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Chief electoral officer wants law against false claims meant to undermine elections

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OTTAWA — Canada’s chief electoral officer is calling for changes to the country’s election law to combat foreign interference in elections and the spread of misinformation.

Stéphane Perrault has suggested creating a new offence of making false statements to undermine an election — for example, claiming that the results have been manipulated.

The recommendation is one of many made by Perrault in a report for MPs on issues arising from the last two general elections in Canada in 2019 and 2021.

The report released Tuesday said the changes are needed to “protect against inaccurate information that is intended to disrupt the conduct of an election or undermine its legitimacy.”

The new offence in the Canada Elections Act would stop people or bodies from knowingly making false statements about the voting process to disrupt an election or undermine its legitimacy.

At a news conference, Perrault said the law would be applied narrowly to statements designed to undermine trust in the election or its result and would not hinder free speech by voters.

Currently, it is not illegal to deliberately mislead someone about how, where and when to vote.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association warned against too broad an application of a law outlawing statements during an election.

“You need to narrowly define what kind of falsehoods you are talking about and the intention behind the statement so it doesn’t capture people making mistakes,” said Cara Zwibel, a CCLA lawyer.

“What this is aimed at and trying to regulate is a statement such as ‘voting got changed to tomorrow,’ which is designed to mislead.”

Emmett Macfarlane, a constitutional expert at the University of Waterloo, said such a law would not apply to foreign entities making such claims, and would have to be carefully crafted to make sure it does not apply to fair commentary.

The political science professor also said that proving a statement was intended to disrupt an election would be a challenge.

“Just the power to investigate can be chilling for free expression,” he warned.

The chief electoral officer’s report, entitled “Meeting New Challenges,” also suggests that MPs outlaw hate groups from registering as political parties, which would give them the names and addresses of all voters.

It follows concerns raised by ministers that groups promoting racism, antisemitism and homophobia could access tax breaks and broadcast time designed for political parties.

Politicians are particularly alarmed at the prospect of giving hate groups the names and addresses of racialized Canadians. Dominic LeBlanc, the minister responsible for Elections Canada, wrote to Perrault about the issue last year.

The election chief’s report suggests that voters be able to go to court to determine whether a group’s “primary purpose” is to promote hate against an identifiable group. If so, it would be banned from registering to run in elections.

The Elections Canada report also calls for an update to election laws in the digital age, recommending online platforms be required to publish policies on how they will deal with content misleading electors.

It also suggests stricter rules to stop third-parties — groups which support political parties or seek to influence elections — from receiving funding from abroad.

The report recommends a further clampdown on cybersecurity threats to Canadian elections, including from foreign states.

Since 2018, it has been illegal to use a computer system fraudulently to influence the outcome of an election. But the report suggests the offence be broadened to apply to activity designed to disrupt the way an election is run or to undermine the legitimacy of the election or its results.

The move follows former president Donald Trump’s challenge to the legitimacy of the 2020 American election, which he lost but claimed was stolen from him.

“We have seen declines in trust in democracies around the world so we need to be alert to the challenges,” Perrault said.

He warned that there had been “deliberate attempts to undermine confidence” across Canada, and measures were needed to respond to this.

However, public trust in the Canadian electoral system remained very high, he said, with 91 per cent of voters surveyed by Elections Canada saying they had confidence in the electoral system and its administration.

The report also recommends MPs extend current rules designed to stop foreign interference during elections to the period before the campaign kicks off.

It also recommends a series of practical updates to election laws to make it easier to vote and bring election law up to date in the digital age.

These include making it easier to vote by special ballot, including postal votes, and extending the period to register to 45 days before polling day.

It suggests that voters should be able to vote at their local polling station, even if they have previously applied to vote by special ballot.

They should also be able to vote with a political party name on a special ballot, rather than a candidate name.

The suggestion follows complaints that thousands of special ballots, including those mailed in by expats based abroad, were not counted at the last general election. At the 2021 general election, more than 90,000 special ballots were returned late and could not be counted.

