Insights

Federal Election 2021 Alert: The Writ has dropped

Posted by
Pierre Cyr
Insights

Federal Election 2021 Alert: The Writ has dropped

Écrit par
Pierre Cyr

Yesterday, Governor General Mary Simon officially dissolved parliament and the writ was issued by the Chief Electoral Officer calling for an election to be held on September 20, 2021. The federal campaign will run for 36 days.  

The Background

How is an election called?  

Before an election is formally called, the Prime Minister asks the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. The Governor General formally decides if Parliament should be dissolved, issuing a proclamation if she agrees. Once Parliament is dissolved, the Governor General formally requests that the Chief Electoral Officer issue a general writ which puts the election into process.

What is a writ?

A writ is a formal written order by the Chief Electoral Officer to returning officers in each of the 338 electoral districts to hold an election to elect a Member of Parliament. The document specifies three dates: the day candidates must be nominated, voting day, and the day when the writ must be returned to the Chief Electoral Officer with the name of the successful candidate. When people refer to the ‘writ period’ however, they mean the time between the first official day of the election and the last (voting day).

Are MPs still MPs during the writ period?

No, once Parliament is dissolved members of Parliament (MPs) revert to candidate status. MP offices continue to service constituents in a non-partisan fashion during the writ period.

What happens to cabinet?

The cabinet remains in place in ‘caretaker mode’ to provide continuity of government until a new cabinet is sworn in. Caretaker mode applies because, during an election there is no elected chamber to which ministers can be held to account. Caretaker mode means the government is limited to working only on activity that is routine, non-controversial, urgent and in the public interest, reversible by a new government without undue cost or disruption, or otherwise agreed to by opposition parties.  

How does caretaker mode work in a pandemic?

Our current global pandemic means the “urgent and in the public interest” exemption applies. It is also important to note caretaker mode is a convention and not a law, so this will be negotiated with the public service. We anticipate any government announcements during the writ will be a source of criticism by opposition parties. For example, announcements on border related issues will likely need to occur during the election, in addition to possible next steps on items like vaccine passports. This will need to be carefully managed by both the Trudeau government and the Clerk of the Privy Council.  

What happens to Minister’s offices?

Typically, one to two staff will remain in each office as “leave behinds” to ensure continuity of government and basic functioning. No new announcements or decisions are expected, except in relation to the ongoing pandemic and wildfires.

Is the Public Service still in place?

The public service is also officially in caretaker mode once the writ drops. Public servants will be closely monitoring announcements by each party to prepare policy positions as well as transitional materials for the incoming government to consider following the election.

What happens next?

Although the “sign war” has already started in many ridings, the next 24-48 hours will officially mark the beginning of the erection of election signs in places where provincial (i.e., Quebec) and municipal bylaws (i.e., Toronto) restrict the use of signs to the writ period. Local and central campaigns will seek to showcase their on-the-ground organization by being highly visible in ridings throughout the country.

As you have likely seen in the media lately, Canada’s major parties seem to have started their campaign with examples about. Leader of the Conservatives Erin O’Toole made a campaign stop in Trenton, Ontario to shore up support from rural Canadians last week and Jagmeet Singh made campaign-style stop in Edmonton in late July. The Liberals, also seem to be angling for an election by addressing many common issues that have come up over their tenure such as by appointing a new Governor General, agreeing to a landmark settlement for drinking water on reserves, setting a date for one-time payments for older seniors, signing childcare funding agreements with many provinces, among many other issues. The Green Party leader, Annamie Paul, is currently mired in a scandal that has likely crushed already dismal hopes of getting Paul elected in her ambitious Toronto Centre seat. However, much can change over these coming 5 weeks because, especially in this pandemic election, campaigns matter.

Over the course of the election, staying connected to information as it comes is extremely important. That is why we will be preparing daily election updates, platform analyses, debate summaries, reviews of election results, and onboarding strategies for our clients following the election. Our clients have also received a more in-depth version of this blog post.

If you would like to keep updated this election cycle, we’d be happy to help you develop a strategy to support your initiatives. Email us at public.affairs@FHhighroad.com to get started. For this election we are also offering free subscriptions to our weekly newsletter FHRadar, click here to sign up.

Yesterday, Governor General Mary Simon officially dissolved parliament and the writ was issued by the Chief Electoral Officer calling for an election to be held on September 20, 2021. The federal campaign will run for 36 days.  

The Background

How is an election called?  

Before an election is formally called, the Prime Minister asks the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. The Governor General formally decides if Parliament should be dissolved, issuing a proclamation if she agrees. Once Parliament is dissolved, the Governor General formally requests that the Chief Electoral Officer issue a general writ which puts the election into process.

