NETfacts: Business

Privy Council Office Guidelines During an Election

The government acts with restraint during an election, confining itself to necessary public business (either routine or urgent).

This does not mean that government is barred from making decisions or announcements, or otherwise taking action, during the “caretaker period”. It can and should do so where the matter is routine and necessary for the conduct of government business, or where it is urgent and in the public interest – for example, responding to a natural disaster. In certain cases where a major decision is unavoidable during a campaign (e.g., due to an international obligation or an emergency), consultation with the opposition parties may be appropriate, particularly where a major decision could be controversial or difficult for a new government to reverse.

In short, during an election, a government should restrict itself – in matters of policy, expenditure and appointments – to activity that is:

  1. (a) routine, or
  2. (b) non-controversial, or
  3. (c) urgent and in the public interest, or
  4. (d) reversible by a new government without undue cost or disruption, or
  5. (e) agreed to by opposition parties (in those cases where consultation is appropriate).