wide coalitions. “The party leaders should not be surprised by the lack of support they will receive from voters on election day. One can only hope that the parties will actually address these concerns when Parliament opens again so that everyone in federal politics will, finally after 154 years, be effectively required to act honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and to prevent waste.”

“While it is notable that the Green Party has promised an honesty-in-politics law, given the current lack of such a law, voters should be wary of trusting any political promises,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch and the coalitions it leads will continue to push for all 100 key changes.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Campaigns page


Sources

Bloc Québécois platform webpage
(NOTE: See part 16 “Éthique” on page 16 of platform)

Conservative Party of Canada platform webpage
(NOTE: See pages 68-70 of platform PDF)

Green Party of Canada platform webpage
(NOTE: See pages 87-89 of platform PDF)

Liberal Party of Canada platform webpage
(NOTE: See pages 164-167 of platform PDF)

NDP platform webpage
(NOTE: See pages 116-119 of platform PDF)

People’s Party of Canada platform webpage

Report Card on the 2021 Democratic Reform Platforms of the Federal Political Parties

Set out below are the 16 sub-categories for the five issue area categories that are the basis for the Report Card.

GRADING SYSTEM

A – Platform makes clear promise to implement proposal
B – Platform makes vague or partial promise to implement proposals
C – Platform makes clear promise to explore proposal
D – Platform makes vague or partial promise to explore proposal
D- – Platform mentions proposal
F – Platform mentions theme of proposal
I – Platform does not mention proposal



I. Honest, Ethical Government Measures

SECTION I OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – D
Conservative Party – D-
Green Party – B
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – D

1. Requiring honesty-in-politics – Pass a law that requires all federal Cabinet ministers, MPs, Senators, political staff, Cabinet appointees and government employees (including at Crown corporations, agencies, boards, commissions, courts and tribunals) nomination race, party leadership race and election candidates to tell the truth, with an easily accessible complaint process to a fully independent watchdog agency that is fully empowered to investigate and penalize anyone who lies (including during elections through online election posts or ads). (Go to Honesty in Politics Campaign, and Stop Fake Online Election Ads Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – A-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – C

2. Strengthening ethics standards for politicians, political staff, Cabinet appointees and government employees, and ethics enforcement – Close the loopholes in the existing ethics rules (including requiring resignation and a by-election if an MP switches parties between elections) and apply them to all government institutions (including all Crown corporations), and as proposed by the federal Department of Finance place anyone with decision-making power on the anti-corruption watch list of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (Fintrac) so deposits to their bank accounts can be tracked, and; strengthen the independence and effectiveness of politician and government employee ethics watchdog positions (the Ethics Commissioner for Cabinet and MPs, the Senate Ethics Officer for senators, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner for government employees, the Commissioner of Lobbyists for lobbyists) by giving opposition party leaders a veto over appointees, having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve their annual budgets (as is currently the process for the Ethics Commissioner), prohibiting the watchdogs from giving secret advice, requiring them to investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), fully empowering and requiring them to penalize rule-breakers, changing all the codes they enforce into laws, and ensuring that all their decisions can be reviewed by the courts. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – C
Conservative Party – C
Green Party – C
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

3. Making the political donations system democratic – Prohibit secret, unlimited donations of money, property or services by anyone for any reason to nomination and party leadership candidates (only such donations are now only prohibited if given to election candidates); limit loans, including from financial institutions, to parties and all types of candidates to the same level as donations are limited; require disclosure of all donations (including the identity of the donor’s employer (as in the U.S.) and/or major affiliations) and loans quarterly and before any election day; limit spending on campaigns for the leadership of political parties; maintain limits on third-party (non-political party) advertising during elections; lower the public funding of political parties from $2 per vote received to $1 per vote received for parties that elect more MPs than they deserve based on the percentage of voter support they receive (to ensure that in order to prosper these parties need to have active, ongoing support of a broad base of individuals) and; ensure riding associations receive a fair share of this per-vote funding (so that party headquarters don’t have undue control over riding associations). (Go to Money in Politics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – B
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – A-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – B-

