President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc arrives at a news conference Tuesday October 6, 2020 in Ottawa. The minority Liberal government is urging opposition parties to speed up passage of a bill aimed at ensuring a federal election could be safely conducted if need be during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc arrives at a news conference Tuesday October 6, 2020 in Ottawa. The minority Liberal government is urging opposition parties to speed up passage of a bill aimed at ensuring a federal election could be safely conducted if need be during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Opposition leaders urged to speed up bill to ensure safe election during pandemic

Government introduced Bill C-19 in December but it has not moved beyond initial stage of debate since then

The minority Liberal government is urging opposition parties to speed up passage of a bill aimed at ensuring a federal election could be safely held if need be during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc has written to opposition party leaders, urging them to wrap up second-reading debate on Bill C-19 today so that it can be sent off to a House of Commons committee for greater scrutiny and possible amendments.

While he insists the government remains focused on steering the country through the pandemic, LeBlanc notes that in a minority Parliament, an election could be triggered at any time.

He does not mention the imminent federal budget but its scheduled release on April 19 could lend urgency to his plea to get C-19 moving.

It will be the first budget since the pandemic sent the federal deficit skyrocketing and is expected to include details of billions more in planned spending to set Canada’s ravaged economy on the road to recovery.

The budget is bound to be controversial and any vote on it will be considered a confidence matter, meaning the minority Liberal government would fall if all three of the main opposition parties were to vote against it.

“The course of the pandemic remains uncertain, and an election during the pandemic is a possibility for which we must be prepared,” LeBlanc says in the letter.

“Canadians expect their parliamentarians to behave responsibly in all aspects of this pandemic. Ensuring their ability to safely exercise their democratic right to vote is no different.”

LeBlanc notes that chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault has urged Parliament to give Elections Canada the tools required to conduct a possible election during the pandemic without jeopardizing the health and safety of voters and poll workers.

In response to Perrault, the government introduced Bill C-19 in December but it has not moved beyond the initial stage of debate since then, thanks in part to procedural tactics employed by the Conservatives. It has been debated for just one day, with another scheduled for today.

“The government has sought to call Bill C-19 for debate numerous times, and the opposition has used procedural tricks to delay debate,” LeBlanc writes, urging opposition leaders to let the debate wrap up so the bill can move on to the procedure and House affairs committee for further study.

The bill proposes some temporary amendments to the Canada Elections Act to allow for a safe election during the pandemic if necessary.

Among other things, the bill would mandate two additional in-person voting days to allow for physical distancing at polling stations. It would also allow electors to register online to vote by mail and provide for secure drop boxes to be installed to ensure mail-in ballots can be returned in time to be counted.

It would also give Elections Canada flexibility to determine the safest way to conduct voting in long-term care facilities, whose residents are the most vulnerable to the deadly effects of COVID-19.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

A child writes in their school notebook during a home schooling session in Cremona, Alta., Monday, March 23, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students in Calgary will shift to online learning as of today in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Online classes begin for some Alberta students amid rising COVID-19 cases

Alberta currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta joins Ontario in lowering minimum age for AstraZeneca vaccine

More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in this country

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read