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Liberals table bill to roll back Conservative changes to Canadian voting process

Last Updated Nov 24, 2016 at 10:01 am MST

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises dueing Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Liberal government is rolling back a number of controversial changes to Canada’s voting process.

Maryam Monsef, the minister for democratic institutions, has introduced legislation that will allow voters to use the voter information card as valid ID to cast a ballot.

The government is also restoring the ability of voters to vouch for other citizens who lack identification, permitting them to vote, and restoring the chief electoral officer’s mandate to educate voters.

The previous Conservative government tightened voting rules with its controversial Fair Elections Act, which critics said was aimed at suppressing the vote of people unlikely to support Conservative options.

“In the last election, we promised to repeal the anti-democratic elements of the former government’s Fair Elections Act,” Monsef told a news conference Thursday.

“Today we’re delivering on that promise…. Our legislation will make seven reforms that will break down unnecessary barriers to voting, while enhancing the efficiency and the integrity of our elections.”

The new bill also expands the right to vote to more than a million Canadians living abroad.

It will also provide more independence to the commissioner of elections, who investigates election irregularities and fraud.

The Conservatives under Stephen Harper had introduced a sweeping array of reforms in an effort to fight voter fraud — although experts disputed the extent to which that fraud existed in the first place.

Monsef said she travelled the country talking to people about expanding access to the ballot box.

“It’s easy to take democracy for granted, but we’ve seen what happens when governments unfairly limit access to the electoral process,” she said.

“We’re removing barriers that never needed to be there in the first place.”