Political donation caps up, enumeration cut as PC government amends 2 election acts

Big changes are coming to Manitoba after a swath of bills was introduced by the Progressive Conservatives Monday.

Third-party advertising limits will increase fivefold; schools to have in-service on Election Day

Premier Brian Pallister made good on promises to tackle public sector wages in a bill introduced Monday at the legislature. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is following through on a plan to raise the limit on political donations as part of multiple amendments to two election acts Monday.

Bill 26 would boost the cap on individual donations to $5,000 from $3,000 and allow for annual increases with the rate of inflation.

The bill would also allow for more political advertising in election years.

Premier Brian Pallister has said current limits in Manitoba are among the lowest in Canada. 

Registered third parties would be able to spend $25,000 during the election period, up from $5,000, and up to $100,000 during a 90-day period before fixed election date begins.

Currently there are no limits on pre-election spending by third-parties.

Stefanson called the changes a "fair and responsible approach to election financing in Manitoba."

Pallister killed a public subsidy for political parties last year, and has said the higher donation limits will help parties make up for the lost money if they can fundraise effectively.

The opposition parties have said higher limits would mean politics controlled by the rich. 

Voter ID changes

Changes to Manitoba's election law will require voters to present proof of identity and their address when they vote. 

Anyone who is on the voters' list but doesn't have the necessary documents to establish their identity (either a government-issued photo ID, or their voter card and another piece of ID with the voter's name) can still vote if another resident of the same electoral division vouches for them. 

Stefanson says the changes help Manitoba catch up to other jurisdictions.

"I think it brings us in-line with other provinces. Certainly when Manitobans go and vote now in the municipal elections, in Winnipeg and Brandon, and when they vote federally, they are required to show ID," Stefanson told reporters.

The ID requirments drew fire from the Opposition.

St. Johns NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine says many people struggle financially and can't replace identification when they move.

"Not everybody has that. A lot of people move multiple times in a year, so your address always changes, and a lot of people don't actually get to that place where they are actually able to replace their ID," Fontaine says.

Ending enumeration

The bill also calls for a permanent voters' list, based on the list used for the 2016 general election. That means enumeration won't be needed every time an election is called. 

Instead, the voters' list will be updated using information from federal, provincial and municipal sources, and direct updates from voters. Elections Manitoba can target registration programs before elections. Voters can choose to stay off the voters' list but remain eligible to vote. 

It also requires schools to have an in-service day on the day of a fixed-date general election. The government says it will better protect children on election day when there are hundreds of adult strangers in school facilities where voting is held.

Absentee ballots will be allowed to be cast for a registered political party instead of a candidate, so votes can be cast before nominations close. 

Also on Monday, the government introduced legislation to freeze public sector wages (including doctors) and reduce health-care bargaining units, allow ride-booking services like Uber,  allow five per cent annual tuition increases, and get ahead of possible marijuana legalization by prohibiting marijuana in cars.

With files from Sean Kavanagh, the Canadian Press