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4th Session, 41st Legislature

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Bill 8

THE REFERENDUM ACT


Table of Contents Bilingual version (PDF) Explanatory Note

(Assented to                                         )

HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, enacts as follows:

INTRODUCTORY PROVISIONS

Definitions

1(1)        The following definitions apply in this Act.

"CEO" means the chief electoral officer appointed under The Elections Act. (« directeur général des élections »)

"concurrent referendum" means a referendum described in subsection (2). (« référendum concomitant »)

"official committee" means an official committee recognized under section 8. (« comité officiel »)

"organization" includes a registered political party, constituency association, trade union, partnership and an unincorporated association, but does not include a corporation. (« organisation »)

"pre-referendum period" means the period beginning on the day that a referendum question is referred to the Standing Committee of the Assembly under section 4 and ending on the day that the Lieutenant Governor in Council makes the order referred to in subsection 5(1). (« période pré-référendaire »)

"referendum communication" means a communication of a message during a referendum period that promotes a particular outcome and that is made in the manner set out in the regulations. (« communication référendaire »)

"referendum period" means the period starting on the day a referendum is called and ending on referendum voting day. (« période référendaire »)

"referendum question" means a question approved by a resolution of the Legislative Assembly under section 4. (« question référendaire »)

"referendum voting day" means the date set for a referendum under clause 5(1)(c). (« jour du scrutin référendaire »)

"stand-alone referendum" means a referendum that is not a concurrent referendum. (« référendum non concomitant »)

"third party" means a person or organization registered under section 13. (« tiers »)

When is a referendum held concurrently with a general election?

1(2)        In this Act, a referendum and a general election are held concurrently when voting day for the referendum and election day for the general election are set for the same day.

Definitions in election laws apply

1(3)        Terms and expressions defined in The Elections Act and The Election Financing Act have the same meaning in this Act as they have in those Acts, unless they are otherwise defined in this Act.

"Act" includes regulations

1(4)        A reference to "this Act" includes the regulations made under this Act.

REFERENDUMS

Required referendum

2(1)        A referendum must be held in accordance with this Act before any of the following occurs:

(a) a system of proportional representation or other significant change to the voting system is implemented in Manitoba;

(b) a resolution authorizing an amendment to the Constitution of Canada is voted on by the Legislative Assembly;

(c) the government takes an action for which a referendum is required under The Fiscal Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act (tax increases), The Manitoba Hydro Act (privatization) or The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act (privatization).

Optional referendum

2(2)        If the Lieutenant Governor in Council determines that it is in the public interest to have a question be put to a referendum in order to obtain the opinion of Manitobans on any other matter, the referendum must be held in accordance with this Act.

Effect of referendum

3           Except as otherwise provided for in another Act, the results of a referendum are advisory only.

THE QUESTION

Question to be approved by Assembly

4(1)        A question to be put to a referendum must be approved by the Legislative Assembly in accordance with this section.

Wording for referendum question

4(2)        The wording of the question to be put to a referendum must be

(a) clear, concise and impartial; and

(b) phrased in a way that allows a voter to express an opinion on the specific question.

Proposed question referred to Standing Committee

4(3)        A member of the Executive Council may table the proposed question in the Assembly. Once tabled, the proposed question stands referred to the Standing Committee of the Assembly on Legislative Affairs.

Referring question when Assembly not sitting

4(4)        To refer a proposed question to the Standing Committee when the Assembly is not sitting, the proposed question may be deposited with the Clerk of the Assembly and referred for consideration by the Standing Committee in accordance with the Rules of the Assembly.

Standing Committee to complete its work within 30 days

4(5         ) The Standing Committee must provide the opportunity for representations by members of the public and must complete its consideration of the proposed question within 30 days after it is referred to the committee.

Reporting to Assembly

4(6)        The chair of the Standing Committee must present a report on the activities of the committee to the Assembly within the first five days on which the Assembly is sitting after the committee completes its consideration of the proposed question.

Motion to approve question

4(7)        No later than the third sitting day after the report of the Standing Committee has been received,

(a) a member of the Executive Council may move, in accordance with the Rules of the Assembly, that the Assembly approve the question; and

(b) the Assembly must complete its consideration of the motion.

