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 opertune 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, namely Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador 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-confience. In this situation, an election would be called immeadiately with the following election being held 4 years thereafter.
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||2012|
|2007||New Brunswick||4th Monday in September every 4 years||2010|
|2007||Prince Edward Island||2nd Monday in May every 4 years||2011|
|2008||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|
The following provinces and territories have yet to implement fixed dates for elections: Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Quebec, and Yukon.
Fixed-date elections in Canada
CBC News Interactive: Fixed Election Dates
Fixed-Date Elections: Improvement or New Problems?
Facts on Fixed Election Dates (.pdf)
Fixing Canada’s Unfixed Election Dates (.pdf)