April 22nd, 2024

Liberals introduce legislation updating Elections Act, in keeping with NDP pact

By The Canadian Press on March 20, 2024.

The federal Liberal government is poised to table legislation today that updates the Elections Act. The Peace Tower in Parliament Hill is pictured in morning light in Ottawa on Thursday, March 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The Liberal government has tabled legislation that updates the federal Elections Act as part of its political pact with the NDP.

The minister responsible for democratic institutions, Dominic LeBlanc, said the changes “will enhance Canadians’ ability to exercise their vote while strengthening protections against foreign interference in our elections.”

The bill, if passed, would add two more days of advance voting, make a campus voting program permanent and “take steps toward” allowing voters to cast their ballots at any polling station in their riding.

It also proposes to add dedicated on-site voting for people who live in long-term care homes and improve the process for mail-in voting.

LeBlanc, who is also public safety minister, pointed out that the amendments come out of a collaboration with New Democrats.

MP Daniel Blaikie negotiated the bill for the NDP. He appeared alongside LeBlanc for what he said would likely be his last media availability on Parliament Hill before his resignation at the end of the month. He is headed for a job with Manitoba’s premier.

“There are often Canadians who are struggling to balance the obligations of work and family in a day as well as get to polling stations in order to be able to vote,” Blaikie said.

“And that’s why we felt it was very important to try and expand access and have more days upon which Canadians could vote.”

The bill includes a study to expand federal elections to a three-day voting period rather than a single election day.

That falls short of the Liberal-NDP agreement, which promised that the parties would work together to make that a reality.

LeBlanc said the intention was to have elections fall on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday, as well as for people to be able to vote from any polling place in their riding right away.

But Elections Canada “identified some reasonable concerns,” including the challenge of finding “suitable locations” for polling places over a three-day period.

“Elections Canada came to us with some thoughtful operational challenges,” said LeBlanc.

“We think that they need to be mandated by Parliament to come back with a precise timeline of how we can get to that. We thought it was a very reasonable objective.”

Under the agreement, the New Democrats are supporting the minority Liberals on key House of Commons votes in exchange for progress on shared priorities.

The two-year anniversary of the deal, known as a confidence-and-supply agreement, is later this week.

Federal law requires that the next election be held no later than October 2025.

LeBlanc said the intention is for parliamentarians to “ensure that this legislation can be in place as quickly as possible” so updates are ready by then.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2024.

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