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Conservatives introduce fixed-date election bill
May 30, 2006 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Are Canadians changing parliament? It seems that the minority government Conservative Party has introduced legislation to set fixed four year election dates, the third week in October. Some people seem to think it can work, and others don't. Evidently I fit into a minority position as I can't see the benefit of having a year long election runnup.
posted by pezdacanuck (40 comments total)

 
Of course Harper wants fixed election dates; he doesn't want to be run out of office like his predecessor. Four years should be enough to bring Canada in line with his cowboy buddy GWB, and no pesky no-confidence votes to stop him!
posted by Zozo at 9:24 AM on May 30, 2006


Evidently I fit into a minority position as I can't see the benefit of having a year long election runnup.

Why not? It's a fun way to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 9:24 AM on May 30, 2006


Is this something I need socialized medicine and poutine to understand?
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:28 AM on May 30, 2006


Of course Harper wants fixed election dates; he doesn't want to be run out of office like his predecessor.

From what I've read it wouldn't save minority governments from votes of no confidence, so it wouldn't better his current situation. It would lead to election year runnups and I have no interest in that at all. 5 week campaign runs is the way I like it, and IMHO it helps avoid some of the polarisation seen in the USA.
posted by furtive at 9:32 AM on May 30, 2006


My understanding was that there could still be non-confidence votes, but that the normal elections would be on a fixed schedule.

Personally, I hate the idea. I like the idea of surprise votes - we get a short, intense election period instead of the wasted year of posturing that Americans get.

I'd also like the NHL season shortened, as I think it's insane to watch hockey when it's 35 degrees out and we're having smog warnings in Toronto.

Am I the only person who doesn't want to extend the season for my favorite whatever to be all year long? Do people no longer enjoy things for their rarity or transience any more?
posted by GuyZero at 9:33 AM on May 30, 2006


wasted year of posturing

More like two. Sometimes four.
posted by oaf at 9:34 AM on May 30, 2006


My understanding was that there could still be non-confidence votes, but that the normal elections would be on a fixed schedule.

WELL THEN. Nevermind what I said.

I still prefer the "surprise votes" and shorter campaigns—they're already kind of too long for my tastes.
posted by Zozo at 9:36 AM on May 30, 2006


vidently I fit into a minority position as I can't see the benefit of having a year long election runnup.

Year long? People down here are allready rasing money for the 2008 presidential campaign, two and a half years earlier.

There's really no benifit at all, IMO.
posted by delmoi at 9:38 AM on May 30, 2006


Look southward to see how just how well it works in 'merica.
Your conservatives, just like ours, are focused primarily on staying in power, rather than all that bullshit they promised during the campaign.
posted by cows of industry at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2006


No. NO NO NO NO NO.

That is all.
posted by jokeefe at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2006


I have a running bet with my friend that Canada will be annexed before Puerto Rico. My odds have improved.
posted by Mr. Six at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


The argument is that since the PM currently gets to choose election dates the governing party can manipulate the timing to ensure they are reelected. In this way, they are afforded an unfair advantage, one which could prevent Canadians from getting an honest choice in government.

It's a pretty popular argument. BC, Alberta and Ontario have all switched to fixed elections. I'm pretty leery about it though.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:44 AM on May 30, 2006


I'm glad that Harper has fixed everything that's wrong with the country and can now focus his laserlike vision onto the minutae of running the country. Bravo.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:55 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


In this way, they are afforded an unfair advantage

They're called the natural ruling party for a reason, duh!

Apparently the Liberals talked about doing this as well (from the Globe article) and all the comments on the Globe article use a variety of pejorative terms for [L|l]iberals, so it seems like this has a lot of support from the right, for some reason. But I don't think this argument carries a lot of weight though - election timing could not have saved Ontario's NDP government under Rae or the end of the Tory reign a few years back. Election timing couldn't have saved the Liberals the last time around and a fixed election could hardly have helped the federal Tories back when Chretien was going full-steam. Timing an election is like timing the market; some people get lucky, but in the long run it's not a significant factor.

If Harper really wanted to do something important, he'd introduce proportional representation.
posted by GuyZero at 9:55 AM on May 30, 2006


I really don't consider this a big deal.

An elected Senate is far more important and I'm still quite happy to see that Harper is pushing that one.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:17 AM on May 30, 2006


The Conservatives put it in their party election platform document, so I guess this isn't allowed to be a surprise. Fixed election dates aren't exactly novel here, so I doubt there will be much opposition. The sections on parliamentary reform that I'm interested in (page 44 for those following along at home) are the rest of them:posted by lowlife at 10:28 AM on May 30, 2006


So many of the headlines since the connies came in make me feel like I'm living inthe USA. Here's today's example:

Afghanistan 'victory' may never be clear: MacKay

IMHO: Elected senate and fixed terms eliminate the benefit of the senate which is sober second thought. We have these old-timers in there that have seen it all over the years, and are able to prevent these punks like Harper from making thoughtless changes to the fabric of our society.

