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Greens say Liberals shut down bill in P.E.I. legislature through ‘retaliatory behaviour’

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, shown recently in the provincial legislature, spent more than an hour Tuesday night speaking to the proposed legislation on electoral reform. Also shown in the picture is MLA Brad Trivers.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is shown recently in the provincial legislature. -File

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Green party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker says debate of a bill proposing amendments to the Elections Act was shot down in an act of “retaliatory behaviour” by the government bench on Tuesday night.

The private member’s bill, which would have transferred the responsibility of appointing district returning officers from cabinet to the chief electoral officer of Elections P.E.I., was voted down before it could be debated Tuesday night.

Bevan-Baker suggested this was done because he and fellow Green Party MLA Hannah Bell had delayed debate of legislation related to the province’s carbon tax, by speaking at length on the motion that the bill be read a second time, earlier in the session.

Amendments to the Gasoline Tax Act, along with the Climate Leadership Act, both eventually passed on Wednesday night, although debate was sometimes bitterly divided along party lines.

Deputy Speaker Kathleen Casey.
Deputy Speaker Kathleen Casey.

On Tuesday night, Deputy Speaker Kathleen Casey spoke about the proposed amendments to the Elections Act, saying they should go before the province’s legislative management committee. Legislative management committee meetings are not open to the public.

“One of the committee’s responsibilities includes the recommendation of the appointment of a number of independent officers of the legislative assembly, including the chief electoral officer,” Casey said in the legislature on Tuesday night.

“I am concerned by the lack of respect shown by the Third Party toward the legislative management committee."

All government members, as well as three PC members, voted against the bill proceeding to second reading.

Bevan-Baker said shutting down a bill at such an early stage was unusual.

"To have it shut down like that was a little shocking to us," he said.

Bevan-Baker said the bill was introduced in response to a 2015 report by the Island’s then-chief electoral officer Gary McLeod. He said the report raised a number of concerns about the organization of elections on P.E.I.

He suggested little had been done to address the concerns raised in this report by the legislative management committee.

"LMC has had three years to respond to the recommendations of the last report. Nothing has been done,” Bevan-Baker said.

The surprise vote on the Green bill appeared to be an unusual show of partisanship in a legislative session that had otherwise seen cross-party co-operation. Three private members’ bills – two from the Opposition PCs and one from the Green party – were passed unanimously over the fall session.

The fall legislative session ended on Wednesday night.

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