When Snap Elections Are Good and Just


Introduction

Journalists who cover politics often suffer from crippling boredom in the summer months when Parliament sits not and no longer provides them with a steady stream of headline fodder.

Susan Delacourt and Andrew Coyne in June 2018 started raising the spectre of an early dissolution, and Chantal Hebert in August 2018 started suggesting that Prime Minister Trudeau ignore the fixed-date election provision contained in the Canada Elections Act, which schedules the next federal general election for October 2019, and instead opt for an early election this year.[1] Not to be outdone, Susan Delacourt wrote a second column on the same subject in August 2018.[2]

It is difficult to imagine the parliamentary press gallery having encouraged Prime Minister Harper to opt for an early election, when in 2008, several reporters promoted Duff Conacher’s and Errol Mendes’s assertion that “Harper broke his own law!” when he obtained an early dissolution ten years ago.[3] (Though a few journalists at the time did correctly point out that the fixed-date election law kept the established constitutional positions of the Governor General and Prime Minister intact).[4] But things have changed over the last decade to the point where at least three reporters actively encourage that Trudeau obtain an early dissolution purely out of political expediency.

Nevertheless, Delacourt, Coyne, and Hebert do raise a pertinent question: when is a snap election just and good? I will consider this below.

The Coverage in 2008 versus 2018

Delacourt, Coyne, and Hebert all note that events since October 2015 have radically altered the political landscape, especially the election of Donald Trump as president and all the protectionist havoc that he has wrought by de facto abrogating NAFTA and imposing tariffs on Canadian products. Hebert argued the most emphatically of the three in 2018 that Canadians not only should go to the polls but that events (fortuna in Machiavelli’s terms) have made us “deserve a federal election this fall.”[5] As in 2008, an early election in 2018 would mean that the election happens one year earlier than scheduled. In another bizarre commonality between 2008 and 2018, voters might want to have their say on the issue on a proposed Liberal carbon tax of some sort.

The general federal election of October 2008 occurred one year earlier than the Canada Elections Act had originally scheduled it, for 19 October 2009.[6] Prime Minister Harper advised Governor General Michaelle Jean to dissolve the 39th Parliament on 8 September 2008. In reality, the Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, and Bloc Quebecois all wanted an early election, despite some insistence to the contrary. In early August 2008, Liberal leader Stephane Dion started openly musing about voting down the Harper government upon the 39th Parliament’s scheduled return on 15 September 2008, and Bob Rae (then Shadow Foreign Minister) made similar insinuations.[7] Since Bob Rae had brought down Joe Clark’s single-party minority government in December 1979, that was no idle threat! In August 2008, Chantal Hebert also acknowledged that the Harper government had, in practical terms, lost control of the agenda of the House of Commons at some point in 2007, and therefore lost its confidence, when the Liberals abdicated their duty as Official Opposition to the New Democrats by abstaining on key confidence votes:

“It can be argued that the Harper government actually lost the confidence of Parliament some time ago. Since the 2007 budget, no opposition party has been willing to support the bulk of its pivotal legislation. The only reason the government is still in place is an extraordinary Liberal decision to abstain from key votes. But if a Parliament is about more than the government, then the Liberal failure to act as a full-fledged Official Opposition has made the dynamics of this one dysfunctional.”[8]

To her credit, Chantal Hebert has always recognized that fixed-date election laws do not alter the established constitutional positions of the Governor General and Prime Minister. In August 2008, Hebert noted that the fixed-date election law preserved the Governor General’s authority to dissolve parliament because only a constitutional amendment could abolish it; she further argued that “It is not really up to the Governor General to give a law the quasi-constitutional status that Parliament could not or, for that matter, to hold a prime minister accountable for his broken promises.”[9] Quite so. That remains up to the electorate to decide. Hebert understood the nature of fixed-date election laws from the beginning, which lends credibility to her argument in 2018.

