Fixed election cycles: A genuine alternative to responsible and responsive government?

Christian Leuprecht, James T. McHugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Canada's federal government and several provinces have recently moved to fixed election cycles on the assumption that the ability to pick the election date endogenously (1) gives the incumbent government an unfair advantage and (2) curbs the discretionary powers of the Governor General. Electoral opportunism is posited as a problem that fixed election cycles will remedy by virtue of ensuring greater turnover among governments. This article subjects these claims to empirical scrutiny. It examines why Canada did not follow the American example in the first place. It surveys some of the unintended consequences of fixing election cycles. And it ponders some of the complications that might arise when trying to reconcile a key constitutional principle of the Westminster parliamentary system, responsible government, with fixed election cycles. Evidence for the apparent democratic merits of a fixed election cycle is found to be less conclusive than its proponents acknowledge. The article concludes by speculating about the motivations behind Canada's new-found passion for electoral reform.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-441
Number of pages27
JournalCommonwealth and Comparative Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2008


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