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

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

The Regional District of North Okanagan has purchased a watercraft to be used by the BC Conservation Officer Service, who will conduct enhanced boat patrols on the Shuswap River during the 2021 floating season. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Boat purchased to provide enhanced Shuswap River oversight this floating season

The regional district purchased an extra watercraft to be used by Conservation Officers this year

The West Kelowna Warriors beat the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in BCHL action Friday, April 16, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
West Kelowna goaltender stymies Vernon Vipers for 3-2 win

The Warriors were outshot 44-23 Friday night, but it didn’t bother Johnny Derrick

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Nick Clements captured a photo of the Northern Lights over Oyama Friday night, April 16, 2021. (Nick Clements photo)
PHOTOS: Northern Lights colour Okanagan night

Residents saw the dazzling green aurora borealis throughout the valley Friday night

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

Most Read