Saskatoon's mayor wants 2020 provincial election moved
Fall 2020 is set to be a busy time at the ballot box in Saskatchewan, with a municipal and provincial election scheduled just days apart.
Saskatchewan municipal elections are scheduled for October 28, 2020, five days before the provincial election on November 2.
This has the Ministry of Government Relations approaching municipalities across the province asking for feedback on potentially moving municipal elections one year to October 2021. According to a May 2017 report from the Chief Electoral Officer, there may be administrative challenges, public confusion and increased costs if the elections are held in such close proximity.
The move would extend the terms of mayors and councillors in over 700 of the province’s municipalities to a rare five years.
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark isn’t keen on the move.
“I believe it would be more consistent with the past for the provincial government to adjust its election date as opposed to ours,” Clark told reporters on Monday. “But I believe it’s very key they do not fall within days or weeks of each other because I think that will create a lot of democratic confusion.”
University of Saskatchewan political science professor Joe Garcea believes Clark’s hope will be fulfilled, and the provincial government will be rescheduled over the municipal votes. Garcea notes it would be an easier change at the provincial level because of an amendment in the election law that would allow for a change due to unusual and unforeseen circumstances.
“I think a justification could be made to move this election non-withstanding the act that’s in place,” Garcea said. “They can amend that and can even use it flexibly with the consent of the lieutenant governor.”
The conflicting elections were caused by a change made by the Saskatchewan government in 2015 to move its election to the spring of 2016 to avoid a conflict with the October 2015 federal election.
“I think it’s good that there are consultations, people are going to learn a lot about the election system, but at the end of the day I think the provincial government will have to move their election,” Garcea said.
On Tuesday, Saskatoon’s Governance and Priorities Committee voted to forward an administrative report to the Ministry of Government Relations, outlining the challenges associated with changing the date. While there is no opposition to the approach, there is concern with how the move would affect the city’s multi-year budgeting process and its four-year priorities.
“We’re the elected members, it’s the rules for our own election,” Clark said. “The participants in the democratic process are the best ones to inform the provincial government on what they feel is fairest and most appropriate in this case.”
There is no word on if or when a decision will be made. But the City of Saskatoon is hoping for clarity sooner rather than later so officials can begin to prepare for the election.
“Our population is growing and changing, as that happens we need to have wards that are all equal,” Clark said. “We need to reassess our wards and potentially create a ward boundary commission and change the actual makeup of the wards.”
The Ministry of Government Relations is gathering feedback from municipalities until Aug. 24.