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Action of Democracy -Bill C-16

2-10-2008

NEWMARKET, ON, Oct. 2 /CNW/ –
Former federal Cabinet Minister, the Honourable Sinclair Stevens, today commended the action of Democracy Watch, a non-partisan group advocating for government accountability, for filing suit in federal court seeking to have the September 7th dissolution of parliament declared illegal.  Mr. Stevens is currently the leader of the Progressive Canadian (PC) Party, the successor to the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, that is fielding candidates in several provinces this federal election.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has used the electoral system to his unfair advantage and in doing so, has broken his own law created a little over a year ago,” stated Mr. Stevens. “Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act including fixed election dates, was according to his own Minister, designed to provide ‘greater fairness, increased transparency and predictability, improved policy planning, increased voter turnout, and assistance in attracting the best qualified Canadians to public life’. These are all fundamental issues of equality that Canadians have been asking for and were led to believe had been achieved through the passing of Bill C-16.”
Mr. Stevens points out that when introducing Bill C-16 for second reading, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, said: “What we have (now) is a situation where the Prime Minister is able to choose the date of the election, not based necessarily on the best interests of the country but on the best interests of his or her political party. I believe Bill C-16 would address those concerns.” Mr. Stevens contends that Stephen Harper not only broke the law with this election call, but deceived Canadians as well.
“It is our contention that Mr. Harper knew full well when this legislation was tabled that he would ultimately retain control of calling an election,” said Mr. Stevens. “By including the provision in the Bill, “Nothing in the Act affects the power of the Governor General to dissolve Parliament whenever the Governor General sees fit,” Mr. Harper believed it made him look like a democracy reformer in favour of a fairer election system. In reality he felt he could call an election whenever it suited him.”
“Mr. Harper had strategically decided to have an election on October 14th, 2008, months in advance of that date, leading everyone else to believe that the next election was set, as per legislation, for October 19, 2009,” said Mr. Stevens. “This is extremely unfair and an affront to democracy. The Harper Conservatives had an advantage of at least 90 days to plan, finance and organize their election campaign over all other parties. All federal parties have to comply with Elections Canada’s more restrictive spending rules during the 37 day campaign. Mr. Harper’s Conservatives were the only ones in a position to take advantage of unrestricted campaign spending opportunities because they were the only ones who knew an election was going to be called.” Mr. Stevens points out that the Harper government reaped benefits from its unfair advantage in several ways, including:

1.  Announcing hundreds of millions of dollars in future spending in the days leading up to the election call on September 7th this year.
2.  Spending millions of dollars in pre-election advertising, primarily on attack ads against Liberal leader Stéphane Dion.
3.  Taking advantage of the “10% program,” where M.P.’s are allowed, at government expense, to send “information literature” to up to 10% of the constituents in other ridings. Mr. Stevens in his own riding of Oak Ridges-Markham received 10 different pieces of literature under this method from various conservative M.P.’s including Mr. Harper, a questionable use of public funds.
4.  Calling three by-elections and then later a fourth by-election.  Interestingly, three of the by-elections were to take place the day after the dissolution of Parliament by Mr. Harper, therefore extending those campaigns by an additional 37 days at incredible taxpayer expense.
5.  Mr. Harper, realizing he would be restricted under the Canada Elections Act in a 37 day election period both in the raising and spending of money, chose to secretly commence his election campaign months earlier, giving him an unfair advantage.

“Regardless of the outcome of this law suit, the fact remains that Stephen Harper has acted in an extremely deceitful way towards all Canadians, in order to enact his own agenda,” added Mr. Stevens. “For years fixed election dates have been seen as an essential necessity to ensure a fairer election system in Canada. Mr. Harper took this worthy concept and warped it to give himself ultimate political clout. It is imperative that Canadians understand this and choose not to give him a majority mandate. It is our belief that Mr. Harper’s true mission is to transform Canada into a loose confederation of autonomous provinces. Under the pretext of giving us a fairer election system with fixed election dates, Stephen Harper, if he wins a majority, will hurl the nation into an ultra neo-conservative regime similar to that of the Bush administration in the United States, along with its  disastrous financial situation and poor environmental future.”
“We support Democracy Watch in its legal pursuit to determine if this election call violates the Canada Elections Act and, or, the Charter. Progressive Canadians across the country believe this is an issue of fairness and accountability and look forward to a favourable court decision,” added Mr. Stevens.
Democracy Watch has filed a motion to have a hearing of its application before the October 14th voting day. The motion will be considered by the Federal Court on Thursday, October 2, 2008 at The D’Arcy McGee Building, 90 Sparks St. in Ottawa at 9:30 am. Further information on the motion can be found at www.dwatch.ca

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