In 2018, Hebert concludes:

“Canada’s decision to legislate fixed election dates was meant to temper a prime minister’s inclination to play with the calendar for partisan advantage. (The law does not actually bind a government to a pre-set fixed date but it does increase the potential political price to pay for bypassing its dispositions.) But what the legislation was not meant to do was to rob Canadians of the opportunity to debate and make timely and fundamental choices as to the way forward for the country.”[10]

She is correct on the first two counts, but the historical record and media coverage from 2008 do not bear out the third claim. In fact, if fixed-date election laws were supposed to stabilize the lifecycle of parliaments, then they would therefore have the effect of “robbing Canadians of the opportunity to debate and make time and fundamental choices.” Contemporary media coverage of the early dissolution of September 2008 focussed heavily on how Prime Minister “broke his promise” and violated the principle or purpose of the fixed-date election law, not on how holding the election one year early gave Canadians the opportunity to judge Harper’s record or vote for or against Dion’s proposed Green Shift.[11] These articles focused on some of Minister Nicholson’s statements from 2007 in particular, when he stated (incorrectly and mendaciously) that fixed-date election laws limited the authority of the Prime Minister to advise early dissolution only if the House of Commons had first withdrawn its confidence from the government in a formal vote. That is what proponents of fixed-date election laws once touted, and this would thus necessarily rule out snap elections for any reason.

Andrew Coyne, however, seems to have changed his views because in 2008 he didn’t really understand how fixed-date election worked. In a coy piece for Maclean’s on 1 September 2008, Coyne wrote a mock conversation between Prime Minister Harper and Governor General Jean; through his dramatis personae, Coyne argued that Governor General should refuse or should have refused Prime Minister Harper’s advice to dissolve the 39th Parliament.[12] Coyne mocks the non-derogation clause of the fixed-date elections law (section 56.1 of the Canada Elections Act), sarcastically attributing to the Harper character the phrase, “But the bill says Parliament can be dissolve at your discretion, meaning at my discretion.” The trouble is, Coyne’s mockery underpinning that line of dialogue is wrong and the phrase is, in fact, true at face value. Under Responsible Government, Ministers of the Crown take responsibility for all acts of the Crown, including dissolution, which means that a statute law cannot simultaneously preserve the Crown’s authority over dissolution as well as somehow limit the Prime Minister’s authority to advise and obtain dissolution. Errol Mendes might have been the first to posit this specious claim that Parliament can drive a wedge between the Crown and First Minister of the Crown a few days earlier, and Coyne took up this false standard.[13]

That said, some of Coyne’s dialogue does allude to something true – but he stops short of fulling exploring the logical extension of his own argument. His character of Governor General Jean says:

“I have certain constitutional responsibilities to uphold. Ordinarily, my duty is to follow whatever instructions my prime minister gives me. […] But there are exceptions: for example, where the issue is who is to be the prime minister – where it’s unclear who has the confidence of the House. In those situations, the governor general remains the constitutional ‘fire extinguisher’, to prevent abuse of our democratic traditions. […] If I give you a dissolution now, it makes a mockery not only of Parliament, but of your own legislation. If you’re not interested in governing, perhaps I should ask Mr. Dion to give it a try, and spare the country the expense and uncertainty of another pointless election – the fifth in 11 years.”[14]

Most of that is generally correct. Coyne, for instance, alludes to what even constitutional scholars like Russell, Mendes, Franks, and Behiels failed to grasp in 2008-2009[15]: if the Governor General refuses to implement a Prime Minister’s constitutional advice to dissolve parliament, then this refusal necessitates the resignation or dismissal of the incumbent Prime Minister and the appointment of a new Prime Minister who will take responsibility for the Governor General’s exercise of discretionary authority and the dismissal of his predecessor.[16] In other words, if Governor General Jean had refused to sign Prime Minister Harper’s instrument of advice to dissolve the 39th Parliament in September 2008, then she would have thereby dismissed him from office and would have needed to appoint Stephane Dion, then the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, in Harper’s instead as Prime Minister.

Despite the five clear precedents where First Minister has “broken the spirit of the law” by advising early dissolution without first having lost votes of confidence – Prime Minsiter Harper in 2008, Premier Marois of Quebec in 2013, Premier Wynne of Ontario in 2014, Premier Prentice of Alberta in 2015, and Premier MacLauchlan of Prince Edward Island in 2015 – Coyne still insists in 2018 that early dissolution “is not going to happen” and that “governments are obliged to respect the spirit of the law, not just the letter.”[17] Plainly, that is false; fixed-date election laws do not mandate a minimum lifespan of a parliament; they only lower a parliament’s maximum lifespan.

