Imminent federal election to be costliest, longest in recent Canadian history
Stephen Harper is poised to fire the starting gun for the Oct. 19 federal election as early as Sunday.
Sources say the prime minister is set to visit Gov. Gen. David Johnston within days, possibly as soon as Sunday, to formally dissolve Parliament and launch what will be the costliest and — at 11 weeks — one of the longest campaigns in Canadian history.
Here are five things voters should know about Canada’s imminent 42nd general election campaign:
— Elections law requires a minimum campaign of 37 days. It does not impose a maximum length. Harper is choosing to make this the longest traditional campaign in Canadian history.
Only the first two election campaigns after Confederation were longer — 81 days in 1867 and 96 days in 1872 — but in those early days voting was staggered across the country over a period of several months, necessarily extending the length of the campaigns. Since then, the longest campaign was 74 days, way back in 1926.
— Due to legislation passed last year by the Harper government, campaign spending limits for parties and candidates will increase by 1/37th for of the last five campaigns were just five weeks every day longer than 37 days.
Even had this campaign lasted just the minimum length, it was already on target to be the costliest in history, with spending limits of about $25 million for each party running a full slate of candidates and an average of about $100,000 for each candidate. Those limits will more than double for an 11-week campaign.
That gives a tremendous advantage to Harper’s Conservative party as its candidates have raised more money than any other party.
— Elections Canada estimates that a five-week campaign would cost about $375 million to administer. A longer campaign will mean the agency must pay untold millions more to rent office space, furniture and equipment for returning officers in each of the country’s 338 ridings and for staff in those offices.
Taxpayers will also foot the bill for much larger rebates to parties and candidates, who receive reimbursements for 50 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively, of their eligible election expenses.
— The tradition of holding two televised leaders’ debates, the pivotal point of modern election campaigns, will not apply this time. The Conservatives upended that tradition last spring by announcing that Harper would not participate in the one French and one English debate sponsored by a consortium of broadcasters.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair takes a horse out of its stall while visiting an agricultural fair Wednesday.