Ontario’s Next General Election Has Only Just Been Scheduled for June 2018


On this subject, I raised the ire of various journalists who accused me of that cardinal sin of pedantry. If I’m pedantic, then they’re obtuse. To declare that a law has been amended even before the government has tabled the bill is sloppy, imprecise, and fundamentally unserious reporting. By this logic, the Star and the Post must report that cannabis has already been legalized merely because the Trudeau government has stated its intention of tabling legislation to that effect in 2017. In any event, this shall be my last update on this subject of the media’s bizarre coverage of this issue, because the bill changing the scheduled date for the next provincial general election has now become law.

As of 8 December 2016, parts of the Election Statute Law Amendment Act have entered into force, including section 7, which states that Ontario’s “general elections shall be held on the first Thursday in June in the fourth calendar year following polling day in the most recent general election.” This amendment means that the current 41st Parliament is now scheduled to live for closer to four years instead of four and one-half years, as it would have been scheduled to endure under the old law just replaced. Prior to 8 December 2016, no one could have accurately reported that the next general election was scheduled for June 2018 instead of October 2018, but various journalists and media outlets did not let accuracy and facts stop them from reporting otherwise.

But as the experience of the last eight years has demonstrated, fixed-date election laws merely limit the maximum life of a parliament and do not prescribe a minimum lifespan. As such, the Premier could advise the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the 41st Parliament early, well in advance of the scheduled dissolution on 7 June 2018. The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario’s website confirms this interpretation, which is based on fact, experience, and the principles of Responsible Government (though Her Honour needs to update her website now that the legislature has amended the scheduled date!):

“The Lieutenant Governor may therefore dissolve the Legislature on the advice the Premier in circumstances outside of the fixed-date election timeline, such as if:

  • The Government loses a vote of confidence in the Legislative Assembly
  • The Premier is of the opinion that circumstances warrant the calling of a general election.”

Given that First Ministers have been known to wield dissolution as a weapon against restless or disloyal cabinets, we should never forget that this option exists.

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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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4 Responses to Ontario’s Next General Election Has Only Just Been Scheduled for June 2018

  1. It may be unlikely that Kathleen Wynne will use Constitutional Advice to advise Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell to dissolve the 41st Parliament of Ontario before the date set forth in the Act. The Act does, of course, recognize the continued Constitutional prerogative that the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council retains to dissolve the Legislative Assembly and drop the writ prior to that time.

    I have noted a lot of criticism of the Wynne’s Executive Council. I personally have found it difficult to comprehend how her previous Ministry could have screwed up so badly on what has come to be known to Ontarians as the “Gas Plant Scandal”–which has added so many unnecessary hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost to Ontario in terms of contractual penalties based on the contemplated aleatory event, with no return to Her Majesty’s provincial Treasury.

    I think that the only reason Premier Wynne was able to return to office was that Mr. Hudak and the provincial Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, as well as Ms. Horvath and the New Democrats, omitted to recognize Ontario’s north-south dynamic. During the 42nd Ontario General Election, all three leaders failed Ontarians. This was because all three turned their noses up at attending a northern debate in Thunder Bay. I believe that they eschewed the debate because the small number of seats comprised in the northern part of the Province–only six MPPs are sent to Queen’s Park from the north–didn’t matter to any of the party leaders.

    Wynne returned to the Premier’s office thereby by default. This, due to the ineffectiveness of both Hudak and Horvath. However, Wynne is ending 2016 “on the ropes”: She had admitted on the Floor of the Legislative Assembly that she had “made a mistake” and recognized that Ontarians are suffering financially due to the oppressive costs assessed them by Ontario’s electricity providers.

    I predict this dynamic will lead to the downfall of the Wynne Executive Council at Queen’s Park. Patrick Brown’s tenure, curiously, to this point, as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has also not been without its share of criticism such as that over his flip-flop on the Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ stance on the nature of the sex-education curriculum in the Province’s secondary schools. Both Mr. Brown and Ms. Horvath need to embrace the electricity-ratepayer-cost issue and come to terms publicly and politically with the awful truth that Ontarians may be subsidizing the export of unduly-inexpensive hydroelectricity from the Province, and that that fiscal benefit may be outweighed by the individual financial suffering of Ontarians, in this regard.

