While progress on some measures of the confidence and supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP continues to be publicly revealed, the two parties have been in quiet talks to introduce electoral reform legislation before the next federal vote.
Leading these negotiations on the political front are Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc, and NDP MP and critic of democratic reform, Daniel Blaikie.
In an interview with CTVNews.ca between the NDP caucus retreat sessions in Edmonton, Blaikie said “a tremendous amount of work” has been done to draft amendments to the Canada Elections Act.
While this is not a full-scale overhaul of the federal voting system as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once promised, within the bipartisan confidence and supply agreement are a series of electoral reform proposals aimed at expanding “the capacity of the people to vote.”
Specifically, the Liberals and New Democrats agreed to explore:
- Allow a three-day “extended” voting period during general elections;
- Allow voters to cast their ballot at any polling location within their district; and
- Improve the mail-in voting process, taking into account both accessibility and maintaining integrity.
“I think if you look at all of those elements… those are all things that will require some type of legislative change,” Blaikie said, adding that the working expectation is that the trio of reforms would be contained in a bill that could be approved. in time for the next elections.
“I think people on both sides are interested in trying to negotiate those final details and have a product that can be introduced in the House of Commons… I’m optimistic that we will have a bill that certainly includes ways of implement what was in the [deal]”Blaikie said.
What remains to be revealed if and when the legislation comes to fruition is how far the two parties agree to go, whether directly pushing voting accessibility reforms or enacting some sort of process to further study expanding voting access. .
It is also unclear whether these measures would take effect by the next federal election or whether the bill would set the timeline for implementing any reforms at some point in the future.
On this, the NDP said there have been conversations with Elections Canada focused on implementation, to ensure the desired changes to the way Canadians cast their votes are feasible.
Expanding the number of days Canadians have to cast their vote may be the most important proposal currently being negotiated.
While Blaikie was reluctant to go into too much detail of the discussions that took place, he said some of the options that have been deliberated include having a weekend of voting, expanding voting hours or potentially adding more early voting dates. closer to election day.
“There’s more than one way to do it. I think the real goal is to make voting more accessible… So we’ve tried to keep an open mind about that,” he said, adding that listening to what Elections Canada has to say about how it would affect their operations, “has been instructive in terms of the discussions.”
Motivating the push for voters to be able to cast their ballots at any polling place in their territory is, in part, Blaikie’s experience seeing potential voters turned away during his years involved in campaigns, both as a candidate and an organizer in various capabilities.
He said that in 2024, with verification technologies available, this policy can be reviewed while maintaining electoral integrity.
If the Liberals intend to make further reforms to the electoral law, it is possible that the amendments to enact the trio of reforms will be included in a broader bill. However, that would be a measure that the New Democrats could only support if the other measures are ones they can support.
“Issues around democracy and election integrity have been a hot topic in this Parliament for very good reasons, so we’ll see if there ends up being something more,” Blaikie said.
While neither side in the negotiations would precisely disclose the timeline or current status of the bill, Blaikie noted that “there is a lot of parliamentary wiggle room, and in a minority Parliament, it’s not always clear how much wiggle room there is.” .
LeBlanc’s office told CTVNews.ca that the two parties are “currently working” on this legislation, but also declined to offer further details on the timeline, promising that “next steps will be communicated in due course.”
“Access to voting is a fundamental principle of Canadian democracy and our government is committed to further strengthening it,” said spokesperson Jean-Sébastien Comeau.