4. Closing down the revolving door – Prohibit lobbyists from working for government departments or serving in senior positions for political parties or candidates for public office (as in New Mexico and Maryland), and from having business connections with anyone who does, and close the loopholes so that the actual cooling-off period for former Cabinet ministers, ministerial staff and senior public officials is five years (and three years for MPs, senators, their staff, and government employees) during which they are prohibited from becoming a lobbyist or working with people, corporations or organizations with which they had direct dealings while in government. Make the Ethics Commissioner, Commissioner of Lobbying and Senate Ethics Officer more independent and effective by requiring approval of opposition party leaders of the person appointed to each position, by having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Commissioner of Lobbying’s annual budget (as is currently the process for the Ethics Commissioner), by prohibiting the Commissioners from giving secret advice, by requiring the Commissioners to investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), by fully empowering and requiring the Commissioners to penalize rule-breakers, by ensuring all decisions of the Commissioners can be reviewed by the courts, and by changing the codes they enforce (MPs Code, Lobbyists’ Code and Senate Code of Conduct into laws. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I


II. Open Government Measures

SECTION II OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – C-
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

5. Strengthening access-to-information system – Strengthen the federal access-to-information law and government information management system by applying the law to all government/publicly funded institutions, requiring all institutions and officials to create records of all decisions and actions and disclose them proactively and regularly, creating a public interest override of all access exemptions, giving opposition party leaders a veto over the appointment of the Information Commissioner, having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Information Commissioner’s annual budgets (as is currently the process for the federal Ethics Commissioner), and giving the federal Information Commissioner the power and mandate to order the release of documents (as in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.), to order changes to government institutions’ information systems, and to penalize violators of access laws, regulations, policies and rules. (Go to Open Government Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – C+
Green Party – C+
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

6. Exposing behind-closed-door communications – Require in a new law that Ministers and senior public officials to disclose their contacts with all lobbyists, whether paid or volunteer lobbyists. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

7. Strengthening lobbying disclosure and ethics, and the enforcement system – Strengthen the Lobbying Act and Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct disclosure system by closing the loophole that currently allows corporations to hide the number of people involved in lobbying activities, and by requiring lobbyists to disclose their past work with any Canadian or foreign government, political party or candidate, to disclose all their government relations activities (whether paid or volunteer) involving gathering inside information or trying to influence policy-makers (as in the U.S.) and to disclose the amount they spend on lobbying campaigns (as in 33 U.S. states), and; strengthen the ethics and enforcement system by adding specific rules and closing loopholes in the Lobbyists’ Code and making it part of the Act, by extending the limitation period for prosecutions of violations of the Act to 10 years, and; by giving opposition party leaders a veto over the appointment of the Commissioner of Lobbying, by having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Commissioner’s annual budget (as is currently the process for the Ethics Commissioner), by prohibiting the Commissioner from giving secret advice, by ensuring that the Commissioner must investigate and rule publicly on all complaints (including anonymous complaints), by fully empowering the Commissioner to penalize rule-breakers, and by ensuring all Commissioner decisions can be reviewed by the courts. (Go to Government Ethics Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – B-
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I


III. Efficient Government Measures

SECTION III OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – D
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

8. Increasing powers of Auditor General and Parliamentary Budget Officer – Increase the independence of the Auditor General and Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) by requiring approval of appointment from opposition party leaders, and by making the PBO a full Officer of Parliament with a fixed term who can only be dismissed for cause; increase auditing resources of the Auditor General and PBO by having Parliament (as opposed to Cabinet) approve the Auditor General’s annual budget (as is currently the process for the federal Ethics Commissioner), and; empower the Auditor General to audit all government institutions, to make orders for changes to government institutions’ spending systems, and empower the Auditor General and PBO to penalize violators of federal Treasury Board spending rules or Auditor General or PBO orders o requests for information. (Go to Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

9. Restricting government advertising – Empower a government watchdog agency to preview and prohibit government advertising that promotes the ruling party, especially leading up to an election (similar to the restrictions in Manitoba and Saskatchewan). (Go to Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I


IV. Representative, Citizen-Driven Government Measures

SECTION IV OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – D-
Conservative Party – D-
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – C-

10. Increasing meaningful public consultation – Pass a law requiring all government departments and institutions to use consultation processes that provide meaningful opportunities for citizen participation, especially concerning decisions that affect the lives of all Canadians. (Go to Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – C-
Green Party – C-
Liberal Party – D-
New Democrat Party – C-

