Manitoba Métis Federation offers voters chance to win free car in bid to bring more people to the polls
Elections Canada prohibits bribes for votes, but MMF says chance to win a prize is an incentive
Métis people in Manitoba can win a Chevy Spark or a PlayStation 5 just for showing up to vote in the upcoming federal election.
But the organization behind the giveaway doesn't believe it is violating the Canada Elections Act, which forbids bribes that influence a person to vote.
David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), said they're being creative.
"I could say that I'm [beginning] a new era," Chartrand said.
"This idea, obviously, is not a new idea because I kind of borrowed it from the vaccine world. They're incentivizing people to go out and pay them sometimes large quantities of money to go and get vaccinated."
Polling station selfie could be worth a car
The MMF is asking community members to take a photo of themselves outside a polling station and tag the federation if posting it on social media, or upload the picture to the MMF website. Every citizen will be entered into a draw to win a PlayStation 5 console or, the grand prize, a Chevy Spark.
The federation will also draw for five 50-inch televisions for citizens who bring other individuals to the correct polling station.
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The draws are exclusively for Red River Metis Nation citizens, or individuals who demonstrate they can become a citizen, the MMF said in a news release.
Chartrand rejects any suggestion the MMF is offering a bribe.
"I'm saying, 'Come out and vote.'"
Chartrand wants the incentive program to encourage Métis citizens to vote in large numbers. The larger the Métis vote, the more attention they can command from political parties, he said.
Indigenous peoples have not voted in large numbers, historically, Chartrand added.
"The goal, if Elections Canada is listening here, is to try to get what they can't do — get Indigenous people, Métis people to come out and vote equally to the rest of Canada or even better."
The Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, though, may consider the MMF's plan to be a bribe. The Canada Elections Act prohibits any person from offering a bribe "during an election period, directly or indirectly" that "influence an elector to vote or refrain from voting, or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate or registered party."
It is up to the Commissioner of Canada Elections to determine, after receiving a complaint, if the act was violated. The commissioner's office wouldn't say if a complaint has been received and said it wouldn't be appropriate to speculate into the legality of these circumstances.
Veteran political scientist Christopher Adams said he cannot speak to the legality of MMF's unorthodox idea.
"I'm not sure if that's a bribe or not, but I have to say that I haven't seen that before. I haven't seen an organization like the MMF put out a [contest] to encourage voters to show up."
Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said a bribe is sometimes seen as a pejorative term.
Bribes usually 'nefarious:' political scientist
"If someone says they were bribed to to do something, that kind of means something nefarious, whereas there are incentives to do things all the time, right? Incentives to get a vaccination, an incentive to participate in a focus group or an incentive to to sign up to a long-distance phone plan," Adams said.
As an example, he said political parties have long offered voters rides to the polls, and that is considered acceptable.
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Adams said he was encouraged to learn the MMF consulted with lawyers before announcing its financial incentive program.
Chartrand came up with the idea after reading studies that suggested some form of incentive would boost voting rates.
He said citizens will not have to demonstrate proof they voted, but only a selfie outside a polling station.
"I'm not making them vote. I'm making them go to the polls."
The MMF is specifically targeting young people, with one of the main prizes being PlayStation 5 consoles, he said. He wants them to understand the power of their vote.
Chartrand, who has been a vocal supporter of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the past, said the MMF is not telling people who to vote for. He has committed to publishing non-partisan information on the MMF's website regarding the party platforms. He said the Liberals and NDP have good ideas for the Métis, and he's been told by the Conservatives that policies specific to his community are coming.