Chief Electoral Officer Tells MPs Time Is Tight to Make 2019 Voting Changes

By Cheadle, Bruce | The Canadian Press, July 7, 2016 | Go to article overview

Chief Electoral Officer Tells MPs Time Is Tight to Make 2019 Voting Changes


Cheadle, Bruce, The Canadian Press


Time tight for 2019 voting changes: Mayrand

--

OTTAWA - Canada's chief electoral officer has laid out the scale of the challenge for Parliament if it wants to change Canada's voting system in time for the next federal election in 2019.

Elections Canada will need at least two years to prepare should the Liberal government make good on its promise to end the current first-past-the-post voting system, Marc Mayrand told a special parliamentary committee Thursday studying electoral reform.

If new legislation is enacted by May 2017, Mayrand said that would provide enough time to get ready for the next fixed election date.

"It should be OK, but you should not underestimate the challenges that it will represent."

He raised a host of technical and timing issues that will need to be addressed, including changes to his educational mandate under the Fair Elections Act, changes to the law governing federal riding redistribution, and potentially changes to the Referendum Act.

There are some 40 information technology systems at Elections Canada that would have to overhauled or replaced, validated and tested, he said, and training thousands of temporary election workers on a new voting system would be a major undertaking.

Mayrand noted it took 26 months of public consultations to hash out the creation of 30 new ridings before the 2015 election, even without altering the fundamental way MPs are elected.

"If the (new) changes are complex, the campaign will have to start earlier and be even more ambitious," he told the all-party committee.

Mayrand also said that if the committee decides a referendum is necessary to endorse a voting change, as demanded by the Conservative Opposition, it would take six months to organize and cost about $300 million -- a time frame that further complicates the May 2017 deadline for a decision.

"As for a referendum, if there should be one -- if there's a decision to have one -- it would have to take place around the same period, May or June 2017," Mayrand told reporters following the hearing. …

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