Writ drop marks campaign's official kickoff

A quick explanation about 'dropping the writ,' that little bit of parliamentary procedure that officially means the election campaign is underway.

For weeks now, the phrase "drop the writ" has been popping up in election stories. But what exactly is the writ and why is it being dropped?

Here’s a quick explanation about this bit of parliamentary procedure that precedes every election in Canada.

What is the writ?  Short for "writs of elections" these are essentially official documents, issued in the name of the Queen, that state an election is underway.

What happens when the writ is dropped?  To trigger an election, the premier will pay a visit to the Lieutenant Governor — the Queen’s representative in the province — and advise that he or she wants to end the current Legislative Assembly session. 

The writs are then signed by the Lieutenant Governor and the chief electoral officer. A writ is then sent to the returning officer in each electoral district, issuing the authority to hold an election. Some time on Wednesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty will visit Lt. Gov. David C. Onley at his Queen’s Park residence to have the writ signed. 

OK, so the writ is dropped, what now?  Essentially it means the election is officially underway. In online and broadcast stories CBC will stop calling Dalton McGuinty "Premier Dalton McGuinty" and instead simply describe him as "Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty" as he tries to win a third term in office. Voters across the province can also expect to see election signs appearing in their neighbourhood.

York University political science professor Bob Drummond said writ-dropping day is something every political junkie looks forward to as the campaigns officially kicks off.

"I’m not sure why they use ‘dropping the writ,’ where that came from but it’s a catchall term for the beginning of the election," he said. "Everybody seems to feel that the real election campaign doesn’t begin until after Labour Day but it will start picking up steam now."