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Provinces shuffling election dates as Ottawa won’t move on 2015 vote

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, shown Aug. 4, 2014, has so far stuck by the legislated date of Oct. 19, 2015, for the next federal election.

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Three provinces and one territory are preparing to delay upcoming elections to avoid overlapping with a looming federal campaign.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, whose provinces are among those eyeing a date change, have each asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to instead move the federal election. Mr. Harper, however, has so far stuck by the legislated date of Oct. 19, 2015.

"We have fixed election dates and we are not planning for an earlier election. Our government will remain focused on growing the economy and creating quality jobs," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement in May. This week, a PMO spokesman said the position has not changed.

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It leaves Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories preparing contingency plans. All have elections scheduled for the fall of 2015, near the federal election. The provinces have passed laws to push their elections to the following spring if necessary.

The NWT, which has fewer powers as a territory, has instead asked the federal government for permission to move its own date, with the NWT resolution suggesting delaying it by a full year to October, 2016. If permission is granted, however, the NWT assembly will still need to approve a change.

Mr. Harper wrote NWT Premier Bob McLeod on May 16 of this year, agreeing to "propose to Parliament legislation that will permit a postponement of the upcoming territorial election … should a federal election overlap with the territorial election next year," according to a copy of the letter posted on the territorial website. Mr. Harper offered no timeline.

The federal government and several provinces have brought in fixed-election-date laws that add more predictability to the election cycle, and make it harder – though not impossible – for a governing party to time a campaign to its advantage. Parties tend to shy away from overlapping elections out of fears that voter fatigue could further dampen turnout, and of over-stretching both volunteers and donors.

Mr. Selinger, who leads Manitoba's New Democrats, wrote Mr. Harper in May of 2012, asking Ottawa to "eliminate the overlap" between its fixed election and the province's date. In 2012, Manitoba amended its Elections Act so that its election will be delayed to April, 2016, if Ottawa hasn't changed its fixed date by January of next year.

Saskatchewan's Mr. Wall wrote his own letter in 2011 and the province made its change in 2012 as well, and will see its election pushed to the April, 2016, if the federal election isn't changed.

PEI passed legislation in May allowing its date to be delayed to April of 2016, if the federal election is not moved, and Premier Robert Ghiz has discussed the issue with Mr. Harper.

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PEI and the NWT are set to go to the polls Oct. 5, 2015, followed by Manitoba on Oct. 6. The federal election is set for Oct. 19, and the Saskatchewan election is Nov. 2. Municipal elections are also scheduled in all three territories during the fall of 2015.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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