NDP introduce by-election bill to close elections law loophole

Unless the Sask. Party government moves to close a loophole their fixed-election-date law introduced, residents of the constituencies of Regina Walsh Acres and Saskatoon Eastview will go more than a year without an MLA before the next provincial election. To close this loophole, NDP Ethics and Democracy Critic David Forbes tabled a bill today that would require a by-election be called within six months of a seat becoming vacant when the period between general elections is more than 48 months.

“MLAs Warren Steinley and Corey Tochor have already been nominated candidates in the next federal race,” said Forbes. “They’re focusing on a job other than what the people of Saskatchewan elected them to do, and by law they’ll have to resign their seats when the writ drops next August. But because of a loophole in the Election Act, the Sask. Party won’t have to face a vote in those constituencies for a further fourteen months, leaving those people with no voice in the Legislature. That’s unfair.”

Normally, a by-election must be called no less than six months after a seat becomes vacant, unless more than 40 months have passed since the last general election. This is reasonable when the traditional four-year mandate is respected, but when a government extends its mandate well beyond four years, as the Sask. Party did in 2016 and will do again in 2020, the current rules deny voters the representation they expect.

The NDP amendment would close this loophole by removing the 40-month caveat if an election is scheduled to happen more than four years after the previous election. This change would require the government to call by-elections in August 2019 when Steinley and Tochor quit to run federally.

“The Sask. Party is unrepentant about their plan to leave residents of Saskatoon and Regina without an MLA for the entire last year of Moe’s term in office,” said Forbes. “That’s not the democracy that Saskatchewan people expect. The Premier should uphold the democratic principles we hold dear and close this loophole.”