I couldn’t find anything in the ProQuest database for Susan Delacourt in the summer of 2008, so I can’t compare her columns to whatever she might have written ten years ago. Where the media generally portrayed Harper’s early dissolution of 2008 as inherently self-interested, even though the Bloc Quebecois had stated explicitly and the Liberals and New Democrats had hinted implicitly that they would have withdrawn confidence from the Harper government in mid-September 2008 anyway.[18] Delacourt and Hebert in particular see the prospect of a snap election in 2018 as not merely political expedient for the incumbent Trudeau government and Liberal Party, but to the benefit of the Canadian people as a whole. Where Harper was opportunistic, Trudeau would be altruistic – obviously.

What Snap Elections Are And When They Have Occurred in Canada

Based on the political usage of this term, a “snap election” occurs when a First Minister advises dissolution prior to the customary quadrennial interval and while his government still commands the confidence of the assembly. This definition therefore excludes the early dissolutions of 1926, 1963, 1974, 1979, 2005, and 2011, which came about because the House of Commons withdrew its confidence from the government. The Federal Court also endorsed this definition.[19] However, a “snap election” could conceivably include another category, where a First Minister appointed mid-parliament wants to “seek a mandate” from the electorate and advises the dissolution of the parliament before the customary quadrennial interval. The first category would include the federal elections of 1911, 1958, 1965, 1974, 1997, 2000, and 2008, and the second category would include the federal elections of 1874, 1968, and 2004. But even these cases present considerable variation and ultimately illustrate that flexible dissolutions have served Canada well. Aside from snap elections, a First Minister leading a single-party minority government could also deliberately engineer the defeat of his own government by tabling legislation that the Opposition could not possibly support. The Assembly would then withdraw its confidence from the Government, thus precluding the executive initiative necessary for a true “snap election”, but some observers would still regard such a course as “breaking the spirit” of the fixed-date elections law. The federal general elections of 1974 and 2011 could fall under this category.

In November 1873, Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie had formed a Liberal ministry mid-parliament after Sir John A. Macdonald resigned the premiership amidst the Pacific Scandal. Prime Minister Mackenzie advised an early dissolution of this parliament in January 1874 (after it was elected in 1872), and the Liberals secured a fresh parliamentary majority and a mandate to vanquish the corruption of the Macdonald Ministry. In 1911, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier advised an early dissolution in order to obtain a new mandate from the electorate on Reciprocity with the United States. Sir Robert Borden’s Conservatives trounced the Liberals and secured a parliamentary majority.

In 1957, Prime Minister Diefenbaker came to office and led a single-party minority government. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent had chosen to resign after the election rather than meeting the new Parliament and testing its confidence, and perhaps forming an alliance or formal coalition with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (the predecessor of the New Democratic Party) in order to overcome the Progressive Conservative plurality. An incumbent Prime Minister and Government may exercise this constitutionally legitimate option of testing the confidence of the Commons, rather than announcing their intention to resign, when they face a minority parliament because of the general principle that the Queen must never be left without a government.[20] At the federal level thus far, only Prime Minister King exercised this right when his party did not win the plurality of seats, in 1925.[21] Premier Christie Clark of British Columbia pursued this option in 2017, as did Premier Frank Millar of Ontario in 1985. In both cases, these incumbent governments, reduced to mere single-party pluralities, lost their first votes of confidence on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne; both Premiers also brazenly advised early dissolution, which the Lieutenant Governors refused, and both were forced to resign. These abrupt falls from grace perhaps explains why most Canadian First Minister do not bother banking on this risky strategy.

