Council Votes To Express Concerns About Election Date
Weather conditions, tradition and a sophisticated electorate were reasons given for one councillor's expressing his opposition to the Province’s plans to move the date of the upcoming municipal elections.
Councillor Brian Swanson put forth a motion asking the City communicate their opposition to the Province moving the date of the municipal elections from the fourth Wednesday of October to the second Wednesday of November.
The Province recently announced their intentions to move the date because a municipal and provincial vote had the potential of negatively impacting and potentially confusing voters if the Provincial and Municipal elections in 2020 were held so close together.
“In Canada provinces have the right to do whatever they wish to do to the municipalities within their boundaries. We saw that with the reduction of the municipal surcharge on our power bills and our gas bills the Province can arbitrarily do that because we are a creation of the Province,” Councillor Swanson said.
Under Canada's constitution only two levels of government are recognized and granted powers - Federal and Provincial - no others have the right to exist but gain their authority through either of these two bodies.
Despite the Province having the right to dictate election dates Councillor Swanson felt the City should still let their opposition be known.
“The Province has the right to do this but we also have the right to indicate our concerns to them about this. And I would think we should indicate our concerns to the Provincial Government about the recently proposed changes to Municipal election dates to move them from the several decades long tradition of the fourth Wednesday in October to the second Wednesday in November. Which could mean a municipal election as late as November 15th.”
“My primary concern is with respect to the weather,” Swanson stated, adding “this year may have been the exception, but many years the weather is less than hospitable for outdoor activity, going door to door campaigning.”
The demise of the now defunct Moose Jaw Times Herald played a role in Swanson’s reasoning to oppose the Province's move.
“We no longer have a daily newspaper and in the most recent elections the most common form of advertising is placing signs out and about. And putting them out in November will the ground be frozen or will there be heaps of snow?” Councillor Swanson asked adding “So I believe the ability to communicate with the electorate is restricted by delaying the election two weeks into the middle of December.”
Councillor Swanson went on to state the electorate was “sophisticated enough to deal with two elections in a short period of time.” He noted in 1991 provincial and municipal votes were held in close proximity to each other with no problems.
The United States holding multiple elections on several levels on the same day – federal, state and local – was used as an example about how such a diverse election without baffling the electorate.
“I think delaying the election in most years would have restrictions in voter turnout given the colder weather it impacts the ability to campaign effectively. To get one's message out to the electorate. Just because the Province wants to change the election date doesn’t mean the municipality should have to.”
With no other speakers the vote was called and the motion passed with a 5 – 2 result. Councillor Crystal Froese and Mayor Tolmie were opposed to the motion with Councillors Swanson, Chris Warren, Scott McMann, Dawn Luhning and Heather Eby in favour.