On May 30, 2006 the government of Stephen Harper introduced legislation to set fixed election dates.
Here’s how some of his Conservative Members of Parliament felt about the idea. Their quotes are taken from the pages of Hansard, the complete record of Canadian parliamentary debates.
Jay Hill on September 18, 2006:
Fixed election dates in Canada is a democratic reform I have unwaveringly and vocally supported since I entered political life some 18 years ago … In 1997, Jean Chrétien sent Canadians back to the polls early despite the flood crisis in Manitoba, which of course, Mr. Speaker, you are very well aware of. In 2000, for the second time, he called another early election to take advantage of favourable polls. Three and a half years after that, in 2004, his successor, the member for LaSalle—Émard, called another early election when Parliament began to unearth Liberal scandal in its inquiry into the sponsorship issue. This is a perfect example of why Canada needs fixed election dates. This kind of manipulation unnecessarily derails important government and parliamentary business and gives rise to cynicism among voters.
Gerald Keddy on Septemer 18, 2006:
We have an opportunity to take one of the primary tools that past prime ministers in the country have used like a club. They have gone to the people before their five years were up and every political party has suffered from that. I think the Parliament of Canada has suffered from it. … This is the first Prime Minister who is willing to give up that huge tool in his tool chest … This will level the playing field, it will give democracy more of an opportunity to work and it will be a good thing for the public of Canada.
Carol Skelton on September 19, 2006:
I think that common sense is having an election every four years and not on the whim and call of the prime minister.
Russ Hiebert on September 19, 2006:
Federal election dates would no longer be chosen with the advantage they may provide to the governing party. Every party would have the same opportunities. The reverse is also true. Not only are snap elections out, no longer will governments that have passed their “best before” date and face certain defeat at the polls be able to drag out their terms … It provides fairness. No longer will the governing party be allowed to manipulate the process. It provides transparency and predictability. Canadians will benefit from knowing exactly when these fixed elections will occur so they can plan their lives and the businesses around it. It improves governance by removing power from the prime minister’s office and devolving it to the people, as it should be.
Rob Nicholson on November 6, 2006:
What we have is a situation where the prime minister is able to choose the date of the general election, not based necessarily on what is in the best interests of the country, but what is in the best interests of his or her political party. Bill C-16 would address this problem and would produce a number of other benefits. … It is only fair that each party would have equal time to prepare for the next election and to know when it would be. Another key advantage of fixed date elections is transparency. Rather than decisions about election dates being made behind closed doors, general election dates would be set in advance.
Dean Del Mastro on November 6, 2006:
I think we recognize that the bill is about levelling the playing field for all parties in the House, not to give the government an advantage to call a snap election when perhaps another party is not ready. It would allow for a better debate on policy and on principle so that all parties could go into an election prepared and our voters could make the best decisions.
Chuck Strahl on November 6, 2006:
Fixed election dates are important and not only in other countries. My home province of British Columbia has a fixed election date. We have already had the first election. No one lit his or her hair on fire and it was not the end of the British parliamentary system. There was no chaos in the street. It was, however, something that all parties could plan on, that the population could work around and municipalities could tell what was coming. All in all, it worked very well.
Peter Van Loan on February 12, 2007:
As I indicated, we have passed Bill C-16 on fixed election dates through the House of Commons. Never again will the government of the day be able to play around with the date of an election for its own crass political motives.
Scott Reid on February 19, 2007:
The increased electoral fairness through Bill C-16 … will ensure that elections occur once every four years, not when the prime minister chooses to call them based upon whether his or her party is high in the polls. That was a terrible wrong. It was abused by the previous government repeatedly. This initiative will ensure that it is not abused again.
Barry Devolin on April 30, 2007:
This initiative would ensure that elections occurred once every four years and not just on the whim of a prime minister who might choose to call an election on the basis of whether or not his or her party was high in the polls.
Tom Lukiwski on June 18, 2007:
We have seen, for an example, very important democratic reform initiatives such as fixed election dates which is Bill C-16. It passed and has come into force. It states that the third Monday of October 2009 will be the date for the next general election unless of course by some strange occurrence the combined opposition determines that it wants to have an election before that date. That was the first initiative that we brought in to try to ensure Canadians that there would be some consistency and regularity in the timing of federal elections. Far too often we saw political parties in power manipulate the voting system to their advantage. In other words, we saw parties in previous years take a look at the polling numbers and if they determined that it would be to their advantage to have an election earlier rather than later, because the polls happened to be advantageous for them, they would call an election at that time.
And lastly, here’s an oldie but a goody from the man himself:
Stephen Harper in May 2005:
Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar simply for partisan political advantage.
But of course, that was then and this is now…