In 1958, Diefenbaker advised an early dissolution after Liberal leader Lester Pearson had suggested that Diefenbaker should resign as Prime Minister and “let the Liberals resume their rightful place” as the natural governing party.[22] This case also demonstrates the pattern where the Opposition wants an election and the Government might not want one. Diefenbaker’s Conservatives won a massive parliamentary majority. In the general election of 1962, Diefenbaker’s Conservatives lost their majority but retained a plurality. In the general election of 1963, the Liberals won the plurality of seats; while Diefenbaker mused about staying on and meeting the new Commons, he ultimately resigned just as St. Laurent did in 1957.[23]

In 1965, Lester Pearson sought to increase his Liberal plurality and minority government to a parliamentary majority. However, the election of 1965 produced a similar result to the election of 1963, and Pearson’s Liberals merely maintained their parliamentary plurality. Pearson stepped down from the Liberal leadership and resigned the Premiership in 1968. The Governor General then appointed Pierre Trudeau as Prime Minister on 20 April 1968, and he advised dissolution on 23 April 1968 in order to seek a new mandate for his “Just Society.”

In 1997, Prime Minister Jean Chretien advised an early dissolution, ostensibly in order to seek a new mandate on what the government should do after having eliminated the deficit and how it should deal with the upcoming surplus. The Liberals retained their parliamentary majority, though by a slim margin. Curiously, Prime Minister Chretien may have inadvertently taken a plank from the Reform Party’s platform of 1993, which stated that the Government of Canada should “balance the budget in each three-year period or to be obliged to call an election on the issue.”[24] On 22 October 2000, Prime Minister Chretien advised another early dissolution after weeks of speculation; Hansard clearly shows that as early as 25 September 2000, MPs of all parties either welcomed or accepted the “coming election.”[25] Stockwell Day, the Leader of the Opposition and Canadian Alliance, even dared Prime Minister Chretien to advise an early dissolution and lent new credibility to the cliché that one should be careful what one wishes for.[26]

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Will the Prime Minister, who disagrees with his finance minister on the high marginal rates of taxes and who now disagrees with his MPs, do one of two things? Will he either resign because he has no support over there or call an election based on his record of being the highest taxing leader in the G-7 countries?

Right Hon. Jean Chretien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago he was for an early election. Over the weekend he was not for an early election. Now he is for an early election again. This gentleman flip-flops so much that we are having fun on this side.

On 19 October 2000, Prime Minister Chretien confirmed before the Commons that he would advise an early dissolution, declaring: “We are going into an election,” ostensibly in order to obtain another mandate on how to spend the new surplus, whether on tax cuts, paying down the debt, or spending more on social programs.[27] Chretien implies this motivation in the same statement where he declared that he would seek an early dissolution:

Right Hon. Jean Chretien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when we returned in September the first question raised in the House was about having a mini-budget. They wanted the Minister of Finance to say what he would do with the great results he was having in terms of surpluses and so on. We obliged. We told the Canadian people that because of the good management we have provided to the country over the last seven years there was some money available. We were delighted to return some of it in the form of tax reductions and at the same time investments in education, research, Medicare, and so on. I am sure the people of Canada will recognize that they have been extremely well served in the last seven years.

Chretien was right, and the Liberals increased their parliamentary majority in the 2000 election. Within the life of the 37th Parliament, Chretien announced his intention to resign, and the Liberal Party elected Paul Martin as its new leader. The Governor General invited Paul Martin to form a government on 12 December 2003, and he advised dissolution on 23 May 2004. The Liberals lost their parliamentary majority, but retained a plurality; Martin continued to lead a single-party minority government for the life of the 38th Parliament (2004-2005).

In 2008, Prime Minister Harper advised an early dissolution of the 39th Parliament because he judged, after meeting with two of the three other party leaders, that his single-party minority government would soon lose control of the parliamentary agenda and thus the confidence of the Commons. This is most similar to Diefenbaker’s early dissolution in 1958 and Pearson’s in 1963. Harper also sought an elusive parliamentary majority after the 39th Parliament had survived as the longest continuous minority parliament up to that point in Canadian history. Instead, the Conservatives retained their parliamentary plurality, though they did increase their number and share of seats in the 40th Parliament.

Adam Dodek, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Ottawa, points out that dissolution is unique among the Crown’s authorities because the electorate can hold the Prime Minister to account, “directly and immediately,” for this particular exercise of judgement, unlike, say, for appointments, deployment of troops, negotiation of treaties, or cabinet shuffles.[28] This applies especially perhaps to early dissolution.