11. Restricting power of Cabinet to make appointments – Require approval by opposition party leaders for the approximately 3,000 judicial, agency, board, commission and tribunal appointments currently made by the Prime Minister (including the board and President of the CBC), especially for appointees to senior and law enforcement positions, after a merit-based nomination and screening process conducted by finally setting up the Public Appointments Commission that was given a legal basis to exist under the so-called “Federal Accountability Act”. (Go to Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign, and Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – B
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

12. Making the House more democratic, and making the Senate democratic or abolish it – Change the Parliament of Canada Act to restrict the Prime Minister’s power to shut down (prorogue) Parliament to only for a very short time, and only for an election (dissolution) or if the national situation has changed significantly or if the Prime Minister can show that the government has completed all their pledged actions from the last Speech from the Throne (or attempted to do so, as the opposition parties may stop or delay completion of some actions). Give all party caucuses the power to choose which MPs and senators in their party sits on House and Senate committees, and allow any MP or senator to introduce a private member bill at any time, and define what a “vote of confidence” is in the Parliament of Canada Act in a restrictive way so most votes in the House of Commons are free votes. Attempt to reach an agreement with provincial governments (as required by the Constitution) to either abolish the Senate or reform the Senate (with a safeguard that Senate powers will not be increased unless senators are elected and their overall accountability increased). (Go to Stop Muzzling MPs Campaign, and Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign, and Shut Down the Senate Campaign, and Democratic Head Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – B-

13. Ensuring free, fair and representative elections – Change the current voting law and system (the Canada Elections Act) to specifically restrict the Prime Ministers’ power to call an unfair snap election, so that election dates are fixed as much as possible under the Canadian parliamentary system. Change the Act also so that nomination and party leadership races are regulated by Elections Canada (including limiting spending on campaigns for party leadership), so that Elections Canada determines which parties can participate in election debates based upon merit criteria, so that party leaders cannot appoint candidates except when a riding does not have a riding association, so that voters are allowed to refuse their ballot (ie. vote for “none of the above”, as in Ontario), and to provide a more equal number of voters in every riding, and a more accurate representation in Parliament of the actual voter support for each political party (with a safeguard to ensure that a party with low-level, narrow-base support does not have a disproportionately high level of power in Parliament). (Go to Democratic Voting System Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – B-


V. General Government Accountability Measures

SECTION V OVERALL GRADES

Bloc Québécois – D
Conservative Party – C
Green Party – D
Liberal Party – D-
New Democrat Party – D

14. Facilitating citizen watchdog groups over government – Require federal government institutions to enclose one-page pamphlets periodically in their mailings to citizens inviting citizens to join citizen-funded and directed groups to represent citizen interests in policy-making and enforcement processes of key government departments (for example, on ethics, spending, and health care/welfare) as has been proposed in the U.S. and recommended for Canadian banks and other financial institutions in 1998 by a federal task force, a House of Commons Committee, and a Senate Committee. (Go to Citizen Association Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – I
Conservative Party – I
Green Party – I
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

15. Ensuring effective whistleblower protection – Require everyone to report any violation of any law, regulation, policy, code, guideline or rule, and require all watchdog agencies over government (for example: Auditor General, Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner, Public Service Commission, the four ethics watchdogs (especially the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner), Security and Intelligence Review Committee, the National Health Council) to investigate and rule publicly on allegations of violations, to penalize violators, to protect anyone (not just employees) who reports a violation (so-called “whistleblowers”) from retaliation, to reward whistleblowers whose allegations are proven to be true, and to ensure a right to appeal to the courts. (Go to Protect Whistleblowers Who Protect You Campaign for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – B-
Conservative Party – B-
Green Party – B-
Liberal Party – I
New Democrat Party – I

16. Ensuring loophole free laws and strong penalties for wrongdoers – Close any technical and other loopholes that have been identified in laws, regulations, policies, codes, guidelines and rules (especially those regulating government institutions and large corporations) to help ensure strong enforcement, and increase financial penalties for violations to a level that significantly effects the annual revenues/budget of the institution or corporation. (Go to Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign, and Corporate Responsibility Campaign, for details about Democracy Watch’s proposals)

Bloc Québécois – C-
Conservative Party – C
Green Party – D
Liberal Party – C
New Democrat Party – B-

Stop Snap Elections Fund

Please support Democracy Watch’s court cases and campaign to stop snap elections across Canada!

