Opposition puts brakes on Elec­tions Act changes

The Beacon (Gander) - - Sports - BY JAMES MCLEOD THE TELE­GRAM

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.

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