Of these nine “snap elections” since Confederation, five undoubtedly favoured the Government, which either retained or increased its majority (1874, 1958, 1968, 1997, and 2000). In two, minority governments succeeded only in retaining their parliamentary plurality (1965 and 2008) when Pearson and Harper sought parliamentary majorities. In 1911, Laurier’s Liberals suffered a crushing defeat. The election of 2004 reduced Martin’s Liberals from a parliamentary majority to a plurality. Five of these “snap elections” (those of 1874, 1911, 1997, 2000, and 2004) involved the early dissolution of majority parliaments that supported single-party majority governments; therefore, no possible alternative governments existed within those parliaments, and under those conditions the Governor General had no choice but to dissolve in accordance with Prime Ministerial advice. In the minority parliaments of 1958, 1963, 1965, the Opposition parties demonstrated by their own statements that they preferred an early election instead of attempting to form government themselves within the existing parliament.

When Snap Elections Are Good

Alpheus Todd outlined four situations where the Prime Minister could, and even should, advise a dissolution of parliament and “an appeal to the constituent body” – the Canadian people.[29] First, an early dissolution could take place in order to validate the Sovereign’s dismissal of one Ministry and appointment of another, as George III did in 1783 and 1807, and as William IV did in 1834.[30] A modified version of this category applies in Canada, where Governors have rarely actively dismissed Ministries since the grant of Responsible Government, with the exceptions in New Brunswick in 1855 and 1866, where the Governor insisted upon early dissolutions against the advice of his ministers, thus forcing them to resign[31] and Quebec in 1878 and 1891, where the Lieutenant-Governor outright dismissed his ministers.[32] Instead, Governors usually dismiss, or force the resignations of, First Ministers by refusing to implement their constitutional advice. Such instances occurred in 1896, when the Earl of Aberdeen refused to promulgate Sir Charles Tupper’s advice to summon several Senators and appoint several judges during the caretaker period and in 1926 when Lord Byng refused to dissolve Parliament upon Prime Minister King’s advice.[33] In 1900, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier threatened to resign if Lord Minto refused to accept his government’s constitutional advice to dismiss General Hutton as the General Officer Commanding Her Majesty’s troops in British North America; Minto ultimately acquiesced.[34] Second, an early dissolution could break the deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament. Third, the First Minister could seek an early dissolution due to “some question of public policy upon which ministers of the Crown and the House of Commons are at issue” or to obtain a mandate from the electorate, and thus validate the Governor’s confidence in him as his First Minister of the Crown and principle constitutional advisor. [35] Fourth, an early dissolution should occur if “the House of Commons does not correctly represent the opinions and wishes of the nation.”[36]

Canadian constitutional historian D. Michael Jackson has argued that the Prime Minister can advise dissolution – or at least threaten it – in order to deal with a split in the Cabinet,[37] as Premier Romanow of Saskatchewan considered, but did not undertake, in 1994.[38] British constitutional historian Vernon Bogdanor has also argued that “there are a number of respectable reasons for an early dissolution”[39] and lists four such scenarios: first, when a Prime Minister appointed mid-parliament “seeks a personal mandate” from the electorate; second, when a Prime Minister, irrespective of when he was appointed, “seek[s] a mandate for a new policy”; third, when the current parliament has become deadlocked and cannot support any viable government; and fourth, when the Prime Minister wants the electorate “to validate a change of coalition partners.”[40]

Todd’s fourth category would imply that both the Government and any potential alternative government within the existing assembly would be at variance with the opinions and wishes of the electorate. The Canadian federal elections of 1911 and 1988 certainly fall under Todd’s third category, and the election of 1988 probably also falls under Todd’s second category, because the Liberals used their majority in the Senate to block the Conservative Mulroney government’s free-trade implementation bill. Todd adds that the Prime Minister should only advise an early dissolution if “he has a reasonable prospect” of winning a parliamentary majority in the general election.[41] In 1997 and 2000, Prime Minister Chretien believed that his appeal to the constituent body of the body politic of the Realm would sustain his government – and he was correct on both occasions. Shortly after advising and receiving early dissolution on 22 October 2000, Chretien emerged from Rideau Hall and said to the press: “It’s very important for Canadians, in my judgement, that we [the Liberals] win. You know, I’m not going to go to the people and say to them, I’d like somebody else to win. So of course, I’m calling an election to win.”[42] And he did indeed lead the Liberals to an increased parliamentary majority.

