“Alberta election may be unethical, but it’s not illegal”

A contribution by Duane Bratt to the Globe and Mail website yesterday: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/alberta-election-may-be-unethical-but-its-not-illegal/article23886595/

I agree with Mr. Bratt when we writes that the calling of the Alberta provincial election only 3 years after the previous election is perfectly legal.

However I don’t agree with his statement that fixed election laws (or at least the Alberta law) are incompatible with the Westminster Parliamentary system. This is proven false by the many examples in Canada of elections occurring on the dates set out in legislation without controversy.

It seems to me that Mr. Bratt has overstated the purpose and impact of fixed election date legislation. In my view the purpose is not to set the date of elections in stone, under no circumstances to be changed. If that was the case, then I would agree that they would be incompatible with the Westminster Parliamentary system, and unconstitutional.

All fixed election date legislation has a clause that allows the Governor General or Lieutenant General or Commissioner the power to call an election, regardless of the date set out in the legislation. This allows elections to be called earlier or later than the fixed date.

The reasons for changing the date can range from politically motivated, to administratively beneficial. Some people may point to the Alberta election date as being a political decision, while the change in the Northwest Territories election date can be seen as an administrative decision. Just because an election is called earlier or later doesn’t mean that the fixed election date legislation doesn’t work, or doesn’t serve a purpose. The change in election dates is an exercise of government power that will be examined and tested through the election process.

When Mr. Bratt writes that “fixed election laws cannot account for minority governments”, he misses the point that the fixed election dates are not meant to be unalterable in any circumstance. The date is fixed, unless it isn’t. And if it isn’t, that will be part of the conversation that is an election campaign.

So the early call of the Alberta election is legal. But what are the reasons for the early election, and is calling it early really unethical? That is something for the voters to decide.

What do you think about the arguments as to why the election was called early? Do you think  the early election call is ethical, or should the government have stuck to the dates set out in legislation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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