Uncertainty surrounds election delay in Newfoundland and Labrador

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador is entering uncharted legal territory as the province's chief electoral officer has called for Saturday's provincial election to be delayed in 18 ridings because of a sudden COVID-19 surge.

Prof. Michael Pal, a University of Ottawa law professor who specializes in elections and constitutional law, says the province's Elections Act does not include provisions that specifically deal with suspending the vote in this kind of situation.

Pal says the province's chief electoral officer has broad powers, but it would appear they have never been used in this manner.

The professor says the premier and his cabinet have the authority to advise the lieutenant-governor to withdraw election writs and have them reissued for a later election date.

The involvement of the lieutenant-governor is key, because the ultimate authority over elections rests with the Crown.

As well, Pal says it would be wise for the incumbent Liberals, who held a minority of the legislature's 40 seats before it was dissolved, to consult with the other parties on a path forward.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press