What is a writ?

A writ is a formal written order by the Chief Electoral Officer to returning officers in each of the 338 electoral districts to hold an election to elect a Member of Parliament. The document specifies three dates: the day candidates must be nominated, voting day, and the day when the writ must be returned to the Chief Electoral Officer with the name of the successful candidate. When people refer to the ‘writ period’ however, they mean the time between the first official day of the election and the last (voting day).

Are MPs still MPs during the writ period?

No, once Parliament is dissolved members of Parliament (MPs) revert to candidate status. MP offices continue to service constituents in a non-partisan fashion during the writ period.

What happens to cabinet?

The cabinet remains in place in ‘caretaker mode’ to provide continuity of government until a new cabinet is sworn in. Caretaker mode applies because, during an election there is no elected chamber to which ministers can be held to account. Caretaker mode means the government is limited to working only on activity that is routine, non-controversial, urgent and in the public interest, reversible by a new government without undue cost or disruption, or otherwise agreed to by opposition parties.  

How does caretaker mode work in a pandemic?

Our current global pandemic means the “urgent and in the public interest” exemption applies. It is also important to note caretaker mode is a convention and not a law, so this will be negotiated with the public service. We anticipate any government announcements during the writ will be a source of criticism by opposition parties. For example, announcements on border related issues will likely need to occur during the election, in addition to possible next steps on items like vaccine passports. This will need to be carefully managed by both the Trudeau government and the Clerk of the Privy Council.  

What happens to Minister’s offices?

Typically, one to two staff will remain in each office as “leave behinds” to ensure continuity of government and basic functioning. No new announcements or decisions are expected, except in relation to the ongoing pandemic and wildfires.

Is the Public Service still in place?

The public service is also officially in caretaker mode once the writ drops. Public servants will be closely monitoring announcements by each party to prepare policy positions as well as transitional materials for the incoming government to consider following the election.

What happens next?

Although the “sign war” has already started in many ridings, the next 24-48 hours will officially mark the beginning of the erection of election signs in places where provincial (i.e., Quebec) and municipal bylaws (i.e., Toronto) restrict the use of signs to the writ period. Local and central campaigns will seek to showcase their on-the-ground organization by being highly visible in ridings throughout the country.

As you have likely seen in the media lately, Canada’s major parties seem to have started their campaign with examples about. Leader of the Conservatives Erin O’Toole made a campaign stop in Trenton, Ontario to shore up support from rural Canadians last week and Jagmeet Singh made campaign-style stop in Edmonton in late July. The Liberals, also seem to be angling for an election by addressing many common issues that have come up over their tenure such as by appointing a new Governor General, agreeing to a landmark settlement for drinking water on reserves, setting a date for one-time payments for older seniors, signing childcare funding agreements with many provinces, among many other issues. The Green Party leader, Annamie Paul, is currently mired in a scandal that has likely crushed already dismal hopes of getting Paul elected in her ambitious Toronto Centre seat. However, much can change over these coming 5 weeks because, especially in this pandemic election, campaigns matter.

Over the course of the election, staying connected to information as it comes is extremely important. That is why we will be preparing daily election updates, platform analyses, debate summaries, reviews of election results, and onboarding strategies for our clients following the election. Our clients have also received a more in-depth version of this blog post.

If you would like to keep updated this election cycle, we’d be happy to help you develop a strategy to support your initiatives. Email us at public.affairs@FHhighroad.com to get started. For this election we are also offering free subscriptions to our weekly newsletter FHRadar, click here to sign up.

Pierre Cyr
Senior Vice President
Pierre Cyr is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at FleishmanHillard HighRoad in Ottawa. He previously served as Director, Board and Stakeholder Relations at Canadian Blood Services. Pierre spent over 15 years working in provincial and federal politics and served two Ontario Premiers, a Federal Liberal Leader, and held a variety of senior advisor roles, including Chief of Staff to eight provincial and federal ministers.
Pierre Cyr
Vice-président
Pierre Cyr est un vice-président spécialisé en Affaires publiques chez FleishmanHillard HighRoad. Dans son rôle précédent, Pierre a œuvré à titre de Directeur, Relations avec le Conseil et les intervenants à la Société canadienne du sang. Pierre cumule plus de 15 ans d’expérience en politique fédérale et provinciale et a travaillé pour 2 premiers ministres ontariens, un chef du Parti Libéral fédéral, et a entretenu plusieurs rôles de conseil sénior, incluant Chef de cabinet pour 8 ministres provinciaux et fédéraux.