Fixed date elections just lead to long painful election campaigns. Timing means nothing if your opponent runs a better campaign.
posted by SSinVan at 10:39 AM on May 30, 2006


won't the patronage system now be based around giving your buddies better positions on the PR candidate lists?

As opposed to just giving them the appointment without an election, as current stands. A candidate is not yet an elected official, so this is still a good change.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:45 AM on May 30, 2006


BC, Alberta and Ontario have all switched to fixed elections.

Not Alberta (yet?), but I believe Newfoundland and Labrador had joined the club.
posted by hangashore at 10:45 AM on May 30, 2006


Why fix what isn't broken?
posted by joannemerriam at 11:16 AM on May 30, 2006


If Harper really wanted to do something important, he'd introduce proportional representation.


I completely agree, and I just thought it needed repeating. Parliamentary Reform, sure. But fixed election dates would suck for all the reasons stated above.
posted by aclevername at 11:18 AM on May 30, 2006


The Conservatives are politicizing politics and must be stopped!
posted by mazola at 11:23 AM on May 30, 2006


I can see where fixed dates could help parties with money. Which would seem to help the Liberals more than the Conservaties as the NDP would probably have less of an effect on the results.

I wonder if the thinking isn't to help suppress a new party from sandbagging the Conservatives the way the Reform did the PCs?

The good news of course is this can be undone without anymore pain than doing it in the first place.
posted by Mitheral at 11:25 AM on May 30, 2006


I'm fine with fixed elections, given that historically, parties in power have used their power to choose the timing of elections to unfair advantage. Calling snap elections the second your polls reach a favorable number is a practive I'd love to see go out the window. That backfires sometimes, as the Liberals discovered recently.

That said, I think there are a lot of other more urgent reforms that should be taking precedence.
posted by slatternus at 11:27 AM on May 30, 2006


I'd also like the NHL season shortened, as I think it's insane to watch hockey when it's 35 degrees out and we're having smog warnings in Toronto.

Your Leafs make sure that's never a problem for you. /snark

I'm having a hard time thinking of any time when the current system really worked in the incumbent party's favour, so IMHO this is a solution in search of a problem. And some of the issues raised in the Star article, such as greater campaign spending and fundraising transparency, can be fixed with tighter rules within the current system.

On preview:
Calling snap elections the second your polls reach a favorable number is a practive I'd love to see go out the window. That backfires sometimes, as the Liberals discovered recently.

slatternus: doesn't that contradict your argument that it's an "unfair advantage"? Maybe incumbent parties just need to be less dumb about when they call elections or face the wrath of the electorate!
posted by RibaldOne at 11:37 AM on May 30, 2006


I wonder if the thinking isn't to help suppress a new party from sandbagging the Conservatives the way the Reform did the PCs?

I think that's the not-so-hidden agenda. The new campaign financing rules introduced by the Liberals do exactly that - they reinforce the existing parties and shut new parties out. And I hear they even worked against the Liberal last time around, as they traditionally raised a lot of money in ways that are now not allowed.

I think Canadian political parties of all stripes are more afraid of upstarts than of each other - conservatives see how far back the PC/Reform set their cause and the Liberals are rightfully wary of the same thing happening to them. I mean, imagine if the Green party got their act together: it would be chaos on the left. (insert snark about US politics)
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on May 30, 2006


An elected Senate is far more important and I'm still quite happy to see that Harper is pushing that one.

Yes, because we need the quality of Senate debate to more closely match that of our lower house.
posted by dreamsign at 11:53 AM on May 30, 2006


Year long + election campaigns and politico-sucking windbags at everydoor. This is not appealing. The argument that snap elections are called when the polls show best may be true to some extent, but really, polls are only acurate 7 out of 22 times per 100 ± 4.3% cubed...

And for those of you who are really pushing for an elected senate, take a real long look at what the senate has been doing for the last 100 years and ask, do you really want to have those guys actually performing any duties? As a place for reviewing legislation and having the occasional harumph, it works. But elect them? Appointing is easier and serves the function just fine for what our legislative assemblies were meant to be.
posted by pezdacanuck at 12:04 PM on May 30, 2006


Calling snap elections the second your polls reach a favorable number is a practive I'd love to see go out the window. That backfires sometimes, as the Liberals discovered recently.