The report suggests an end to a prohibition on types of election advertising — which do not currently include signs and pamphlets — on polling day.

“In Elections Canada’s view, the advertising blackout period has largely been rendered meaningless in the digital age,” the report says.

It also recommends measures to ensure that the date of an election does not fall on important religious holidays.

The report also suggests tweaks to the law to make it less bureaucratic for people in care homes to vote, and simpler for people with disabilities to go to a polling station with a support person.

Also on Tuesday, Yves Côté, the elections commissioner, tabled a report in Parliament that made recommendations including broadening financial penalties for breaking elections law.

He suggested that making false claims in support of a nomination paper be made an offence, with a financial penalty, along with filling in a nomination paper knowing that it contains false or misleading information.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.

 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

 

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misspelled CCLA lawyer Cara Zwibel’s surname.

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Roe v. Wade: How abortion came to divide US politics – CTV News

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WASHINGTON –

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, the issue has become one of the defining fault lines in U.S. politics, with Democratic politicians firmly supporting abortion rights and Republican lawmakers lining up in opposition.

In 1973 the lines were more blurred. Republican and Democratic voters were equally likely to say abortion should be legal, while it was easy to find Republican officials who supported abortion rights and Democrats who opposed the procedure.

So what changed?

NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE AT FIRST

Abortion on demand was legal in four states in the early 1970s, while 14 more allowed it under some circumstances.

While the Catholic Church opposed abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination, was on record saying it should be allowed in many circumstances.

Neither party viewed abortion as a defining issue.

Republicans like first lady Betty Ford said the Roe decision was “a great, great decision,” while some Democrats, like a newly elected senator named Joe Biden, said the court’s ruling went “too far.”

Voters also did not see the issue along partisan lines. The General Social Survey opinion poll found in 1977 that 39% of Republicans said abortion should be allowed for any reason, compared to 35% of Democrats.

A CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT MOBILIZES

In the years that followed, conservative activists like Phyllis Schlafly seized on the issue as a threat to traditional values and enlisted evangelical churches, which had shown a new interest in politics following a series of court rulings that limited prayer in public settings.

These groups portrayed abortion as a threat to the family structure, along with broader social developments like gay rights, rising divorce rates, and women working outside of the home. For pastors and parishioners, abortion became a proxy issue for concerns about a liberalizing society, said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian at University of California-Davis.

“For many evangelicals, this was more about family and women and sex,” she said.

In 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution opposing abortion, reversing its earlier position.

Republican Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory that same year gave abortion opponents a powerful ally in the White House. At the same time, women’s rights activists gained more influence within the Democratic Party and pushed leaders to support abortion rights.

But support for Roe still did not line up along party lines.

In a 1983 Senate vote, 34 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned the Roe decision, while 19 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted against it.

Biden was among those voting no, even though he had backed the legislation in committee the previous year.

POLITICIANS PICK SIDES – VOTERS FOLLOW

In the years that followed, the dividing lines became more apparent as political candidates found it increasingly necessary to align with activists who were becoming more influential within their parties.

Republican George H.W. Bush, an abortion opponent who had earlier supported abortion rights, won the presidency in 1988. In 1992 he was defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton, an abortion rights supporter who had earlier opposed abortion.

Since 1989, abortion-rights groups have donated $32 million to Democrats and $3 million to Republican candidates who support keeping abortion legal, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. Groups that opposed abortion have given $14 million to Republicans and only $372,000 to Democrats over that time period.

Voters were slower to sort themselves out. As late as 1991, 45% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans said they supported abortion for any reason, according to the General Social Survey.

Partisan differences widened in the following years, however, as the issue became a staple of TV attack ads fundraising appeals and mass rallies by interest groups.

By the turn of the century, only 31% of Republicans supported on-demand abortion, while Democratic support remained steady at 45%, according to the General Social Survey.

BOTH SIDES DIG IN

Other opinion polls have consistently shown that most Americans support some restrictions on abortion but oppose an outright ban.

