Do Journalists Who Cover Ontario Politics Know When the Next General Election Is Scheduled?  


I have yet to encounter a political journalist in Ontario who will state initially and independently, without further prompting, that the next general provincial election is in fact still scheduled for October 2018 and not for June 2018 that they all keep reporting, until such time that the legislature amends the Elections Act. Steve Paikin of TVO and Robert Benzie & Rob Ferguson of the Toronto Star, and Keith Leslie & Alison Jones of the Canadian Press all insist on giving inaccurate information.

When pressed, they sometimes acknowledge that the current legislation still in fact schedules the next general election for October 2018. For instance, I mentioned to Steve Paikin on Twitter that the Elections Act does not scheduled fixed-date elections precisely every four years, but instead schedules elections in the October of the fourth calendar year after the previous election — which means that this 41st Legislature is scheduled to live longer than four years because the 41st general provincial election took place in June 2014.

First Thursday in October

(2)  Subject to the powers of the Lieutenant Governor referred to in subsection (1),
            (a) a general election shall be held on Thursday, October 4, 2007, unless a general election has been held, after the day on which the Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 receives Royal Assent and before October 4, 2007, because of a dissolution of the Legislature; and
            (b) thereafter, general elections shall be held on the first Thursday in October in the fourth calendar year following polling day in the most recent general election.  2005, c. 35, s. 1 (3).

Paikin and others should not act as if their insider knowledge of the Chief Electoral Officer’s report and the Wynne government’s press release from June 2016 substitutes for providing a simple explanation like this: “While the next general provincial election is currently scheduled for October 2018, the Wynne government has stated its intention to implement the Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendation to move the date from the fall to the spring (probably early June) and will soon table legislation to that effect.” That’s all that they’d have to say in order to bring their reporting in line with all the facts.

It’s also true that Attorney-General Naqvi mentioned on September 22nd that the government intends to table legislation in this new session that would move the scheduled election from the fall to the spring. But until the legislature amends section 9(2)(b) of the Elections Act and replaces “first Thursday in October” with something like “second Thursday in June,” the next general provincial election remains scheduled for October 2018. I say “scheduled” because the Premier can, of course, advise the Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the 41st Legislature at any time for any reason prior to the scheduled date. In other words, only the legislature can amend the Elections Act and determine when the next general election is scheduled, but because section 9(1) of the Act, the Premier retains the authority to advise and receive an early dissolution outside of the scheduled date.

The facts are both more complex and more interesting than the inaccurate account that Ontario’s political journalists have been letting on thus far. But if journalists won’t report on the facts, then who will?

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About J.W.J. Bowden

My area of academic expertise lies in Canadian political institutions, especially the Crown, political executive, and conventions of Responsible Government; since 2011, I have made a valuable contribution to the scholarship by having been published and cited extensively. I’m also a contributing editor to the Dorchester Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.
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