Sunday, June 17, 2007

On inconsistency

Full credit to the Senate for ensuring that Canadians won't have to worry about identity theft and other dangers arising out of birthdate information being made available by Elections Canada. But it's worth noting that while Lib senators may have played an important role in fixing the most glaring flaw with Bill C-31, it's the House Libs (and Bloc) who were most responsible for the problem in the first place:
The Senate added a last-minute wrinkle as the Commons rushed legislation through this week in advance of a summer recess, amending a government electoral bill that proposed to give political parties access to the birth dates of every registered federal voter in Canada.

The amendment may be a blessing in disguise for the Conservatives after witnesses and senators from both sides condemned the provision as a violation of privacy rights that could increase identity theft.

The Senate returned Bill C-31 to the Commons with several amendments late Thursday...

Despite recent acrimony in the Senate over a government bill attempting to limit Senate terms to eight years, and promises of more confrontation next week over a budget bill changing the fiscal equalization formula for provinces with less wealth, Liberal and Conservative senators were united in their opposition to distributing voter birth dates to political parties...

Liberal and NDP MPs said they will support the Senate amendment, which will be taken up in the Commons when Parliament resumes in the fall.
It's certainly a plus that the Libs have come around now. And with the Cons having voted against the Bloc's original amendment (albeit while stating that they supported including birthdate information - see the committee proceedings generally), it looks like there should be more than enough votes to make sure that C-31 will be cut down in scope to remove at least the birthdate flaw.

Which is well and good as long as the House does pass C-31 in a slightly less toxic form. But based on the Libs' turnaround, it seems clear that the official opposition either hadn't thought through the ramifications of what it first voted for, or is trying to rewrite history now that enough public attention has prevented C-31 from providing more information to political parties with no regard for possible harm to the general public. And the credit for any current improvement surely has to go to the NDP and the Senate for taking a critical eye to the bill in the first place - not to a party which went out of its way to maximize the damage before thinking better of it.

H/T to Robert.

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