Fair Elections Act changes will dis-empower senior voters

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/03/10/mcgregor-anderson-how-the-fair-elections-act-might-actually-hurt-the-tories-Add Contact Formin-2015/

First here is an excerpt from an article by Michael McGregor and Cameron Anderson, National Post | March 10, 2014 2:30 PM ET

Critics have largely focused on the effect that this change will have upon young voters, who tend to be relatively transient as they relocate for work or school. Largely overlooked is the fact that, according to Elections Canada’s research, the segment of the population that relies most heavily on VICs are seniors living in retirement residences and long-term care facilities. Elections Canada’s post-election report found that a majority of such individuals used VICs in 2011. 

Second here is part of the the testimony of Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs  on March 6 2014.

“Bill C-23 is a very important piece of legislation that touches upon practically every aspect of the electoral process. In this regard, it is the most comprehensive reform of the Canada Elections Act since it was completely overhauled in 2000.

    I would be less than transparent, and I would not do service to parliamentarians, if I did not share the full extent of my concerns with respect to the measures presented in Bill C-23, as well as those that, in my view, are missing. Of course, there are positive elements in the bill, as well as a range of technical improvements and clarifications that follow some of my previous recommendations. Unfortunately, the bill also includes measures that, in my opinion, undermine its stated purpose and will not serve Canadians well.

    Given the limited time available, I will focus on the aspects that I find most problematic. My officials will be available to provide a more comprehensive technical briefing to members from each caucus.

    The government has indicated that this bill will serve three main purposes: first, improving service to electors; second, providing clear and simple rules for everyone to follow; and third, most importantly, ensuring fair elections.

    In reviewing the bill today, I propose to look at it from the perspective of these three objectives to see whether and to what extent they are met.


    On improving service to electors, when we speak of service to electors, we must be careful not to let this terminology diminish in any way the importance of what is at stake. It is the responsibility of Parliament to provide, and it is my responsibility to administer, an electoral process that is accessible to all who wish to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

    Election day should be a time, and it may be the only time, when all Canadians can claim to be perfectly equal in power and influence, regardless of their income, health, or social circumstances. This can only be so if voting procedures are designed to accommodate not only those of us with busy schedules, but also and even more importantly, the more vulnerable and marginalized members of society.

    Bill C-23 proposes to modify voter identification rules by eliminating vouching and prohibiting the use of the voter information card, the VIC, as one of the documents that could be used to establish the elector’s address. We should keep in mind that it is only since 2007 that the law imposes on electors the obligation to provide evidence of their identity as well as of their address before they are allowed to vote.

    Currently, they can do this in one of three ways.

    They can present a government-issued piece of ID that includes their photo, name, and current address. In practice, this option is primarily limited to a driver’s licence. Approximately 86% of adults in Canada have a licence. This means that approximately four million do not have one, including 28%, or 1.4 million individuals over 65.

    Electors who don’t have a driver’s licence can produce two authorized pieces of ID, one of which must show their current residential address. While there are 38 such authorized pieces of identification, only 13 may include a current address.

    Finally, an elector without ID may, subject to certain requirements, be vouched for by another elector who has proper identification.

    Experience since 2007 shows that most Canadians do not have a problem complying with ID requirements. For some electors, however, this is a challenge, especially with respect to proving their current address.

    Let me give you some examples.

    In the case of seniors, it is not uncommon for one of the spouses to drive and to have all the bills in their name. Right now, the other spouse can be vouched for by their partner. Similarly, seniors living with their children often must be vouched for by one of their children in order to be able to vote.

    The reverse is also true. Young Canadians often live at home or, as students, move frequently. They sometimes have no documents to prove their current residential address.

    First nations electors on reserve also face challenges, as the Indian status card does not include address information.

    For many of these electors, vouching by another elector is the only option. Expanding the list of ID documents will not assist them in proving their address.

    The Neufeld report estimates that approximately 120,000 active voters in the last election relied on vouching, and we can expect that a significant proportion of them would not be able to vote under the rules proposed by Bill C-23.

    It has been pointed out that vouching is a complex procedure and that numerous procedural irregularities were found to have been committed at the last general election in connection with vouching. It is critical to understand that, as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada, the vast majority of these were strictly record-keeping errors by poll workers documenting the vouching process, and not fraud or even irregularities that could compromise an election. There is no evidence tying these errors to ineligible electors being allowed to vote.

    Of course, vouching procedures should and can be simplified, as recommended by Mr. Neufeld. The need to rely on vouching should also be reduced. This is why Mr. Neufeld recommended expanding the use of the voter information card as an authorized document to establish address.