At the same time, Democrats have grown more absolute in their support for abortion rights.

Biden, who supported a ban on federal funding for most abortions in the Medicaid program for the poor for most of his political career, reversed his position as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

In the current Congress, only one House Democrat and one Senate Democrat voted against legislation that would make abortion legal nationwide under all circumstances. The bill failed in the Senate, but Democrats have said they plan to make it a central issue in the November 2022 elections.

Among Democratic voters, support for unrestricted abortion has jumped from 56% in 2016 to 71% last year, according to the General Social Survey, while Republican support continues to hover around 34%.

Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Ross Colvin and Lisa Shumaker

——-

Have you tried accessing abortion services in Canada?

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, CTVNews.ca wants to hear from Canadians who have had an abortion.

Did you struggle to access abortion services or information in Canada? Was it difficult to secure an appointment?

Tell us your story by emailing dotcom@bellmedia.ca, and include your name and location. Your comments may be used in a CTVNews.ca story.

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Politics Briefing: Ottawa police preparing for protests at Canada Day celebrations – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Ottawa police say they are preparing for protests at this week’s Canada Day celebrations, and planning to balance the rights of protestors and those celebrating the holiday.

“We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour,” Steve Bell, the interim Ottawa police chief, told a news conference on Monday.

Mr. Bell said the police are rallying public-order units, traffic teams and tow trucks and will take “decisive and lawful action” to deal with threats, occupation attempts and other unlawful action.

The city has been the scene of several large demonstrations since supporters of the self-described freedom convoy occupied the downtown core for three weeks in January and February. Now there are concerns about new anti-government protests during Canada Day.

Celebrations in the national capital have been moved from the lawn of Parliament Hill due to reconstruction work on the House of Commons and will be held at LeBreton Flats, west of the downtown core.

“We expect there to be demonstrations. This is a right of all Canadians and it will be protected. We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour and we will not allow vehicle-based demonstration in the motor vehicle control zone,” said Mr. Bell.

The zone refers to an area of downtown Ottawa being established over the Canada Day weekend to prevent the movement of vehicle protests in the area.

”Visitors and community members will see a significant police posture and presence throughout the city,” said the interim chief.

Mr. Bell said officers from the Ottawa police have met with affected community groups in the city affected by the “illegal occupation of our streets,” and take the harm and trauma residents suffered very seriously, and have considered it in planning for Canada Day.

Police liaison officers have also tried to reach out to protest organizers about expectations for appropriate, lawful protest, he said.

Mayor Jim Watson offered a warning to prospective protesters. “There are not going to be warnings and second chances. If the law is broken, regardless of who breaks it, there will be consequences,” he told the news conference.

In late April, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a request from Mr. Bell to appoint up to 831 RCMP officers to help with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle events, and made those appointments valid until July 4.

Meanwhile, a community group called the Ottawa People’s Commission on the Convoy Occupation officially launched Monday with the appointment of three commissioners to hold public hearings on the convoy occupation of the city earlier this year.

The commission, according to a statement, has secured the support of the Centretown Community Health Centre as its anchor agency and fundraising portal and it will deliver a final report within a year. The OPC will be funded by donations from the public, foundations, businesses, unions and local agencies.

“We need this independent, non-partisan inquiry to hear from ordinary citizens, advocacy organizations and social agencies, business owners, workers and others whose lives were turned upside down during the occupation,” said commission spokesman Ken Rubin.

With a file from The Canadian Press.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

GOOD GRADES FOR CANADA’S HANDLING OF COVID-19: NEW STUDY – Canada handled the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and weathered the ensuing upheaval better than several other nations with comparable health-care and economic infrastructure, a new study suggests. Story here.

CONVICTED MURDERERS SEEK PAROLE AFTER COURT RULING – Several men convicted of multiple murders are pressing claims for early chances at parole, after the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s life-without-parole law, retroactive to the legislation’s 2011 enactment. Story here.

