Fixed election dates versus flexible election dates
Both the incumbent majority federal and majority provincial governments should follow the fixed elections date Laws. Manitobans should have 351 days between the Oct. 21, 2019, federal elections and the Oct. 6, 2020 provincial elections. However, Premier Pallister seems to feel that the fixed date is only a guideline.
By calling a Sept. 10, 2019 elections, Pallister has set new a record for the least number of days between a federal and provincial elections. The previous record was set in 1953. There were only 63 days between the June 8 provincial election and August 10 federal vote. Ironically, both jurisdictions had majority Liberal governments before and after the elections. Second place belongs to 1958. There was only 77 days between the March 31 Federal and June 16 provincial election. The federal election was caused by the minority Diefenbaker government wanting to get a majority.
The Premier’s insistence of avoiding a 2020 election during the Province’s 150th Year Anniversary is flawed. There are always festivals, historical celebrations and block parties. The best option for a campaigning politician is to avoid any non-partisan celebration. They can campaign elsewhere in their riding. If they attend, they should have a few brochures in their pocket and only hand them out to the small minority of celebrants who want to talk politics.
It is possible that the Premier may be planning to retire in the fall of 2022. He may want to argue that he served a couple of three-year terms. However, there is no reason why he cannot have waited until the fixed Oct. 2020 date and retire two years into his second term. Other premiers have been re-elected and resigned for various reasons early in their terms: Gary Doer (after 29 months), Duff Roblin (after 17 months), John Bracken (after 21 months), and Hugh John MacDonald (after 11 months). In 1967, Nova Scotia Premier Robert Stanfield resigned three and a half months after winning a massive majority government to become the federal PC leader.
The lack of time between elections creates unnecessary problems for many people involved in the political process. Opposition parties have an obligation to find qualified new candidates. These candidates usually have to commit to possibly leaving their jobs or making other life style adjustments. It can be very difficult for a person to tell a boss they may be leaving or not leaving sometime in the next 18 months. The current incumbents have a tremendous advantage. When they announce their intention to run for re-election, they are simply applying to renew their current job.
Door knocking politicians will have to spend most of their time on the door steps explaining which elections that they are running in. There will be less discussion about important issues at the door. All political parties need some individual donations. With little time between elections, some donors may have to choose between their favourite federal and provincial candidates.
Finally, it is now impossible for defeated federal candidates to run provincially. Some defeated federal candidates have won the subsequent provincial elections. Bud Sherman (1968), Jon Gerrard (1997), and Jim Malloway (2011) are examples. The Premier’s haste would eliminate about 50 potential candidates.
Flexible elections dates create problems for Elections Manitoba. They have to find qualified people to administer fairly the elections in every part of the province. The commitment may be for only one day.
In 2016, the Premier set a significant record by winning the most seats in the single seat constituency era of Manitoba politics which began in 1958. In 2019, he has created many problems by setting this stupid record.
Fred Morris describes himself as a political activist and sometime political candidate.