     It is worth noting that the VIC is the only document issued by the federal government that includes address information. The Canadian passport, for example, does not include an address. In fact, with an accuracy rate of 90%, the VIC is likely the most accurate and widely available government document. The VIC is based on regular updates from driver’s licence bureaus, the Canada Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and various other authoritative sources….

    During the election period, revision activities at the local level also increase the accuracy of the VIC. This likely makes it a more current document than even the driver’s licence, which is authorized by law and used by the vast majority of voters.

     The VIC was authorized for voters in certain locations in 2011 based on the evaluation of the 2008 election, which showed that for some electors even vouching is not an available option.

     For example, seniors who live in long-term care facilities and who vote on site do not have driver’s licences, hydro bills, or even health cards, which are typically kept by their children or facility administrators. By law, they cannot be vouched for by other residents in the same poll who also lack adequate ID, and they cannot be vouched for by staff who do not reside there. In most cases, they can only rely on a letter of attestation issued by facility administrators, combined with another document such as an ID bracelet. Some administrators feel that they do not have the resources to issue such letters and in fact refuse to do so. For electors in that situation, the only document establishing their address is their voter information card.

    It is essential to understand that the main challenge for our electoral democracy is not voter fraud, but voter participation. I do not believe that if we eliminate vouching and the VIC as proof of address we will have in any way improved the integrity of the voting process. However, we will certainly have taken away the ability of many qualified electors to vote….”



More seniors are divorced or separated


Study: Emerging trends in living arrangements and conjugal unions for current and future seniors, 1981 to 2011


Between 1981 and 2011, the share of seniors 65 years of age and older who lived with their spouse or partner increased, while the overall share of those in other living arrangements decreased. The conjugal lives of seniors also changed, as the proportion of those who were divorced or separated rose from 4% to 12% over the period.

In 2011, 92% of all seniors 65 years of age and older lived in private households and 8% lived in collective dwellings. At least half of those living in collectives were 85 years of age or older.

The proportion of those living in collectives declined between 1981 and 2011, especially among older seniors. In 2011, 35% of women 85 years of age and older lived in collectives, compared with 41% in 1981. Among men in that same age group, the proportion declined from 29% to 23% over the period.

Among seniors living in private households in 2011, 76% of men and 49% of women lived as part of a couple, either as spouses or common-law partners. This compares with 75% of men and 40% of women in 1981.

A significant portion of seniors lived alone in 2011, with 35% of women and 17% of men 65 years of age and older living in private households. In 1981, a similar portion of women lived alone (36%), but slightly fewer men did so (14%).

The remainder of those in private households, 16% of women and 7% of men, lived with others, mostly relatives. These types of arrangements declined over the period, as 23% of senior women and 11% of senior men lived with others in 1981.

Senior couples are closer in age

Two factors are related to the rise in the share of seniors living in couples. The first is an increase in life expectancy, especially among men, while the second is the growing share of senior couples that are closer in age.

In 2011, 49% of the 1.7 million senior couples in Canada (with at least one spouse or partner 65 years of age and older) had an age difference of three years or less. That is up from 40% in 1981.

Conversely, 46% of senior couples were composed of older men that were at least four years older than their spouse or partner. This compares with 52% in 1981.

For 6% of senior couples, the woman was at least four years older. In 1981, 8% of senior couples were in this situation.

More seniors are divorced or separated

In 2011, 77% of the senior population had experienced just one union, either as married spouses or common-law partners.

The transition to “unmarried” status can have consequences on the financial and emotional well-being of seniors. Many of these transitions are caused by the death of one partner, but a growing number result from divorce and separation.

Between 1981 and 2011, the proportion of those who were divorced or separated increased from 4% to 12% among seniors 65 years of age and older.

However, many seniors experienced a second union in the aftermath of a divorce or separation. In 2011, 76% of men and 55% of women who had been divorced or separated eventually became part of a second union.

About three-quarters of seniors who experienced a second union got married again, with the rest living as common-law partners.

Conjugal patterns of future seniors are even more diverse

The living arrangements of individuals who were 55 to 64 years of age, who represent the next cohort of seniors, were even more diverse than those of current seniors.

For example, the share of those who were divorced or separated was around 20% for individuals who were 55 to 64 years of age in 2011. This compares with 12% among current seniors.

Future seniors were also more likely to experience a second union after a relationship breakup. About 3 in 10 people 55 to 64 years of age experienced at least two unions during their lifetimes, compared with 19% among current seniors.

