Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to visit Governor General David Johnston on Sunday to dissolve Parliament and launch one of the longest federal elections in Canadian history.
The election is still scheduled to occur on October 19, but the official campaign period would begin much earlier than anticipated to make it a 78-day campaign. Elections Canada mandates that federal election campaigns must last a minimum of 37 days, which was the case for the last two elections.
The decision to start the election campaign early is being seen as a tactical move by Harper, whose party has been losing ground to the NDP – the left-leaning party would win a minority government if the election were held today.
A new Forum Research opinion poll on voter preference indicates the NDP are leading the way with 34 per cent, while the Liberals and Conservatives are in a tie for second place with 29 per cent and 29 per cent support respectively. The Bloc and Greens are in the single digits.
The longer campaign will come at a cost to taxpayers. Elections Canada, which runs the nation’s federal elections, budgeted $375-million this year’s election based on a 37-day campaign period. However, its operational costs are expected to rise for longer office leases and equipment rental as well as more staff pay for an additional month of work.
Political parties also receive much of their funding from taxpayers. Overall, including private donations, political parties will be entitled to spend an extra $675,000 per day – a 1/37th increase per day – for each additional day in the campaign beyond the minimum of 37 days.
This would particularly benefit the Conservative party, which has built up a significantly larger war chest than the Liberals and NDP.