Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bill C-6, backlash politics, and the NDP

Positive choice, eh? Not any more, by the looks of it.

The New Democratic Party will be supporting Harper's Bill C-6, which will force electors at polling booths to uncover their faces in order to vote. Bill C-6 is a pandering, xenophobic piece of trash.

Just to review: a few months back, a Parliamentary committee grilled the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for daring to read the current electoral law correctly. It was a bizarre performance, which I blogged about at the time. Some by-elections in Québec were about to happen, hérouxvillisme was in full flower there, and the parties were falling all over themselves to prove that they could be just as intolerant and ignorant as the next guy. They had had ample opportunity to fix the legislation earlier, and had indeed been given a heads-up by M. Mayrand, but didn't lift a finger to change it. What woke them up was a bellow of backwoods bigotry, and, rubbing their eyes, they gleefully joined the chorus.

The thing made no sense, on the surface. No veiled Muslim woman (niqabi) had ever asked for accommodation of this kind. The law did not require out-of-country voters to produce ID of any sort; here at home, non-photo ID was perfectly acceptable at the polls. What, then, would unveiling accomplish--besides offering hope to the grubbier sections of the populace that the damned Muslims would be put in their place?

Well, precisely.
C-6 has nothing to do with the integrity of balloting, nothing to do with protection against electoral fraud. If it was intended to safeguard the process, it fails, laughably, to accomplish any such thing, even in its second iteration. As Chris Selley succinctly puts it, they've f**ked it up again. Voters still don't have to show photo ID. In his measured words:

So, let's follow along. The concern was that a veiled woman could provide photo ID but not have to show her face, rendering the photo ID pointless. All hail the new reality: a veiled woman can provide non-photo ID but has to show her face, rendering the unveiling pointless. Well, I should say, pointless when it comes to ensuring the integrity of our electoral system. But it's been a long time since anyone could assume with a straight face that this had anything to do with the Elections Act. It would almost be better if there were aspiring veiled voters out there—at least then we could legitimately discuss how they fit into the process. At the moment it's difficult to conclude anything except that the Tories—and any other party that doesn't come out against this in the strongest possible terms; Mr. Dion, I'm looking in your direction—are content to score points off the imagined humiliation of Muslims.

The Globe and Mail, too, has been a calm voice of reason in the midst of this surreal process:

This is a bill meant to appeal to a sentiment expressed vociferously in Quebec that Muslim women should not be voting from behind face veils. On the surface, the sentiment seems reasonable ; a country should not weaken the integrity of the vote by allowing voters to conceal themselves. But look at the facts. Voters are not required to show photo identification, largely because many people do not have photo ID. Two pieces of government-issued ID approved by the Chief Electoral Officer are enough. Alternatively, a voter with ID may vouch for another voter without. Beyond all that, a voter may mail in her vote from abroad. Without photo ID, showing a face proves what ? That the bearer has a face ?

But nothing, it seems, will deter our politicians, of all stripes, from hastening to assure the cross-burning bigots and
hérouxvilliste yokels who disfigure our political landscape that they're on-side. The Bloc Québécois, which has by now morphed into a frankly nativist, opportunist formation, is even unhappy that Muslim women will be permitted to have access to a female returning officer for the unveiling. That's not nearly enough humiliation to please the knuckle-draggers who now form their core constituency.

Meanwhile the Conservatives are trying to change the debate into one about respect for the electoral process--people have been showing up at the polls with pumpkins on their heads. Tsk, tsk. Let the pumpkinheads vote, I say, if they can show the requisite non-photo ID. In the meantime, Peter Van Loan, you're fooling no one.

And now the NDP--the alleged "conscience of Parliament"--is about to down the Kool-Aid, hoping for that ever-elusive breakthrough in Qu
ébec. No thanks, Jack, I'm not thirsty. I'll be returning my party card, in many small pieces, to NDP headquarters if you folks follow through with this. Will anyone join me?

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