Whenever a snap election is called, it is unfair because voters have no time to plan and arrange their lives so they can run as a candidate, volunteer or participate in the election in other ways. The ruling party also usually calls a snap election when surveys show that it has the best chance of winning – that’s also unfair. That’s why Parliament and most provincial legislatures decided to fix the election date in election laws. It makes the election fairer for everyone.

The federal and most provincial election laws have measures that fix each election date for four years after the last election, unless the government loses an important vote in Parliament (called a “non-confidence vote” – like a vote on government’s budget or another major issue).

Snap election calls violate these measures. At the federal level, Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call in August also violated the constitutional convention rule that has been created by the Prime Minister and Parliament following the fixed election date law in 2011 (when the Harper Conservative government only called an election after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament), and in 2015 and 2019. This convention rule also exists in several provinces where the provincial legislature and premier have followed the provincial fixed election date law for several elections in a row.

The British Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2019 that it was illegal for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to shut down Parliament for no justifiable reason when a majority of MPs wanted Parliament to stay open and operating.

Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted in May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it is. In mid-July, the PM also denied that he was going to call a snap election.

And in July and August, all federal opposition party leaders, who represent a clear majority of MPs in Parliament clearly and publicly said they were against holding an election, and called on Prime Minister Trudeau to open Parliament after the summer break. To see details, click here.

For all these reasons, Democracy Watch has filed a court case challenging Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call in August, just like it challenged Prime Minister Harper’s snap election call in September 2008. To see details about the case, click here.

Democracy Watch also filed court cases last fall challenging the snap election calls by B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan and by New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs, both of which violated their provincial fixed election date laws.

If Democracy Watch loses these court cases, it will continue campaigning for stronger measures to fix election dates across Canada.

Please use the links on this page to support Democracy Watch’s court cases and campaign to stop snap elections across Canada!


News Release – Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes file court case challenging PM Trudeau’s snap election call

Federal party leaders should agree on eight key rules for minority government to ensure fair post-election decisions

Rules should make it clear when the legislature will open, what a vote of non-confidence is, what will trigger next election etc.

Should issue public statement of agreement on rules before Monday, and then first bill passed by Parliament should make the rules law (as many other countries have)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, September 16, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, with all surveys pointing to another minority government, Democracy Watch called on federal party leaders to learn the lessons of past minority governments and reach an agreement this week on eight public, written rules for a fair, democratic minority government, as more than 80% of Canadians want, and as the former Governor General called for in August 2016 in an interview with the Hill Times. Agreeing on the rules now will help ensure everything runs fairly, democratically and transparently in the days after the election, and through to the next election.

The rules should make clear: when the legislature will open; when it can be closed; what a vote of non-confidence is; when and how the opposition parties may get a chance to govern and; when and how the next election can be called before the fixed election date; which party will get to try governing first after the next election. (Click here to see Background listing the 8 rules)

The current rules are unclear because they are unwritten constitutional conventions – even constitutional scholars disagree what lines they draw. A large majority (78%) of constitutional scholars surveyed in fall 2012 supported writing down the conventions. The vagueness in the rules effectively allows the elected Prime Minister and ruling party to abuse their powers and violate the rules, as the only way to stop violations is for the unelected, unaccountable Governor General to decide that a violation has occurred and to try to stop the elected Prime Minister from doing what they want.

The Governor General, and lieutenant governors in several provinces, have almost never stopped a Prime Minister or Premier from doing whatever they want, and have allowed premiers to abuse their powers by not opening the legislature after an election, shutting it down arbitrarily for months, and calling snap elections in violation of fixed-election-date laws. The Governor General allowed Prime Minister Harper to call a snap election in 2008 in violation of the fixed-election-date law, to prorogue Parliament in a very questionable minority government situation, and to declare many votes in Parliament as confidence votes even though they were clearly not confidence votes. The Governor General also allowed Prime Minister Trudeau to call a snap election in August in violation of the fixed-election-date law.

