Chief election officer changed date: McGuinty
Published Thursday, February 8, 2007 7:04PM EST
LONDON, Ont. - Anyone who doesn't agree with the change to Ontario's fixed election date should talk to the province's chief election officer and the grateful Jewish community, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Thursday.
The opposition parties were quick to criticize the Liberals a day earlier for moving the election date -- which was supposed to be set in stone -- but McGuinty dismissed any need for criticism.
Chief election officer John Hollins made a good, respectful decision when he recommended the date change from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10, the premier said.
"Some people might want to criticize the chief election officer for taking so long to come back with his advice, but I just don't think that's fair,'' McGuinty said.
"He had a rather extensive consultation process and he came back to us with advice and he said, `Folks, we think it would be best if you would move this to an alternate date,' and so we accepted his advice, and it was good advice.''
The Liberals changed Ontario's Election Act in 2005 to set the first Thursday of October every four years as the election date. But any of the subsequent seven days can be named as an alternative polling day if the chief election officer decides the scheduled date is unsuitable.
Hollins advised the government that Oct. 4, 2007, is the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret, during which members of the Orthodox Jewish community would not be able to vote.
The Canadian Jewish Congress applauded the government's decision to change the date, which it said would allow Jews who observe the holiday to vote as well as work for candidates or as returning officers.
That reaction was gratifying to Hollins, who said he and his staff worked hard to ensure every religious and ethnic group would be happy with his final recommendation.
"We did a survey and we directed it to 278 organizations ... that comprised 56 cultural communities and 10 major religions,'' he said.
"We had 89 survey responses, and from those survey responses we then looked at the election period I was given to play with ... and I said, `Under the circumstances, I don't believe the fourth fit the definition we're looking for, the best day would be the 10th.''