FREDERICTON (GNB) – Amendments to the Municipal Elections Act were introduced in the legislative assembly today with the aim of providing the province’s municipal electoral officer more flexibility in an emergency.

“Our municipal electoral officer must be able to adapt during an emergency, such as a pandemic,” said Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister Daniel Allain. “Ensuring the safety of the voting public, candidates, election workers and volunteers is our top priority.”

If proclaimed, the amendments would authorize the municipal electoral officer to impose restrictions or take any measures that she considers necessary or advisable to protect the health and safety of both election officials and the public. Elections NB would be required to report back to the legislative assembly on any modifications to voting procedures that were made during the election and their impact.

Local government elections are scheduled for May 10, but the election period begins in March.

“With the strong probability that this election will happen while we are still dealing with the pandemic, we welcome having the flexibility to modify or adapt election procedures, as required,’’ said Kim Poffenroth, the province’s chief electoral officer. “This amendment to the Municipal Elections Act gives us the flexibility to react quickly to unforeseen circumstances arising from an emergency or health crisis, such as the current pandemic.”

The act sets out the rules and regulations for the election of mayors and councillors, the election of regional health authority boards and district education councils and also any plebiscites held under the Local Governance Act.

The current provisions of the act leave little discretion for the municipal electoral officer to adapt legislated processes and procedures to evolving situations.