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Feds bow to pressure on election reforms

By: The Canadian Press

 | Apr 25, 2014 - 3:09 PM |
OTTAWA - The Conservative government is embarking on a major climbdown on its proposed overhaul of election rules with a series of amendments that will remove many of the most contentious aspects of the bill.

Pierre Poilievre, the minister for democratic reform, revealed the proposed changes at a news conference today that was ostensibly called to respond to a Supreme Court reference on Senate reform.

The government is prepared to remove the requirement for all voters to show residency identification in the next election, said Poilievre, responding to widespread criticism of his proposal to remove the "failsafe" of vouching for voters lacking full documentation.

"While the Fair Elections Act will require people show ID proving who they are before they vote, we will support an amendment to help people whose address is not on their ID," he said.

Poilievre said voters will now be able to sign an oath attesting to their local residence, but must still provide at least some proof of personal identification.

A restriction on how the chief electoral officer can communicate with Canadians is also being rewritten.

"We will support amendments to ensure that the CEO of Elections Canada knows he has all the freedom to speak or report on any matter," said Poilievre.

The government is also removing a provision that would have allowed parties to contact former donors during election periods without incurring an election expense under their campaign cap.

In response to opposition criticism that a proposed new robocall registry doesn't go far enough, Poilievre said calling companies employed by political parties will be required to retain their scripts for three years, instead of the one year in the original legislation.

While Poilievre said the bill will be amended to "maintain Elections Canada's discretion to appoint central poll supervisors," he noted that a controversial injection of partisan appointments into polling station oversight remains the Conservative government's preferred option.

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