Opposition puts brakes on Elections Act changes
ST. JOHN’S, NL – It’s not a filibuster, exactly, but for a second day, the House of Assembly met mostly as a formality, jumping through the necessary procedural hoops to start debate on changes to the Elections Act.
Normally those procedural niceties wouldn’t be an obstacle, but the opposition parties say they have concerns about the proposed changes the Liberal government wants to make.
“I have serious concerns about this,” Opposition Leader Paul Davis said.
“It very obviously benefits the governing party. They can pull the strings and manipulate the process any way they want to their benefit, under what’s in this bill.”
Davis has been demanding a meeting with Government House Leader Andrew Parsons to discuss those concerns and potentially make changes.
Parsons said he’s happy to listen to any concerns coming from the opposition, but that should happen in the House of Assembly.
“Let’s discuss it in the House during debate. That’s proper,” Parsons said.
“Right now, I think we have a piece of legislation that works. I understand your concerns, but I still don’t think they’re any reason to hold up debate in the House of Assembly.”
The current situation was provoked when a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court justice struck down the special ballot provisions of the Elections Act, saying the way they are worded is unconstitutional.
Until the government passes new special-ballot provisions, the province can’t hold elections because it’s also unconstitutional to run an election without some sort of special-ballot measure.
Meanwhile, Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent resigned earlier this month, meaning government has to imminently call a byelection.
Parsons has presented a draft bill that would lengthen the minimum campaign period in the province to 26 days, and require all parties to have accredited candidates in place within the first five days of the election campaign.