A Conservative senator is denying he personally witnessed "thousands" of cases of voter fraud in Nova Scotia, after seeming to suggest he had done so in a committee meeting.
During a Tuesday meeting of the Senate committee examining proposed changes to Canada's election laws, Senator Thomas McInnis said he seen voter fraud occur in his province of Nova Scotia.
He made the comments while questioning Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre about the Fair Elections Act, a bill that would substantially overhaul the country's electoral law.
(What is the Fair Elections Act? Read The Globe and Mail's easy explanation)
Many non-partisan experts have recommended amendments to the bill, warning the current version would disenfranchise voters, threaten Elections Canada's independence, violate the Charter and favour the governing Conservative Party. Mr. Poilievre has said the bill will cut down on fraudulent voting and preserve the integrity of elections.
One of the bill's most controversial portions would eliminate vouching, the process by which someone without proper ID can vote if someone else vouches for their identity and residency. The chief electoral officer has said vouching is used most often in cases where a voter can prove their identity but not their current address.
"I can tell you that vouching is a problem," Mr. McInnis said Tuesday. "It's not just vouching. I've witnessed it personally on the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth. It is a problem. Many of these people, first of all, don't even know who the candidates are and haven't been involved. That doesn't absolve them from the right to vote; I realize that. I've seen people take them in and almost mark their ballot. That's how serious this is, and it's thousands and thousands."
On Wednesday, Mr. McInnis' office said his numbers referred to possible cases of fraud across Canada, and not ones that he has personally witnessed.
In a statement, McInnis's office said the number of "thousands and thousands" came from the chief electoral officer's remarks on March 6, when he told the House committee on procedures and House affairs that 120,000 Canadians had voted in the last general election using vouching. McInnis's office said these remarks, coupled with the Neufeld report's findings of irregularities in 25 per cent of cases where vouching was used, translates "into approximately 30,000 votes."
In February, Conservative MP Brad Butt backtracked on claims he had personally witnessed voter fraud.
"One of the things that I have seen is I've seen on mail delivery day, when the voter cards are delivered to community mailboxes in an apartment building, we often find that many of them are actually just discarded," Mr. Butt said on Feb. 6. "They're in the garbage can or in the blue box. I have actually witnessed other people coming in, picking up voter cards, going back to, I guess, whatever campaign of the candidate they support, and actually handing out those voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into a voting station with a friend of theirs that vouches for them with no ID."
On Feb. 24, Mr. Butt stood up in the House of Commons to say that wasn't true, adding he wanted to correct the record. He gave no details on what he had witnessed, or why he'd made the statement in the first place.
"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 identification cards from the garbage cans or from mailbox areas of apartment buildings. I have not personally witnessed that activity and want the record to properly show that," he said.