Central to all of this is the testimony of one MP - Brad Butt who rose in the House of Commons to state the following:
Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that there are 30-plus documents that individuals can bring with them when they want to vote that will verify that they are, indeed, the persons they are.
Earlier this afternoon I asked the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversificationa question. I think my friend from York South—Weston will appreciate this because, just like the riding I represent, there are a lot of apartment buildings in his riding. I will relate to him something I have actually seen. On the mail delivery day when voter cards are put in mailboxes, residents come home, pick them out of their boxes, and throw them in the garbage can. I have seen campaign workers follow, pick up a dozen of them afterward, and walk out. Why are they doing that? They are doing it so they can hand those cards to other people, who will then be vouched for at a voting booth and vote illegally. That is going to stop. [emphasis added]Remember, the House of Commons is part of the legislative branch of our government. On that basis alone, the words spoken in that chamber are assumed to be truthful at all times. Just as lying before the Supreme Court carries such fell consequences, those who lie to our parliament are subject to being found in contempt of parliament and punished appropriately by that body.
Perhaps particularly galling about this situation is the fact that Mr. Butt rose and lied to the House of Commons in defence of the changes that Bill C-23 makes to voter identification requirements on voting day.
Then, a few days later, Mr. Butt rises again in the House to tell us that he was "inaccurate" in his earlier statements:
"I made a statement in the House during the debate that is not accurate, and I just want to reflect the fact that I have not personally witnessed individuals retrieving voter notification cards from the garbage cans or from the mailbox areas of apartment buildings," he said.
"I have not personally witnessed that activity and want the record to properly show that." [emphasis added]It seems to me that Mr. Butt has deliberately mislead the House of Commons to defend an appalling piece of legislation with an appalling lie about the extent of alleged voter fraud at the ballot box.
Now we find Prime Minister Harper opening his mouth on the topic, and apparently he doesn't see anything wrong with lying ... as long as it is done by a Conservative MP who "apologizes" for it after the fact:
Harper responded, saying "the member in question" did the right thing by apologizing.
"He, at his own initiative, brought this to light in the House of Commons and corrected the record, and he is to be commended for doing so," he said.Given that Mr. Butt so blatantly lied to the House of Commons on this matter at the outset, I am considerably less willing to give Mr. Butt a pass. Lying to the House of Commons is lying to Canadians - all of us. His apology is a start, but it does not address the fundamental point - he lied during time limited debate on a bill that is at the centre of the Harper government's legislative agenda.
Mr. Harper's defence of his MP makes me suspect even more that Mr. Butt's lie - and subsequent retraction - may well have been staged.
As for Bill C-23, I agree with Elections Canada head Marc Mayrand - this bill is profoundly flawed.