TheMuseum told it can't give people free admission for voting

An attempt to encourage civic engagement has landed TheMuseum in hot water. The offer for free admission for voters "constitutes bribery," says city clerk, and contravenes the Municipal Election Act.

Free admission still a go but guests will have to say the secret phrase 'please vote'

TheMuseum in downtown Kitchener has violated the Municipal Election Act with its offer of free admission for people who say they voted in Monday's election. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Efforts by TheMuseum to encourage more people to vote has landed the cultural hub in hot water.

TheMuseum issued a release Thursday encouraging anyone who voted in this upcoming Monday's municipal election to come to their facility in downtown Kitchener the following Wednesday, inform staff they had voted and they would get in for free until closing time at 9 p.m.

TheMuseum said people would not have to show proof of voting or say who they voted for in the election.

"We believe in the honour system," the release said.

Just hours after that release went out to the media, Kitchener's clerk Christine Tarling informed TheMuseum CEO David Marskell that their offer of free admission was in contravention of the Municipal Election Act.

Offer 'constitutes bribery'

"While I applaud your creative effort at trying to encourage eligible electors to vote," it's not allowed, Tarling said in the email to Marskell, which he shared with media outlets.

Tarling noted the offer violated section 90, subsection three, of the act, which states: "No person shall, directly or indirectly, (a) Offer, give, lend, or promise or agree to give or lend any valuable consideration, in connection with the exercise or non-exercise of an elector's vote."

Marskell expressed surprise over Tarling's email.

"Really? No intent to influence other than to have people become informed and vote," Marskell said in a return email to Tarling and media.

Tarling warned Marskell of "severe penalties for this as it constitutes bribery." 

It could lead to a fine of not more than $25,000 and a jail term of no more than six months.

On Friday, Marskell announced TheMuseum will still offer free admission on Wednesday. To get in for free, though, guests will need to say a phrase to staff at the front desk.

The phrase is: "please vote."