Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Harper and fixed election dates …

Stephen Harper announced some fairly serious democratic reform today. Its unclear yet how much of this will actually be implemented on the ground, and its unclear whether Harper even has the right to do what he has done without some sort of Provincial assent, especially on Senate terms and elections, but he's put out some pretty heady ideas.

Several provinces already have some form of fixed election dates, but so far, I am more curious about whats not being said than what is. The idea that the government is forced to call an election after a certain amount of time is nothing new. Right now, no government can serve longer than 5 years without an election, and that "Must have" date is fixed from the time the government goes into power. From what I have seen, Harper's proposed legislation has done little more than change that from 5 years to 4 years. While the news is talking about the fact that a majority government is limited to a 4 year term, no one is asking the question "What if they choose to call one earlier?"

So far, I've seen nothing in this which prevents a majority government from ignoring the 4-year date and calling an earlier election, for politically expediant reasons. And if thats the case, then this is a solution with no problem, because Canada already has a fixed term for majority governments. The real teeth are if this legislation actually prevent a majority governement from calling an election before the 4 year limit is up … if it does that, then its a solution that address the problem of politically motvated election dates. If it fails to address that basic point, however, then there is no solution to anything, merely a decrease in the maximum term for a majority government.


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