Even in the heat of summer the Ottawa rumour mill is still continuing to churn out reports on events that may or may not be occurring in our nation’s capital. The latest media speculation circulating is that the writ for our upcoming federal election may be dropped as early as this Sunday. For the record I have no idea if this is accurate or not however this does present a good opportunity to explain what the writ dropping means to citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla and elsewhere.
A writ is “dropped” when the Prime Minister presents the Governor General with an instrument of advice recommending the House of Commons be dissolved. In turn the Governor General then issues a proclamation dissolving what in this case will be the 41st Parliament. The Prime Minister will then present an order in council to the Chief Electoral Officer requesting the writ of an election that is also issued from the Governor General. At this point the Chief Electoral Officer will then send a writ of election notice to each returning officer across Canada. From this point on the writ period has begun and by Canadian law must be a minimum campaign length of thirty six days. There is technically no maximum length for a writ period although the House of Commons, much like a Provincial legislature, is required to sit at least once every twelve months.
What is different about a writ period? There are a number of rules that apply within a writ period that do not apply outside of a writ period including full disclosure and limits on how much political parties and 3rd party advertisers can spend within the writ period. In addition any staff working on a campaign must be disclosed as must in kind donations at fair market value. These strict rules are in addition to existing rules regarding Members of Parliament constituency offices which prohibit their use for partisan purposes in any way, a restriction that also applies to all House of Commons taxpayer provided resources.
Locally Okanagan-Coquihalla will also cease to be an electoral district as a result of new federal boundary redistribution process that occurs every ten years. In our case there have been some significant changes to Okanagan-Coquihalla. The new riding most closely resembling the old riding is now called Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola. Communities such as Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna, Merritt, and Logan Lake remain in this riding however Penticton will now join a new riding called South Okanagan–West Kootenay. Making up for the loss of the Penticton population in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola results in adding communities such as Princeton, Keremeos and surrounding areas and part of the city of Kelowna. If you are looking to confirm what federal riding you are located in please visit www.elections.ca for further information.
When is the election? The fixed election date calls for a federal election on Monday, October 19th. Who to vote for? Currently there are a number of candidates already declared to be running in the 2015 election with possibly more on the way. Elections Canada will have a list of declared candidates available and I encourage all members of the public to contact candidates directly to ask questions and share concerns.
Only a final note many have asked recently about new rules that prevent expat Canadians from voting. In reality there are no new rules related to this topic as it was in 1993 that the Parliament of the day passed legislation that prevented Canadian citizens living outside of Canada for 5 or more years from voting. What did occur recently is a court challenge where last week the Ontario Appeals Court upheld the rule that citizens living outside of Canada for five or more years cannot vote in Canadian elections. If you have other questions comments or concerns I can be reached at email@example.com or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.