Non stop elections

So here where I live we recently finished a provincial election. Today is, of course, election day for my American friends. Next Monday we vote locally for mayor, school board, and city council. There had been the brief threat of a federal election as well but a crucial vote in the House forestalled that.

For anyone interested, here are some major differences between voting in the U.S. and in Canada. Federally, or nationally if one prefers, the Prime Minister can call an election anytime with a maximum of five years between votes. The same is true provincially. So where you folks down south vote for a large number of people all in one swoop, we experience staggered election times with no set dates for any of them.

Locally is the exception, however. These take place every three years on the dot. Further, there are no political affiliations attached to those running for mayor, council and school board, although it’s easy to see what most of them represent. There is just no formal party throwing it’s muscle into any local campaigns. Interestingly, when I go to vote for these ones I am asked if I support the Public School system or the Catholic. Saskatchewan is one of only three Canadian provinces with two school systems paid for with tax dollars.

Where Americans have only two major parties to choose, we have had as many as six, though only two have any real chance of forming a government, the Liberals and Conservatives. Two others, the socialist NDP and the Bloc Quebeois, the separtist party which fields candidates only in Quebec. These latter two will win a few dozen seats between them out of the 338 which make up Parliament. Then there is the Green Party which has little impact, and the odd independent. A stark difference in campaigns is that, where in the U.S. the process begins over a year before election time and seems incredibly complex to we northerners, Canada permits only a few weeks for getting it done. The 2015 federal campaign lasted 78 days, the longest on record.


Well technically the Queen (as represented by the Governor General) can call an election at any time…but generally acting on the advice of the Prime Minister or Premier. We just had a snap election here in BC as well…called by the Lt. Governor on the advice of the Premier (who took a gamble…and it paid off big time…he went in with a minority government and came out with a majority).


Yes. For our American friends, the process involves the Prime Minister going to the GG and requesting that he dissolve Parliament. I don’t recall off hand if there has ever been a refusal. Just a formality today, of course, like so many of the rituals that go into opening Parliament for a new session. Thanks for the clarification. My dad taught Political Science for 41 years and would be ashamed that I didn’t explain that right. :smile:

It’s more than a formality in the case of a minority government. Or at least it can be. If there is a minority government that wants one thing, and the other parties want something else, the Governor General or Lt Governor may have to make a real judgment call. This happened in BC a couple years ago… and the Lt Governor did not side with the sitting premier.


I think an election is around the corner here in Nova Scotia; McNeil will be stepping down as Premier in February, I believe.

Large populated states got their votes counted, states like N.Y. and Florida and Texas.

This could mean something per these other states that did not get it done.

1 Like

That’s one of the many things that make minority governments fun to watch. The first one I experienced was 1972 when Bob Stanfield came close to toppling the elder Trudeau. I was only 15 and too young to vote, of course. But that was what began my lifelong interest in governmental processes and issues. This expanded to American as well as Canadian legislatures. I like to tell people that if my dad had been a mechanic I likely would have grown up knowing something about transmissions. As it was, I was surrounded by Canadian government every single day and siphoned off just enough to more or less know the ins and outs. A very interesting hobby but I could never have done it as a career. One semester of it at the U of S was more than enough. :smiley:

1 Like

One correction. I brief bit of research reminded me that our civic elections which had been every three years are now every four. So when the Americans are slugging it out over the Presidency, I can immerse myself in mayor and council for a city of 220,000. I think I’m getting the better deal. lol


This sounds like a time creep that we experienced years ago. Our heavy campaigning didn’t used to start so early but like the Christmas season…it’s started earlier and earlier every four years.

It was Halloween just four days ago and the Christmas stuff is already in the stores. I remember when we never saw a sign of it until after Thanksgiving! I also remember when campaign commercials didn’t show up on TV until three months before the election…and then very few!


Correct, if the Queen’s representative thinks an election is not in the best interests of the country if a minority government loses the confidence of Parliament, he or she (currently she at the federal level) can refuse to dissolve Parliament and instead ask the opposition parties to try and form a government. This would typically happen if the government fell very soon after an election.

One minor correction, I believe Harper implemented fixed-term elections at the federal level, so a government cannot go past 4 years. But it can fall sooner. Parties in power tried to play with dates to try to time an election in their favour. Now the can only play with the length of the campaign prior to the mandatory election, and their is a maximum and minimum campaign length.


We could have more electable parties if we had proportional representation like Norway, which is more reflective of reality…

Party Ideology Position Seats (out of 169) 2017 Vote Share
Labour Social democracy Centre-left 49 27.4%
Conservative Liberal conservatism Centre-right 45 25.0%
Progress National conservatism Right-wing 27 15.2%
Centre Nordic agrarianism Centre 19 10.3%
Socialist Left Democratic socialism Left-wing 11 6.0%
Liberal Liberalism Centre 8 4.4%
Christian Democratic Christian democracy Centre to centre-right 8 4.2%
Green Green politics Centre-left 1 3.2%
Red Marxism Left-wing to far-left 1 2.4%

There’s a chance the Greens might overtake the NDP in the future federally since the two are practically indistinguishable. We see this provincially in Atlantic Canada.

1 Like

I think most viceregal representatives have been ladies for some time now in most of the Provinces as well. It actually makes sense to me…they do, after all, represent our Queen. (Not to say that a woman viceroy wouldn’t be appropriate under a future King Charles or William).

From time to time, I think I’ve seen people refer to the Prime Minister’s wife as the Canadian First Lady. FAIL. The Queen is our First Lady…and when the Governor General is a woman, as has typically been the case for some years, she is our acting First Lady. The Prime Minister is supposed to be a civil servant…he’s just a guy…and his family is not supposed to be accorded special status…this is something that sets us apart from the US system (in a good way, in my opinion). Elected politicians aren’t meant to get “the glory” the way the US president does…they’re just servants of the people (in theory).

Stephen Fry made a wonderful point some time back. He said (and I paraphrase from memory) “imagine if President Trump had to go up to Capitol Hill every single week, approach Uncle Sam, make a deep bow, and give an account of his activities”. What a humbling experience…and that’s what the British PM does every week… and in theory the same principle of “I’m just a humble servant of the people / Crown” should apply to the Canadian PM / provincial Premiers.

Yes, the elected politicians have all the real power…but none of the glory. That’s the brilliance and beauty of the constitutional monarchy…and that’s why I believe the Westminster system is superior to any republic on the planet.


This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit