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 Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Most Read