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Tories vote down electoral reform hearings

OTTAWA - There will be no cross-country hearings on a Conservative overhaul of elections rules, after the government used its majority to quash a proposal for travelling public consultations.

Conservatives closed ranks to vote down an NDP motion that would have seen a Commons committee hold two months of meetings across Canada, where citizens could express their views on electoral reform.

New Democrats say the sweeping overhaul of the Elections Act will tilt the field in the governing Conservatives' favour, disenfranchise some voters and muzzle and emasculate the chief electoral officer who oversees election rules.

The NDP wanted hearings across the country to give voters a chance to learn about the rule changes and express their views where they live.

However the Conservative government rushed the bill through second reading in the House and says anyone who wants to talk about the legislation is welcome to come to Ottawa and testify at committee.

The government expects to have the legislation, which it has dubbed the Fair Elections Act, through the Commons by the summer break and passed by the Senate by next fall in order to give Elections Canada time to enact the changes for the 2015 general election.

New Democrats, Liberals, Bloc Quebecois MPs, two Green party MPs and former Conservative Brent Rathgeber all voted to take the hearings out to Canadians, but they were defeated 145-131 after the Conservatives unanimously rejected the proposal.

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