Mr. Speaker, I wish to split my time with my hon. colleague
from South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.
It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on Bill
, which would establish fixed election dates for the third
Monday of October every fourth year. The bill continues the
Conservative government's commitment to provide accountability and
transparency in our Canadian democracy.
There is no perfect day for an election. There are, however,
better days than others, as everyone in the House knows. I commend
all the volunteers in the last election who had the unfortunate
job of trying to hammer--or should I say jackhammer?--signs into
the ground and who door-knocked with chilling winds and snowy
Of special importance to my riding of
Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar is that October 19, in good years,
allows farmers to finish their harvests. Agribusinesses and the
people employed in those businesses could become involved in the
election process. During the harvest, the agricultural sector
barely has time to sleep, let alone participate in or even think
about politics. Bill
would ensure that they are able to fully participate in
Senior citizens would also not have to brave the cold weather
to exercise their democratic rights. I have heard from many of my
senior constituents about the difficulty of making the trek to the
polls in freezing temperatures that can reach -30°C. The ice is
another danger best avoided when possible, as it seriously hampers
their ability to participate in Canada's democracy.
The third Monday of October allows our youth to get settled in
the school year. Students could hold candidate debates so they
could actively participate and become aware of the issues. As we
all know, youth voter participation is at an all time low, with
only an estimated 35% of 21 year olds to 24 year olds voting. The
most cited reason for this lack of participation is cynicism of
the political process. This cynicism extends further than youth,
with manipulation of election dates increasing voter apathy.
A poll in 2004 by the Environics Research Group found that 81%
of people supported having elections at fixed times. The
government listened and now we are acting. By removing the
politics from calling elections we are restoring trust in Canadian
democracy. No longer will election dates be manipulated by
politicians behind closed doors. Combined with the federal
accountability act, we are responding to the concerns of our youth
and all Canadians by doing politics differently.
The bill makes elections predictable but also makes room for
flexibility. In the case of the election falling on a religious
holiday or near an important provincial or municipal election, the
date can be moved up to seven days following the set polling date.
With the passage of Bill
, elections will become predictable and stable while still
keeping governments accountable. B.C. and Ontario, under Liberal
governments, have both adopted fixed dates for elections, with
other provinces considering doing the same. These governments
remain accountable because they still allow for votes of
would allow the government to be voted out in a vote of
non-confidence. In this way, the Governor General retains her
powers to dissolve Parliament. The bill explicitly states:
|| Nothing in this section affects the powers of
the Governor General, including the power to dissolve
Parliament at the Governor General's discretion.
There have been no constitutional or legal problems for
either B.C. or Ontario with their election dates and there will
not be for the federal government.
We are providing predictability while still working with the
traditions of parliamentary democracy. This bill is truly the best
of both worlds. It would also allow for provincial governments to
plan their elections around federal elections. They could plan to
hold them closer or further away from federal elections based on
their preferences. One thing is clear, though, and that is that it
would make election planning a more rational and easy to follow
process. People could plan in advance to get involved in the
political process knowing exactly when the next election would be
This bill will increase voter turnout by giving more access to
our electoral system. Predictable elections will also reduce waste
in government machinery and give Canadians value for their money.
Elections Canada has to be in a constant state of readiness, which
forces it to keep a high level of staffing. This is very costly.
In the case of a majority, Elections Canada knows when to expect
an election and can plan accordingly. This bill will substantially
reduce the cost of holding elections in the future.
Political parties, individual candidates and staff will also
be able to plan better. Staff members may be able to join a hockey
league knowing that they will not have to leave it midway through
to participate in an election. Candidates can plan their election
strategies knowing precisely when they will start campaigning.
Government departments can plan their agendas more effectively.
Instability and uncertainty means that departments have to hold
off on projects because they are unsure who will be in power.
Committees will be able to plan policy in advance, making it a
more focused and efficient system.
Predictability has many political rewards for government and
allows us to do our jobs better. In the current system, the
governing party has an unfair advantage over opposition parties
with the ability to call elections when that suits its purpose. We
have seen this done in the past by federal and provincial
governments and parties of all stripes. Governments can call
elections to coincide with upturns in the economy after large
capital projects have been completed or if they are doing well in
the polls. This is clearly an unfair advantage for the governing
party. Levelling the playing field is an important aspect of
People in my riding often come up to me and say that they do
not feel the democratic process is working for them any more.
Instead, they say, it is working in the interests of those in
power and their friends. With this bill, election dates will no
longer be set to benefit the ruling party but set to benefit the
We must continue the process of restoring trust in our
democratic institutions by making them independent of internal
party politics. Parliament has been developing a non-partisan
electoral system for the past 100 years. Electoral boundaries are
drawn by independent commissions and elections are administered by
Elections Canada. The date of elections, though, continues to be
in the hands of politicians.
In conclusion, let us finish the process by taking politics
out of electoral date setting. Let us restore trust in Canadian