Given recent history, I'd suggest that the calling of snap elections backfires most of the time federally. Maybe cherrypicking my endpoints, but since the last time a minority government fell on a House vote (Clark's PCs in 1980), here's how the governing parties (with sitting majorities) have fared when they've been the ones calling the elections:
Year  Gov.  Result
1984  Lib   PC landslide
1988  PC    Reduced PC majority
1993  PC    Liberal majority (PCs destroyed)
1997  Lib   Reduced Liberal majority
2000  Lib   Increased Liberal majority
2004  Lib   Liberal minority
So it looks like the governments usually get spanked (vs. their previous electoral position). The only exception recently was 2000 - guess the Doris Stockwell Day factor was a bit too overwhelming that time.
posted by hangashore at 1:08 PM on May 30, 2006


Coupla more datapoints (again, for majority federal governments calling the election):

1979: Lib majority -> Tory minority
1972: Lib majority -> Lib minority
1962: (huge!) Tory majority -> Tory minority
1957: Lib majority -> Tory minority
1953: Lib majority -> Lib majority (reduced)
1949: Lib majority -> Lib majority (increased)

So it took from 1949 to 2000 for a majority party to increase its standing in the House, despite having the advantage of waiting for the exact right time to call an election.
posted by hangashore at 1:28 PM on May 30, 2006


What? Examination of the facts disproves Harpers course of action as wise? Get out. Why do you hate Canada?
posted by Keith Talent at 1:38 PM on May 30, 2006


I think this is where I make some sort of sarcastic remark about the data-driven nature of political change, but even I grow weary of sarcasm on this front.

It's so obviously a non-issue. It's just the veneer of change on top of the thick, motionless layers of political inertia.

Thanks for pulling the data, hangashore. I wish the PM would take five minutes to do the same thing.
posted by GuyZero at 1:41 PM on May 30, 2006


I second what GuyZero said - the datapoints were very interesting. Thanks for that.

As for this move, well it's kind of like the first Con budget. Something that sounds great (GST cuts! Free money for babysitters!) but which actually does almost nada for the masses and costs the govt a bundle. Still, it sounds good, so may well get them re-elected...
posted by Zinger at 6:42 PM on May 30, 2006


I wish the PM would take five minutes to do the same thing.

Maybe he already has. Think about it - other than the politics industry (parties, pundits, advertising execs...), who really likes elections? When a government calls an election, there always seems to be a bit of blowback from the voters ("why are they forcing this on us now?") so the ruling party takes a hit for their own perceived hubris. This way, since it's nobody's fault but the calendar's, the electorate doesn't blame the incumbents (at least not for the timing of the vote).

I'd rather keep the present system. When the bunch in power (of whatever persuasion) ignores what's traditionally a negative reaction from the electorate and is more concerned about what its pollsters and backroom operators have to say, time for 'em to be canned. A built-in disadvantage for the ruling party should make them have to work harder for re-election.

(Then again, I'm in a province which has only changed governing parties twice in just over 70 years, all without the benefits of fixed election dates, so I may have preemptively refuted my forgoing 'logic.')
posted by hangashore at 8:39 PM on May 30, 2006


Quelle surprise, yet another proposal from Harper to make Canadian politics more American.

I fail to see any benefit this would bring. I like our short intense campaigns up here, and as many others have said here, I don't want to see a parliament waste a year or more of posturing as everyone anticipates the next election. How long until this boob is back in some Alberta think tank coming up with reasons why socialised medicine is the worst thing visited upon man since the fall?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:36 PM on May 30, 2006


do you really want to have those guys actually performing any duties?

pezdacanuck, the Senate and HofC often strike commissions on the same topics. Take a look at some debates from both. Senators typically show up prepared, having actually read the material, and then debate it on principles. Compare that to the HofC, where elected officials show up obviously not even having read the text, but then flail dramatically to demonstrate that they're saying something in the House, concede few if any points even if obvious, and generally grandstand all the way.

I know it's fashionable to bash the Senate and all, but the reality just doesn't match up.
posted by dreamsign at 11:16 PM on May 30, 2006


[expletive deleted] writes "How long until this boob is back in some Alberta think tank coming up with reasons why socialised medicine is the worst thing visited upon man since the fall?"

Ralph was getting bitch slapped on his "front of the line via private service" scheme pretty bad, to the point where they've stopped talking about it.
posted by Mitheral at 6:26 AM on May 31, 2006


Forget changing Parliament, could we just change the government?
posted by mazola at 8:42 AM on May 31, 2006


When do we get to de-elect this asshole? Our little-boy Prime Minister has had enough time in the parlimentary sandbox. It's time to send him packing off to bed so the adults can run the government.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:31 PM on May 31, 2006


And as for fixed elections, fuck, NO! The worst damn thing about the US elections is that they kick into gear freakin' years ahead of the vote date, especially with all the special interest group assholes doing mass negative campaigning.

I think it's all a deliberate ploy to frustrate and confuse voters so that they don't even bother showing up at the polls, because they've become utterly disinterested and disgusted with the political apparatus.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:33 PM on May 31, 2006


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