In England, Australia and New Zealand, political party leaders and MPs agreed years ago to clear, public rules so what happens after an election is fair for all the parties, and for voters. Most countries in the world also have clear, public post-election rules.

As well, a survey of more than 2,000 Canadians by Harris-Decima in November-December 2012 showed that 84% of adult Canadians want enforceable rules to restrict key powers of the Prime Minister and provincial premiers.

“There are no legal or other justifiable reasons for Canada’s political party leaders and the Governor General to fail to approve eight key rules for a fair, democratic minority government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “It is clearly in the public interest that the rules be approved to stop unfair abuses of power by the Prime Minister and ruling party that violate the rights of Parliament and the democratic will of the majority of voters.”

After the eight rules are enacted into law, Parliament should, as the legislatures in England, Australia and New Zealand have, examine and enact other fairness rules to ensure the legislature and MLAs can hold the government accountable. The rules should cover the following key areas: what can be included in omnibus bills; the freedom and powers of individual politicians to vote how they want on resolutions and bills; how members of legislature committees are chosen, and; what a Cabinet can do during an election campaign period until the next Cabinet is chosen.

“As long as the federal rules for Parliament are unwritten and unclear, the Prime Minister and ruling party will be able to abuse their powers and Parliament’s ability to hold the government accountable will be undemocratically restricted,” said Conacher.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign

Backgrounder

8 Key Rules for Fair, Democratic Minority Government

  1. Until the Governor General has communicated directly with all the party leaders, the Governor General will not make a decision about which party or parties (through either a formal coalition or legislative agreement) will be given the opportunity to govern first (i.e. to appoint a Cabinet and introduce a Speech from the Throne in Parliament);
  2. The party that wins the most seats in the election will be given the first opportunity to govern, including in partnership or coalition with another party, unless the leaders of other parties representing a majority of members of the legislature indicate clearly to the Governor General that they will not support that party and that they have agreed to form a coalition government or have agreed on a common legislative agenda;
  3. Within 30 days after the Governor General decides which party or parties will be given the first opportunity to govern, the Governor General and the governing party/parties will open Parliament with a Speech from the Throne;
  4. Even if the leaders of parties that represent a majority of members of the House of Commons do not indicate lack of support for the party that wins the most seats before that party’s Speech from the Throne, if they subsequently indicate lack of support for the Speech, the Governor General will not allow the Prime Minister-designate to prorogue the legislature before the Speech from the Throne is voted on by members of the House of Commons;
  5. If a majority of members in the House of Commons vote against the Speech from the Throne, the Governor General, before agreeing to any request by the Prime Minister’s to call an election, will give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern if they present a written agreement to the Governor General for either a formal coalition or legislative agreement;
  6. After the vote on the Speech from the Throne, the only vote in House of Commons that shall be a vote of non-confidence is a vote on a motion that states: “The House of Commons does not have confidence in the government.”
  7. If opposition parties introduce a motion of non-confidence in the governing party at any time after election day, the Governor General will not allow the Prime Minister to prorogue the legislature before the motion is voted on by the House of Commons, and;
  8. If a majority in the House of Commons votes to approve a motion of non-confidence in the governing party before the next fixed-election date, the Governor General will, before agreeing to any request by the Prime Minister that the Governor General call an election, give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern if they present a written agreement to the Governor General for either a formal coalition or legislative agreement.
   

Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes file court case challenging PM Trudeau’s snap election call

UK Supreme Court set strong precedent by ruling in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal because it unjustifiably prevented Parliament from fulfilling its constitutionally protected role

Snap election call illegal for same reason, and also because measure in election law fixes election date for every four years, a vote of non-confidence had not occurred, and because a large majority in Parliament voted against having an election

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, on the International Day of Democracy, Democracy Watch announced that it and Integrity B.C. founder Wayne Crookes have filed a case in Federal Court (PDF of application) challenging Prime Minister Trudeau’s request that the Governor General call a snap election. The case is not aimed at stopping the current federal election. Instead, it is aimed at winning a ruling that the Prime Minister violated the fixed election date measure in Canada’s election law, and that the PM is only allowed to ask the Governor General to call an election every four years on the fixed election date, with the only exception being if a vote of non-confidence in the government occurs before that date.

