Ottawa – May 24, 2014 – UFCW Canada, the nation’s most progressive union, joined thousands of Canadians to successfully pressure the federal government to drastically alter the Unfair Elections Act. Bill C-23 – deceitfully dubbed the Fair Elections Act by the Conservatives – was Harper’s latest attempt to dismantle democracy in Canada. Following a firestorm of opposition across the country, including a comprehensive UFCW Canada lobbying and media campaign, the government was forced to gut the bill of some of its most controversial elements.
The original legislation included changes to the Elections Act which could have led to the disenfranchisement of more than 100,000 voters. Bill C-23 aimed to take away the right to vote from many people who traditionally do not support the Conservatives, including students, the disabled, Aboriginal voters and low-income Canadians. Due to sustained pressure from UFCW Canada, non-governmental organizations, community groups and Canada’s Official Opposition New Democratic Party, this part of the bill was scrapped.
The government was also forced to remove clauses to restrict the independent powers of Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, as well as legislation that would have opened the floodgates to political donations from the richest 1 per cent. UFCW Canada activists joined with Canadians from all walks of life to tell their elected representatives that the bill was an affront to democracy. At the end of the day, Harper used his majority to muscle Bill C-23 through parliament – but not before it was dramatically changed. In fact, no piece of legislation has undergone more substantial amendments since Harper first began his majority rule in 2011.
“Together we have shown the Conservatives that our voice is strong and we will not sit idly by when our democracy is threatened,” says Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada National President, “Harper has rammed through yet another piece of cynical legislation, but not before Canadians made sure he could not dismantle our democratic rights.”