Lengthy federal election campaign kicks off

Canadians are bracing themselves for what will be a long federal election campaign. To no one’s surprise, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped the writ this past weekend so it’s off to the races for the politicians – who also include Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Green leader Elizabeth May and Bloq Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe. They have 11 weeks to spread their messages across the country – an unusually lengthy period of time, considering most campaigns run about 37 days or so.

There has been some outrage amongst the public over the early election call – everything from the soaring costs of calling the election early to an attitude of ‘what’s the point’ of calling it in the middle of summer and on a long weekend to boot.

Canadians will go to the polls on Oct. 19th.

It’s also sometimes a risky move to call an election early – just ask former Premier Jim Prentice. It was a different situation of course, but he certainly didn’t do himself any favours, as we all know, by calling it early. What was expected to be an easy Tory win in the province ended in ultimate disaster for the party, with a complete change in government.

Meanwhile let’s face it – in early August, there is little appetite for all things political. People are away on holidays trying to enjoy the last month of summer before the inevitable Canadian cold weather sweeps in. Parents are gearing up to send their kids back to school in a few short weeks. Families are busy. Who has time to carefully dissect the platitudes of political leaders? Sounds like a tiresome prospect. We suspect the beginnings of this campaign will largely fall on deaf ears as Oct. 19th seems like a long, long ways away.

Some have pointed out that people don’t tend to engage with a given political campaign until near the end of the run; when the voting day is in sight.

But calling it on the August long weekend couldn’t possibly attract much attention. And these dry weeks ahead will make it hard on contenders like Mulcair and Trudeau who simply don’t have the funding like the Tories to help sustain a long, drawn-out campaign.

According to CBC, during a 37-day election period, each party can spend a maximum of $25 million. For each additional day, that means an extra $675,000 can be spent which would see parties able to spend more than $50 million.

The cost to taxpayers rises with a longer campaign as well. It has been reported that a typical five-week campaign costs about $375 million. Parties are then reimbursed for half the money they shell out during the course of the campaign – which falls on taxpayers.

It’s certainly unusual for campaigns to be this long – according to The Canadian Press, only Canada’s first two election campaigns were longer. The 1867 campaign lasted 81 days, while the 1872 campaign went for 96 days. At that time, voting was staggered over the country for a period of several months. The longest race in recent history was a 74-day campaign back in 1926.

But all of that said, it could certainly prove to be an interesting few weeks. As mentioned, things tend to intensify greatly during the final leg of a campaign, so we will be in for some fired-up back and forth battles. And even so far, there seems to be an appetite amongst Canadians for some type of change – but what that change could end up looking like remains to be seen.

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