Commentary – Provincial election date should be changed

If you’re a farmer and you have to move one piece of machinery, it’s a pretty simple operation.

On the other hand, if you have to move hundreds of pieces of machinery, all across the province, at the same time, it’s bound to be a lot more complicated and inconvenient.

It’s a no-brainer: the next provincial election should be moved to the spring of 2021.

Province-wide municipal elections, of which there are several hundred, are scheduled for October 28, 2020.

Meanwhile, the provincial election, of which there is a grand total of one, is slated for November 5, 2020; one week after the municipal elections.

Everybody agrees it’s a bad idea to have two elections so close together.

But neither the province nor the municipalities wants to change the date for their own elections.

All things considered, the municipalities have the best case.

For starters, the dates for municipal elections are fixed and follow a schedule that has been working for many years. Candidates who put their names forward for nomination in a local election know they’re signing up for a term of office with a fixed start date and fixed end date. They also know it’s a largely thankless job with a lot of sacrifices. They certainly aren’t doing it for the money.

Not to suggest that people running for office in a provincial election are motivated by other considerations, but let’s face it, there are perks to being elected to the Legislature.

Besides, provincial governments have traditionally never been bound by fixed election dates. Ever since I can remember, the writ is dropped whenever the ruling party decides the wind is favourable for their chances of re-election.

We’ve had spring elections and fall elections, and as often as not, the weather and quality and quantity of the crop have as much to do with the outcome as the parties’ stand on the issues of the day.

It was only a few years ago that the provincial government suddenly opted for fixed election dates. And then it immediately fudged its commitment because the federal government did the same thing and picked a date that conflicted with the provincial election.

But by moving the Saskatchewan election at that time, it created a problem that we’re seeing now. Four years later, there’s a conflict with the municipal election.

This should have been obvious back then. As late as a year ago, the provincial electoral officer, not to mention the Presidents of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, all pointed out what was on the horizon. But the wheels of bureaucracy move slowly and nothing was done.

You can only put off a decision on these things for so long, though. The province recently sent out a letter to municipalities politely giving them the option of agreeing to move their municipal elections.

Municipalities didn’t have the option of telling the province to move its election. But that didn’t stop the majority of local elected officials from suggesting exactly that.

The province should listen to the municipalities and do the right thing. It’s much simpler, less costly, and more respectful to the municipalities – the level of government that’s closest to the people.

Just move one piece of machinery.