    So we, in the Province of Ontario, live in interesting times. It is good that the Legislative Assembly has enacted via debate and Royal Assent from the Lieutenant Governor the Election Statute Law Amendment Act (Alberta’s Legislature has enacted similar legislation). These statutory schemes are good because without supplanting the constitutionalist prerogative of the Premier and the Province’s Executive Council to provide Constitutional Advice to the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the Legislative Assembly and drop the writ of Election at any time deemed appropriate by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, the statutes nonetheless remind Ontarians that it is the entire Legislative Assembly that also can speak to the timing of the next provincial general election.

    I think Mr. Brown and Ms. Horvath should agree in expressing explicitly the hope that Premier Wynne will see that this latest scandal over the financial suffering inflicted upon ratepayers across the Province is increasingly demonstrating the realty that there needs to be rate relief as to electricity costs to the people of this Province. And, that if Premier Wynne and the Executive Council of Ontario are unwilling or are unable to act to provide relief to the People of our Province, that perhaps sooner rather than later would be an appropriate time for the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to be advised to affirmatively act to the benefit of the People of this Province, in this regard, without any further delay. And, proceed to the 42nd Ontario Provincial General Election–and this time, do not omit to exclude the people of Ontario’s North from the political participation they deserved to receive during the campaign that led to the current Parliament at Queen’s Park, essentially controlled, and seemingly on political autopilot, if you will, by default, in its control by the Liberal Party of Ontario.


    • Mr. Terry Mester says:

      The political situation in Ontario has been depressing for the past twenty-five years. It’s so depressing that it’s enough to make you want to stay in bed. I supported the Liberals in the 2014 Election because Hudak had EVIL plans regarding driving up Property Taxes to pay for cuts in Taxes for Corporations — as they did under Harris. Property Taxes are the most evil form of tax. The Harris Government was also responsible for destroying the old Ontario Hydro, and privatizing half of it which drove up electricity prices. Wynne’s decision to finish this privatization is nothing short of CRIMINAL, but I’m not convinced that that lying charlatan Patrick Brown does not surreptitiously support privatization. The only solution to our electricity crisis — which I knew would ensue way back when Harris privatized half of Ontario Hydro — is for the Crown’s power of ‘expropriation’ to be utilized to re-constitute Ontario Hydro. It was the largest public utility in North America which provided us reliable cheap electricity. We are not a republic with America’s ’eminent domain’ protection, and so expropriation is a viable option. One thing we can learn from the Americans is the practice of sending corrupt politicians to JAIL!


      • I disagree. Patrick Brown had a reputation in the House of Commons of Canada as an orator. Anyone who could beat out Christine Elliott for the provincial Tory leadership has to be a pretty decent politician.

        Also, as a lawyer familiar with the English Common Law, I can tell you that Eminent Domain law as it is traditionally cognized and recognized is part of Canadian law too, that is to the extent that public takings from private use, including regulatory takings, must be compensated. It’s simply that it is a common-law principle in Canadian law, and not a textual part of the Bill of Rights, as in the United States Constitution’s Amendment V and its counterparts in U.S. State Constitutions.

        To be clear: an action at law lies in Eminent Domain law under Canadian jurisdiction where public takings from private use occur. The common law is that government must pay just compensation to a private holder of a property interest in personalty or realty where it does this.

        It is, however, the prerogative of the courts to determine what, in any particular instance, constitutes just compensation.

        But it’s true as to all eleven Canadian Crowns.


        • Mr. Terry Mester says:

          Thank you for additional details regarding English Common Law. I didn’t mean to suggest that I advocate expropriation without just compensation. I’m a fierce advocate of property rights, and even sued my City Government over the issue a decade ago. I do believe that the Section 8 Charter Right would demand compensation for expropriation. However, what I meant was that we don’t have formal constitutional guarantees for compensation in Canada. This means that Ontario Power Generation & Hydro One could be expropriated without paying full stock market value.

          As regards Patrick Brown; he lied through his teeth to get the PC Leadership. He lied to family values / social conservatives by falsely telling them that he was one of them in order to get their votes, and then he turned around to stab them in the back. Brown is a conservative libertarian — not a formal conservative. I would never vote for such a common liar.


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