Nova Scotia has been the only jurisdiction in Canada without fixed election dates, and prime ministers sometimes get it wrong at the time of an election, according to the director of the Dalhousie University School of Public Administration in Halifax.
Lori Turnbull said that being able to call elections without set dates is a tool for the prime minister “without any democratic legitimacy.”
That’s why he was delighted when the Progressive Conservatives introduced legislation last week that will set fixed dates for general elections in Nova Scotia.
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“I think it’s good that voters know when things are coming up.” Turnbull said.
However, the fact that the amendments to the Nova Scotia Elections Act are set on July 15, 2025, as the date of the next general election is not positive, he added.
This means that future elections will be held on the third Tuesday in July every four years.
“Having them fixed in the summer is usually not good for voter turnout. … No other province or territory has fixed summer elections. It is asking people to lean on this in July. I can’t imagine who would advise that from a political science perspective, ”Turnbull said.
Seven provinces and territories have fixed election dates in October.
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He said fixed election dates will give the elections office the ability to better plan and prepare for unforeseen circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic.
It can also stabilize voter turnout.
Impact of the decision on students
For Students Nova Scotia, a nonpartisan advocacy group representing Nova Scotia postsecondary students, having fixed election dates in the summer poses unique barriers and challenges for students.
Students NS Executive Director Lydia Houck said high school students are much more likely to be first-time voters and many of them come to Nova Scotia from other provinces.
“There is more confusion about where his permanent address might be,” Houck said.
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That is why throughout the school year, campus programming and support have been instrumental in helping to ensure that students participate in democracy.
Another concern of the group is the fact that the province has high migration and interprovincial mobility.
Houck said that many students come from outside the province to study, “which means that in the case of a summer election date, those students would probably not be in the province, even if they live here for more than two-thirds.” of the year.”
As a result, fixed election dates in the summer would make these students ineligible to vote or they would have to vote by mail, “which is one of the highest barrier methods,” according to Houck.
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“For those reasons, I think a fixed summer election date would likely disenfranchise a large portion of the student population to vote and move on.”
Sixth graders could also be missing a “real golden opportunity” to learn about the elections if they were held in the summer, said sixth grade teacher Carly Sutherland.
He said elections are not something that is easily taught with a textbook, and students are more likely to engage when something happens in real time.
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“When it happens during the school year, we can really get involved in the issues, and in my private class, the students… watch the debates. They scrutinized the candidates’ platforms on issues that concerned them and were very, very excited to participate, ”said Sutherland.
It is part of the sixth grade curriculum to teach students to take age-appropriate actions to be active global citizens.
“Children don’t want to read about elections in a textbook. They want to see it really happening and the impact of democracy happening in real time, ”Sutherland said.
Fixed election dates are not binding
Turnbull said that nothing about having fixed election dates prevents a prime minister from requesting an early election. An example of that would be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call for snap elections.
“I think some people were upset by Trudeau’s early election call because they felt he wanted his majority and pushed us to try to give it to him,” he said.
So while fixed election dates are not binding, one of the good things about having them is that if a prime minister or prime minister calls for an early election, the leaders will be held accountable.
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