Thursday, November 12, 2009

Federal Elections Back In The Hands Of The PM

I just flipped to the new citizen's handbook, Discover Canada. I found this little gem under "Federal Elections":
Under legislation passed by Parliament, federal elections must be held on the third Monday in October every four years following the most recent general election. The Prime Minister may ask the Governor General to call an earlier election.(emphasis mine)
The original intent of the electoral law was to take the power of calling snap elections out of the hands of the PM. Stephen Harper said so himself in 2006:
"Fixed dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar. They level the playing field for all parties,"....

"Hopefully, in the next election, we can run on our record and we won't need the manipulation of the electoral calendar."(Toronto Star, September 4 2008 A16)
Last fall, Harper used "parliamentary disfunction" as his excuse to break the spirit of his fixed-election date law. Now, the government is telling new citizens that even that pretense is unnecessary. Stephen Harper, it seems, can call an election any time he wants one. We have come full circle.

Update: I like Robert's take on the document as a whole.
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  1. I -- surprise, surprise -- liked the new guide a lot. It looks somewhat hastily thrown together, but I think it does a great job of going through all of Canada's history.

    Mind you, it still does not do the job of the most awesome Canadian history book ever -- "Heritage of Canada", put out in the late 1970s by the CAA and Reader's Digest. It's a coffee table book aimed at getting Canadians to drive around their country and see things. And it has wonderful sidebars, including one about Sir John A's drinking habits.

    In fact, I just tracked down and ordered a copy online...

  2. The guide itself has some good points, but I thoutht this section was quite brazen.

  3. It's about all they _could_ say... They went back on their word -- and the act was a dead letter from the start, anyway: in its first clause, it stated that it did not override the GG's powers to dissolve Parliament.

  4. Of course, this is not how the bill was sold and makes the law a joke because a PM can go to the GG even with a majority and demand a snap election -- the exact reason for the law in the first place. Also, could you imagine the Conservative response if a GG dared refuse a request for dissolution, even in a majority? Shock! Horror! Outrage! A coup has happened!

  5. Oh, sure, the whole point of the legislation was so that a prime minister shouldn't do what Harper did in August 2008 -- go for an election when he thought he would do his best.

    But it's unconstitutional to take away the GG's powers, and so any effect the law has other than fuelling rhetoric is nil.