A man casts his vote for the federal election in a polling station on Toronto’s Ward Island on Monday, May 2, 2011. After more than two years riding the brakes on a raft of promised reforms to election laws, the Trudeau government is preparing to put the pedal to the metal to get them in place in time for the next federal election in 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Youn

Liberals prepare big push on election reform bills

After more than two years riding the brakes on a raft of promised reforms to election laws, the Trudeau government is preparing to put the pedal to the metal

After more than two years riding the brakes on a raft of promised reforms to election laws, the Trudeau government is preparing to put the pedal to the metal to get them in place in time for the next federal election in 2019.

With Elections Canada generally needing a year to implement changes to the rules governing elections, that leaves the government with just seven months to push at least three bills through Parliament — one of which hasn’t even been introduced yet and another of which has been parked at the introductory stage for 16 months without any attempt by the government to move it along.

Related: Election reform scrapped in Canada

“The window of opportunity to implement major changes in time for the next general election is rapidly closing,” Stephane Perrault, the acting chief electoral officer, warned a House of Commons committee last month.

Appointing a permanent chief electoral officer — a position that’s been vacant for almost 18 months — remains another important piece of unfinished business as the clock ticks down to the next election.

During the 2015 campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a host of changes to the way elections are fought and conducted. He has since jettisoned his vow to replace the first-past-the-post voting system but Liberals insist the others remain in play.

Bill C-33, introduced in November 2016, was meant to be the first of two bills to deliver on those promises, reversing what Liberals saw as the most egregious of changes wrought by the previous Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act, which critics had warned would disenfranchise thousands of voters.

The bill would make it easier to vote, restoring the use of the voter information card as a valid piece of identification and reviving the practice of vouching for a voter without ID. It would restore the chief electoral officer’s authority to conduct voter education and outreach and move the commissioner of elections, who enforces election laws, back under the roof of Elections Canada.

Related: Federal Tories eye 2019 election

It would also repeal the prohibition on voting by expat Canadians who’ve been out of the country for more than five years.

But C-33 has gone nowhere since its introduction, “sitting awaiting second reading, unmoved, unloved, completely stalled,” as Conservative MP John Nater put it recently. And even those who applauded the bill have begun to wonder if the government has lost interest.

The Canadian Federation of Students and the Council of Canadians, which launched a constitutional challenge to the Fair Elections Act, had been delighted by C-33. But now with the bill stalled, the case remains before the court and the government must file its responding evidence by March 30.

“The plaintiffs are very worried that (the government) will seek to defend the very provisions of the act it has promised repeatedly to remove,” the groups, which are scheduled to hold a news conference on the subject today, said in a statement.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Last week, the Supreme Court began hearing the case of two expats who are challenging the loss of their right to vote because they’ve been out of the country for more than five years. The top court had initially agreed to the Trudeau government’s request for an adjournment on the basis that C-33 made the matter moot but, more than a year later, the bill is no closer to becoming law so the case is proceeding.

However, the government insists it’s now gearing up to push the bill through.

“We remain firmly committed to the legislation and we intend to see it debated in the House soon,” said Mark Kennedy, a spokesman for government House leader Bardish Chagger.

“This is a priority for the government.”

As well, the government is expected to introduce next month a second bill that will encompass the other democratic reform promises Trudeau made in 2015: limiting spending by political parties in the run-up to the official campaign period, possibly stricter spending limits during campaigns and creating an independent commission to organize televised leaders debates.

The government has signalled that the bill will also include spending limits on third party advocacy groups and measures to ensure they are not funded by foreign money.

And the government may yet introduce another bill to regulate social media giants like Facebook, which is at the centre of the international scandal over the unauthorized use of users’ personal information to manipulate voters. Trudeau has reportedly given them six months — ending this summer — to prove they can police themselves or face government action.

Related: Foreign election interference a reality, says Trudeau after Putin re-election

While the Liberals have been dragging their feet on the bills aimed at delivering on Trudeau’s democratic reform promises, they’ve acted much more swiftly on legislation prompted by a furor last year over so-called cash-for-access fundraisers featuring the prime minister and cabinet ministers.

Bill C-50, which would require parties to publicly advertise fundraising events attended by ministers, party leaders or leadership candidates, was introduced last May. It has already been passed by the House of Commons and is now in second reading in the Senate.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Okanagan FC suffer draw despite massive offensive output

Okanagan FC out-shot the opponent 29-6 in a 0-0 draw

Three vehicle ‘sandwich’ crash delays traffic in Rutland

An accident at the McCurdy and Mayfair Road intersection was reported just before 4:30 p.m.

A BBQ thank you at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission

The ninth annual Well Done BBQ brought Kelowna together

Two West Kelowna residents were arrested for alleged drug trafficking

RCMP executed a search warrant at a Chieftain Road home

Two Kelowna sites rezoned for pot shops

Cannabis retailers closer to reality for Lawrence Avenue, St. Paul Street

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Victoria double murder trial: Blood splatter analyst found no shoe prints on scene

RCMP analyst testifies to smears, fingermarks, ‘swipe and wipe’ patterns around apartment

Shuswap author tells First Nations family’s story of resilience, leadership

Chase resident will hold book signing in Salmon Arm June 22, in Kelowna June 23 and Vernon June 29.

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

South Okanagan mountain resort sees lengthy snowfall

Snow stayed on the ground for four, says resort manager

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Channel your inner pirate in epic Canada-wide treasure hunt

200 treasure chests hidden among trails and waterways, lots of prizes to be claimed

Most Read