FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government announced today its response to the Commission on Electoral Reform to improve the way the legislature works and increase participation in the democratic process.

“Our platform committed to exploring ways to improve participation in democracy, and the electoral reform commission has made a compelling case to that end,” said Premier Brian Gallant. “The guiding principle in electoral reform must always be to find ways to be more inclusive and allow more people to participate in our democracy.”

Gallant said a number of the recommendations will be accepted or implemented right away, while some will be considered after the 2018 general election.

The government will introduce legislation to:

  • Lower the political contribution limit to $3,000 from the current $6,000.
  • Increase limit amounts and make automatic inflationary adjustments in the future, specifically registration fees for political conventions, pre-writ advertising expenses and auditing expenses.
  • Implement an election commitment costing process with consequences for non-compliance.
  • Give greater weight to votes received by female candidates under the formula for public financing to political parties.

The government has also made decisions on the following initiatives, which do not require legislative changes:

  • Maintaining the next fixed election date of Sept. 24, 2018, but will be moving fixed election dates to the third Monday in October from the fourth Monday in September.
  • Implementing civics education in public schools for teachers through professional development, and for students through the curriculum.
  • Working with Elections New Brunswick to ensure the 2018 budget includes sufficient funding for the office to promote changes to the electoral system; encourage voter participation; increase youth voter turnout; and improve access to registration and voting at educational institutions.
  • Not proceeding with electronic voting at this time.
  • Providing an update on the state of democracy in New Brunswick through a regular report to be developed in partnership with the legislative assembly.
  • Granting 16-year-olds the right to vote, as well as moving from first past the post to preferential ballots, will be the subject of a referendum to be held in conjunction with municipal elections in May 2020.
  • Exploring proportional representation will be added to the mandate of the next electoral boundaries commission.

The following measures will be considered after the next provincial election:

  • A pilot project on electronic voting in a future municipal byelection will be considered if concerns about security and voter confidentiality can be addressed.
  • Phasing out union and corporate contributions to political parties.
  • The reimbursement of election expenses effective Jan. 1 of the election year.
  • Adjusting the annual allowance for public financing to political parties.

The government will not be proceeding with the recommendations regarding permanent residents. Further examination found that there are constitutional issues related to the recommendations that prevent action being taken at this time.

To support transparency, accountability, and to improve the working of the legislature, the following measures will be undertaken:

  • The government will proclaim the Lobbyist Registration Act effective April 1. Registrations will appear online and be available for public viewing on July 1.
  • Further amendments to the Political Process Financing Act to eliminate the loophole that allows politicians and political parties to write loans greater than the donation limit will also be tabled.
  • An all-party legislative committee will draft a code of conduct for members of the legislative assembly.