Ready to rum­ble?

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties pre­pare for lengthy elec­tion cam­paign ahead of Oct. 19 vote

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

In past elec­tion cam­paigns, the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives were fond of sched­ul­ing their events early in the day, hop­ing to set the agenda and force ev­ery­one else to talk about their pol­icy pro­nounce­ments.

On Sun­day, Stephen Harper is widely ex­pected to take that tac­tic to a whole new level.

By all in­di­ca­tions, the prime min­is­ter is poised pay a visit to Gover­nor Gen­eral David John­ston to ask that Par­lia­ment be dis­solved, kick­ing off what prom­ises to be a long, hot leadup to the Oct. 19 fed­eral elec­tion.

Harper is sched­uled to at­tend a rally with Con­ser­va­tive faith­ful later that day in Mon­treal, kick­ing off a gru­elling 11-week cam­paign that prom­ises to be one of the long­est and most ex­pen­sive in Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal history.

“He’s play­ing agenda-set­ting,” Con­ser­va­tive strate­gist Tim Pow­ers said Thurs­day.

“(He’s) try­ing to use his ex­pe­ri­ence and also try­ing to use what re­sources the Con­ser­va­tives have — which ap­pear to be more than the other guys — to his ad­van­tage.”

For­mer NDP leader Ed Broadbent said he be­lieves Harper’s early-call strat­egy is more about try­ing to steer clear of some se­ri­ous cam­paign-trail pot­holes, no­tably the Mike Duffy trial and the state of Cana­dian pock­et­books.

“I think ... he would think the longer cam­paign will en­able him to get out from un­der some of the flak that is yet to come, likely on the Duffy trial and also on the down­turn of the Cana­dian econ­omy,” Broadbent said in an in­ter­view.

Duffy’s trial re­sumes Aug. 12 with the star wit­ness: Harper’s for­mer chief of staff, Nigel Wright, the man who pro­vided the em­bat­tled sen­a­tor with $90,000 in or­der to pay back du­bi­ous hous­ing and travel ex­pense claims.

The other oft-men­tioned ad­van­tage to the Tories of a longer cam­paign is the fundrais­ing an­gle: the longer the cam­paign, the more money the par­ties are forced to spend.

The cash-rich Con­ser­va­tives have been able to raise more fundrais­ing dol­lars than the NDP and Lib­er­als com­bined, but Broadbent said he is con­fi­dent more money will pour in for the New Democrats once the of­fi­cial cam­paign is un­der­way.

“The pop­u­lar­ity of the NDP, ev­ery­body in the coun­try knows, has been go­ing up not just in re­cent weeks but in most re­cent months and that is gen­er­at­ing ... in­creased do­na­tions to the party,” Broadbent said.

“I am ab­so­lutely cer­tain, given my own ex­pe­ri­ence as leader, once the cam­paign is of­fi­cially launched, many peo­ple com­mit­ted to the party will start do­nat­ing.”

In­deed, that ap­pears to have al­ready started.

The party an­nounced Thurs­day it raised nearly $4.5 mil­lion in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2015 — more than any quar­ter in its history.

The pre-cam­paign pe­riod, of course, is about more than just party cof­fers.

Observers point to a re­cent bar­rage of gov­ern­ment spend­ing across the coun­try and a rush of gov­ern­ment an­nounce­ments on Twit­ter as signs a cam­paign is nigh.

New Demo­crat of­fi­cials weren’t say­ing much Thurs­day about their Sun­day plans, but Lib­eral Leader Justin Trudeau is ex­pected to hold an event in Van­cou­ver prior to the city’s Pride pa­rade if the cam­paign does in­deed get un­der­way.

Trudeau will then travel to the Toronto area ahead of the first leader’s de­bate, sched­uled to take place Thurs­day.

Fed­eral law re­quires cam­paigns to be at least 37 days long, but says noth­ing about a max­i­mum length.

The Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment’s re­cent changes al­low can­di­date and party spend­ing to in­crease by as much as $675,000 for ev­ery day the cam­paign ex­tends past 37 days.

Cana­dian taxpayers, mean­while, will be foot­ing the bill for mil­lions in ex­tra ad­min­is­tra­tive costs and tens of mil­lions more in re­bates to par­ties and can­di­dates for their ad­di­tional elec­tion ex­penses.

Elec­tions Canada es­ti­mates that a typ­i­cal 37-day cam­paign would cost roughly $375 mil­lion to ad­min­is­ter.

Re­gard­less of the price tag, it’s money well-spent in the name of democ­racy, said the Man­ning Cen­tre for Build­ing Democ­racy, founded by Re­form party god­fa­ther Pre­ston Man­ning,

The cost of an elec­tion “is a drop in the bucket when you con­sider to­tal gov­ern­ment spend­ing and the fact elec­tions hap­pen once ev­ery four years,” the cen­tre said in a state­ment.

“One of the big ben­e­fits of a longer elec­tion pe­riod is that it al­lows for more de­bate on im­por­tant is­sues and more en­gage­ment with Cana­di­ans.”




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