PC motion to suspend Bruce Chaulk defeated in House, all-party committee to update Elections Act

·2 min read
A PC motion called for Bruce Chaulk, the chief electoral officer with Elections NL, to be suspended during an investigation into 'what went wrong' during the spring election in Newfoundland and Labrador.  (Mike Simms/CBC - image credit)
A PC motion called for Bruce Chaulk, the chief electoral officer with Elections NL, to be suspended during an investigation into 'what went wrong' during the spring election in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Mike Simms/CBC - image credit)

A PC motion to investigate Newfoundland and Labrador's wildly controversial election —and for Chief Electoral Officer Bruce Chaulk to be suspended while it would have been held — went down to defeat late Wednesday afternoon in the House of Assembly.

The motion, moved by Conception Bay South MHA Barry Petten, was rejected by a vote of 21-17.

Petten wanted an independent investigator appointed "to determine what went wrong" during an election that took 10 weeks to complete, and which saw the province move into a pandemic lockdown and toward mail-in voting on the night before the vote would have been held.

There are three challenges of election results currently before the courts, launched by defeated candidates Jim Lester, Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alison Coffin.

Earlier in the day, Justice Minister John Hogan announced an all-party committee will help modernize the Elections Act from 1991.

Justice Minister John Hogan will lead the committee charged with reforming the Elections Act.
Justice Minister John Hogan will lead the committee charged with reforming the Elections Act.(CBC)

It will be made up of four Liberals, two PCs, one NDP and one Independent.

The committee, which will be chaired by Hogan, "will review the facts of the 2021 general election and provide input in relation to making voting as accessible as possible for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," according to a media release issued Wednesday afternoon.

It was one of Premier Andrew Furey's first promises, and one that PC Leader David Brazil said was much needed: an overhaul of the Elections Act, following an election unlike any other, one that included a 10-week campaign and a largely mail-in vote.

But NDP House leader Jim Dinn said the committee is nothing short of "window dressing."

"In what world would we come out of the election we just had, called by the government in power for their political gain, and then entrust all of the decision-making on reforming the Elections Act to that same group of people?" Dinn said in a media release issued Wednesday.

The 2021 Newfoundland and Labrador election included a 10-week campaign.
The 2021 Newfoundland and Labrador election included a 10-week campaign. (Josee Basque/Radio-Canada)

"Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should be outraged at this blatant attempt to control the outcome and recommendations that come from this committee. I am."

Dinn said the committee should be chaired by an Independent MHA to ensure the process is non-partisan.

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