Elections Act alterations get approval, with changes to Liberal proposal earlier this week

The New Democrats and the Progressive Conservatives are pleased but still critical of amended changes in Bill 14 dealing with the Elections Act.

Nomination period and election period both see changes

Changes to Election Act means nominees have eight days to bring their names forward. (Rob Antle/CBC)

Opposition parties in Newfoundland and Labrador are pleased but still critical of amended changes to a bill altering the special ballot voting process.

In legislation put forward on Monday, the ruling Liberal party proposed an end to special ballot voting before parties confirm candidates, but limited the nomination period to five days after an election was called.

Both opposition parties said that was too short a period of time and would favour an incumbent. Following debate, the government agreed to extend the period to eight days.

"We were still concerned about the short time for nominations," said PC leader Paul Davis. "The government gave some ground ... [But] we believe that period should be at least 10 days."

"Nevertheless," said Davis, "Eight days is better than five, since it provides more time for people who want to run for elected office to get their affairs in order and step forward to run, and that's healthier for democracy."

NDP interim leader Lorraine Michael and Tory leader Paul Davis both had issues with proposed changes to the nomination period. (CBC)

NDP interim leader Lorraine Michael says her party would not have accepted the legislation if the nomination period was not extended.

"It's vital to have a longer nomination period that enables new candidates to prepare to run in an election," she said. "Especially for byelections."

The bill received royal assent on Friday, passing through the House of Assembly and becoming law.

The first draft by the Liberals would have allowed for an unlimited election period, meaning an election could be called in the summer and not be held until the fall.

The amended legislation mandates election campaigns be a minimum of 28 days and a maximum of 35 days.

The CBC contacted several government departments, and the executive branch for comment and clarification, but as of publishing time, there was no response. 

Changes needed after Supreme Court ruling

The Liberals proposed changes following a court challenge by former NDP candidate Julie Mitchell who lost in Burin-Placentia West during the 2011 election.

Mitchell contended that if special balloting wasn't allowed, she would have won.

Those ballots allowed people to vote before the campaign officially started and before all the candidates were in place.

In September, at Supreme Court in St. John's, Justice Gillian Butler ruled the province's rules for special ballots violated Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are essentially void or "of no force and effect."

I am pleased we argued for amendments.- NDP leader Lorraine Michael

After the ruling, the government felt it had to make changes to legislation. It was especially urgent given the sudden need for a byelection in Mount Pearl North, following the resignation of MHA Steve Kent.

Striking down the ability to cast a special ballot before the deadline for nominating candidates was a win for opposition parties.

"I am pleased we argued for amendments to ensure voters will have complete knowledge of their candidate options," said NDP leader Lorraine Michael.

Elections will now be no shorter than 28 days and no longer than 35 days. (Rob Antle/CBC)

"No one will get a special ballot until after the nomination deadline, and we ensured that no special ballot will go out without a list of candidates names for people to see." 

Those ballots allow people in prison or hospital to vote if they can't get to a polling station for an advanced poll or on election day. 

About the Author

Glenn Payette


A veteran journalist with more than 30 years' experience, Glenn Payette is a videojournalist with CBC News in St. John's.