[JURIST] The Conservative Party government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced new legislation in the federal House of Commons Tuesday that would set fixed dates for regular federal elections [Privy Council Office backgrounder; Bill C-16 text] and would potentially limit members of the country's weak Senate [official website; CBC Senate reform backgrounder] to eight-year terms. Under the legislation, national elections would take place every four years on the third Monday in October, theoretically precluding the party in power from adjusting the election date short of the actual expiry of its mandate to its own electoral advantage. The fixed date would not, however, affect immediate election calls required after the fall of a government in a Commons vote. The Senate term limit will require a formal constitutional amendment to be effective; federal advisors say that the amendment could, however, be adopted by the federal Parliament without needing the consent of the provinces, generally required for changes affecting provincial power. The question is not entirely clear-cut, however, as Canadian senators are appointed on a regional basis under the Constitution Act [text], and the country's Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that changes affecting the essential character of the Senate must be approved by seven of the ten Canadian provinces representing 50% of the population.
The new Conservative proposals are part of a democratic reform [Harper speech transcript] package promised by Harper in January's federal election. More legislation is expected to follow. Canadian Press has more.