The compromise on election dates still wasn't enough

The provincial government has announced the next municipal and school board elections will be held in 2020, rather than 2021 like the government had suggested earlier this summer.

That was about the only good news from the provincial government’s revelation last week about a “compromise” regarding the date of the next municipal and school board elections.

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The province has decreed that the next provincial election will be held on Oct. 26, 2020, while the civic election has been pushed back to Nov. 9, 2020, which is the second Monday of November.

Normally a civic election would take place on the second Wednesday of November, but since the second Wednesday of November in 2020 happens to be Remembrance Day, the election had to be moved by two days.

We’re pleased that the next civic election will be in 2020 rather than 2021, since five years is too long of a term for a civic or school board government, or any other government for that matter. But there should have been more give from the province on this issue.

The province could have held its next election in April 2020. The most recent provincial vote was held in April 2016, and while that date posed some problems with the start of the spring sitting of the legislature, and the release of the provincial budget, it was one that was overcome.

Yes, the provincial budget was hanging over the election, and the opposition parties routinely questioned why a budget wasn’t released before the election, but it’s not like the 2016 provincial budget was a powder keg like its 2017 counterpart.

The other option was to keep the next municipal and school board election on its original date of Oct. 28, 2020, and to have the provincial vote in November, a situation that played out in 2003.

While a November vote would place a strain on the fall sitting of the legislature, it’s not as significant as the challenge as the new election date will be for municipal governments and school boards.

For starters, what happens if there aren’t enough candidates to fill the election slate? Then a second call for nominations would be necessary.

We’re not sure that could be an issue for Estevan city council, since there is always an election for councillor, and there’s always somebody running for mayor.

But when you get into these small communities, and you have fewer people to choose from, it could mean a second or even third call for nominations, which would push the date further back, and leave it close to Christmas.

Most people aren’t thinking about voting for a village or town council once December arrives. And there’s a risk of bad weather hurting voter turnout.

Also, while the provincial government doesn’t want to have a spring election because of the impact on the provincial budget, this new election date will make it tougher for municipalities to wrap up their budgets before the end of the year.

New mayors, councillors and school board trustees have enough to worry about when they’re elected for the first time. A budget is one of them. And now it will be tougher to get the budget out.

Municipalities are also concerned with finding enough workers for the election, since most of their workers are snowbirds who head south for the winter. Usually their last task every four years before leaving is to work at a polling station on election day.

And there’s the matter of it being easier to reschedule a provincial election. There are 61 provincial ridings. Most will have four or five candidates in the next election. There are thousands of urban and rural municipalities in Saskatchewan, and dozens of school boards.

There are far more candidates trying to join their municipal council or school board.

Civic politics represent the bedrock of our democracy. Voters, especially those in smaller centres, have more access to their councillors than they will with their MP or MLA. Municipal politics might not be as glamorous and federal or provincial politics, but it’s still vital.

The provincial government should have found a more appropriate date for their vote, and left the municipal election date where it was.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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