FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government introduced legislation today that would make it possible for the municipal electoral officer to suspend candidate nominations and voting in a health zone related to the May 10 election, should a lockdown result from a COVID-19 outbreak.

“It was clear to us with the arrival of the variant in our province that we need to ensure there is a clear process in place to temporarily suspend candidate nominations and voting should a lockdown be required,” said Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister Daniel Allain. “We hope we never have to make use of this legislation, but it is best to be prepared.”

An Act Respecting Municipal General Elections in 2021 also provides direction to the municipal electoral officer for restarting the elections and a timeline for doing so once the lockdown has been lifted. Reporting results from other health zones not impacted by the lockdown would also be halted until all electors provincewide had voted and the results had been tabulated.

“As the boundaries for district education councils and regional health authorities do not align with the public health zones - and electors have the ability to cast a ballot for their local elections from any returning office in the province - delaying the reporting of results until all voting is completed is necessary,” said municipal electoral officer Kim Poffenroth.

The Municipal Elections Act currently has no provision allowing the date of an election to be changed. Legislation passed last December gave the municipal electoral officer the flexibility to adapt or modify certain voting procedures, but it did not include the ability to suspend voting.