Week of October 02 – October 06, 2021
On May 30th, 2006, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, introduced a bill for fixed election dates every four years. I would like to use this week’s journal to provide some background on this bill and to highlight the many advantages of the proposed legislation.
The proposed bill would establish fixed election dates on the third Monday in October, in the fourth calendar year following the last general election. In addition, the bill establishes Monday, October 19, 2021 as the date of the next general election.
There are many reasons to support the establishment of fixed election dates. Most importantly, it will improve the fairness of Canada’s electoral system, by eliminating the governing party’s ability to manipulate the timing of elections for partisan advantage, therefore, leveling the playing field and providing greater fairness for all political parties.
Fixed election dates have the advantage of providing transparency and predictability in the electoral process. The Canadian public will know exactly when federal elections will occur, instead of the decision being made behind closed doors.
Another advantage of fixed election dates is improved governance, which allows better policy planning. For example, members of parliamentary committees would have the ability to set out their agendas well in advance and that would make the work of committees and Parliament, as a whole, more efficient.
Higher voter turnout rates are also an advantage of fixed election dates, as most students wouldn’t be in transition between home and school, in October, and senior citizens wouldn’t be deterred from voting, as they might be during colder winter months or when they’re vacationing outside of the country.
The powers of the Governor General would remain virtually untouched with the establishment of fixed election dates. If the governing party lost the confidence of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister would still advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. Once the general election was held, the following election would be set for the third Monday in October, four calendar years in the future.
Fixed election dates have been instituted in New Zealand, Scotland and Wales, who all share our Westminster system of government. Several provincial governments (British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador), in Canada, have also passed fixed election date legislation to enhance and strengthen their electoral systems.
There has also been strong public support for fixed election dates. According to an Environics poll conducted in May 2005, 77 per cent of Canadians agreed with the following statement: “Federal elections should be held on a fixed date every four years instead of whenever the party in power wants to call it.”
It is my hope that I have used this week’s journal, to highlight the many advantages of fixed election dates, as it is an important step towards improving and modernizing Canada’s electoral process and democratic institutions.