Proposed reforms to Manitoba's Elections Act — including fixed election dates and public financing of political parties — would bring "more transparent, accessible and fair," democracy to the province, Premier Gary Doer said Wednesday.
Fixed election dates top the list of reforms in a bill that amends various elections-related acts introduced Wednesday.
If passed, Manitobans will head to the polls the second Tuesday of June, every four years. This means the next provincial election could be June 14, 2011.
Manitoba would be the seventh Canadian province to implement fixed election dates.
The chief electoral officer has recommended fixed election dates for several years, noted Doer. Having predictable dates should improve the voters list, he said, because enumeration can be planned well in advance.
Doer hasn't always been in favour of fixed elections dates, he said, noting he has always worried about the risk of flooding during a set spring election time.
"I remember the 1997 flood; I remember some … questions about the federal government calling the election during the flood, so I think that we've got wording here that deals with that," he said.
In the case of flooding, Doer said, the election could be postponed until the third Tuesday in September.
Additional reforms include adding an extra day for advance voting and opening polling stations one hour earlier at 7 a.m.
The bill introduced Wednesday would also allow registered political parties to receive $1.25 per vote in public funding — up to a maximum of $250,000 — to help cover costs and obligations under the Elections Finances Act.
One of the NDP government's first moves upon taking office was to ban union and corporate donations to political parties; the province is currently the only jurisdiction to have banned these donations without incorporating some degree of public funding.
The reform would provide approximately one-third of all funding requirements of the province's political parties, provincial officials said.