Elections boss gives thumbs down to new rules

Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand waits to appear before the Commons procedure and...

Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand waits to appear before the Commons procedure and House affairs committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

David Akin, National Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 6:44 PM ET

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's point man on election reform and the country's chief electoral officer haggled Thursday over proposed changes to Canada's election laws. Minister of State Pierre Poilievre argued chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand didn't know what he was talking about and Mayrand claimed he was being "taken off the ice" and voters would suffer as a result. It started earlier this week when Polievre announced that, as part of the election reform package, he was taking the law enforcement and investigation function away from the office of the chief electoral officer and moving Canada's election police into the office of the country's public prosecutor. "The referee should not be wearing the team jersey," Poilievre said as he introduced what the government calls its Fair Elections Act. "It is normal to separate administration from investigations." On Thursday, Mayrand bristled at the suggestion he was biased. "The only jersey I think I'm wearing ... is the one with the stripes, white and black. What I know from this bill is the referee will no longer be on the ice," Mayrand said. Many Conservatives disagree and have argued for years Mayrand shows a zeal for going after Tories, but turns a blind eye when New Democrats or Liberals run afoul of election laws. In the House of Commons, Poilievre took on Mayrand, suggesting that he simply doesn't understand that he's not the referee for elections. He's simply the top official who administers them. The referee, Polievre said is the top enforcement official, known as the commissioner of elections. "First, the referee at elections is the commissioner of Elections Canada. He is the one whose job it is to enforce the law, and he would gain new independence and new powers under the Fair Elections Act," Poilievre said.

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