Before the Assembly adjourns on that day, or at an earlier time if the Assembly is ready, the motion must be moved and the Speaker must put every question necessary for the disposition of the motion.

CALLING A REFERENDUM

Order calling a referendum

5(1)        To call a referendum, the Lieutenant Governor in Council must, by order,

(a) state the referendum question;

(b) direct the Chief Electoral Officer to hold a referendum in accordance with this Act; and

(c) set as referendum voting day a day that is at least 28 days but no more than 34 days after the date the order is made.

Timing of referendum

5(2)        An order is not to be made

(a) for a concurrent referendum, during the 90 days before the start of the election period of a general election; or

(b) for a stand-alone referendum, until at least five months have passed since the question was referred to the Standing Committee.

No by-election during a referendum

5(3)        A referendum period must not include the election day for a by-election to fill a vacancy in the Legislative Assembly.

CONDUCTING A REFERENDUM

Official Committees

Reasons to become an official committee

6(1)        Only an official committee may

(a) appoint referendum scrutineers to be present at voting stations and representatives to be present at any recounts;

(b) issue receipts for referendum-related contributions;

(c) receive public financing of up to $250,000 for referendum-related expenses; and

(d) receive reimbursement for its referendum-related expenses.

Who is not eligible to be an official committee

6(2)        None of the following is eligible to be an official committee:

(a) a registered political party, candidate or constituency association;

(b) an election official, financial officer or other officer of a registered political party, an official agent of a candidate or an officer of a constituency association;

(c) a corporation, other than a corporation whose sole purpose is to promote a particular outcome in the referendum;

(d) a trade union;

(e) an entity within a class of entities prescribed by regulation.

Registration precondition to recognition

7(1)        An eligible person or organization that wishes to be recognized as an official committee must first register with the CEO.

How to register

7(2)        To be registered, the person or organization must

(a) file an application with the CEO that includes the information prescribed by regulation; and

(b) meet the requirements established in the regulations.

Application

7(3)        Subject to any deadline established under subsection 8(1), an applicant may apply to be registered at any time during the pre-referendum period or the referendum period.

Registration

7(4)        If an applicant meets the prescribed requirements for registration, the CEO must

(a) register the applicant;

(b) notify the applicant of the registration; and

(c) give public notice of the applicant's registration.

If registration is refused, the CEO must give reasons.

Effect of registration

7(5)        An applicant that is registered by the CEO may be, but is not entitled to be, recognized as an official committee.

How to apply to be an official committee

8(1)        A registered person or organization that wishes to be selected as an official committee must apply to the CEO on or before the date set by the CEO.

Content of application

8(2)        The application must include the information prescribed by regulation and any other information requested by the CEO.

Recognition of official committee

8(3)        The CEO may recognize an applicant as an official committee if the CEO is satisfied that the applicant best meets the selection criteria set out in the regulations.

Limit on number of official committees

8(4)        The CEO may recognize only one official committee for each particular outcome of a referendum question.

Effect when not recognized

8(5)        A registered person or organization that is not recognized as an official committee is able to participate in the referendum as a third party.

Information NoteUnder subsection 13(3), such a person is deemed to be a third party and does not have to apply further to be one.

Actions by CEO

8(6)        On recognizing an official committee, the CEO must

(a) notify the committee of the registration number that is to be printed on receipts the committee issues for contributions received during the period beginning on the day the committee is recognized under this section and ending two months after referendum voting day; and

(b) on the committee's request, pay it the amount of public financing prescribed in the regulations.

The CEO must give public notice of the official committee's recognition.

What an official committee cannot do

9(1)        An official committee must not

(a) act directly or indirectly on behalf of a registered political party, candidate or constituency association;

(b) make a contribution to a registered political party, candidate or constituency association;

(c) accept a contribution from a person or organization other than an individual normally resident in Manitoba;

(d) circumvent or attempt to circumvent the limit on referendum-related expenses that apply to official committees as set out by regulation;

(e) use any part of the public financing it receives for any purpose other than paying for the referendum-related expenses it incurs; or

(f) receive a loan of more than $3,000 from any person other than a financial institution.

