Six pieces of ID and still not allowed to vote

On Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 in Press Releases

Pollsters are now bringing in the news that Canadians do not care if our election laws are changed to advantage the party in power. I do not believe that is the case.

What is the case is that the abuse crystallized in C-23, the so-called “Fair Elections Act,” has not yet been explained. Based on the soporific tones with which Pierre Poilievre repeats his mantra that “the average Canadian thinks it is reasonable that someone should produce proof of identity in order to be allowed to vote,” this particular formulation went through focus-group testing.

In the evidence-free zone that is the current Prime Minister’s Office, from which all legislative stratagems emerge, polling and focus groups have replaced experts and empirical data.

C-23 will change voting rules while simultaneously depriving Elections Canada of the ability to educate voters about these changes. A key change is the removal of the “vouching” provision, allowing someone with proper ID to vouch for another they know to be entitled to vote at that poll. It is used rarely, but does provide a safeguard to ensure Canadians can vote.

Poilievre rejected all advice from chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand, former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, B.C.’s current electoral officer Keith Archer, former B.C. electoral officer Harry Neufeld and the former auditor general of Canada, Sheila Fraser. All have said there is no evidence of voter fraud. All have said the bill is an attack on democracy. Expert advice that poll workers need to be non-partisan and have more training before election day has been ignored.

Instead, C-23 will allow the ruling party to choose poll supervisors, while ensuring they lack time for proper training.

The bill also opens new loopholes for election spending, allowing money spent on fundraising to be exempt from spending totals. The Conservatives have limited debate and are forcing the bill through as quickly as their majority power will allow.

The minister repeats that you can vote using 39 different forms of ID, suggesting it is the work of a moment for any Canadian to rummage through what we carry around every day to vote.

The repetition of the 39 pieces of ID has become part of the disinformation that could lead to a loss of voter rights in the next election. A passport won’t work by itself because it does not include an address. A driver’s licence only works if it includes a street address and not a post office box, as is the case in many rural areas. If you have moved and your driver’s licence shows your previous address, you won’t have adequate ID. The requirement is for something with a photo ID and your address or just the right combination of two (or more) other identifiers, even without a photo ID.

Here’s a hypothetical. Imagine my daughter, currently a student in Halifax, went to the polling station bringing along six pieces of ID from the list — just to be on the safe side — her birth certificate, her student ID, her driver’s licence, her health card, her passport and her transcript. All are listed as acceptable on the Elections Canada website. Could she vote?

No. None of these forms of ID will include her current address.

She does pay for utilities in her Halifax apartment. The utility bill is listed as an acceptable proof of address, in conjunction with her other ID.

So, she runs back to her apartment, prints out her online utility bill and gets back to the polling station. Can she vote now?

No. The utility statement must be one mailed to the customer, not one printed out from online billing.

The advice from hundreds of experts is that this law will deprive thousands of Canadians of their right to vote. When we are suffering a crisis in voter turnout with fewer than 60 per cent voting in 2011, and only 38.8 per cent of young people doing so, we should encourage voting, not create new obstacles.

The constitutionality of this legislation, if left unchanged and forced through the House, will undoubtedly make its way to the courts. It is likely to fail, as have numerous other pieces of unconstitutional legislation forced through under this prime minister.

While there is still time, we must raise the level of public awareness to stop C-23 in its current form. In a democracy, voting is a sacred right and duty. So is fighting to protect everyone’s right to vote

Originally printed in the Victoria Times Colonist.

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  • esperago

    Did your daughter move to Halifax to become a student? If so, she should still be a resident of the province she is from (federal/provincial rules allow this for students). In this scenario, she shouldn’t be voting in a Halifax riding; she should be voting in her home riding within her province of residence. Her photo ID and address should then be accurate, plus she’d be voting by mail or another remote method. This is how federal election voting unfolded for me during my time at Dalhousie University, Halifax.

  • Rebecca Hogue

    So, dumb question but who does paper billing? If utilities are moving towards electronic billing (and many are), the suddenly you have NO proof of address.

