There’s a fine line in life between doing the right thing and wrong thing and that line gets even finer when politics is involved.
Take the controversy over Premier Scott Moe potentially ignoring his own set election date law and considering a general provincial election for this spring.
It’s been almost four years since the last provincial election held on Apr. 4, 2016, which would mean an “early” election call now would actually perfectly fit the traditional four-year terms of government.
Moreover, those who have been complaining about the two city seats vacant since Corey Tochor and Warren Steinley resigned their respective Regina and Saskatoon provincial seats six months ago to successfully run as federal Conservative candidates would have even less reason to complain about an election call that would fill them.
The government’s set-election date law has already been twice changed: first, to avoid conflict with the 2015 election and again to avoid conflict with the 2020 municipal elections. That clearly suggests it’s not a law set in stone, and there’s good reason for that.
Although it seemed like a good idea when former Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall implemented it in 2008, it's always been a rather impractical law when you think about it.
First, there may be a “tradition” that governments’ mandates only last four years, but the only hard and fast rules is that governments cannot exceed five years. At that point, the lieutenant-governor or governor-general steps in and dissolves the legislature or parliament and orders an election.
More importantly, any government in a parliamentary democracy can lose its mandate at any time if it loses a “confidence vote.” That certainly has happened (or at least could happen) with a minority government like the current federal Liberal minority government. This becomes one more reason for moving up the Saskatchewan election to April, May or June from October 26 when a higher probability of a snap federal election campaign may happen as a result of the new Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leader forcing a “non-confidence” vote.
Finally, there are legitimate reasons that most of us could be sceptical/critical about Scott Moe breaking his government’s own set-election date law, but New Democrats are among those who have less right to complain.
For starters, current New Democrat MLAs both opposed the Sask. Party’s creation of the set election back in 2008 and complained about the legislative changes that, most recently, pushed it back to October 26. The NDP arguably had legitimate reason to oppose both, especially the latter change to the fall election date that essentially extended the Sask. Party government mandate by more than six months.
It was a bit of political gamesmanship on the Sask. Party’s part. However, current NDP MLAs should be familiar with election-date game playing in their own party that led to Wall introducing the set-election date law.
Former NDP premier Allan Blakeney would lengthen and shorten the traditional four-year term to his party’s political convenience. And many of you will recall Roy Romanow in 1999 calling an election in August for a September 7 vote, a date that not only extended the NDP’s mandate past four years but also came in the middle of harvest to make it difficult for harvesting Sask. Party-supporting farmers to vote.
But by implementing a set election date, the Sask. Party vowed to be better by taking the politics out of picking election dates.
Most significantly, Moe has simply not offered good reasons for holding a spring election. He’s used the excuses from the rail blockades (even though the railways are calling back to work those laid off during the blockades) and the COVID-19 or coronavirus (which he later claimed was him misspeaking).
But it mostly seems to be about politics, and doing things for political reasons is seldom the right choice.