Imminent bill to reform election laws may be too late to implement for 2019 vote

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government will finally move Monday on a raft of promised reforms to election laws, but it may already be too late to fully implement them in time for the 2019 federal election.

Acting chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault told a House of Commons committee this week that major changes to election laws should have been enacted by April of this year if they were intended to apply in the next election — and the government hasn’t even come close to meeting that timetable.

It did introduce Bill C-33 in November 2016, which was meant to be the first of two bills to deliver on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promises to reform the democratic process.

The bill was aimed at undoing what Liberals saw as the most egregious of the changes wrought by the previous Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act, 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 also 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 auspices of Elections Canada.

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

But C-33 has remained parked at the introductory stage for 17 months.

Now, the government is expected to roll the contents of C-33 into a new bill to be introduced Monday, which will also 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 reducing spending limits during campaigns and creating an independent commission to organize televised leaders’ debates.

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