On Sunday, Aug. 2, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the Governor General’s office to officially dissolve Parliament and begin the 42nd federal election campaign. With the election set for Oct. 19, that makes for 78 days of campaigning — the longest in our country’s history since 1872.
That’s a very long time — especially since it feels like we’ve been in the middle of a campaign for months anyway. (Thanks for that, relentless Conservative attack ads.) And it’s certainly hard to see Harper’s move as anything other than a final power play to drop on his opponents.
Indeed, the call was met with derision from the former head of Elections Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who said that an early election call “completely distort[s] everything we’ve ever fought for, everything we’ve established as rules.” Business as usual for Harper, it would seem.
The primary concern comes down to spending, and how the lengthened campaign affects limits for each party. With the election nearly doubled in length, spending limits have subsequently increased from $25 million to almost $50 million. And the only party with that kind of dough in their coffers is the Conservatives.
At a press conference after visiting the Governor General’s office, Harper stated that calling the election early was merely a response to the other parties unofficially beginning their campaigns, which, to be fair, isn’t entirely without merit. Like I said, it feels like we’ve been in the middle of a campaign for quite some time, so why not call a spade a spade? This “campaign” has been “running” ever since Harper took office in 2011, and Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau took the reins of their parties in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Ultimately, this is just another in a long line of petty moves by the Harper government to try and keep itself ahead of the curve, all while citing some adherence to “Canadian values” or “benefiting the taxpayer” or whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it. It’s a tried-and-true method, and if the recent polls are anything to go by, it still works. It still works!
. . . Why does it still work?!
Canada’s voters are in a unique situation this election to make their oppositions clear to a government that has repeatedly taken its place in power for granted while it simultaneously undermined our rights and freedoms at every turn. But if Harper’s pulls off a final scheme to bore voters into submission with a longer campaign — one that only his party can fund — it’ll all be for naught.
Harper may have started the game, but that doesn’t mean we have to play by his rules. Stay vigilant. Watch the leader debates. Donate to the party that speaks for you. And make sure that Harper’s longest campaign is also his last.