The Emerging Shape of the By-Election Calendar

October 5th, 2010

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With Prince George–Peace River, BC Conservative MP Jay Hill's announcement to the House of Commons yesterday that he planned to retire on October 25, the outlines of a by-election calendar are becoming clearer.

The timing of any by-election in Hill's riding put the minimum boundary on any group by-election call, while the impending deadline for calling Winnipeg North sets the outside barrier.

I will say that Hill's earlier retirement announcement sounded as though he fully expected the 40th parliament to end before he left, and I do believe the Prime Minister was trying to open a fall election window.  He wound up not being able to use it for all the reasons we now know (fake lake, census, etc.), but given that it fell through and the spring seems more likely, Hill is getting on with his life.

Note that this will be the first round of by-elections in which seats formerly held by the government side are up for grabs.  Given that Prince George–Peace River, BC has been held by a conservative MP of some flavour since BC joined Confederation [UPDATE: since the early 1950s, except for 4 years during the Trudeau sweep of 1968], it is not likely to flip, even with the HST as a by-election issue.

Anyway, here are the dates we're working with:

  PG-PR D-SW-M WpgN Vaugh HG-MMM
* Easter Monday falls on Monday, April 25, 2011, so Election Day must be the first Tuesday after a statuatory holiday.
Province BC MB MB ON QC
Last held by Cons Cons NDP Lib BQ
Date of resignation: Mon Oct
25, 2010
Wed Sep
15, 2010
Fri Apr
30, 2010
Thu Sep
2, 2010
Date CEO received Speaker's warrant:   Thu Sep
16, 2010
Fri Apr
30, 2010
Thu Sep
2, 2010
Earliest date the by-election could be called
(11 days later):
Fri Nov
5, 2010
Mon Sep
27, 2010
Tue May
11, 2010
Mon Sep
13, 2010
Earliest date the by-election could be held
(first Monday at least 36 days after that):
Mon Dec
13, 2010
Mon Nov
8, 2010
Mon Jun
21, 2010
Mon Oct
25, 2010
Latest date the by-election could be called
(180 days later):
Sat Apr
23, 2011
Tue Mar
15, 2011
Wed Oct
27, 2010
Tue Mar
1, 2011
Latest dates the by-election could be held
(first Monday at least 36 days later):
on or after
Mon May
30, 2011
on or after
Mon Apr
11, 2010
on or after
Mon Dec
6, 2010
on or after
Tue Apr
26, 2011

The date that seems to work best for the above four seats to be called together is Monday, December 13, which gives a slightly longer writ for three of the seats, and a 38-day writ for Jay Hill's seat.  This will already be conducting votes in the early part of the Canadian winter in some fairly northerly seats in two cases.

Working backwards, if Bloc Québécois M.P. Jean-Yves Roy's resignation warrant does not make it from the Commons Speaker into the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer by Wednesday, October 27, his Québec riding of Haute-Gaspésie – La Mitis – Matane – Matapédia, QC will not be included in this round of by-elections and his replacement as Bloc candidate, Jean-François Fortin, will be left cooling his heels for awhile longer still.

12 Responses to “The Emerging Shape of the By-Election Calendar”

  1. DL says:

    I still come back to – why this pointless obsession with having as many byelections as possible on the same date. In the UK they seem to be held on very staggered dates (it helps that the custom there is to instantly call byelections the morning after a vacancy occurs) and in the US when there are “special elections” to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives – again they all happen on staggered dates as a results of all the different state election laws etc…

    I think Roy should resign the day AFTER Harper calls the other byelections – just to foil any Tory obsession with having all the byelections on the same day. From the BQ’s point of view – who cares? The Quebec is the only one they are competing in so what’s it to them if other byelections are happening the same day in Manitoba?

