The 2015 general election will be a bit easier, said Vegreville-Wainwright MP Leon Benoit.
In a sitdown interview, Benoit spoke about the need for the Fair Elections Act, which caused major uproar from opposition parties when it was first announced.
Benoit said the changes the government outlined in the now-passed bill will ensure fair and accountable elections in the future.
“The changes were not too much, but the changes were ones that we heard from the public, and the opposition parties,” he said. “As a result the issue has now, I think, been put to bed and we will have more fair elections in the future.”
Anyone who takes fair elections for granted in Canada should think again, Benoit said.
“They have been pretty much fair recently, there have been not that many ridings won or lost based on cheating, but it still happens,” said Benoit.
“This bill will end most of that cheating.”
During the 2011 federal election, the issue of robocalls, where a phone call can be placed into every home into a riding with a message from a candidate was allegedly used to direct voters to the wrong polling stations in some Ontario ridings.
Benoit said that the issue hasn’t made major headlines out west because of the trust that Westerners put in their elected officials.
“The media tried to make it something that the Conservatives were doing. In fact, the only person that has been charged with making misleading robocalls is a Liberal MP,” Benoit said, adding that is the only person who was found guilty and fined.
The program that was called into question was the robocall program Racknine, which Benoit confirms he used in recent elections.
“I used the program in recent election for telephone townhalls. They did a great job and it was great,” he said. “We had 14,000 people on the phone call at one time.”
Because the Conservatives used Racknine in the riding of Guelph, Ont., Benoit said he believes the major media are trying to point to his party because of it.
The issue of robocalls is now included in the new Fair Elections Act, said Benoit.
“The issue isn’t being raised too much now by the national media and the opposition parties across the country because they know that the changes were needed,” he said.
The Fair Elections Act closed a lot of the loopholes, Benoit added.
“The Reform Party in 1993, lost probably three ridings in Edmonton due to cheating. Two of them you can almost be guaranteed we lost because of cheating,” he said. “Anne McLellan won by a handful of votes, and in the end it might of been 11 votes, and Linda Robertson, one of the candidates for the Reform Party in the 1993 election, had people come to her after the election and say a bus was taking people around to vote in different polling stations within the riding she was running in. Most of the people on the bus were new Canadians and when they were questions later on, they didn’t know there was a problem (with the amount of votes they cast at the different polls).”
This new Fair Elections Act also makes it harder for people to vote without proper ID.
“Stories like that won’t happen anymore, you won’t have one person being able to vouch for a bus load of people,” he said.
Benoit said that changes to the law will now require identification of address before voting, or someone who is vouching for another must sign a written affidavit about the changes.
The next general election is expected in October 2015. It will be the first election since the passage of the Fair Election Act and the increased riding numbers. Canadians across the country will now elect 338 MPs, up 30 from the currently allotment of 308.