Could collide with federal campaign; Dunderdale says that’s a no-go
Premier Kathy Dunderdale said she’s looking to move the province’s fixed election date to get out from under a conflict with the federal government.
The province’s next general election is scheduled for Oct. 13, 2015, less than a week before the federal election on Oct. 19, 2015.
© — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to reporters outside the House of Assembly in this file photo. — Telegram file photo
“We can’t have two elections on the go at the same time — it’s just too confusing,” Dunderdale said. “You know, you’re using the same resources, and so on.”
In fact, there are six different provincial elections, plus the federal election, all ostensibly scheduled for fall 2015. The largest province in the mix is Ontario, which is currently in a minority government situation, so the provincial election could happen sooner than that.
But for close to two years, political insiders have seen the problem looming.
With provincial and federal elections running at the same time, voters’ attention would be split between the different races.
The provincial political parties typically rely on a lot of the same hardcore committed volunteers during elections, so two contests running at the same time could leave candidates stretched thin.
On top of that, party advertising would compete for air time, and the federal and provincial party platforms and messaging would likely get blurred.
“That would be tough. That would be an awful lot of election fatigue,” Liberal MP Gerry Byrne said. “It would be difficult to create a coherent dialogue through the public domain — especially through the media.”
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked about the issue in the House of Commons in June of 2012, he said he’d be consulting with the provinces on how to untangle things.
“We are talking to our friends in the provinces about how to resolve this,” Harper said. “I can assure parliamentarians we will bring forward a proposal on this well before the next election.”
More than a year later, nothing has happened.
An emailed statement to The Telegram from a spokeswoman for the Minister of State for Democratic Reform didn’t answer the question of whether the federal government has consulted with the provinces, and it didn’t specifically answer the question of whether the federal government will look at moving the election.
“The fixed election dates law enhances the transparency and predictability of Canada’s electoral system during stable majority governments,” spokeswoman Gabrielle Renaud-Mattey wrote in an email. “The current general election date, on the third Monday of October 2015, has been known since the conclusion of the May 2011 election.”
NDP MP Jack Harris was underwhelmed.
“That statement doesn’t say much; it’s certainly consistent with the law itself,” Harris said, adding he doesn’t actually believe the federal government will obey its law.
It’s unclear whether Ottawa ever consulted with the provincial government, but a couple of provinces have already made moves to deal with the situation.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan both have provisions in their fixed election date legislation which say that if the election overlaps with the federal campaign, then the provincial vote should be moved to the following spring.
For her part, Dunderdale said this province has recognized the problem, and that it needs to be fixed, but they still haven’t worked out the details.
“The fix is to move it — and where to move it, and how to move it, that all remains to be seen,” she said. “Some adjustment is going to be required.”
New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael was miffed that Dunderdale was even talking about the issue in public before she’d consulted with the opposition parties.
“I would like her to have that conversation before she’s gone public with it,” she said. “I’m very disappointed that she would bring this up without even having any conversations with the other parties involved.”
Michael said that if Dunderdale wants to talk about it in public, then it really should be happening in the House of Assembly.
“There’s nothing wrong with going public, but she’s showing disdain for the legislature by not starting the conversation there,” she said.
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball also would’ve preferred to have the conversation on the floor of the legislature, but he mostly wanted to know if Dunderdale has talked to the federal folks about this.
“We’ve known about this for quite some time. She’s known about it. We’ve all known about it. So the only question mark about all of this was the federal government: are they prepared to move their date to accommodate the other six elections?” Ball asked.
“Does she know, for instance, for sure that the federal government is not moving their election date, and they’ve made a commitment to October of 2015?”