Chretien also sought new mandates in both 1997 and 2000 on the question of Canada’s public finances and how the Government should deal with budgetary deficits and surpluses, which would fall under Todd’s third category. There are various legitimate reasons to allow for early dissolution. Bogdanor’s fourth category could have applied in Canada in 2008 to the 40th Parliament. Bogdanor argues that it would be not be in accord with “democratic principles” if the parties “form a coalition after an election which the voters had no chance to endorse” or if the government “swaps coalition partners in the middle of a parliament without securing popular endorsement for this change.”[43] Bogdanor concludes that in a multi-party system, dissolution can act as “an essential weapon for voters,” who could wield it “to prevent inter-party manoeuvring and coalition deals organised behind closed doors after the votes have been counted.”[44]

Conclusion

Last year, British Prime Minister Theresa May sought early dissolution under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act in 2017, which requires a two-thirds super-majority of MPs in the House of Commons to support a motion “That there by an early parliamentary general election.” Rather than protesting May on the grounds that she sought to usurp the democratic process and shut down debate in parliament, most of the opposition, and Labour in particular, gladly lent its support to the motion, which easily attained the necessary super-majority. When British journalist Andrew Marr asked Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn why he did not prevent the early election, even though he could have by not directing Labour MPs to vote in favour of the motion that required a two-thirds super-majority, Corbyn replied succinctly – and almost incredulously – “Because opposition parties want to be in government.”

If such a procedure existed in Canada, the Conservatives (and probably the New Democrats) would vote for it, too. If Prime Minister Trudeau II did opt for early dissolution this fall, then Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, would not object. Nor would New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh. While neither of them has goaded Trudeau into early dissolution, as Stockwell Day so foolishly did to Jean Chretien in 2000, they would both welcome early dissolution. And the Conservatives in particular would see a snap election as an opportunity to form government again.

However, calling a snap election this fall seems like an unnecessary risk for a majority government. It would also be pointless. While the Prime Minister could of course obtain an early dissolution and general election this year, I’m not convinced that such an election falls under any of Todd’s criteria. While “events” have bombarded the Trudeau II government three years, there is no reason to think that the next twelve months would be any different, and it is difficult to discern the advantages of an election in October 2018 as opposed to October 2019.

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Notes

[1] Susan Delacourt, “Anyone in the Mood for a Summer Election?” iPolitics, 12 June 2018; Andrew Coyne, “A Snap Election? Unlikely, But with the Obstacles Ahead, Liberals May Be Tempted,” National Post, 22 June 2018; Chantal Hebert, “Why Canadians Deserve a Federal Election This Fall,” The Toronto Star, 13 August 2018.

[2] Susan Delacourt, “Conditions Are Almost Perfect for a Snap Election,” iPolitics, 15 August 2018.

[3] Errol Mendes, “Harper’s Snap Election Call Would Violate ‘Principle’ He Fought For; It Will Take Some Twisted Rhetoric to Justify Breaking With Fixed Election Date,” Edmonton Journal, 29 August 2008, A16; Michael Behiels, “Prime Minister Dancing With The Law,” Prince Albert Daily Herald, editorial, 6 September 2008, A4; Trish Audette, “Dion Launches Liberal Election Campaign in Alberta; ‘Some Constitutional Experts Are Saying This Election Will Be Illegal,’ Leader Says,” The Ottawa Citizen, 6 September 2008, A7; Richard Brennan, “PM Changes Tune on Need for Fixed Date,” Toronto Star, 4 September 2008, A16; Clark Campbell, Bill Currey, and Murray Campbell, “Be Ready For Fall Election, Harper Warns,” The Globe and Mail, 20 August 2008, A1; Denis Smith, “Is The Fix in on Fixed Election Law?” The Globe and Mail, 21 August 2008, A17; Andrew Dreschel, “PM’s Poll Talk Sounds Like Hypocrisy; Fall Vote Would Contradict Tories’ Fixed Election Date Law,” The Hamilton Spectator, 27 August 2008, A17; Prince Albert Daily Herald, editorial, Dancing Through the Fixed-Election Loophole, 13 September 2008, 4; Peter Rosenthal, “The Case that Tuesday’s Vote Is Illegal; The Group Challenging the PM’s Election Call Says It’s More Than a Flip-Flop From His Own Law Fixing Election Dates. It’s A Transgression The Courts Must Reckon With,” The Toronto Star, 11 October 2008; Jeffrey Simpson, “The Advantage – and Risk – Is Harper’s,” The Globe and Mail, 8 September 2008, A1; Paul Wells, “We Oppose Late-Term Abortions, Er, Rather, Elections,” Maclean’s, volume 121, issue 35-36 (8 September 2008), 15.

