The MLA for Emerson says changes to Manitoba's voter identification rules will provide more voting opportunities. The provincial government wants to create an established permanent voters list as part of a series of proposed changes to the Elections Amendment Act.
Cliff Graydon says this list would cut down on wait times at polling stations and bring Manitoba in-line with what's being done in every other province in Canada. "We are one of the few provinces that don't do it."
According to a Manitoba Government news release, the new database would be based on the final voters list from the 2016 general election and would be regularly updated with information from federal, provincial and municipal sources, as well as through direct updates from voters.
Once registered to vote, the province says individuals would be assigned a unique identifier that would remain the same from election to election that would assist in distinguishing voters from one another. The legislation would allow registered voters to remain on the permanent list without requiring them to register again for future elections, though voters could choose to contact Elections Manitoba to opt out of the database without affecting their right to vote.
Those in the database would receive an information card before election day that must indicate the address of the voter's voting station, the voting hours on election day, and the dates, locations and hours of advance voting stations in the voter's electoral division.
The legislation also would require voters to present proof of identity and address, or make a declaration about their address, when they vote.
Graydon says all of these changes would making voting in the provincial election a more seamless process for Manitobans, however the opposition NDP argues this will prevent many low-income people from participating.
"The items of identification must be approved by Manitoba's Chief Electoral Officer but this list is not prohibitive."
Meantime, Graydon is responding to claims that his party is expanding limits on third-party advertising in election years. The Tories have proposed amendments to the Elections Financing Act that would set new guidelines for third-party spending for recognized election communications.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union says the province appears intent on muzzling their critics.
"Our government is expanding the definition of elections communications to include advertising for issues included in party platforms."
He says the changes would tighten the rules for third-party groups wanting to indirectly promote a political party. "Today in Manitoba, the unions can advertise for the party that they support."
There are currently no limits on third-party pre-election communication spending and a $5,000 limit during an election period. The proposed new limits are $25,000 during the election period and $100,000 during the 90-day period before a fixed-date election begins. The current $5,000 limit on third-party spending for recognized election communications during a by-election would be kept the same.
Graydon explains these changes mirror federal legislation regarding third-party advertising.
Another proposed amendment to the Elections Financing Act would see individual contributions bumped from $3,000 a year to $5,000 and would be indexed to inflation.
"That again mirrors what's happening in other provinces," added Graydon. He notes these limits haven't been updated since the year 2000, adding Manitoba is the third-lowest province for donations.