Inside Politics

By-election voters could head to the polls as early as September

Fresh off the chief electoral presses comes word that the already hotly contested riding of Toronto Centre is now officially up for grabs, which, with the previously announced vacancies in Bourassa and Provencher, brings the total number of Commons seats currently in need of filling to 3.

Under the Elections Act, the PM -- well, technically, the Governor General, but let's not overcomplicate this --must issue a writ no later than 180 days after an official notice of vacancy is received by the Chief Electoral Officer.

That works out to a November 30 deadline for Bourassa, where voters have been without an MP since early June, when its erstwhile occupant, former Liberal MP Denis Coderre, stepped down to focus on his mayoral campaign.

Former Provencher MP Vic Toews waited until last month's cabinet shuffle to hand in his resignation, which gives the PM until January 11th to call the vote to replace him, while Bob Rae's early August departure means that the Toronto Centre by-election could, in theory, be put off until February.

That, however, seems unlikely, given this PM's -- and, indeed, his predecessors' -- preference for by-election bundling.

If that's the plan this time around, the earliest that those by-elections could be called would be August 17th, or 11 days after the receipt of the vacancy notice for Toronto Centre.

Interestingly, as long as the 180 day deadline is met, the law is silent as far as the maximum length of the by-election itself, although again, past practice would suggest that most follow the standard 36 day timeline of a general election.

Given those parameters, if the PM were to go ahead with a triple writ drop on August 17th, the earliest possible date for the vote itself would be Monday, September 23 -- exactly one week after the House of Commons is scheduled to return --that is, unless the PM goes ahead with the rumoured fall prorogation, which would almost certainly bump the parliamentary back-to-work date by at least a week or two. 

Then again, he may decide to wait for the first hard deadline, which would mean sending all three ridings to the polls in early January, although such a move would almost certainly elicit complaints over forcing candidates out on the hustings during the holiday season.    

As always, stay tuned!  

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