Fact Check

Is Alberta dropping I.D. requirements for prospective voters?

The government is proposing, under Bill 32, to drop the six-month residency requirement for people to vote in provincial elections. United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney claims the change will mean people “can come to Alberta and vote the next day.”

Bill 32 follows a recommendation from chief electoral officer to drop 6-month residency requirement

UCP Leader Jason Kenney claims changes to the Election Act will mean people can show up in Alberta and vote the next day. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press )

The allegation:  

The government is proposing, under Bill 32, to drop the six-month residency requirement for people to vote in provincial elections.

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney is decrying the change, claiming on Twitter it will mean people "can come to Alberta and vote the next day."

(Twitter )

UCP MLA Drew Barnes is alleging the NDP is up to something. He retweeted Kenney's post, adding: "This is just making room for their eco-radical friends to practice voter tourism and vote against AB's prosperity."

(Twitter )

The facts:

Bill 32 only removes the six-month residency requirement from the current Elections Act.

Other requirements do not change.

That means potential voters must prove they are an "ordinary resident" of Alberta by appearing on a list of electors, and by providing one piece of government-issued identification with a photo and current address.

Or they must have two pieces of I.D. authorized by the chief electoral officer that show their name and current address and a signed declaration saying they usually live in that polling subdivision.

A potential voter can also sign a declaration they are a resident if they are accompanied by someone with proper identification who is on the list of electors. That person has to vouch for the potential voter by also signing a declaration. 

Dropping the six-month residency was recommended in 2015 by Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler, a non-partisan officer of the legislative assembly. 

He said the residency section in the Elections Act has the potential to violate section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedom, based on a case from Ontario under leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"We are recommending the removal of the six-month residency requirement for elector qualifications," Resler told the special select committee on ethics and accountability in October 2015.

"As previously stated in the court case Frank versus Canada, the six-month residency requirement was found to be invalid.

"The elector is still required to declare that they are an ordinary resident in Alberta and provide identification to substantiate their place of residence."

Resler said it is difficult to enforce and confirm the six-month residency.

The reaction:

On Monday, UCP house leader Jason Nixon said people he has talked to are "overwhelmingly concerned" that the government is dropping the residency requirement. He suggested perhaps a shorter timeframe would be better.

"From the UCP perspective, six months is too long, we think somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30 to 45 days is more appropriate," Nixon said.

When challenged by reporters, Nixon would not say if the UCP would walk back the tweets if they decide their information  is incorrect.

Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, who was commenting for an absent Democratic Renewal Minister Christina Gray, said Kenney is wrong.

"A person cannot cross the border and the next day get residency to vote," Bilous said.

He said people still need to have identification that proves they live in Alberta.

When told Nixon is now suggesting a time frame of 30 to 45 days, Bilous replied: "So they are already changing their story."

"Essentially, what they have been doing is spreading mis-truths about this bill. And quite frankly, let's call a spade a spade.

"The reason that Mr. Kenney is doing this is because he doesn't want the conversation to go towards getting dark money out of politics and toward limiting PACs, which is what this bill is also doing."

Bilous said other Canadian jurisdictions have removed the residency limits.