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Canada watch group brings suit to challenge early election

[JURIST] Canadian government accountability group Democracy Watch [advocacy website] brought a lawsuit [argument, PDF; press release] on Thursday, seeking to postpone the country's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 14. The group argues that the elections, proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official profile], would violate a 2007 amendment [Bill C-16 materials] to the Canada Elections Act. Under the amendment, the next election would be held in October 2009. The group argues that only a vote of no-confidence by Parliament can legitimately bring an early election, and that allowing the prime minister to schedule elections goes against the intent of the amendment. The group also argues that giving the prime minister such control would allow the ruling party to schedule elections during periods of popular support, and to prepare for elections before they are announced. The Globe and Mail has more. The Ottowa Citizen has additional coverage.

In 2007, the Canadian Senate [official website] passed the bill [JURIST report] providing that elections be held on the third Monday of October every four years [Privy Council backgrounder], and it became law shortly thereafter. Former Minister for Democratic Reform Rob Nicholson [official profile] introduced the bill [JURIST report] in 2006 on behalf of Canada's new Conservative government to promote "greater fairness" in the Canadian electoral system, since pre-existing rules let the prime minister choose the date for the general election and tell the governor general to dissolve Parliament. One of the justifications of the bill at the time was that it would prevent unfair manipulation of election dates by ruling parties.

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