What an official committee must do

9(2)        An official committee must, in accordance with the regulations,

(a) ensure that its advertising is authorized; and

(b) report on its finances.

Regulations

10(1)       The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting official committees, including regulations

(a) prescribing the amount of public financing that an official committee may receive for a referendum, which must not exceed $250,000;

(b) respecting obligations, restrictions, limitations or conditions in relation to the public financing received by an official committee, including obligations to repay amounts that are received but not used, or not used in a permitted manner;

(c) respecting applications for registration and selection as an official committee, including the information that must be included in an application, requirements that must be met for registration and criteria to be used in selecting an official committee;

(d) respecting referendum-related contributions to an official committee, including

(i) prescribing what constitutes a contribution and, with respect to a non-monetary contribution, prescribing how to determine its monetary value,

(ii) regulating the solicitation and acceptance of contributions,

(iii) prescribing limits on contributions that may be made or accepted, or prescribing rules for calculating those limits, and

(iv) requiring the return or other disposition of contributions that contravene the regulations;

(e) respecting referendum-related expenses of an official committee during the pre-referendum period and the referendum period;

(f) respecting reimbursement of the referendum-related expenses an official committee incurs in a referendum period, other than those expenses the committee pays using the public financing it receives;

(g) respecting advertising by an official committee;

(h) respecting an official committee's reporting and disclosure obligations relating to contributions and other financial matters;

(i) respecting the disposition of any surplus held by an official committee;

(j) prescribing classes of entities that are not eligible to be registered as an official committee.

Consistency with Election Financing Act

10(2)       A regulation made under subsection (1) about

(a) referendum-related contributions to an official committee must be generally consistent with the rules respecting contributions to a registered political party under Part 4 of The Election Financing Act;

(b) an official committee's referendum-related expenses must be generally consistent with the rules governing election expenses of a registered political party under Part 7 of The Election Financing Act;

(c) advertising by an official committee must be generally consistent with the rules governing advertising by a registered political party under Part 8 of The Election Financing Act;

(d) reporting and disclosure obligations must be generally consistent with the rules governing reporting and disclosure obligations of a candidate under Part 9 of The Election Financing Act; and

(e) the reimbursement amount an official committee may receive for referendum-related expenses must be generally consistent with the reimbursement amount that a registered political party may receive for election expenses under Part 10 of The Election Financing Act.

PARTICIPATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES, CANDIDATES AND THIRD PARTIES

Political Parties

Political parties

11(1)       A registered political party may participate in a referendum only in accordance with this Act.

Limits on expenses and advertising for concurrent referendum

11(2)       For a concurrent referendum,

(a) a cost incurred by a registered political party for property or services used during the referendum period to support or oppose an outcome is deemed to be an election expense of the party for the general election under The Election Financing Act; and

(b) the following limits that apply to a registered political party are increased by 25%:

(i) the overall limit on election expenses and the limit on advertising expenses under Part 7 of The Election Financing Act,

(ii) the limit on advertising expenses during the pre-election period under Part 8 of The Election Financing Act.

Limits on expenses and advertising for stand-alone referendum

11(3)        The Election Financing Act applies to the activities of a registered political party during a stand-alone referendum and, for that purpose,

(a) the referendum is deemed to be a general election;

(b) the referendum period is deemed to be the election period;

(c) a cost incurred by a party for property or services used during the referendum period to support or oppose an outcome is deemed to be an election expense;

(d) a party's overall limit for election expenses and the limit for advertising expenses under Part 7 of that Act is 25% of what it would be for a general election;

(e) a party's limit on advertising expenses during the pre-election period under Part 8 of that Act is 25% of what it would be for a general election;

(f) a party must report on its referendum-related activities as if the referendum were a general election; and

(g) a party may be reimbursed for its referendum-related expenses as if those expenses were election expenses, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

Regulations

11(4)       The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting the participation of registered political parties in a referendum.

Consistency with other election laws

11(5)       A regulation must be generally consistent with the rights, obligations and prohibitions that apply to the participation of registered political parties in an election under The Elections Act and The Election Financing Act.