    • 2Jenn

      Seniors do paper billing. So disenfranchise the young(er) but leave the voting base of the Conservatives.

      • ivortevans

        Suddenly Canada Post dropping home delivery is starting to look suspicious. Seniors may do paper billing, but they can’t get the mail out of their supermailbox while pushing a walker. ;-) I know this is no joke, and I would not put every decision like this out of the realm of strategy to steal another election.

    • Diana

      I make sure I have at least one bill or something with my address on it, luckily where I am water bill comes that way, they don’t have electronic yet.. Car insurance has worked before too, but I guess not everyone has that, even if it’s still allowed? And tax papers have worked too from CRA (but again.. Still allowed?)

  • Scooter

    C-23 cannot go though, that is given but I feel I must point out an error in hypothetical example. The student should not be voting in Halifax at all as she is not a resident. Given that she a driver’s licence, from BC I assume, she should be requesting a mail in ballot from Elections Canada so she can vote in the correct riding.

    • Joyce Ellis

      Not true. She can vote in Halifax as that is where she now lives. She would be ineligible to vote in BC as she does not currently live there. While vouching for a voter is not often used, it does happen. I have worked numerous elections at all levels of government, and as a poll supervisor, I, myself have vouched for a voter I knew to be living in my neighbourhood temporarily. Voter fraud does not exist. Political party fraud does, as was proven last election.

      • Greenlady8

        Your last sentence is really what this is all about.

        • FiveOD

          C-23 is such a transparent attempt to tweak the rules in the favour of the Conservatives it’s astounding. We’re going to make elections fairer but all of these things just happen to benefit us and our campaign strategy. What a coincidence!

  • Jeremy

    This is almost exactly what happened to my roomate and I in the last provincial election. Luckily I was on the voter list and was able to vouch for my roomie who would have otherwise been turned away. These changes will stop A LOT of university students from voting.

    • leewardside

      Just found out that vouching isn’t allowed in provincial elections in Ontario and Quebec. So half the Canadian population is already disenfranchised to some degree.

      • Meh

        Bring a lawn chair and your buddy, vouch for the chair, they have to except the chair but they can’t let it walk home alone. So that’s where your buddy comes in, he acts as the translator for the chair and ironically your buddy and the chair share the same names and address. Problem solved!

  • Joyce Ellis

    I am disturbed by this entire Bill. I was not aware until today that the idea is that party in power gets to choose poll supervisors. That takes away the non-partisan part of the voting process. I have worked many elections, in all positions and at every level of government. We have always been told it is forbidden for anyone working at polling places to show any sign of belonging to or supporting any party. Not difficult to see where choosing your own party supporters for polling places could be the norm. Qualified for the job or not. People like me would not be able to be a poll supervisor as I do not support the current party in power. The only party people allowed at a polling place are scrutineers, and there are strict rules about where they can be, and what they are allowed to do. I surely do hope this bill does not pass. The arrogance of our prime minister and his cronies is disgusting. BTW I have emailed my MP (conservative) and am still waiting a reply. Not even an electronic acknowledgement as is usual.

    • Peter Brebner

      Actually the two top vote gatherers in each riding get to provide a list of workers for the polling stations under the current legislation. Only after a certain date can the Returning Officer go to the street to fill the roster of staff needed on election day. Please read the post 2011 election report by Elections Canada. Mayrand and EC have many fixes for problems but it would mean fairer elections and not a voting process that can be manipulated.

      • leewardside

        Just found out that vouching isn’t allowed in provincial elections in Ontario and Quebec. Seems half the population is already disenfranchised to a certain degree.

        • Peter Brebner

          No worries. I have not looked at the Ontario Elections Act closely but I do like the fact that in Ontario you can decline your vote (essentially a “None Of The Above” vote). So should the minority Liberals fall soon it will be what I say to to people who are against all the candidates/parties. What I want to know is if declined votes were the largest votes in a riding would the FPTP rule apply?

  • Coreen

    I had a similar situation. I took a seasonal job that I thought would last 3 months, so I didn’t go through the process of changing my ID. I worked on voting day so I couldn’t travel home to vote (this would have been costly to me in travel and in not working). Luckily, when I went into vote, someone vouched for me. Elizabeth’s argument points at the realities of life and its sometimes mobile nature.

