As we head into the halcyon days of summer with Canada Day celebrations now behind us, Canadians are coming to grips with their first taste of American-style politics.
The decision by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to set fixed dates for federal elections in Canada has brought about a seismic shift to Canadian politics. The most noticeable change is the campaigns themselves, which now stretch far beyond the traditional five-week window.
When Canadians last went to the polls on May 2, 2011, the election campaign was limited to the 36 days after the writ was dropped. But all of that has changed.
Canadians are now being inundated with political ads wherever they turn, whether it be television, newspapers, radio or websites. And with the election date of Oct. 19 still more than three months away, you can be sure that there’s even more still to come.
While the Liberals and New Democrats have chosen to use their finances on ads introducing the party leaders, the Conservative government has launched a series of American-style attack ads, primarily aimed at Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Most of the positive messaging for Prime Minister Harper’s Conservatives has come in the way of government-funded ads.
If fixed-election dates are to continue, which they likely will, steps must be taken before the next election to close the loophole that allows the governing party to subsidize its campaign with taxpayer dollars.
The barrage of television ads that will fill the airwaves over the next few months are an unwelcome distraction for many Canadians, but the longer campaigns do provide some benefit. The months of campaigning should serve to better inform Canadians about the issues facing the country and hopefully we can see a whole series of televised debates (if the party leaders can get past the posturing).
Maybe the prolonged exposure will help boost voter turnout in October, then again maybe not, but at least it’s a glimmer of hope to help Canadians get through their summer of political discontent.