Ontario’s chief elections officer is urging Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to change the law requiring a provincial election every fourth year on the first Thursday in October. Greg Essensa said in a new report that a Saturday, Sunday or school holiday in June could make it easier for citizens to cast ballots and to put polling stations in schools. “Other democracies, such as Australia, hold elections on weekends and their experience suggests that, should Ontario follow suit, voter turnout may increase,” he wrote in a new report issued Tuesday, noting just over half of eligible voters — 52.1 per cent — cast ballots in the last general election. Essensa says such a move would cut down on voter burnout as well by eliminating campaign overlap with municipal elections held in late October and make life easier in farm communities, where October is harvest time.
Voters avoided double jeopardy with local and provincial elections last fall because Wynne’s spring budget was defeated in the minority legislature, prompting a June 12 vote that returned her to power with a majority.
“Closely placed elections can lead to voter fatigue and a drop in participation at the polls,” warned Essensa, who made news last month by declaring two Liberal operatives were in “apparent contravention” of bribery provisions in the Election Act. They allegedly dangled the prospect of a job to former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier as an enticement to not run in the Feb. 5 Sudbury byelection campaign. The incident is now under OPP investigation.