    • Duncan Read

      Coreen, if you were away from your home riding, you didn’t need to travel home to vote. You could have voted by mail, or by special ballot at the EC office closest to you.

      If you voted in the riding where you were temporarily working, rather than in your home riding, you (and the person who vouched for you) arguably violated elections laws.

  • nuttycake

    they charge for paper bills now days so many low incomes, students, green people, opt out of having them mailed, this is very disturbing our paper bills (not many) are in my husbands name guess Im off the list too if i moved, or renters with utilities included… its an endless list

    • Bernice

      if you are homeless you have no paper bills

    • Barbara

      Good point. All of our bills are in my husband’s name (because he lived here long before we married).

  • Dirt_Road_Poet

    This bill will not stand a SCoC challenge. It denies a person of their right to vote.

  • Duncan Read

    Contrary to this article, rural driver’s licenses shouldn’t show PO boxes, they should show the holder’s civic address. And, as someone pointed out, the hypothetical daughter could easily vote in her home riding.

    Yes, you need government-issued photo ID with an address to vote, or some combination of documents. I’m happy that the rules are being tightened – those who don’t drive need to get themselves valid government photo ID (known in most provinces as an ‘age of majority card’, although officially in ON it’s the “Ontario Photo ID”).

    Voting is important, both functionally and symbolically. We don’t need lowest-common-denominator thinking. Those who wish to participate need ID. That’s not discriminatory or punitive – it’s common sense.

    • FiveOD

      Why is it common sense? It is common sense to disenfranchise people in order to prevent voter fraud that doesn’t happen?

      Our southern neighbour doesn’t require ID to vote and they experience little to no voter fraud, and their elections are larger and more frequent than ours. Canada does require ID, but we allow vouching. Canada also experiences little to no voter fraud. When we have a system that works, and an example of an even less secure system that also works, what in the world is “common sense” about tightening the rules on our system that already works when it will potentially disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters?

      That is neither common nor sense. Try coming up with a real, evidence-based argument rather than simply stating that your point is common sense, as if that gives it magic legitimacy.

      • Duncan Read


        I’m loathe to engage online with people who don’t sign their name. But since you ask…

        Only citizens have the right to choose the government. And, in our peculiar iteration of democracy, we don’t vote for a party, or its leader, but rather for an individual in whichever of… 308 (?) federal ridings we live.

        So yes, when turning up at your local church or community centre to exercise this fundamental right, you have to show that you’re a) a citizen, and b) a resident. If you can’t accept that that is logical, notwithstanding that election fraud is fairly uncommon; I’m afraid I can’t help you.

        I wish people would be more careful throwing around words like ‘disenfranchisement’. To use it to describe someone who hasn’t bothered to get or replace their ID, is to do a great disservice to those who were, or are, truly disenfranchised.

        • poniesinjudah

          Enumeration. Retirement homes. Plus: you obviously a) want to scold people. And care nothing about fairness.
          b) are pretending wicked people are livin’ large, not replacing drivers licenses promptly and other acts of gross self indulgence. Even if not rushing around replacing a license when you move was as bad as you’re pretending, bad people get to vote. Perhaps you should return to your life in the Mikado now.

        • FiveOD

          You’re right, I guess I am just too dumb to understand why conditions should be placed on “fundamental rights” to prevent nonexistent issues. Your rock solid logic is just too much for me!

          • arkymorgan

            1) because no one has shown any need whatsoever for these rule changes.
            2) Because despite your assumption that these conditions are “minor inconveniences”, they fall disproportionally on the shoulders of the poor and the young, which in turn advantages a group who currently support the current regime.

            That’s the opposite of democratic.

        • tonobungay

          I don’t believe anyone is disagreeing with showing that you are a citizen and a resident. The issue is with removing some of the ways in which you can prove that, particularly when those changes mean that a fairly large number of people from certain communities will now be unable to vote despite being able to prove they are eligible.

