Elected officials in cities, towns and R.M.s may be getting their terms extended by one year because of a conflict with ballot box dates in 2020 — and some aren’t happy about it.
As it stands, the provincial and municipal elections are scheduled five days apart in 2020 — the province on Nov. 2 and municipalities on Oct. 28.
Now, the province is asking municipal officials for feedback on potentially pushing their elections back by a full calendar year to Oct. 27, 2021, while keeping the provincial election in 2020.
All 776 municipalities have been asked to submit feedback about the potential change to the ministry of government relations by Aug. 24, after which the province would make a final decision.
Saskatoon city councillors will consider the option during their governance and priorities committee on Monday.
Mayor Charlie Clark isn’t thrilled about the idea.
“The province should move their date,” he said in an interview Thursday afternoon.
“There’s actually less constituencies, less candidates, less to try and adapt for when you look at a provincial government, as opposed to over 700 municipalities.”
He noted the idea was first informally brought to their attention at the city mayor’s caucus, but the formal request didn’t come to city administration until recently.
The discussion initially turned to moving the election by a few weeks, but many believed that wouldn’t give voters enough of a breather.
“It doesn’t give enough separation so the public can properly digest a provincial election from a municipal election and all the issues,” Clark said.
He said there’s more precedent for the province to shift their own date despite fixed election laws, pointing to when they shifted to the spring of 2016 to avoid a conflict with the 2015 federal election.
That shift is what pitted the municipal and provincial dates against each other for the next round of votes.
Clark noted another conflict could come up in the future if a federal or provincial minority government failed a confidence vote in the House of Commons or Legislative Assembly.
“(What has stayed the same) through all of the minority governments and other things in the past is municipal election dates,” he said.
But the mayor realizes the city can’t do much more than tell the province what they think.
“We’re at the mercy of the province on this,” he said. “They are the ones who set those election dates, and we’re just one city.”
Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill also spoke to 650 CKOM about the potential election date shift.
He said while he’s supportive of shifting away from a cycle of conflict with provincial election dates, people running for municipal office should have been informed before the 2016 vote.
“We could’ve actually campaigned, with full transparency, that there was going to be a five-year term as opposed to a four-year term,” he said.
“That’s my biggest concern … this would be changing the parameters around what the electorate had put us into office for.”