October 19, 2016 Parliament of Canada

Fixed Election Dates in Canada

Historically, election dates in Canada have been decided by the Prime Minister and his/her government (or in the case of Canada’s provinces and territories, by their respective Premiers and/or governments). Sitting governments, having the confidence of their legislatures, could choose the most opportune date to hold an election so long as it was less than five years after the writs were returned for the previous election.

In recent years, governments in Canada have explored ways to reform the democratic systems of their respective constituencies. One component of this democratic reform agenda has been the discussion and/or passage of fixed election dates. Fixed dates are generally considered more acceptable than unfixed dates due to their higher associated levels of fairness, transparency, predictability, policy planning, and voter turnout.

In 2001, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to adopt legislation fixing provincial election dates. In 2005, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to hold an election on a fixed date. Other provinces have since adopted similar measures. Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador were the next to do so in 2004. In 2007, the Government of Canada adopted legislation fixing election dates at the federal level.

Among the constituencies that have adopted fixed election dates in Canada, all have opted for 4-year terms between elections. In cases of minority government, however, sitting governments can advise the dissolution of their legislatures at any time prior to the fixed election date in the event of a vote of non-confidence. In this situation, an election would be called immediately with the following election being held 4 years thereafter.

Typically, if a fixed election date for a provincial/territorial election overlaps with the date of a federal election, the provincial/territorial election will be moved to an earlier date or postponed. This occurred when the fixed election dates for the elections in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Northwest Territories in October 2015 overlapped with the federal election held the same month. The elections in Newfoundland & Labrador and Northwest Territories were postponed until late November 2015. The Manitoba and Saskatchewan provincial elections were postponed until April 2016.

The following provinces/territories have yet to implement fixed dates for elections: Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Yukon.

Source: Parliament of Canada

List of Fixed Election Dates in Canada

Passed Province/Territory Fixed Election Date 1st Used
2001 British Columbia 2nd Tuesday in May every 4 years 2005
2004 Ontario 1st Thursday in October every 4 years 2007
2004 Newfoundland and Labrador 2nd Tuesday in October every 4 years 2007
2006 Northwest Territories 1st Monday in October every 4 years 2007
2007 Canada 3rd Monday in October every 4 years 2015
2007 New Brunswick 4th Monday in September every 4 years 2010
2007 Prince Edward Island 2nd Monday in May every 4 years 2011
2008 Amendment Prince Edward Island 1st Monday in October every 4 years 2011
2008 Saskatchewan 1st Monday in November every 4 years 2011
2008 Manitoba 1st Tuesday in October every 4 years 2011
2011 Alberta Between March 1 and May 31 every 4 years 2012
2013 Quebec 1st Monday in October every 4 years 2016
2016 Amendment Ontario 1st Thursday in June every 4 years 2018

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