    I don’t really see the logic from the governments point of view. Isn’t it almost better to stagger them and avoid having a “mini-election” that could get more play and negative spin than it deserves? I still remember how in 1978 Trudeau called FIFTEEN byelections for the same date – it was seen a mini-election and it was a total fiasco for the Liberals and backfired badly on them.

  2. Shadow says:

    DL before we go changing any Canadian political traditions i’d like to see some figures on whether holding by-elections all at once really does save money.

    As for strategy, the last set of by-elections were very good for the CPC so a mini-election is not always a bad thing.

    If a CPC steal in Vaughan occurs then its in Harper’s interest to hype this as much as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve done some kind of internal polling on the race.

  3. DL says:

    If the CPC thinks they can win Vaughan, it would make sense to have that byelection as a stand alone and not dilute its impact by having the same day as other byelections.

  4. Shadow says:

    DL you’re at odds with yourself.

    You wrote above “Isn’t it almost better to stagger them and avoid having a “mini-election” that could get more play and negative spin than it deserves?”

    I agree with your earlier statement.

    A “mini-election” would get maximum media coverage for the Vaughan steal.

  5. I understand that Elections Canada has some innovations they want to try out in this set of by-elections, and I do believe that holding them simultaneously helps with the administration.

    What it may not help with is the staggered voting hours. If they are holding a set of by-elections from the Gaspésie to Peace River country in BC, the voting hours will be very late in the east, and very early in the west. Were each one on its own day, they could run them 8 AM to 8 PM.

    Another variable to keep Shadow and DL going several more rounds, I expect ;-)

  6. DL says:

    When Harper decides to call these byelections you can be sure that the LEAST of his concerns will be helping Elections Canada with its “innovations”. He hates Elections Canada and in any case its part of the Tory long-term strategy to drive down vote turnout levels as much as possible.

  7. Ken Summers says:

    Thats a gratuitous slap.

  8. Good morning everyone. I’ll be writing a bit more about the by-election nominations today, so perhaps we should move on to what we think the issues may be in those seats. Someone mentioned the Site C Dam to me as being an issue in Prince George-Peace River, but I don’t know anything about that. Is there someone out there who could point me in the right direction?

  9. Why would the government allow the opponent to hold the higher ground?

    I believe the staggered theory would benefit the weaker parties that lack the resources to fund, fight the five races simultaneously.

    In NB the PC machine admitted to a ground game that was in motion for two years. Fredericton, a government town rejected the Democrat-Liberal candidates for PC candidates?

    Will this be a mini-referendum Part II on the government as we exit the recession?

    In 2009 they were rewarded with 2/4. Plan A or Plan B what is better. A contest for five seats or 308?

  10. Ken Summers says:

    By-elections have to be set in motion somewhat independently of the government choosing to ramp ut towards a general election [or not].

    So its never really ‘byelections or general election’.

    More like the government having probabilities in mind for when it is going to want a general election. And if it is a possibility at the time, they make the best stratgic choice for setting the by-elections…. bearing in mind that they will have to live with the timing choice of the by-election regardless.

    But I think the general point is very moot in the present case. Because the government is not planning on a general until the Spring or later, and the opposition is even less likley to trigger one.

  11. Ken,

    Political parties act in self-interest. Chretien was apt in pulling the trigger on divided opposition not giving Manning or Day enough time to build a compelling narrative.

    Senior Advisers – Party Executive
    The question is always the risk vs reward of triggering an election and expected outcome. Which of the political parties are most prepared for another campaign?

    The MPs are told after the die has been cast. Political Parties are not run by consensus or democratic principles.

  12. Ken Summers says:

    I dont know if anyone has any doubts that these by-elections are going to happen soon.

    But if for no other reason, there is this alone:

    It really looks like Fantino is going to run in Vaughn. And the Liberals appear to be scrambling for a candidate and campaign- as if they didnt know this was very likely coming.

    With Fantino the Conservatives have a very good shot. And then get to watch the Liberals go into yet another paroxysm of bite the Leader.

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