Finally, common-law relationships were more prevalent among future seniors. In 2011, 12% of individuals 55 to 64 years of age who were in a couple were common-law partners. This compares with 6% among seniors 65 years of age and older.

Note to readers

In this release, data from the 1981 to 2011 censuses of population and from the 2011 General Social Survey were used to examine the trends in living arrangements and conjugal unions of seniors, who are defined as individuals 65 years of age or older, and future seniors, who are defined as individuals 55 to 64 years of age. According to census data, there were 4.6 million seniors in private households in 2011, while future seniors numbered 4.3 million.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers survey number3901 and survey number4501.

The article “Emerging trends in living arrangements and conjugal unions for current and future seniors” is now available online in Insights on Canadian Society (Catalogue number75-006-X). The study can be accessed from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; infostats@statcan.gc.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Anne Milan (613-951-8236;anne.milan@statcan.gc.ca), Demography Division.

For more information on Insights on Canadian Society, contact Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté (613-951-0803;sebastien.larochelle-cote@statcan.gc.ca), Labour Statistics Division.

LGBT seniors still face stigma


Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors were part of a generation of trailblazers who changed laws and the way society treats LGBT people.

Now, they’re embarking on the next stage of life — old age — and finding that it’s got challenges of its own.

All this week, CBC Radio One’s On The Coast explores their stories in a special series called “Gay and Grey.”

The idea came to us from former Vancouver City Councillor Alan Herbert, who decided to start a discussion group for gay seniors.

Alan Herbert shows off photographs from his younger travelling days. (Stephen Quinn/CBC)

“I looked around and tried to see if there was already an existing support group that focused specifically on aging for gay men,” Herbert said.

He couldn’t find one.

“So I thought, alright, I’m just going to have to see if I can start one,” he said.

Herbert’s group has been meeting for several months, and what he’s heard so far includes stories about isolation, loneliness, and the terror of depression.

And Herbert emphasized the impact HIV and AIDS has had on him and his peers.

Alan Herbert started a group to discuss the challenges of being gay and grey. (Stephen Quinn/CBC)

“This cohort of gay men who are in their 60s today, many of their most productive earning years were spent surrounded by people who were dying, or they spent some of that time themselves in a hospital sick. They lost those years.”

He says many people are afraid of being pushed back into the closet in order to get the care and support they need in the senior years.

“I’m aware there is still lots of bigotry. What I advise people is learn to be true to yourself.”

A diverse community with diverse challenges

Brian de Vries, a professor in the gerontology program at San Francisco State University, says the stories Herbert told sound familiar.

De Vries, who researches aging in the LGBT community, says gay men are more likely to age alone, without children, and with increasing numbers of disabilities.

Elderly lesbians face similar challenges, but with one major difference.

“There was some research recently that showed older lesbians had greater success at trying to create communities of care wherein they’d be able to support each other,” said de Vries.

Brian de Vries also emphasized that transgender seniors go unrecognized and are not supported by much of society.

“We find, in our research, much higher rates of depression, of substance abuse, of HIV amongst transgender older adults who struggle in so many ways to find a place in the world that doesn’t recognize the way in which they see themselves.”

There’s a silver lining

But de Vries sees evidence the situation is improving for the entire LGBT community.

He points to facilities that have training for people working with LGBT seniors, and initiatives in many cities to create housing specifically for them.

‘The idea of aging alone, or aging without children — those are not exclusively LGBT issues.’– Brian de Vries, SFSU gerontology professor

His research has also revealed that some people say being LGBT has helped prepare them for old age.

“We’ve learned to live a life with no one else there. We’ve learned how to do things for ourselves because we’ve needed to.” de Vries said. “And it’s that sort of armour I think with which some approach later life that will ultimately serve them well.”

He suggests today’s LGBT seniors may forge a trail that will improve seniors care for everyone.

“The idea of aging alone, or aging without children — those are not exclusively LGBT issues, and the more we could break free of the traditional notion of how services are provided, the better we are to offer services in a really person-centred appropriate way.”

On the Coast is on weekdays on CBC Radio One from 3 to 6 pm in Metro Vancouver.

Stephen Quinn will examine challenges affecting LGBT seniors all week in a special series Gay and Grey. #gayandgrey

Changes Vancouver LGBT seniors witnessed

1969 – Canada decriminalized homosexual acts.

1983 – AIDS Vancouver created after the first HIV/AIDS cases were diagnosed.

1985 – The Vancouver Lesbian Centre opened on Commercial Drive.

1996 – Sexual orientation is added to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

2003 – Same sex marriage becomes legal in B.C.

2012 – The first transgender person competed in Miss Universe Canada.