Nova Scotia

PCs criticized for placing fixed-vote date outside of school year

Nearly two-dozen people, mostly high school teachers and students, urged the PC government to change the fixed-date vote.

Committee told students will miss out on valuable teaching moment

Monday's law amendments committee meeting marked the first time it has met in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The PC government's decision to set mid-July as Nova Scotia's fixed election date was roundly criticized at the first in-person meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic of the province's law amendments committee.

Nearly two dozen people, mostly high school teachers and students, urged the Houston government to change the date because it would cripple a school program aimed at engaging and teaching young people about the importance of voting.

"The student vote has helped me educate myself, not only on how government works, but on who is representing me, my family and my friends," 15-year-old Elizabeth Cormier told the all-party committee. "I truly believe that if we have fixed elections, specifically in the fall, then we will see more voter turnout."

Fellow Grade 10 student Aarushi Patil echoed that sentiment.

"We would completely miss out on practice voting as students," she said. "We will never be able to fill the hole in our learning about voting by giving us a textbook. It's not the same experience."

Lydia Houck, executive director of Students Nova Scotia, says Nova Scotia should follow the lead of other provinces and territories by not having a fixed election date in the summer. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Taylor Gunn, the president and CEO of CIVIX, the non-profit organization that provides material to run the student vote program, also urged the PC government to pick a date within the school calendar.

He said fall would be the best time to ensure 40,000 kids get to practice voting.

"If it was important to teach kids about Halloween, would you teach kids about Halloween at Easter?" he said.

University student groups echoed the call for a fall or spring vote.

"When selecting election dates, every other province and territory across Canada has deliberately selected a date outside of the summer months, and by extension, during the academic year," said Lydia Houck, executive director of Students Nova Scotia.

"If we have them during the summer, many students are off, doing sports, vacation and they may completely skip over the election period," said St. Francis Xavier University student Kyra Campbell.

St. Francis Xavier University student Kyra Campbell says a July election date is poor timing for university students. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Elections Nova Scotia was the lone voice unequivocally in favour of Bill 1 during Monday night's six-hour meeting.

Naomi Shelton, the director of policy and communications, tried to steer clear of the controversy and instead praised the government for moving ahead with a fixed date.

Elections Nova Scotia says fixed-vote date will save money

"Any date chosen would have its potential challenges, but we feel the opportunities achieved through the fixed-date structure outweigh these risks," Shelton said.

Elections Nova Scotia estimates taxpayers could save $500,000 per election by knowing the vote date ahead of time.

Pressed by Liberal MLA Derek Mombourquette for specific details, Shelton sidestepped the issue.

"From our perspective, it's not so much the date that's been chosen, it's the fact that there is a date chosen, whatever it is," she said.

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