The Telegram (St. John's)
Lane calls again for investigation into election
The sunshine of late may have melted memories of the problems encountered during this past winter’s provincial election, but that’s of cold comfort to one member of the House of Assembly.
Paul Lane, independent MHA for Mount Pearl-southlands, has continuously called for an independent investigation into the election and into how Chief Electoral Officer Bruce Chaulk handled it. Lane again raised the issue in the House of Assembly this week, but his questioning was cut short by the Speaker.
“The recent provincial general election was riddled with many inconsistencies, potential breaches of the Elections Act and resulted in many people in this province being denied their democratic right to vote,” Lane said. “Heading into the election, the chief electoral officer stated that Elections NL was prepared to hold a pandemic election. This obviously proved not to be the case. I realize the minister of Justice has been tasked with updating the Elections Act, however, this has nothing to do with holding an officer of the House accountable for his actions.
“I ask the premier, will you initiate an independent investigation of the election and subsequently table a report in this House for debate? Will you present a report after an independent investigation and have the chief elector officer accountable to this House of Assembly?”
Speaker Derek Bennett, however, halted the question.
“Your question is not in order,” Bennet said. “The operation of the election is not a (House of Assembly) matter. It is with the legislative branch, not within the House.”
Outside the House of Assembly, Lane said he has to respect the Speaker’s ruling whether he agrees with it or not.
“But the issue hasn’t changed. I think it’s a pretty sad day for democracy when an elected member of the House of Assembly can’t ask a question in the legislature to call on the government to initiate an investigation into what went on so people who were denied their right to vote can get some answers,” Lane said. “And also hold an officer of the House of Assembly accountable. The chief electoral officer reports directly to the House of Assembly. I can’t understand why government would not want to do that. Seems to be content to sweep the issue under the rug.”
The governing Liberals have set up an all-party committee to look into modernizing the province’s Elections Act following the election, which was plagued with several Covid19-related delays, and numerous issues that reportedly prevented many people from being able to vote.
There are also three court cases still before Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court arising from the election.