        • arkymorgan

          It costs $85 for a driver’s license in Alberta. If you were a pensioner living on $16,000 a year and were no longer able to drive, could you find the money for this?

          • Joyce Ellis

            Or a student just trying to survive while they study. And every time they change addresses? That could amount to 3 or 4 times a year for many.

        • Richards

          Making it more complicated for people to prove their identity and residence is not ‘common sense’ and does threaten disenfranchisement, Mr. Read. Disallowing vouching and getting rid of the useful Voter Identification Card does make it harder for people to prove identity and residence. Are you implying that you know more than all the constitutional and election experts in Canada and around the world who have said this? Your ‘solution’ is to blame the voter for being too lazy or cheap to get the necessary ID. The government creates an ID problem with this Act, and you defend it. I’m afraid the Supreme Court just might disagree with you.

    • Leon Williams

      Because her home riding is the one she lives in the majority of the time – where she goes to school. This is also where she pays rent and lives. Are you suggesting people vote in ridings in which they do not live? Why? To justify a poor piece of legislation? When the act was initially changed in 2007 the cons said the vouching was a way to make SURE no one would be locked out. Now they’re taking that away, it’s slimy.

      • Duncan Read

        Hi Leon,

        You’re wrong; most students would consider their ‘home’ to be where they habitually live; not where they go to school. As such, they should vote in their home riding; see

        Of course, if they strongly felt that they had “moved” to the school, they would then update their address on all their ID; and would have no issue voting in their new home riding.

        • poniesinjudah

          How the hell are they supposed to do that if it’s across the country and the election is during the school term? You don’t care if what you say makes sense. And thanks for the above it all purism of treating non-drivers and recent movers as naughty and unworthy. GOOD governments don’t treat their citizens like that. The law is crap. You know it.

          • Duncan Read

            See my reply to Joyce, above. Nobody is requiring anyone to travel back to their home riding.

          • Van Media Review

            They live where they live full time, at school That’s the law. This is a bunch of nonsense designed to stop them from voting nad you know it.

        • Joyce Ellis

          You are aware that students are often forced to move from time to time? Do you then want them to have to renew everything each time their address changes? It’s gets a bit costly don’t you think? And given the time it takes to receive a new PHOTO license, the temporary one could well be all you have at voting time. It is quite legal to retain your driver’s license from a different province while attending school.

          • Duncan Read

            Joyce, full-time students are not required to switch their driver’s licenses over if they change provinces, as they are still considered residents of their HOME province. Your failure to understand this is at the root of your objection to the election law.

            Let’s assume I’m a 19-year old student, living with my parents in Ottawa. I get accepted to the University of Calgary, and attend school there eight months a year.

            I am entitled to vote in the federal election for the MP for the relevant riding in OTTAWA, not Calgary, as that is where I live. I have an Ontario driver’s license showing my Ottawa address.

            I don’t have to fly back to Ottawa to vote. I walk into any Calgary EC office, and get a special ballot.

    • Marc Keelan-Bishop

      Ontario Photo ID costs $35. Doesn’t sound like much, but for a person with low income, paying $35 to vote is unfair and onerous.

    • arkymorgan

      If I am a student at UBC and my parents’ home is in Halifax…do you really think the average Canadian student can afford to fly home for one day?

      • Duncan Read

        Arky, is *your* permanent address Halifax? If so, that election is the one in which you are entitled to vote.

        As I spelled out (below), you don’t have to fly home; you just have to inform yourself. Walk into your nearest EC office, and apply for a Special Ballot. They’ll be happy to help.

    • Mike Bunting

      That’s a lie. My driver’s licence gives my
      RR # and PO Box number. Want to look?

    • Hank

      I’m not sure what you mean by “should” show the civic address. Is that a legal requirement? I live in an Alberta town without mail delivery and my driver licence clearly shows only the P.O. Box. I pay all my bills online and even gave up my land line so now have only a cell phone. I could print off a copy of a utility bill or credit card statement, but that apparently won’t be accepted. I have a valid passport but that doesn’t show my street address. I also have a 19-year old daughter living at home who doesn’t even have a driver licence. In short, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to vote, despite having lived in this town for over 25 years. My daughter will have even a tougher time. Even if I go through the hassle and expense of getting a utility company to start sending paper bills again, how will that help my daughter as the bills are in my name? She’s well known in town and would easily be able to find abouty 10 people at the polling station who know her, but that won’t help her anymore.

