Nova Scotia will soon no longer be the only be the only jurisdiction in Canada without fixed election dates.
On Wednesday, the Progressive Conservatives introduced legislation that will establish fixed dates for general elections in Nova Scotia.
While most other provinces and territories have election dates in October, amendments to Nova Scotia’s Elections Act will set July 15, 2025 as the date of the next general election. Future elections will take place on the third Tuesday of July every four years.
“Nova Scotian voters need to have confidence in their electoral system,” said Premier Tim Houston in a release.
“Having a fixed date will mean predictability, transparency and it will limit any perceived advantage by the government to control the timing of the next election. The changes we are proposing will also allow Elections Nova Scotia to better plan for future elections, which can result in significant cost savings.”
The release said the amendments will also provide the chief electoral officer with the authority to choose an alternative date if the legislated election date conflicts with a holiday or overlaps with a federal or municipal election. It said the governor-in-council will be able to order that the election take place on the new date.
Richard Temporale, the chief electoral officer with Elections Nova Scotia, said in the release that he was pleased with the fixed-date legislation.
“I support the choice of date and I appreciate the flexibility to choose an alternate date if necessary,” he said. “This change will bring certainty to Elections Nova Scotia’s planning and budgetary cycles and improve the efficiency of our election readiness efforts.”
Elections Nova Scotia has previously recommended fixed election dates in 2009 and 2013. Having a predictable date could create up to $500,000 in operational savings for the agency, the release said.
The release said the changes to the act will not affect the lieutenant-governor’s authority to dissolve the legislature at any time on the advice of the premier, or if there is a vote of non-confidence in the government in the legislature.
At Province House Wednesday, Houston told reporters the new date makes sense because the early summer is a time when schools are vacant and can be used as polling stations. He said the date is also close to the Aug. 17 election that saw the Tories surge to a majority win with 31 seats in the 55 seat legislature.
“We thought that we would give people four years notice, and that’s a date that just made sense to us,” Houston said.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said it’s “long been an embarrassment” that the province is the only in the country without a fixed election date, however he questioned the day chosen by the Tories.
“The object with democratic reform is to enhance and support (voter) engagement,” said Burrill. “So what part of the year are people less engaged than about the dead centre of July? It seems to me that this really goes against the purpose of having fixed election dates.”
He said dates in the spring or fall, where the majority of elections have been set in legislation across Canada, is preferable.
Just over 55 per cent of registered voters cast ballots in the province’s August election _ a figure close to a historic low for Nova Scotia. In fact, records from Elections Nova Scotia show a steady drop in voter turnout over the decades, from 82 per cent in 1960 to a low of 53.4 per cent in the 2017 general election won by the Liberals.
Liberal Leader Iain Rankin, who called the last election, welcomed the idea of a fixed date but also reserved judgment on exactly when the vote should be held.
“We know that the summertime generally has lower voter turnout,” said Rankin. “We will be looking at other provinces to see what they have put forward and then we will come back with a position.”
— with files from The Canadian Press