Democracy Watch filed a similar case against then-Prime Minister Harper’s snap election call in September 2008. The Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal both ruled that a constitutional convention had not been created when Parliament added section 56.1 to the Canada Elections Act in 2007, and that the measure was not specific enough to prohibit the Prime Minister from calling an early election.

Democracy Watch’s position, and the position of Andrew Heard, one of Canada’s foremost experts on constitutional conventions, is that the courts made an incorrect decision in that case because section 56.1 says “each” election “must be held” every four years, and adding the measure to the law created a rule and a convention that the PM is required to comply with, unless a non-confidence vote occurs.

Democracy Watch’s position is also that its current case is stronger because the situation when Trudeau called a snap election call is different from Harper’s snap election call in September 2008 in several key ways, especially because:

  1. In a 327-1 vote on May 25, 2021, MPs (including Trudeau) voted against holding an election, and all opposition party leaders clearly and publicly expressed their opposition in July-August to holding an election;
  2. As opposition parties made clear with public letters and statements before Trudeau’s election call, a majority of MPs voted in favour of everything the Trudeau Liberals have proposed since the last election, including the 2021 Liberal budget, or were in the process of reviewing proposed measures on the usual legislative timeline. Opposition parties clearly supported the Liberals continuing to govern, and the Trudeau government had the confidence of Parliament, when Trudeau called the election.
    (Click here to see Backgrounder for details.)

The British Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to shut down Parliament was unlawful as it “ha[d] the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive” (para. 50 of the ruling). The same principle applies to Trudeau’s snap election call, which shut down Parliament for no good reason.

As well, the fixed election date rule in Canada’s election law, and the Prime Minister following the law for the past three elections, have created a constitutional convention rule that the PM is required to follow. In 2011, the Conservative government led by PM Harper called an election only after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. In 2015, PM Harper called an election on the fixed date, as did PM Trudeau in 2019.

“Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call was illegal because Canada’s election law fixes election dates for every four years unless there is a vote of non-confidence in the government, which did not happen before his election call in August, said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “MPs from all parties, including Prime Minister Trudeau, voted against holding an election, all opposition party leaders were against it, and the Liberal government had the clear confidence of Parliament in every way except for calling an election.”

In the same way the British Supreme Court rejected the British PM’s shutting down of Parliament as an illegal abuse of power that went against the will of Parliament, the courts should rule that Trudeau’s snap election was illegal because it violated the fixed election date law and convention, and the democratic will and constitutionally protected role of Parliament,” said Conacher.

“Two of the most important things Canadians want from their politicians is to obey the law and to tell the truth – Mr. Trudeau has done neither here,” said Wayne Crookes, founder of Integrity B.C. “To call an election during the Covid-19 health emergency which has cost 27,314 Canadians their lives at an unneeded expense of about $500 million reflects very poorly on Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party. He has put self-interest before his duty to Canadians.”

As well, a survey at the end of July showed only 26% of Canadians want an election, and in mid-July the PM also denied that he was going to call an election.

More than 20,000 voters signed Democracy Watch’s petition on Change.org calling on Governor General Mary Simon to say no to any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau before the next fixed election date. Snap elections are unfair to voters, people who want to run as candidates, and most parties. That’s why Parliament decided to fix the federal election date in Canada’s election law.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes also went to court to challenge the snap election calls last fall by the B.C. NDP Premier and the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier, both of which violated their provincial fixed election date laws. The New Brunswick case was heard in mid-March, and the B.C. case is scheduled to be heard in October.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign and Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign

BACKGROUNDER

Backgrounder on how a majority in Parliament clearly supported the Trudeau government, and clearly opposed Prime Minister Trudeau’s snap election call

(September 15, 2021)