      • Duncan Read

        Hi Hank,

        If your daughter doesn’t drive, then her primary government-issued photo ID would be an Alberta Photo ID card. She has been entitled to one since age 12, and should certainly get one now; see

        As for your license not showing your civic address, I really don’t know; I would suggest speaking to Service Alberta. Mike’s response (below) seems to indicate that his civic address appears on his, so hopefully it’s something that they can remedy.

    • Mary Dale Caswell Bird

      1. Rural addresses do not have a civic address. I am looking at mine right now.
      2. You cannot get age of majority cards if you are over 24.
      3. Ontario just started Ontario Photo ID and is not yet available everywhere and given government efficiency, do not expect it for some time. Oh yes and you have to have ID with an adress on it to get it.
      4. Most reserves do not have a civic address.
      5. The issue is not identification here; it is address. My daughter who is disabled, does not drive has a passport and I STILL had to vouch for her though everyone at the polling station knew her personally.
      6. There are homeless people. Like my daughter, they are Canadian citizens and have a right to vote.
      7. I would love to see lowest-common-denominator thinking gone. Then we would never have a Conservative government again.
      8. Why bother passing legislation that will only be found unconstitutional; besides the fact that is the way Conservatives think, unconstitutionally. You are 0 for 4.
      The Conservative government has destroyed everything good about Canada, made us an international embarrassment and even their own party faithful are rejecting this one. They ran on a platform of transparency and are the dirtiest, most partisan, destructive, dishonest, meanest, unoriginal government ever. If only we could figure out how to grow bananas then His Most Royalness Harper would have the very country he wants.

      • D. Read

        Hi Mary,

        1) I’m unclear as to what you mean; are you saying that your driver’s license doesn’t show the street you live on?
        2) The Ontario Photo ID is for anyone 16 or over who doesn’t have a driver’s license. There is no upper age limit.
        3) Could I ask where the card isn’t available? I just tried two rural communities (Kapuskasing and Timmins) at random, and the Ontario Photo ID was available at both.
        5) You mention that your daughter has a passport: that is all you would need to get her an Ontario Photo ID. I would note, that per that site, “no proof of address is required” – you don’t need a bill in her name, or anything else.
        6) Special provisions are made for homeless Canadians; the rules are on the EC site I linked to earlier.

        Your points 4, 7 and 8 go beyond the scope of anything I was talking about, and as such I’ll refrain from addressing them. -D

        • Mary Dale Caswell Bird

          1. That is right. No street address on my drivers licence.
          2. There is an upper limit on age of majority cards.
          3. Kapuskasing and Timmins are not the limit of Ontario.
          5.Maybe what the website says but try getting one without.
          4. Once again, First Nations people’s concerns are not important. Big surprise there.
          8. Constitutionality should be a concern and is an integral part of this issue.

  • Leon Williams

    Are these the same pollsters who said Allison Redford and Clark would lose their respective elections?

  • John Eadie

    I worked a polling booth Federally, last time, and Provincially, last time. Elizabeth May is exactly right, and I am ASHAMED to be in this country right now.

  • poniesinjudah

    Elizabeth, excellent! You’re damn right people don’t know what’s going on yet. They will. A lot of us remember enumeration. You had your little receipt, no questions. No mucking about at the polls. Keep yapping about this!

  • Maria K

    To anyone arguing with Duncan Read. Stop waisting your mental energy. He’s a conservative government troll who trolls other parties pages and spews out the same brain washed talking points as Mr. Poilievre. I love when trolls use the phrase “Most Canadians, it’s the turnkey phrase of tyranny…just remember who the real enemies are here.

    • Duncan Read

      Maria, I’m a member of the Greens, not that it’s any of your business. I certainly don’t work for the government. I do find it interesting that anyone expressing an alternative opinion here gets smeared with ad hominem attacks such as yours.