[4] L. Ian MacDonald, “Harper Has An Out; A Clause in the Fixed-Date Election Law Allows the Prime Minister to Call An Election Whenever He Chooses,” Montreal Gazette, 18 August 2008, A17; Denis Smith, “Is The Fix in on Fixed Election Law?” The Globe and Mail, 21 August 2008, A17.

[5] Chantal Hebert, “Why Canadians Deserve a Federal Election This Fall,” The Toronto Star, 13 August 2018.

[6] Juliet O’Neill, “PM Not Bound By Election Date Law; Harper May Push for New Mandate,” The Windsor Star, 21 August 2008, A10.

[7] Les Whittington, “Bring On Fall Elections, Liberals Say; Party Increasingly Confident It’s in Good Position As Tories Deal With Scandals, Stagnant Popularity,” The Toronto Star, 2 August 2008, A17; Juliet O’Neill, “Harper, Dion Skirmish over Fall Election; PM Plans to Meet With All Three Opposition Party Leaders to Find Out Whether a ‘Productive’ Session Is Possible,” The Vancouver Sun, 20 August 2008, A4; Allan Woods, “PM to Meet with Duceppe, Layton As Vote Call Looms; Launch of Election Campaign Expected As Early As Next Week, Pre-empting Three By-Elections,” The Toronto Star, 29 August 2008, A19.

[8] Chantal Hebert, “PM Will Get His Wish,” Telegraph-Journal, 28 August 2008, A7.

[9] Chantal Hebert, “PM Will Get His Wish,” Telegraph-Journal, 28 August 2008, A7.

[10] Chantal Hebert, “Why Canadians Deserve a Federal Election This Fall,” The Toronto Star, 13 August 2018.

[11] Denis Smith, “Is The Fix in on Fixed Election Law?” The Globe and Mail, 21 August 2008, A17; Peter Rosenthal, “The Case that Tuesday’s Vote Is Illegal; The Group Challenging the PM’s Election Call Says It’s More Than a Flip-Flop From His Own Law Fixing Election Dates. It’s A Transgression The Courts Must Reckon With,” The Toronto Star, 11 October 2008; Don Martin, “Fall Election Looms,” The Brandon Sun, 16 August 2008; Andrew Dreschel, “PM’s Poll Talk Sounds Like Hypocrisy; Fall Vote Would Contradict Tories’ Fixed Election Date Law,” The Hamilton Spectator, 27 August 2008, A17.

[12] Andrew Coyne, “When the House Is Rockin’, Don’t Come A-Knockin’,” Maclean’s, volume 121, issue 34 (1 September 2008), 12.

[13] Errol Mendes, “Harper’s Snap Election Call Would Violate ‘Principle’ He Fought For; It Will Take Some Twisted Rhetoric to Justify Breaking With Fixed Election Date,” Edmonton Journal, 29 August 2008, A16.

[14] Andrew Coyne, “When the House Is Rockin’, Don’t Come A-Knockin’,” Maclean’s, volume 121, issue 34 (1 September 2008), 12.

[15] Errol Mendes, “Harper’s Snap Election Call Would Violate ‘Principle’ He Fought For; It Will Take Some Twisted Rhetoric to Justify Breaking With Fixed Election Date,” Edmonton Journal, 29 August 2008, A16; Michael Behiels, “Prime Minister Dancing With The Law,” Prince Albert Daily Herald, 6 September 2008, A4.

