President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc arrives at a news conference Tuesday October 6, 2020 in Ottawa. The minority Liberal government is urging opposition parties to speed up passage of a bill aimed at ensuring a federal election could be safely conducted if need be during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc arrives at a news conference Tuesday October 6, 2020 in Ottawa. The minority Liberal government is urging opposition parties to speed up passage of a bill aimed at ensuring a federal election could be safely conducted if need be during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Opposition leaders urged to speed up bill to ensure safe election during pandemic

Government introduced Bill C-19 in December but it has not moved beyond initial stage of debate since then

The minority Liberal government is urging opposition parties to speed up passage of a bill aimed at ensuring a federal election could be safely held if need be during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc has written to opposition party leaders, urging them to wrap up second-reading debate on Bill C-19 today so that it can be sent off to a House of Commons committee for greater scrutiny and possible amendments.

While he insists the government remains focused on steering the country through the pandemic, LeBlanc notes that in a minority Parliament, an election could be triggered at any time.

He does not mention the imminent federal budget but its scheduled release on April 19 could lend urgency to his plea to get C-19 moving.

It will be the first budget since the pandemic sent the federal deficit skyrocketing and is expected to include details of billions more in planned spending to set Canada’s ravaged economy on the road to recovery.

The budget is bound to be controversial and any vote on it will be considered a confidence matter, meaning the minority Liberal government would fall if all three of the main opposition parties were to vote against it.

“The course of the pandemic remains uncertain, and an election during the pandemic is a possibility for which we must be prepared,” LeBlanc says in the letter.

“Canadians expect their parliamentarians to behave responsibly in all aspects of this pandemic. Ensuring their ability to safely exercise their democratic right to vote is no different.”

LeBlanc notes that chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault has urged Parliament to give Elections Canada the tools required to conduct a possible election during the pandemic without jeopardizing the health and safety of voters and poll workers.

In response to Perrault, the government introduced Bill C-19 in December but it has not moved beyond the initial stage of debate since then, thanks in part to procedural tactics employed by the Conservatives. It has been debated for just one day, with another scheduled for today.

“The government has sought to call Bill C-19 for debate numerous times, and the opposition has used procedural tricks to delay debate,” LeBlanc writes, urging opposition leaders to let the debate wrap up so the bill can move on to the procedure and House affairs committee for further study.

The bill proposes some temporary amendments to the Canada Elections Act to allow for a safe election during the pandemic if necessary.

Among other things, the bill would mandate two additional in-person voting days to allow for physical distancing at polling stations. It would also allow electors to register online to vote by mail and provide for secure drop boxes to be installed to ensure mail-in ballots can be returned in time to be counted.

It would also give Elections Canada flexibility to determine the safest way to conduct voting in long-term care facilities, whose residents are the most vulnerable to the deadly effects of COVID-19.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The health authority will occupy the building until October 31, 2021. File Photo
Health authority pays town $7.4K monthly to lease Riverside Centre

Facility is being rented for COVID vaccinations

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s mass vaccination program will be delivered to Princeton residents from a clinic set up at the Riverside Community Centre. (Darryl Dyck/CP photo)
COVID vaccinations bookings began for local residents last week

Riverside serves as Princeton’s appointment centre

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will speed up the process for hospitality businesses looking to set up patios during the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Under the most recent restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited, but patio dining is allowed. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen speeds up patio permit approval

Initiative to help hospitality businesses affected by latest COVID-19 restrictions

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Your old lawnmower is an environmental disaster. (courtesy photo)
The perfect lawn is pretty hard on the planet

According the government of Canada, an older mower running for an hour can produce as much air pollution as a new car driving 550 kilometres.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Most Read