      My Green party is open and inclusive, and encourages meaningful, mature dialogue on issues of importance. It’s a shame that some posters here feel entitled to spew vitriol and baseless accusations.

  • Andy

    What is being done to stop robo corruption. Will another bunch of left-wing voters be sent to the wrong polling stations again without consequence. I suppose if you tie the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer there is no oversight and accountability. More Harper transparency.

  • Louise McKinney

    The Conservatives, who are killing Canada Post, require a *mailed* bill be provided for voting purposes?! I’m speechless.

  • Peter Brebner

    And many of the recommendations by Mayrand should be listened to, which does include addressing the irregularities in voting that Poilievre has magically turned into fraud. More partisan activity in the polling stations (poll supervisors Section 44.3) and poor training of the often less than capable partisans nominated by the parties to work as poll clerks and deputy returning officers can guarantee that improvements will not happen and greater likelihood of manipulation will occur.
    Throw the whole act out.

  • Annabelle Twilley

    Proving that there is still value in our having a Senate, the committee’s majority Conservative members have suggested 9 amendments to the bill, and the point man has backtracked considerably from his aggressive so-called “common sense” stance. The voter-identification provision in the bill not one of the areas to be amended.
    Reminds me of what, inspired by the Tea Party, was happening related to Voter Registration in some of the especially southern states, last presidential election. Volunteers in Florida mounted a huge campaign to get voters registered, and where there was a large turnout of the vote to defeat Republican candidates.

    We could mount something like this here in Canada where people don’t have proper identification according to any passed provisions in the bill (primarily address). In my imagination, it could be a digital photo printed onto a large piece of foldable paper, like 2 by 2 feet, with a picture of the residence, and the community ( this would work for example, with Northern isolated villages and Indian Reserves), plus geographic locator numbers such as longitude and latitude, as well as post-office address, all of them co-ordinated, along with an acceptable signature from the administration of the village/town/band……we have time to do it before the next election. Imagine ! All this paper requiring acceptance at the polls, and being kept maybe even, or at least requiring a bit of troublesome handling. Just the trouble of every one of these each requiring close examination by poll officials ( possibly all appointed by the ruling party). That might get some kind of changes made. Of course, this is ridiculous, but many parts of this proposed so-called “Fair Elections” act, are truly so. Let’s find a way to demonstrate the derision.

  • arkymorgan

    Heck, when I was student in *Britain* I voted, with only my student ID as “proof” of eligibility. And I was just a visa-holder, and I was positively encouraged to vote, plus I was *thanked* at the polling station!

    That’s how democracy works, folks: everyone who has a stake in the outcome should be given a chance to have input.

  • Roger Ball

    What province or territory allows a driver to use a post office box on their driver’s license?

    • deedee4242

      Alberta does.

    • Mary Dale Caswell Bird


  • Rob

    The whole proof of residence thing is a bigger problem.. I recently bought a condo and the CRA sent me a letter requiring me to send in proof that it is and has been my promary residence. Of course because I just have a Cell phone they could not look my address up in the phone book, all of my utilities are billed online as is the recipt of my pay from my employer (which does not even have my address on it) and they stated that drivers licences were not acceptable as proof of residencey…

    The government will have to get with the 21st century soon…

  • Kim

    We use P.O. boxes in our whole small town, not physical addresses. Does that mean our whole town can’t vote?!? Yikes!

  • Len Nelson

    This happened to me when I was living in Squamish during the last federal election. My address was a postal box. I wasn’t allowed to vote. It pissed me off so much that I can’t be bothered to vote again. It strikes me as anti-democratic for a “government” who is in power to be able decide which Canadian citizens are allowed to vote and not allowed to vote. It’s very easy for a government to create “general” laws that actually work to their own favour, such as with the Democratic party excluding black voters in the late nineteenth century by enacting rules that apply to “everyone” such expensive poll taxes, or subjective literacy tests. No government in a democratic society should be allowed to decide who votes or not; otherwise, democracy is lost.

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