[16] Sir John George Bourinot, Parliamentary Procedure and Practice. 1st ed. (Montreal: Dawson Brothers Publishing, 1884): 58; Alpheus Todd, Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies, 2nd Edition (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1894), 760-761; R. Macgregor Dawson, The Government of Canada. 5th ed. (1970), revised by Norman Ward (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1947): 175.

[17] Andrew Coyne, “A Snap Election? Unlikely, But with the Obstacles Ahead, Liberals May Be Tempted,” National Post, 22 June 2018.

[18] Clark Campbell, Bill Currey, and Murray Campbell, “Be Ready For Fall Election, Harper Warns,” The Globe and Mail, 20 August 2008, A1; Allan Woods, “PM to Meet with Duceppe, Layton As Vote Call Looms; Launch of Election Campaign Expected As Early As Next Week, Pre-empting Three By-Elections,” The Toronto Star, 29 August 2008, A19.

[19] Conacher v. Canada (Prime Minister), 2009 FC 920, at para 62.

[20] David E. Smith, The Invisible Crown: The First Principle of Canadian Government (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1995), 130.

[21] James W.J. Bowden and Nicholas A. MacDonald, “Writing the Unwritten: The Officialization of Conventions in Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.” Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law 6 no. 2 (August 2012): 375.

[22] Russell 2008, 28.

[23] D. Michael Jackson, The Crown and Canadian Federalism (Toronto: Dundurn, 2013), 64.

[24] Preston Manning, 56 Reasons Why You Should Support the Reform Party of Canada (Calgary: Reform Party of Canada, 1992).

[25] Canada, Parliament of Canada, House of Commons. Debates. 36th Parliament, Second Session, Number 121, Monday, 25 September 2000. (Ottawa: Parliament of Canada, 2000).

[26] Ibid.

[27] Canada, Parliament of Canada, House of Commons. Debates. 36th Parliament, Second Session, Number 132, Thursday, 19 October 2000. (Ottawa: Parliament of Canada, 2000).

[28] Dodek 2010, 222.

[29] Alpheus Todd, On Parliamentary Government in England: Its Origin, Development, and Practical Operation, 2nd ed., vol 2, edited by Arthur Hamlyn Todd (London: Longman’s, Green, and Co., 1889), 503.

[30] Ibid., 504.

[31] Alpheus Todd, On Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies, 2nd Edition, edited by Arthur Hamlyn Todd (London: Longman’s, Green, and Co., 1894), 659-661.

[32] Ibid., 665-666, 677-678.

[33] Canada, Parliament of Canada, “Memorandum from Sir Charles Tupper to His Excellency the Governor General, under date 6th July 1896,” Sessional Papers, no.7 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1896), 7; E. George Smith, “King Resigns When His Excellency Refuses Dissolution,” The Globe, 29 June 1926.

[34] Carman Miller, The Canadian Career of the Fourth Earl of Minto: The Education of a Viceroy (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1980), 110-114.

[35] Todd 1889, 505.

[36] Ibid., 505-506.

[37] Forsey and Eglington 1985, 226.

[38] D. Michael Jackson, The Crown and Canadian Federalism (Toronto: Dundurn, 2013), 162.

[39] Vernon Bogdanor, The Coalition and the Constitution (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2011), 115.

[40] Bogdanor 2011, 115-117.

[41] Todd 1889, 508.

[42] Shawn McCarthy and Paul Adams, “PM Says Choice is Between Two Distinct Visions of Canada; Argues Alliance Had Already Begun Election Advertising,” The Globe and Mail, 23 October 2000, A1.

[43] Bogdanor 2011, 121.

[44] Ibid.

 

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3 Responses to When Snap Elections Are Good and Just

  1. Pingback: Roundup: Scheer’s milquetoast response | Routine Proceedings

  2. Chris Miller says:

    You seem to have left out the verb in this sentence just before your Andrew Coyne paragraph:
    “…this would thus necessarily therefore snap elections for any reason.”
    Did you mean “preclude” or something similar?

    Like

  3. Craig Burley says:

    I thought this was great!

    Like

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