Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Governor General David Johnston Sunday morning to officially start Canada's 42nd General election. Voters go to the polls Oct. 19.

ELECTION 2015: Campaign officially underway, spending limits kick in

Stephen Harper's Conservatives gain edge by launching longest federal election campaign in modern history: political analyst

Federal election lawn signs have begun to sprout now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has fired the starting pistol on what will be a 78-day campaign, the longest in modern history.

The prime minister visited Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall Sunday morning to dissolve Parliament and begin the election set for Oct. 19.

The voting day had been fixed in legislation and party leaders had been in campaign mode for weeks, but dropping the writ this far ahead means spending limits will be in force for much longer than the typical 36 days.

That will give a financial advantage to Harper and the Conservatives, according to SFU political scientist Patrick Smith.

“They certainly have the largest war chest,” Smith said. “Money matters in politics.”

He predicts the Tories will far outspend their rivals and might be in a position to blitz advertising channels late in the campaign when NDP and Liberal coffers may be nearly exhausted.

A campaign more than twice the usual length means a spending limit twice as high – more than $50 million per party – that only the Tories have a realistic shot at fully exploiting.

“They have more money than the other parties so they can withstand a longer race.”

The early writ drop means third party advertising – such as union-funded anti-Tory attack ads by Engage Canada – will now be subject to a tight $200,000 spending limit, largely clamping down on their influence.

That was a key motivation for starting the campaign now rather than waiting, Smith said.

“It shuts up third party advertising and at the moment they see that as problematic.”

A long, financial war of attrition on the hustings could have ramifications beyond who actually wins the election.

Smith currently predicts a Conservative minority. In that scenario, he says, a cash-depleted or possibly indebted opposition will be less inclined to topple a minority Tory government and force a new election.

“They’re not likely to try to trigger an election in the first six months, so that helps stabilize a Conservative minority,” Smith said. “So people who think about the longer game will be thinking about those kinds of things.”

The longest campaign in more than a century will also mean higher costs to taxpayers.

Elections Canada’s costs will be higher to mobilize staff earlier.

And more spending than usual by the parties would translate into a higher government subsidy back to the them for use in future campaigns.

As for significant issues, Smith expects the federal push for new oil pipelines across B.C. will hurt the Conservatives in this province.

But he said the slowing economy will be the dominant issue on voters’ minds in deciding which party to support.

Another month of economic contraction could make a suspected recession official by September.

Smith isn’t sure that would necessarily be bad for the PM.

“If the economy is bad, do we have to stay with Harper because he’s the best man to manage it or does he get the blame?”

The bigger danger for Harper is that “once people start humming the change tune, it’s pretty hard to reverse it.”

For the Conservatives to win even a minority, the Tories may need the anti-Harper vote split as evenly as possible between the Liberals and NDP, Smith said, and many votes bled off by the Greens as well.

He thinks the Conservatives will struggle to hold onto their seats in B.C.and the Greens may take another seat or two from the NDP on Vancouver Island.

“These things could become more significant if we end up in a minority government with different permutations and combinations.”

VIDEO: Stephen Harper launches 11-week federal election campaign

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says most political parties have already started campaigning ahead of the October 19th federal election. Stephen Harper says officially launching the election forces the campaigns to be done within the rules (via The Canadian Press)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria writer releases first novel inspired by U.S. school shootings

Dear Mr. President tells thought provoking story of victims left behind

Saanich mayor joins fight to protect local wildlife from rat poisoning after second owl dies

Mayor Fred Haynes to meet with provincial, federal pest control industry representatives

Sidney fire responds to fewer but more severe calls during pandemic

Rise in severity linked to changes in routine during COVID-19 pandemic

Saanich police see spike in excessive speeding compared to previous years

Nearly 100 excessive speeders caught since January 2020

Colwood branch drop-off to continue throughout summer

COVID-19 safety measures remain in place

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Most Read