Professor Denis Smith has an outstanding opinion piece in today’s Globe about the essential fraud at the heart of Harper’s “fixed election date” bill. As Smith points out, since the first clause of the bill says “Nothing in this section affects the powers of the Governor-General, including the power to dissolve Parliament at the Governor-General’s discretion,” the prime minister’s power to choose an election date short of the new four-year limit is unchanged.
That’s what was always so stupid about the fixed-date law. Canada already *had* a fixed election date law, written right into the Constitution, namely, s.4(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads (my bold).
(1) No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members.
So what did Harper do? With his bill, he basically just promised to drop the writ on a specific date four years into his mandate, unless the opposition brought him down first. Or… unless he decided to do otherwise. Which is to say, the fixed election law was never a departure from the traditional practice, but an endorsement of it.
Here’s on old blog post of mine on the topic.
***UPDATE:Or I could have just skipped the wordifying and done as Wells did, and just simply called it a “doofus-brained fixed-election act.” Which it is.