Editorial — Fixing a new election date

A September date for provincial elections would be much better than a May date.

One of the issues which is mentioned as B.C. gets set for a provincial election, but only on occasion, is whether the fixed election date should be changed.

When then-Opposition Leader Gordon Campbell promised a fixed election date, long before the 2001 election was held, he was a pioneer. No provincial government, and certainly not the federal government, had even suggested fixed election dates. Premiers and prime ministers wanted to keep the power of when to call an election to themselves, and give their parties the greatest possible advantage.

Thus if the party was doing quite well, as the Social Credit Party did under W.A.C. Bennett, an election was called every three to four years. When a party was facing annihilation, as the federal Conservatives were in 1993 and the NDP was in B.C. in 2001, the government would stretch its term out to the maximum of five years.

Campbell was true to his word and set up fixed elections. There have now been two of them, in 2005 and 2009, and the third is set for May 14.

Other provinces and even the federal government have followed suit, although in the case of Ottawa, it has yet to abide by a fixed date, largely due to the fact the first two Stephen Harper governments were minority governments.

A number of observers have suggested that B.C. wouild be best to hold its elections in the fall, after the audited books for the previous fiscal year have been made available to the public. It is obvious from this year’s budget (and indeed from the 2009 budget) that budgets produced just before an election have more to do with attracting votes than managing public finances.

All provinces except Nova Scotia have now set fixed election dates. All but Alberta hold their elections in the fall months — September, October or November. B.C. would be wise to follow suit.

No matter which party is elected on May 14, a move towards holding the next election in September, 2017 would make a lot of sense. September would be the best choice, given that municipal elections are held in November, and there will be occasions where both are held in the same year.

The fixed date for a federal vote is in October. While is is unlikely to see elections in the same year (the next federal date is likely Oct. 19, 2015), any likely conflict should be avoided.

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