By Fred Morris

In late July 2020, President Trump speculated about postponing the Nov. 3, 2020 presidential election. When and why have Canadian elections been postponed? Is there ever a good reason for postponing an election??

During World War 1, the first five-year term of the Borden government expired in 1916. The election with the approval of the British Parliament was postponed a year. The federal election was finally held on Dec. 17, 1917, six years and 87 days after the 1911 Election. The emergency of the Great War was the excuse for the postponement. The War did not stop provincial elections. Every province except Ontario held elections on time during the World War 1. Ontario went slightly over the 5-year limit holding Elections on June 29, 1914 and Oct. 20, 1919. The 1915 Manitoba election was a spirited adventure with a 75.8% turnout and a change in Government. 

On June 23, 1966, Manitoba held a general election in 56 out of 57 ridings. Churchill was deferred until July 7, due to weather concerns. However, there were no anticipated weather problems when a Feb. 20, 1969 byelection was called in the same Churchill riding.

The Oct. 1970 Greater Winnipeg civic elections were postponed due to the January 1, 1972 implementation of Unicity. Unicity was the amalgamation of 12 Greater Winnipeg municipalities into one city. Some Council members (they were called Aldermen at that time) terms were extended by a year in the soon-to-be-abolished municipalities. The scheduled 1970 election should have proceeded with these councillors being elected for one-year terms.

Covid-19 has resulted in postponed elections. New Brunswick has sent conflicting signals. In March 2020, the Provincial Government cancelled the May 11, 2020 municipal elections due to Covid-19. The same government called a September 14, 2020 provincial election. According to the New Brunswick’s fixed election date law, this election should have been held in the autumn of 2022.

Wards 3 and 4 of the Winnipeg School Board are currently vacant due to the Election of two trustees to the Manitoba Legislature. In January 2020 the provincial government tried to cancel the already called byelections. However, the Mar. 21 byelection almost made it to the finishing line. Senior and hospital advance voting was completed. Ballots were mailed in. On Mar. 17, 2020, the last day of the community advance poll, the byelection was suspended. The byelection was cancelled on Mar. 28 due to Covid-19. Legislation only allows for a seven-day suspension. The Sat., Mar. 21 Byelection had polls scheduled in five schools and the Millennium Library. The Library closed on Mar. 16, and the schools closed on Mar. 23, 2020. If a 30-day suspension of the By-election had been possible, the byelection could have proceeded with social distancing at these closed facilities. The five candidates who were contesting the two seats will have to start over if they still wish to run. Does this send the wrong message to prospective candidates? As the School Board makes difficult social distancing decisions, the people of River Heights and Wolseley do not have School Board representation.

 On Oct. 26, 2020 a fixed date election is scheduled for Saskatchewan. Elections Saskatchewan, in consultation with health authorities, has a comprehensive list of safety protocols on their web site.

During these trying times, it is important that we find a way to hold our regularly scheduled elections in order to choose our leaders.

Fred Morris describes himself as a political activist and sometime political candidate.