Advance View: Tory vs Tory elections battle

When the federal Conservatives try to brand everything they touch with the phrase “the Harper government,” we didn’t know they were even excluding other Conservatives.

Yet the Tories are increasingly a party divided, with little backbench rebellions and constituency fights multiplying, almost as if the previously disciplined Conservatives were the fractious Liberals of the recent past.

The most recent split comes courtesy of the Conservatives in the Senate. They are pushing back against the Fair Elections Act, asking for changes to the controversial document.

The Fair Elections Act has been highly criticized for reducing the ability of Elections Canada to promote voting, to warn Canadians about problems with elections as they arise, and for giving existing parties too much power. It has also been criticized for making it harder for those without a lot of conventional ID to vote.

Now a Senate committee, composed mostly of Conservatives, has asked for a laundry list of changes.

Among other things, they want companies and parties that send out robocalls to hold onto their records for three years instead of one, and they want photos of candidates on ballots for those with trouble reading.

We might go farther, pointing out that the incredible accusations of mass voter fraud have only turned up now to support this bill, not during past elections.

This battle is the latest in a series of criticisms by people who are either admired Tory icons, like Preston Manning, or widely respected across the country, like former auditor general Sheila Fraser. The Harper government has taken a very aggressive line, as it has on many past pieces of legislation.

It seems that many Conservatives, at least on this issue, are finding themselves wishing that they were dealing with a Conservative government, not the Harper one.

M.C.

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