Candidates and Constituency Associations

Limits on expenses and advertising for concurrent referendum

12(1)       For a concurrent referendum, a cost for property or services used during the referendum period to support or oppose an outcome incurred

(a) by a candidate is deemed to be an election expense of the candidate for the general election under The Election Financing Act; and

(b) by a constituency association is deemed to be a cost incurred by the constituency association's candidate for the general election under The Election Financing Act.

Third party rules apply to constituency association in stand-alone referendum

12(2)       For a stand-alone referendum, the rules governing the activities of a third party under this Act apply to the activities of a constituency association.

Information NoteFor a stand-alone referendum, no separate rule is provided concerning candidates: a person cannot be an official candidate unless an election has been called.

Third Parties

When registration is required

13(1)       A person or organization must register as a third party with the CEO in accordance with this Act if they incur any referendum communication expenses during the referendum period that exceed the amount prescribed by regulation.

Who need not register

13(2)       Subsection (1) does not apply to a registered political party or official committee and, in respect of a concurrent referendum, a constituency association or a candidate.

Applicants previously registered

13(3)       A person or organization registered under section 7 but not recognized under section 8 is deemed to be registered as a third party. They must notify the CEO of any change in the information provided under section 7 if they incur any referendum communication expenses during the referendum period that exceed the amount prescribed by regulation.

Third party spending limit

14          A third party must not incur referendum communication expenses that exceed

(a) $100,000 during the 90-day period before the start of the referendum period; and

(b) $25,000 during a referendum period.

These amounts are to be adjusted for inflation in the same manner as the third party spending limits are adjusted under The Election Financing Act.

Regulations

15(1)       The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting third party participation, including regulations

(a) prescribing an amount for referendum communication expenses for subsection 13(1) (when registration is required);

(b) respecting applications for registration, including the information that must be included in an application and requirements that must be met for registration;

(c) respecting advertising by third parties;

(d) respecting contributions to third parties;

(e) requiring the CEO to make information relating to registered third parties and official committees available to the public;

(f) respecting loans to third parties;

(g) respecting financial and other recordkeeping requirements for third parties;

(h) respecting third party financial and other reports to the CEO.

Consistency of regulations

15(2)       A regulation under this section must be generally consistent with the rights, obligations and prohibitions that apply to third parties under The Election Financing Act.

RESTRICTIONS ON GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING

Government advertising restricted

16(1)       A government department or Crown agency must not advertise or publish any information related to the referendum question in the following periods:

(a) for a concurrent referendum, the shorter of the following:

(i) the pre-referendum period and the referendum period,

(ii) the last 90 days before referendum voting day and on referendum voting day;

(b) for a stand-alone referendum, in the last 90 days before the referendum voting day and on referendum voting day.

Exceptions

16(2)       Subsection (1) does not apply to an advertisement or publication that

(a) is required by law;

(b) is required at that time because it relates to an important matter of public health or safety; or

(c) deals with a matter before the Assembly.

Complaints

16(3)       A person who believes that a government department or Crown agency has violated this section may file a complaint with the commissioner appointed under The Elections Act. The complaint is to be dealt with in the same manner as a complaint about government advertising made under The Election Financing Act.

VOTING

Entitlement to vote

17          An individual who is an eligible voter when a referendum is conducted is entitled to vote in a referendum.

Election officials

18          The CEO must appoint one or more election officials necessary to conduct a referendum who must be paid the fees and expenses prescribed for an election official under The Elections Act.

Results to be announced by CEO

19(1)       The CEO must announce the results of, and report on, a referendum in accordance with the regulations.

CEO to notify the Speaker

19(2)       The CEO must report to the Speaker of the Assembly, in writing, the results of a referendum. The Speaker must table a copy of the report in the Assembly on the first day after receiving it if the Assembly is sitting or, if it is not, on the day the next sitting begins.

APPLICATION OF ELECTION LAWS AND CEO DIRECTIONS

Regulations re application of election laws

20          The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations adopting or modifying or declaring inapplicable a provision or provisions of

(a) The Elections Act and any regulations under it as they relate to preparing for referendum voting day, the voters list, voting, counting the vote, conducting a recount, and declaring the results in a referendum; and

(b) The Election Financing Act as it relates to the financing of a referendum under this Act.