LABRETON CONCERNED ABOUT CPC DIRECTION – A former Conservative Senate leader is expressing concern about the direction Pierre Poilievre is taking the party, worrying the Tories might be reaching the point of “fracturing beyond repair.” Story here from Global News.

FREELAND TOUTS BALANCE IN INFLATION STRATEGY – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she must strike a balance between helping Canadians suffering from the effects of inflation and pursuing a policy of fiscal restraint – or risk making the cost of living problem worse. Story here from CBC.

TASK FORCE STRUCK TO DEAL WITH IMMIGRATION/PASSPORT ISSUES -The federal government has created a special task force to help tackle the major delays with immigration applications and passport processing that have left Canadians frustrated. Story here from CTV.

MENDICINO “DEEPLY COMMITTED” TO RCMP OVERSIGHT – The federal Public Safety Minister says he is “deeply committed” to enhancing oversight of the RCMP by strengthening the role of the national police force’s management advisory board. Story here.

BECK TO LEAD SASKATCHEWAN NDP – Saskatchewan’s NDP has chosen Carla Beck to be its new leader, making her the first woman to lead the party in 90 years. Story here.

FORMER LEADER DONATED $300,000 TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR TORIES – Ches Crosbie, the former leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Progressive Conservative Party, donated $300,000 to the party last year – more than 40 per cent of its overall income – as it waged a drawn-out and controversial election campaign that was thrown into chaos by the COVID-19 pandemic. A political scientist, however, says the situation is further proof that Newfoundland and Labrador’s elections rules are in need of an overhaul. Story here from CBC.

TRUDEAU AND JOHNSON COMPARE PLANES – ‘Very, very modest’: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson vs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on whose private jet is smaller. Story here from The Guardian.

CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE

CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in the Ontario community of Corbyville on Monday taking part in the Conservative Leadership Meet & Greet hosted by the Hastings-Lennox and Addington Conservative Electoral District Association. Patrick Brown is in also in Corbyville, Belleville and Richmond Hill on Monday. Jean Charest is also in Belleville on Monday. There was no campaign information available for Roman Baber, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre.

MACKAY BACKS POILIEVRE – Pierre Poilievre says, in a tweet, that Elmer MacKay is backing him for the Conservative leadership. Mr. MacKay was a cabinet minister under former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He is the father of Peter MacKay, who was a cabinet minister under Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, and who also sought the Conservative leadership in 2020. “Pierre’s message of affordability and freedom is resonating widely,” Elmer MacKay said in a statement attached to Mr. Poilievre’s tweet. “I know he has what it takes to be our next Prime Minister.”

THIS AND THAT

The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20

DUCLOS IN MONTREAL – Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was in Montreal to make a funding announcement on long-term care in Quebec.

FORD MEETS TORY – In Toronto, Premier Doug Ford met with Toronto Mayor John Tory at Queen’s Park, with the pair scheduled to hold a joint news conference after their discussions.

GOULD IN WINNIPEG – Families Minister Karina Gould is to make an announcement, in Winnipeg, with Manitoba’s Education Minister Wayne Ewasko on increasing licensed child-care spaces and the implementation of a wage grid for the child-care work force.

ALGHABRA IN OSHAWA – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was in Oshawa, Ont., to announce about $14 -million for an expansion project at the port of Oshawa.

THE DECIBEL

On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Hannah Sung, co-founder of Media Girlfriends, host of the podcast At The End of the Day and BTS fan, explains what makes the superstar K-pop group BTS so popular and why they’re so influential. BTS announced recently that they are taking a temporary break as a group and pursuing individual projects. This moment was a big deal for their millions of fans worldwide, the company that brings in billions of dollars managing them and for South Korea, which considers its members cultural ambassadors for the country. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

In Elmau, Germany, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, attending the Group of Seven summit, was scheduled to hold meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as well as Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to participate in the G7 Working Session, entitled The World in Conflict: Exchange on Ukraine as well as a working luncheon with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations, and to participate in the official family photo with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to meet with Senegal President Macky Sall, and to participate in a working session with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations, entitled Stronger Together: Addressing Food Security and Advancing Gender Equality. Beyond that, the Prime Minister was scheduled to meet with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then meet with Joko Widodo, the president of Indonesia. And the Prime Minister’s summit day was expected to end with a dinner with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

