Protest makes point about objection to bill

A crowd of about 60 people gathered outside of Eglinton-Lawrence MP Joe Oliver’s constituency office on March 25 to protest the Fair Elections Act.

Alleging that the Conservative bill will suppress votes and take power away from Elections Canada, Sharon Howarth, who led
the rally in front of Oliver’s office at Bathurst Street and Lawrence Avenue West, said the protest wasn’t suggesting killing the bill before it passes, but is proposing changes to it.

“(This is about) awareness and letting the public know what’s going on,” she said. “(Voting) is one of our basic democratic rights.”

The ad hoc group, which comprised three different political activist organizations as well as local volunteers, was one of 25 to protest outside Conservative representatives’ offices across Canada on March 25 in response to the bill, which the Stephen Harper government says is intended to curb voter fraud.

Howarth said the group believes the act will suppress voters’ rights by taking away vouching, and that the act takes away Elections Canada’s ability to investigate fraud and gives that power to a body that is accountable only to the prime minister and
cabinet.

While Oliver was in Ottawa on that day, Howarth and her supporters were invited in to the MP’s office to voice their concerns directly to constituency manager Steven Cooke. Howarth handed him a box containing the names of 82,829 Canadian who had signed a petition requesting changes to the act before it passes.

“It will make it more onerous and difficult for people to vote, and that’s going in the wrong direction,” she said to Cooke, as she handed him the petitions. “We already have people who feel disenfranchised and this is just going to increase it.”

Cooke said the protest was a good example of how Canada’s political system is meant to function.

“This is democracy,” he said. “It’s a peaceful protest and we welcome the opinions of everybody. “We’re not just here to listen to people who voted for us. We represent everybody. People have concerns, and if they’re peaceful like this then all the power to them.”


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Posted: Apr 5 2014 5:58 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto
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