News / Halifax

Dartmouth MLA believes private member's bill could help boost low voter turnout

If passed, Andrew Younger's bill would provide mechanism for Nova Scotians to have referendum questions added to ballots.

MLA Andrew Younger.

The Canadian Press/File

MLA Andrew Younger.

Andrew Younger believes more Nova Scotians would be engaged in the political process if referendum questions could be added to provincial election ballots.

The independent MLA for Dartmouth East introduced the ‘Citizen Ballot Initiative Act’ in the legislature Tuesday afternoon.

“In the United States there are a number of states that use ballot initiatives where people gather petitions to have a question put on an election ballot and the result of that is binding,” he explained in an interview.

“I think that could be very useful in Nova Scotia. I think that could be very useful in all provinces in Canada, quite frankly.”

Younger said if passed, the bill would be a way for people to ensure their voices are heard on issues that matter.

Not just anyone would be able to get a question added to the general election ballot. The act would require 10 per cent of the province’s eligible voters to sign a petition before it could be added.

“You have to do quite a bit of legwork in order to get to that point, so that would tend to weed out the frivolous issues or the issues that are less likely to have a pan provincial concern or interest,” he said.

While his proposed bill is provincial in scope, Younger said municipalities could also offer a similar initiative that might draw more voters. He points to the overall low voter turnout for the recent municipal elections, and described provincial and federal election voter turnout as generally “pretty abysmal too.”

“I think voter turnout is a crisis issue in this province but it’s not unique to here…It’s because people just don’t feel that government matters,” he said. 

“I think the solution is citizen engagement…The purpose of this bill is not to drive voter turnout but I think that it would actually have the side effect of helping to improve voter turnout, especially if there were controversial questions that end up being brought forward.”

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