Ms McPherson: Thank you, Madam Chair. I’d like to introduce an amendment as well this afternoon.
The Chair: This will be known as amendment A6.
Go ahead, hon. member.
Ms McPherson: Thank you. I’d like to move that Bill 23, An Act to Renew Local Democracy in Alberta, be amended in section 33 as follows:
(a) by adding the following after clause (a):
(a.1) in subsection (4) by adding “or relative” after “the elector’s friend”;
(b) in clause (c), in the proposed section 78(5), by adding “or relative” after “accompanied by a friend.”
I believe this is simply an oversight in drafting this bill, and I’ll provide a little bit of background.
The current Local Authorities Election Act states in section 78(3):
The deputy, if requested by an elector described in subsection (1) who is accompanied by a friend or relative who is at least 18 years of age, shall permit that friend or relative, on making the prescribed statement, to accompany the elector into a voting compartment for the purpose of marking the elector’s ballot and the ballot when marked shall be delivered by the elector or the friend or relative to the deputy to be deposited in the ballot box.
However, in section 78(4) of the LAEA it refers to an elector’s friend only and not to their relative.
The deputy shall not permit an elector to vote under subsection (3) until the elector and the elector’s friend have made the prescribed statements.
The bill before us proposes to make a small change to 78(5) of the LAEA using the following language:
If an elector who is blind is not accompanied by a friend into a voting compartment under subsection (3) and the municipality has passed a bylaw setting out the blind elector template in accordance with subsection (4.1), the deputy must
(a) provide the elector with a blind elector template, and
(b) instruct the elector in its use.
The amendment I’m proposing is to make references to “friend” in subsections 78(4) and 78(5) consistent with references to “friend or relative” in subsection 78(3).
We, I think, intend to have electors who need assistance be able to request the help of a friend or relative under subsection (3). Mechanically, if an incapacitated elector chooses to bring a relative to help them vote instead of bringing a friend, we want the elector’s relative to be able to make the declaration under subsection (4). With the act’s current wording, only an elector’s friend could make the statement.
Similarly, the bill proposes that an election official must provide information to a blind elector about how to use the voting device if the blind elector is not accompanied by a friend, but it is silent about when a blind elector is not accompanied by a relative. This amendment would make sure that a blind elector would still receive instructions on how to use the voting device if they are not accompanied by a relative.
I assume that this is simply an error of omission, and I hope that everyone in the House supports this amendment to make voting work better for all Albertans.
The Chair: Any other members wishing to speak? The hon. Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Mr. S. Anderson: Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate the Member for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill bringing this amendment forward. A goal of this legislation is to remove barriers for Albertans to enable further participation in our elections and democracy. Voting is a democratic right in this country, and we want to ensure that we make it as accessible as possible. This proposed amendment helps to ensure consistency throughout the section where it references “friend” to also include “relative” and does not change the intent of the legislation or this particular section.
On that basis, I am prepared to support this amendment, and I encourage all other members to support it as well. I thank the member for bringing it forward.
The Chair: Any other members wishing to speak to the amendment?
Seeing none, I’ll call the vote.
[Motion on amendment A6 carried]