PUBLIC OPINION

Fifty-two per cent of Canadians are pessimistic about the future of Canada, a considerably higher finding than responses in recent years, according to new research by the Angus Reid Institute. Meanwhile, in the Conservative leadership race, MP Pierre Poilievre continues is the most appealing option to 26 per cent of Canadians, followed closely by former Quebec premier Jean Charest (21 per cent). Details here.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how francophones outside Quebec became the minority English Canada forgot about: The Quebec government of Premier François Legault has been criticized, and with good reason, for invoking the notwithstanding clause to curtail the rights of the province’s English-speakers in his flagship language reform, Bill 96. It’s no excuse – as Mr. Legault sometimes falsely suggests – but francophones outside of Quebec often face an even less hospitable reality. Without succumbing to issue-dodging whataboutism, or pretending that two minority communities wronged somehow makes it all right, it’s worth reflecting on the perennial battle for survival waged mostly under the radar in Shediac and Sudbury and St. Boniface. Too often, a basic level of respect eludes French-speaking communities in the Rest of Canada.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how it’s time for Canada to get serious about defence: “The Liberal government’s $4.9-billion commitment to modernizing NORAD represents an important step in preparing Canada for this increasingly dangerous world. But it’s only a start. With threats to the left of us in the Indo-Pacific, to the right in Europe, and with Russia to our north, this country must get serious about defence.”

Richard French (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the PMO wields too much power in Ottawa: “Similar criticisms have been heard in Ottawa since the arrival of the current government. But perhaps there is a novelty here. I would argue that, while the centralization of power in Westminster prime ministerships always reflects the personal character and desire of the person in the office, in our case today, the person in the office does not want to dominate his government. He wants the Prime Minister’s Office to dominate it for him and is quite content to be its creature. What we have in Ottawa is the Justin Trudeau Regency.”

Fahad Razak, Arthur Slutsky and David Naylor (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how we need new strategies to tackle COVID-19 this fall: But governments also need a new storyline – one that celebrates the effects of vaccines in preventing serious disease and death, while acknowledging the declining marginal yields of repeated administration of current vaccines when it comes to preventing infection with later variants. That shift explains evolving vaccine mandates and underpins the case for vaccines currently in development and regulatory review. It’s also counterproductive to talk about two doses as “full vaccination” – the number of vaccine doses needed for protection against serious COVID-19 varies by age, health status and circulating variant. Public-health restrictions must also evolve. Not because of the lies being told about their past ineffectiveness, but because every effort should be made to avoid broad-brush restrictions on public gatherings, as well as school and business shutdowns.”

Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on why B.C. Premier John Horgan may defy speculation and lead the B.C. NDP into the next provincial election: One can readily imagine why Horgan might have decided to go. He’s been through a lot on the health front. He’d be leaving the NDP in a strong position in the opinion polls and with two years to regroup under a new leader. But it is easy to come up with a rationale for a decision to stay. He loves the job, leastways he has done so up to this point. There’s no one waiting in the wings with his communication skills and populist touch. The government faces huge challenges with inflation, the crisis in health care, and public sector bargaining. His rivalry with B.C. Liberal leader Kevin Falcon is personal. Horgan would like to beat him, not have people think that he walked away from a fight. The latter scenario is the preferred one for most New Democrats.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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Politics Podcast: What The Politics Of Abortion Look Like Now – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn constitutional abortion rights. Which states now have abortion bans in place, how have Americans across the political spectrum responded with protests and celebrations, and how could this decision impact the midterm elections? 

The podcast also analyzed two more notable opinions released by the Supreme Court in the last few days: the ruling on gun restrictions that has significant implications for gun control in five other states and a ruling on prayer at public schools.

Finally, the team does a quick tour of the biggest primary elections in Illinois, New York, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah on Tuesday.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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