Saskatchewan's Legislative Assembly consists of 58 members or MLAs. Each member represents one of 58 areas of the province known as constituencies or ridings, defined by The Representation Act, 2002.
But how does someone become a Member of the Legislative Assembly in the first place? Are they chosen by the Premier? Are they chosen by a political party (for example, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, or the Saskatchewan Party)? For the answer to these questions, let's follow the process of becoming a candidate and getting elected as an MLA.
Qualifications of candidates
According to The Election Act, 1996, any Canadian citizen 18 years of age or older who is a resident of Saskatchewan and who is not disqualified from voting (a judge, for example) is eligible to become a candidate for election to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. A candidate must file nomination papers and pay a deposit of $100 to the returning officer in his or her constituency.
Before formally filing nomination papers, an eligible candidate may already have been chosen by a political party to run in his or her constituency. Political parties usually hold a particular point of view or party platform on a wide range of issues such as health care and education, and they choose a candidate who will support those views. Party candidates may benefit from media coverage of their nomination, and the support and resources offered by a political party means a candidate’s profile may rise during the campaign.
An independent candidate is not a member of a political party. These persons usually campaign on a single issue of importance to them (for example, the environment) rather than on the wide range of issues supported by a political party. These candidates frequently pay their own election expenses, such as the cost of printing, advertising and lawn signs. Independent candidates usually do not have the financial resources of party candidates and therefore do not receive as much attention.
Calling a general election
In Saskatchewan, The Legislative Assembly Act, 2007 requires that a general election be held every four years on the first Monday of November. However, if the writ period for a planned provincial election overlaps with the writ period for a federal general election, Saskatchewan's election moves to the first Monday of April of the next year. The election campaign lasts a minimum of 27 days, starting when the Premier drops the writ or calls the election. The Assembly is dissolved, which means that there are no members of the Assembly during this period. However, executive government — the Premier and cabinet ministers — remains in place throughout this time, ensuring we have continuous government.
Preparing for the election
The Chief Electoral Officer is the person responsible for coordinating the election on a province-wide basis, but it is the returning officer for each constituency who makes the detailed arrangements for holding the election. Persons called enumerators call door to door to make lists of eligible voters. Voting places are established, ballots and ballot boxes are provided, and notices regarding where to vote are publicized in every constituency.
When voters arrive at the poll on election day, their names are checked off from the list of eligible voters. They then receive a ballot and proceed to a polling booth to vote. The completed ballot is placed in the ballot box under the watchful eye of scrutineers representing each candidate. Scrutineers do not look at the votes of any individual. Their job is to ensure that the ballot box was empty before the voting started, that only eligible persons are permitted to vote, that persons are not voting more than once, and that the counting of votes is done fairly.
When the count is completed, the results are reported by the returning officer to the Chief Electoral Officer, who officially announces the election of the candidate receiving the most votes. This reporting is a formality known as the return of the writ.
Taking a seat in the Assembly
Before an elected candidate can assume the duties of a Member of the Legislative Assembly, he or she must be sworn in by taking an oath or making an affirmation of allegiance. Only then may a member take his or her seat in the Assembly Chamber to participate in the day-to-day proceedings.