  1. Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted at the end of May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it clearly is.
  2. All opposition leaders opposed holding an election. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on July 27th, and the Green Party caucus on July 29th, wrote to Governor General Mary Simon calling on her to say no if Trudeau requested that an election being called because the government clearly had the confidence of Parliament, and an election would increase the risk to Canadians because of COVID.
  3. Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said on August 9th, before the election call that “My biggest concern right now is the potential fourth wave of COVID-19. We shouldn’t be rushing to an election” and then he reacted on August 15th to Trudeau’s election call by saying it was “unnecessary” and “dangerous” and for “political gain.”
  4. On August 3, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said that “Parliament is functioning, and can function” and “The Bloc Quebecois did not ask for an election” and that calling an election would be “irresponsible” and would “increase the level of danger” for voters (See English version of article here).
  5. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wrote Trudeau on August 9, 2021, summarizing the support that the NDP had given to government bills since the last elections, affirming the NDP’s ongoing support for government bills that had not been passed before Parliament adjourned for the summer, and asking him to open Parliament.
  6. Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said on August 15, 2021 that the election call was “unimaginable” given various emergency situations, and “unwarranted and unwanted” and that “Unfortunately public health has lost out to partisan ambition and common sense has lost to the quest for power.”
 

15,000+ sign petition calling on Governor General to say no to illegal, dishonest, unfair and dangerous snap election call by PM

UK Supreme Court set strong precedent ruling in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal – snap election call illegal for similar reasons

GG was handpicked by Trudeau through secretive, partisan process – but will hopefully do her job properly and stop the PM’s abuse of power

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Saturday, August 14, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch formally launched its petition on Change.org calling on new Governor General Mary Simon to say no to any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau before the next fixed election date. A snap election call would be illegal, dishonest, and unfair and dangerous for many voters. More than 15,000 voters have signed the petition in the past week.

“Almost all MPs, including Prime Minister Trudeau, voted against holding an election now, and all opposition parties are against it, and surveys show a large majority of Canadians are against it, so hopefully the Governor General will do her job properly and uphold the democratic will of Parliament instead of giving in to Trudeau’s selfish, dictatorial demand for a snap election,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. “The Governor General should reject any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau because it is illegal, dishonest and goes against the democratic will of Parliament, in the same way the British Supreme Court rejected the British PM’s shutting down of Parliament as an illegal abuse of power that went against the will of Parliament.”

The British Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to shut down Parliament was unlawful as it “ha[d] the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive” (para. 50 of the ruling).

A snap election is similarly illegal because Canada’s election law has measures that fix the next election date for October 2023, four years after the last election, unless the government loses a confidence vote in Parliament.

As well, a snap election would violate the constitutional convention rule that has been created by the fixed election date law, and the Prime Minister and Parliament following the law for the past three elections. In 2011, the Conservative government led by PM Harper only called an election after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. In 2015, PM Harper called an election on the fixed date, as did PM Trudeau in 2019.

A snap election will also be dishonest because anything Trudeau says about needing to call an election now will be false. A majority of MPs have voted in favour of everything the Trudeau Liberals have proposed since the last election, including the Liberal budget, so the opposition parties have shown they support the Liberals continuing to govern.

In addition, Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted in May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it is. A recent poll showed only 26% of Canadians want an election this fall, and, just a few weeks ago, the PM also denied that he was going to call an election.

A snap election will be dangerous for many voters. A fourth wave of COVID-19 is expected across Canada this fall, more contagious than ever, as many people are still not fully vaccinated. Voters who are vulnerable to COVID-19 will, completely justifiably, feel hesitant about going to a polling station to vote.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s government called a snap election last winter – then a COVID outbreak happened, the election date was postponed twice, and voter turnout plunged to a record low as many voters were prevented from voting by the sudden new requirement to register for, receive, fill in and mail back their ballot on short deadlines.

Elections Canada has never run an election with mail-in ballots being the way a lot of voters vote, nor have any of the federal parties.

Whenever a snap election is called, it is unfair because voters have no time to plan and arrange their lives so they can run as a candidate, volunteer or participate in the election in other ways. That’s why Parliament decided to fix the federal election date in Canada’s election law. It makes the election more fair for everyone.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch went to court to challenge the snap election calls last fall by the B.C. NDP Premier and the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier, which both violated their provincial fixed election date laws.

PM Trudeau controlled the selection of Governor General Mary Simon (even more than PM Harper did in the past) by setting up a façade of an Advisory Panel that he appointed, co-chaired by his friend and Cabinet appointee Dominic LeBlanc.

