Nova Scotia

N.S. Liberals try to block Election Act change

Nova Scotia Liberals are trying to prevent political parties from finding out if someone has voted.

Nova Scotia Liberals are trying to prevent political parties from finding out if someone has voted.

On Monday, the Official Opposition began what may be a marathon effort to block passage of an amendment to the provincial Elections Act. 

Under the plan, Nova Scotia's political parties would get information that is now only available to elections officials, such as someone's voter identification number and year of birth.

They would also learn if that individual cast a ballot. Who they voted for is unknown to everyone except the voter.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil says in smaller districts, someone may be able to use that information and the election result to determine how people voted.

"We have polls that have a low number of votes in it. You could quickly, in my view, identify who's voted, where," he said.

McNeil said the NDP government's plan raises questions about the protection of privacy.

"People [want] to make sure that their information that they're turning over to government is being protected," he said.

In addition, McNeil said, proposed changes to restrict union, corporate and lobby group involvement in campaigns don't go far enough.

Under the rules of the house of assembly, debate can last up to 20 hours at this stage of the bill-making process.

Conservatives not taking part

The six Progressive Conservatives in the legislature are not taking part in the protest. Leader Jamie Baillie said he and his party have negotiated two changes to other aspects of the proposed law and will continue on that path.

One gives the chief electoral officer the power to get an injunction to prevent a union, corporation or lobby group from launching a campaign to influence voters where that campaign might break election rules.

The second compels the election commission to consult with a disabilities organization when it comes to future changes to election rules.

"All this will accomplish is another 48 hours of debate," Baillie said. "That bill is not going to be significantly better 48 hours from now than it is today."