Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, friends,
Back in 1993, Kim Campbell famously asserted that election campaigns were not the time to discuss serious issues. Today, we’d call that a Kinsley gaffe – an inadvertently revealed political truth.
Now, in the era of perpetual campaigning, those of us who cover federal politics sometimes despair that it’s NEVER the time to have a rational discussion of serious issues. Debate on public policy has devolved into little more than competing bumper sticker slogans – even when we’re dealing with the most fundamental right a citizen has in a democracy, the right to vote.
And so it was initially with the Fair Elections Act, marketed as a bill that would give the commissioner of elections “sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand” to crack down on voter fraud.
It’s an honour to be nominated for The Canadian Press’ part in getting beyond the clichés, exposing the flaws and faulty premises in the bill, helping to generate a substantive debate that finally forced the government to retreat on some of the most egregious elements that could have, among other things, disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
But this nomination is as much a tribute to the current and former independent officers of Parliament and provincial electoral watchdogs who met hyper-partisan sloganeering with facts and thoughtful, persuasive analysis. People like Harry Neufeld, William Corbett, Yves Cote, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Sheila Fraser and, most especially, Marc Mayrand, whose professionalism and civility never wavered even in the face of vicious attacks on his integrity, character and motives.
Bruce and I thank them for sharing their expertise and knowledge. We are all, as Canadians, indebted to them.