Timing of election call a political calculus for Conservatives
What voters will decide on Oct. 19 is beyond the Conservatives' control. But one thing is firmly in their grasp: when to drop the writs that will take them to the polls.
Exactly what day Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit the Governor General to make the formal request to dissolve Parliament and call the election has been the source of weeks of political speculation. And with good reason - it's ultimately a political calculus of the Conservatives' own devising.
Although a law passed in 2007 set a fixed election date for Parliament, it didn't set a fixed length on how long the election campaign could be, only how short - no less than 37 days including the day it begins.
Fast forward to 2014 and the introduction and subsequent passage of the contentious Fair Elections Act, which among other things changed the rules around campaign finance.
In short - the longer the campaign, the more everyone can spend.
As the party sitting on the biggest war chest, there's no question the Conservatives would want to start the election sooner rather than later, the New Democrats suggested.
“Word is Stephen Harper could call the election early, in as little as 25 days,” reads a fundraising pitch sent by the party last week.
“It's not hard to see why - the longer the election, the more money the Conservatives can spend attacking us.”
The sooner the writs are dropped, the sooner the Conservatives could also potentially curb third-party groups like Engage Canada, a unionbacked organization currently running ads against them, much to their frustration.
Right now, groups like that also have no limits on spending, but if they spend $500 on ads after an election call, they must register as a third party. Then, limits come into effect, though they are also increased according to the length of the election.
Then there's the other side of the political coin.
Once the election has begun, government institutions can no longer advertise unless they have a legal obligation to do so or it's a public safety matter.
At the same time, limits are imposed on what political parties can spend.
Exactly what day Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit the Governor General to make the formal request to dissolve Parliament and call the election has been the source of weeks of political speculation. Harper speaks at the annual South West Stampede BBQ in Calgary, Alta., on July 4 .