Nunavut makes move towards direct democracy with proposed new Plebiscite Act
Petitions signed by 20 per cent of voters could trigger plebiscite requests
The Nunavut Legislative Assembly and Elections Nunavut want to hear what Nunavut residents think about a proposed new Plebiscite Act that would regulate direct votes on community and Nunavut-wide questions. (See consultation document embedded below.)
Elections Nunavut, which reports directly to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly through the speaker, has prepared a draft version of the bill.
Late last month, the Legislative Assembly’s management and services board — the MLAs’ committee that looks after the assembly’s internal business affairs — released copies of it and issued a call for submissions from the public.
Under it, 20 per cent of eligible voters in an affected area — either local or Nunavut-wide — may request a plebiscite by signing a public petition.
But that would not automatically trigger a plebiscite.
Under the proposed new law, only a “plebiscite authority” can decide to hold a public vote.
The following entities could be deemed as plebiscite authorities:
• The Legislative Assembly;
• The “commissioner in executive council,” which means the cabinet;
• A minister responsible for a GN department;
• A municipal council;
• Another body that enters into an agreement with Elections Nunavut.
If a plebiscite authority decides to hold a plebiscite, they must ask a “clear and neutral question.”
The Nunavut chief electoral officer is allowed to re-write the questions and plebiscite authorities may write their own question if they receive a request via a petition.
Plebiscites may be binding or non-binding — but only the plebiscite authority can state whether a plebiscite is binding.
The proposed new law also provides for financial controls.
Paid advertising or promotion for one side or the other in a plebiscite would be allowed only for Nunavut-wide public votes.
Groups campaigning in a plebiscite must register with the chief electoral officer.
The names of individuals, firms and associations making donations greater $100 would be disclosed publicly. Individuals, firms and associations would be subject to a donation limit of $2,500.
However, there is no limit on how much money may be spent during a Nunavut-wide plebiscite.
Copies of the proposed new Plebiscite Act are available at http://www.assembly.nu.ca and paper copies are available from the Office of the Legislative Assembly.
Individuals and interested organizations may send written submissions to:
Chairperson, Management and Services Board
c/o Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut
P.O. Box 1200