The last time Canadians saw an election this long was in 1872 when Sir John A. Macdonald was re-elected, defeating then Liberal leader Edward Blake and maintaining a Conservative government. Though compared to what we consider an election in this country today, the elections around 1872 were more like a carnival.
They consisted of groups going from town to town shouting the candidates’ names, and to cast your vote you would simply raise your hand when the candidate they favoured had his name announced. As one can imagine, this was not a civil carnival. During this time elections were riddled with corruption, bribery, and violence. It was an opportunity to make some money if you were willing to loan out your hand for the day, and depending on where you lived/who you wanted to vote for, fearing for your life was a natural emotion.
Fast forward to 2015: Canada is almost unrecognisable as far as elections go, and advances in technology have made it possible for a party to share their entire platform with the country at the push of a button. So having an election as long as the one in 1872, when the candidates were travelling on horseback to win votes might seem a little excessive.
Depending on which party you want to win on October 19th, the long election could be good or bad news. Although each party was already in campaign mode prior to the official start date, it was the Conservatives who decided on the longer than normal election, and you can bet it was a calculated decision. Many believe the reason that the Conservatives called for a longer than usual election is because, as the wealthiest party, they could use their deeper pockets to push the hardest on the campaign trail. This is likely true, and pointless to criticize as long as it’s legal. However, the long election may not only be in the best interest of the Conservatives, it may also be in the best interest of Canadians.
Immediately, in the first few days of the election, a graph was released showing Canada’s current economic growth as the worst in the G7. The message was simple: times are tough, time for change. Such imagery would get anyone thinking. Facts are facts, right? And with a shorter election, examples of information manipulation like this may work. But with time on their hands, the Conservatives quickly released a similar image, this one showing that since Stephen Harper was first elected, Canada has left the rest of the G7 in the dust in terms of economic growth. That includes the rough patch Canada is currently going through due to low oil prices in which the aforementioned graph was referring to. Both graphs were accurate, but we have the long election to thank for the full story.
Another reason the long election is aiding the Conservative Party and undecided voters alike, is the way in which the extra time is exposing the NDP and Liberal opposition. The broad brushstrokes of each party’s platforms have been painted, and now with weeks left until the 19th, leaders are forced to address the details and intricacies of how they will keep their promises, explaining why they are good for the country.
Thomas Mulcair promises Liberal levels of spending with a Conservative balanced budget, and political analysts, regardless of orientation, observe with an eyebrow raised. Until they give the public legitimate answers, the NDP’s unrealistic approach will only make them appear worse as the weeks roll on. With 18 days left, simply answering these questions and addressing accusations with “we have a plan” is already beginning to sound like crickets chirping.
Justin Trudeau, taking a chapter from his father’s book, at least has somewhere to point when he makes costly promises: deficit spending. However, the long election harms the Liberal opposition by providing time for an inexperienced and uninformed leader to look inexperienced and uninformed. Luckily for Canadians we get to witness this during the final weeks of an election, rather than the first weeks of an appointment. Like most credit card purchases, if you give yourself enough time before completing the transaction, you give yourself enough time to grasp the realities of having to pay it back… with interest.
The long election of 1872 went from July 20th – October 12th, a length that was determined out of necessity. This time around the election certainly could have carried on without said length, but it is to the advantage of the Harper government and in Canada’s best interest that it did not.