It’s not the longest election campaign in Canadian history. But it is the longest since 1872 — you know, waaay back before all the modern communications and transportation infrastructure that exists today was invented and installed throughout the country.
For the last half century or so, Canadian election campaigns have been in the 35 to 40 day range. That gives the parties/candidates enough time to communicate with the electorate, and for the electorate to arrive at a decision as to how they intend to vote. Instead, this time we get a whole 78 days to sift through party platforms and listen to/watch/read partisan party messages before we make up our minds. Oh joy!
With the election set for Oct. 19, the logical time to drop the writ would have been after the Labour Day weekend on Tuesday, Sept. 8. But by heading to the polls now the Harper Conservatives get to take advantage of changes they made to electoral laws that allow them to evade spending restrictions that apply during a normal-length campaign.
It’s not like the current spending limit of $25 million doesn’t give them enough leeway to bombard the Canadian public with attack ads about the other two parties that are running neck-and-neck with them in the polls. But with a far deeper “war chest”, the early election call will permit the Conservatives to spend in the neighbourhood of $670,000 for every extra day of campaigning, which means they’ll likely shell out around $50 million by the time it’s over.
Political donations benefit from a generous tax credit, so this is a hit to the country’s public revenue base. Parties and candidates also get reimbursed for around half their eligible election expenses so Canadians will foot that bill too, along with significantly greater administration costs for Elections Canada in the 338 federal ridings.
Finally, Conservative MPs have been flitting around the country in recent weeks like money fairies dropping big chunks of public coin for various infrastructure projects — the vast majority of the 108 (and counting) funding announcements in Conservative-held ridings.
With oil and other commodities in the crapper, the Canadian economy sliding into a recession that will likely only deepen in the months to come, and the Harper government committed to numerous costly tax relief and spending measures such as income-splitting and the Universal Child Care Benefit as part of its balanced budget initiative, whoever forms government after the Oct. 19 election will have a pretty hot set of cooked books to deal with.
For my part, I think I’ll sit out the first month of the campaign and then get into it after Labour Day.