Matters not provided for

21(1)       If, in the CEO's opinion, a situation exists for which this Act does not make provision, the CEO may make appointments or give directions as the CEO considers proper and anything done in compliance with such a direction is not open to question.

Notice of directions

21(2)       On giving direction under subsection (1), the CEO must, as soon as reasonably practicable, give notice to each official committee and make the direction public.

OFFENCES

Offences re contraventions of this Act

22(1)       A person or organization who knowingly contravenes a provision of this Act is guilty of an offence.

Other offences

22(2)       A person or organization who does or omits to do anything in respect of a referendum that if done or omitted to be done in respect of an election would constitute an offence under The Elections Act or The Election Financing Act is guilty of an offence.

False statement

22(3)       A person or organization who knowingly makes a false statement in any application, report or other document filed with the CEO under this Act is guilty of an offence.

Penalties

23          A person who is guilty of an offence under section 22 is liable on conviction

(a) in the case of an individual, to a fine of not more than $10,000, or to imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both; and

(b) in the case of an organization or corporation, a fine of not more than $50,000.

OTHER MATTERS

Confidentiality

24          The CEO and anyone employed or appointed under the CEO must maintain confidentiality about all matters that come to their knowledge in the course of their work under this Act and must not communicate those matters to any person unless required to do so in connection with the proper administration of this Act or a proceeding under this Act, or in a court of law.

Referendum costs paid out of Consolidated Fund

25          The following costs are to be paid from the Consolidated Fund without further appropriation:

(a) remuneration paid to election officials and other persons employed for the purpose of a referendum, and other costs required for a referendum;

(b) public financing and reimbursement amounts paid out to official committees;

(c) on the certificate of the CEO, any remuneration and expenses relating to the commissioner appointed under The Elections Act.

REGULATIONS

Regulations

26          The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations

(a) prescribing the form of the ballot to be used in a referendum;

(b) respecting access and use of referendum voting lists by official committees and registered political parties;

(c) respecting the determination of the number of voters on the voters list for calculating the limits on referendum-related expenses and advertising expenses;

(d) respecting referendum communications, including prescribing information to be included in advertisements;

(e) respecting the return or other disposition of surplus funds held by official committees and third parties after referendum expenses have been paid;

(f) providing for any other matter that is necessary or desirable to protect the integrity of the referendum.

CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS

Consequential amendment, C.C.S.M. c. F84

27          Section 10 of The Fiscal Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act is replaced with the following:

Referendum Act applies

10          The Referendum Act governs the call and conduct of a referendum under section 9.

Consequential amendment, C.C.S.M. c. H190

28          Section 15.3 of The Manitoba Hydro Act is amended

(a) by replacing subsection (2) with the following:

Referendum Act applies

15.3(2)     The Referendum Act governs the call and conduct of a referendum under this section.

(b) by repealing subsections (3), (4) and (5).

Consequential amendment, C.C.S.M. c. P215

29           Section 14.1 of The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act is amended

(a) by replacing subsection (2) with the following:

Referendum Act applies

14.1(2)     The Referendum Act governs the call and conduct of a referendum under this section.

(b) by repealing subsections (3), (4) and (5).

C.C.S.M. reference

30          This Act may be referred to as R33.5 of the Continuing Consolidation of the Statutes of Manitoba.

Coming into force

31          This Act comes into force on a day to be fixed by proclamation.

Explanatory Note

This Bill establishes The Referendum Act, a framework for conducting referendums in Manitoba.

Under The Referendum Act, a referendum is required if significant changes are to be made to Manitoba's voting system or to the Constitution of Canada.

The Referendum Act also applies when other provincial legislation mandates a referendum be held or when the government decides to hold one to obtain the opinion of Manitobans.

The outcome of a referendum is advisory only unless another Act specifically provides otherwise.

The rules for calling and conducting a referendum are set out, including rules for participants, such as official committees who campaign for a particular outcome and political parties.

An official committee is eligible to receive public financing of up to $250,000 for expenses related to the referendum.

Restrictions similar to those found in The Election Financing Act apply to government advertising during a referendum.

Consequential amendments are made to The Fiscal Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act, The Manitoba Hydro Act and The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act.