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Old May 6th, 2007, 03:28 AM   #1
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Fixed elections in Canada, eh?

I see that a bill to hold Canadian Federal elections every four years is about to receive Royal Assent. This means that Harper can't call an election now, right? But the opposition parties could still force an election by an NCV or defeating the budget. Do you guys still think a spring election is likely?
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Old May 6th, 2007, 09:13 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Hertz View Post
I see that a bill to hold Canadian Federal elections every four years is about to receive Royal Assent. This means that Harper can't call an election now, right? But the opposition parties could still force an election by an NCV or defeating the budget. Do you guys still think a spring election is likely?
The fixed election date - not fixed elections, which are something not to be desired, is a monumental step forward for Canadian democracy. It takes the ablity of the Prime Minister to call an election when it suits his party out of his or her control.

It helps create a level playing field.

But like all things human,it's far from perfect. Here are a few flaws:

1) When all the politicians know when the election is coming they tend to be begin hard-core politiking (see U.S. presidential elections) way too early. Fixed election dates may erode some government efficiency.

2) It takes a powerful tool out of the hands of the Prime Minister - the ablity to threaten his or her own caucus with an election. That's one way to maintain party discipline. However, if you are like me and aren't a huge fan of whipped MPs, this may not really be much of a negative.

3) It can be circumvented. As pointed out, the Opposition can bring down a minority government and force and election on money bills or formal non-confidence votes. Harper can still engineer and election by putting a bill so unpalatable to the other parties that they vote against it.

However, having said all that, I still like fixed election dates.

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Old May 6th, 2007, 11:36 AM   #3
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Quote:
This means that Harper can't call an election now, right? But the opposition parties could still force an election by an NCV or defeating the budget. Do you guys still think a spring election is likely?
I can't see that he would be able to go to the GG and request parliament be dissolved at his request, unless they had lost a confidence vote (which they could engineer themselves if they wanted to).

The minimum length for a federal political campaign in Canada is 36 days and it is generally held that calling an election that would take place in July or August is a bad idea, so it becomes increasingly unlikely that an election will be called the closer we get to the second last week in May.

I have always questioned the idea that we would have an election this spring, though just after the budget when the Conservatives got up to 40% in the polls it seemed more likely.

Given that we seem to have returned to the pre-budget polling numbers, I doubt an election will be called this spring.
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Old May 6th, 2007, 03:18 PM   #4
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The way I see it the power was taken away from the Governor-General not the PM.

The GG had the authority not to de-solve Parliament and to call upon the other parties in Parliament to form Government, if the Governing party couldn't govern. Now an election must be called.

I would have much rather seen a reform that said an election would be held no later than five years from the date of the last election date. A form of fixed election when the current governing party wants to hang onto power.

Our Parliamentary system is base on a proven 900 year experiment (started in Westminster.) We don't need a bunch of yahoos mucking about the system so we all know the third Monday in October some year might be an election day.

OK tell me exact date of the next election with the current Parliament!

What real value is this fixed date? The real harm is it may start us down the road to elect the King or Queen like they do in the great republics.
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Old May 6th, 2007, 04:00 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by BigDL View Post
I would have much rather seen a reform that said an election would be held no later than five years from the date of the last election date.
....
The real harm is it may start us down the road to elect the King or Queen like they do in the great republics.
We already have that, I believe.
....
Unrelated to fixed dates. I'm not sold on them, but this is not one of their drawbacks.
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Old May 6th, 2007, 04:20 PM   #6
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I would have much rather seen a reform that said an election would be held no later than five years from the date of the last election date.
That is pretty close to what we have in the Charter:

Quote:
4. (1) No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members.
I think this is more of a reaction to what Chretien did during his majority governments (calling early elections when situations favourved him and to keep Martinites at bay) than anything.

Still, if a scandal or other unexpected incident occurs shortly before an election must be called, the PM can't dodge it and wait for more favourable times (although, if his constitutional 5 years is coming to and end he would be in trouble in the old system as well).
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Old May 6th, 2007, 04:33 PM   #7
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I think the effect of fixed election dates is minor, there may be some pluses and minuses, but it does nothing to advance the cause of Canadian democracy. In this sense it is a smokescreen by a government that needs to appear as if they actually care about democracy. If Harper's party, or any other party, truly had some real concern about democracy rather than simply the grasping of virtually unrestrained majority seat power, they would not contemplate attempting to form a "majority" government with less than 40% of the population voting for their platform.

Of course we all know that if Harper managed to get his mitts on any kind of a squeaker false "majority" of that nature he would govern as if he had a landslide mandate. Opposition input would be completely ignored, although the parliamentary charade would continue on for the required 4 years period. If we want a true democratic reform, then proportional representation is the real option.

Seeing how fixed election dates have worked here in BC since 2001, it seems clear that it makes incumbent government as well as opposition strategizing easier. What the government seems to do is to plan their radical legislation for the beginning of the mandate and then spend the rest of the term coasting, spinning, fundraising and preparing for the next election. Of course real events could get in the way, and something could come up at the wrong time, heading into the next election. I think the real reason governments have been attracted to fixed election dates is they believe it will give them a better chance at strategic control and planning their fundraising, not really anything to do with an overabundance of democratic idealism.
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Old May 6th, 2007, 04:51 PM   #8
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Geez GA, now you chime in.

I had a whole Ontario PR thread ready and my prediction of your involvement ended up being wrong.

I was looking forward to the speech and all sorts of good stuff about what's wrong with the concept of a "clear majority" as different from a simple majority.

In this thread, I'd like to hear more about this:
"I think the real reason governments have been attracted to fixed election dates is they believe it will give them a better chance at strategic control and planning their fundraising"

How does it work better for them than choosing the date? They could always pick the date ahead of time for similar strategic control. Do you mean that there's a strategic advantage for the governing party in getting others (e.g. media) onside with a 100% credible date that outweighs control over said date?
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Old May 6th, 2007, 05:08 PM   #9
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Geez GA, now you chime in.

I had a whole Ontario PR thread ready and my prediction of your involvement ended up being wrong.


Sorry, Beej. I just saw the thread for the first time. If I had seen it I would have participated in it for sure, so you were right. I was away from home for a couple of weeks and my time spent on the 'net was reduced dramatically. I actually have a real life, ... occasionally.
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Old May 6th, 2007, 05:11 PM   #10
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Why is it all about election and not geared to facilitate good governance??

4 years is too short 1/2 ends up learning the ropes - the second half planning for the next election- I think partial changes are better. It's less convulsive and allows clear messages.

Once more in both representation type, upper lower house dynamics and election timing legislation, Australia is making us look very primitive.

http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/r...-06/06rn04.htm

BTW they have seen fit NOT to have fixed dates at the federal level.

I'm not 100% convinced at the Provincial level either but Australian states and territories are divided on that aspect as well.

I also think there is a case for taking it to the people on a Federal level where a clearly divisive set of strategies are involved and a government wants a renewed mandate.

I really think there is some merit to the "midterm" concept with longer terms. Certainly I'm glad it was there to rein in Bush and Co.
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