Canada seeks to modify voting law ahead of possible pandemic election

OTTAWA, Dec 10 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister ’s Liberal government on Thursday said it would seek make it safer to cast a ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic amid increasing speculation that a snap election will be called next year.

The government proposed legislation that would temporarily extend voting over three days, instead of just one, expand mail-in possibilities, and allow special opportunities for long-term care facilities, among other measures, according to a statement.

Last year, the Liberals won only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, leaving them reliant on opposition parties to survive, and it is still unclear whether any rivals will support the measures, nor when they could be passed.

“We have a very limited time frame,” Kevin Lamoureux, a Liberal legislator, told reporters. “Obviously, it’s a priority for the government… It would be nice to have it passed if there is some sort of election in the near future.”

The current legislature is not due to end until 2023, but minority governments in Canada have traditionally not lasted more than a couple of years.

Last week, five sources familiar with the Liberal thinking said a snap election is likely at some point in 2021 as COVID-19 vaccines are administered and after the government passes a budget that is likely to include billions of dollars in economic stimulus.

Canada is in the midst of a virulent second wave of the pandemic, with several areas of the country imposing new health restrictions, but it approved its first COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, and the first, limited number of inoculations are expected next week.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the opposition New Democrats, said he supported in principle such a measure, but he did not commit to voting with the Liberals to pass it. (Reporting by Steve Scherer Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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