The 78-day campaign for the federal election started today (Aug. 2).
Canada has not seen a federal election period this long since the 1800s.
The voting day had been fixed in legislation and party leaders had been in campaign mode for weeks, but dropping the writ this far ahead means spending limits will be in force for much longer than the typical 36 days.
The prime minister visited Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall Sunday morning to dissolve Parliament and begin the election set for Oct. 19.
Canadians were expecting the writ to drop sooner rather than later as Conservative MPs have been making funding announcements.
Langley MP Warawa has handed out millions in recent days.
• July 23: $1.4 million for the upgrade of 203rd Street arond 53rd Avenue,
• July 30: $22.3 million for the $59 million Highway 1/216th Street interchange,
• July 31: $60,100 for the BC Farm Museum Association,
• July 31: $10.8 million to Harding Safety Canada Inc. as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy,
• July 31: $455,000 for three projects for at Williams Park, Willoughby Park and the Langley Centennial Museum,
• July 29: $90,000 for the Canadian Standards Association fuel research facility in Langley.
The longer election period will give a financial advantage to Harper and the Conservatives, according to SFU political scientist Patrick Smith.
“They certainly have the largest war chest,” Smith said. “Money matters in politics.”
He predicts the Tories will far outspend their rivals and might be in a position to blitz advertising channels late in the campaign when NDP and Liberal coffers may be nearly exhausted.
A campaign more than twice the usual length means a spending limit twice as high – more than $50 million per party – that only the Tories have a realistic shot at fully exploiting.
“They have more money than the other parties so they can withstand a longer race.”
The early writ drop means third party advertising – such as union-funded anti-Tory attack ads by Engage Canada – will now be subject to a tight $200,000 spending limit, largely clamping down on their influence.
That was a key motivation for starting the campaign now rather than waiting, Smith said.
“It shuts up third party advertising and at the moment they see that as problematic.”
A long, financial war of attrition on the hustings could have ramifications beyond who actually wins the election.
Smith currently predicts a Conservative minority. In that scenario, he says, a cash-depleted or possibly indebted opposition will be less inclined to topple a minority Tory government and force a new election.
“They’re not going to likely to try to trigger an election in the first six months, so that helps stabilize a Conservative minority,” Smith said. “So people who think about the longer game will be thinking about those kinds of things.”
The longest campaign in more than a century will also mean higher costs to taxpayers.
Elections Canada’s costs will be higher to mobilize staff earlier.
And more spending than usual by the parties would translate into a higher government subsidy back to the them for use in future campaigns.
He thinks the Conservatives will struggle to hold onto their seats in B.C.and the Greens may take another seat or two from the NDP on Vancouver Island.
The federal government redrew election boundaries so that Langley City and a bit of the Township is part of the Cloverdale Langley riding. The rest of the Township is part of the Langley riding.
– With files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press
Langley MLA Mary Polak and City Mayor Ted Schaffer were with Langley MP Mark Warawa when he announced funds for a road project on 203rd Street between the bridge and 53rd Avenue.