Instead, to democratize the selection of the GG, and every other key federal position that upholds democratic good government rules, Trudeau should have used a fully independent committee to conduct a public, merit-based search for a shortlist of qualified candidates. A survey of 1,601 Canadians in February 2021 found that 91% of people surveyed, of all types and from all political parties, support having a committee of MPs choose the Governor General instead of the PM alone. More than 80% of Canadians also want public, written rules for a minority government like England, Australia and New Zealand have.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Change.org petition calling on the GG to say no to snap election
Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign, Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign and Democratic Head Campaign

Thousands sign petition calling on Governor General to say no to illegal, dishonest, unfair and dangerous snap election call by PM

UK Supreme Court set strong precedent ruling in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal – snap election call illegal for similar reasons

GG was handpicked by Trudeau through secretive, partisan process – but will hopefully do her job properly and stop the PM’s abuse of power

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, August 9, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch formally launched its petition on Change.org calling on new Governor General Mary Simon to say no to any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau before the next fixed election date. A snap election call would be illegal, dishonest, and unfair and dangerous for many voters. More than 2,500 voters have already signed the petition since it was posted two days ago.

“The Governor General should reject any snap election call by Prime Minister Trudeau because it is illegal, dishonest and goes against the will of Parliament, in the same way the British Supreme Court rejected the British PM’s shutting down of Parliament as an illegal abuse of power,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.

“Hopefully, despite the fact that she was handpicked by Trudeau through a process that he controlled, Governor General Simon will do her job properly and reject the PM’s illegal, dishonest, unfair and dangerous snap election call,” said Conacher.

The British Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to shut down Parliament was unlawful as it “ha[d] the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive” (para. 50 of the ruling).

A snap election is similarly illegal because Canada’s election law has measures that fix the next election date for October 2023, four years after the last election, unless the government loses a confidence vote in Parliament.

As well, a snap election would violate the constitutional convention rule that has been created by the fixed election date law, and the Prime Minister and Parliament following the law for the past three elections. In 2011, the Conservative government led by PM Harper only called an election after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. In 2015, PM Harper called an election on the fixed date, as did PM Trudeau in 2019.

A snap election will also be dishonest because anything Trudeau says about needing to call an election now will be false. A majority of MPs have voted in favour of everything the Trudeau Liberals have proposed since the last election, including the Liberal budget, so the opposition parties have shown they support the Liberals continuing to govern.

In addition, Prime Minister Trudeau and almost all MPs in the House of Commons, including all Liberals, voted in May against holding an election while COVID is still a danger, which it is. A recent poll showed only 26% of Canadians want an election this fall, and, just a few weeks ago, the PM also denied that he was going to call an election.

A snap election will be dangerous for many voters. A fourth wave of COVID-19 is expected across Canada this fall, more contagious than ever, as many people are still not fully vaccinated. Voters who are vulnerable to COVID-19 will, completely justifiably, feel hesitant about going to a polling station to vote.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s government called a snap election last winter – then a COVID outbreak happened, the election date was postponed twice, and voter turnout plunged to a record low as many voters were prevented from voting by the sudden new requirement to register for, receive, fill in and mail back their ballot on short deadlines.

Elections Canada has never run an election with mail-in ballots being the way a lot of voters vote, nor have any of the federal parties.

Whenever a snap election is called, it is unfair because voters have no time to plan and arrange their lives so they can run as a candidate, volunteer or participate in the election in other ways. That’s why Parliament decided to fix the federal election date in Canada’s election law. It makes the election more fair for everyone.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch went to court to challenge the snap election calls last fall by the B.C. NDP Premier and the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier, which both violated their provincial fixed election date laws.

PM Trudeau controlled the selection of Governor General Mary Simon (even more than PM Harper did in the past) by setting up a façade of an Advisory Panel that he appointed, co-chaired by his friend and Cabinet appointee Dominic LeBlanc.

Instead, to democratize the selection of the GG, and every other key federal position that upholds democratic good government rules, Trudeau should have used a fully independent committee to conduct a public, merit-based search for a shortlist of qualified candidates. A survey of 1,601 Canadians in February 2021 found that 91% of people surveyed, of all types and from all political parties, support having a committee of MPs choose the Governor General instead of the PM alone. More than 80% of Canadians also want public, written rules for a minority government like England, Australia and New Zealand have.

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Change.org petition calling on the GG to say no to snap election
Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign, Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign and Democratic Head Campaign