One of the side effects of having fixed election dates in Canada, a move that was pioneered by the BC Liberals when they first were elected here in 2001, is that campaigns have become much, much longer.
In fact, having a short campaign period is considered a disaster by most political handlers now. One of the criticisms made of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives (after the fact, of course), is that they only had a 28-day period to campaign in.
Premier Jim Prentice in fact broke the fixed election date law and called an election a year early. That didn’t go so well.
The federal election campaign has actually been underway for some time — certainly since the beginning of the year. While Parliament is still sitting and passing laws, MPs and candidates of all stripes are hard at work getting ready for the October election.
Here in Langley, the candidates in the new Cloverdale-Langley City riding are mostly in place and several have already set up campaign offices. They are taking time off from their jobs to campaign, and that’s what they are spending much of their time doing.
Because of the long campaign period, voters need to treat almost everything said or done by political parties, and particularly by their leaders, with a great deal of skepticism.
They need to follow the advice of lead singer Sting of The Police in the song Every Breath You Take:
“Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you.”
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was in Surrey for a rally Friday night. This clearly was an election-related visit. Surrey gains a new riding under redistribution (it will have a total of five, including the Cloverdale-Langley City one).
Two of the current Surrey ridings are held by NDP MPs, and the NDP are doing well in recent opinion polls. The surprising win of the NDP in Alberta is causing more people across Canada to look at the federal party a little more closely. Some are, for the first time, actually considering it as a government in waiting.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also made a number of visits to the Lower Mainland in recent weeks — with at least two of them to Surrey. One was to the Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus in Cloverdale, part of the new riding.
While they haven’t been election rallies, his visits are directly connected to the campaign. In particular, the time he spent with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Surrey, Vancouver and several Ontario venues was invaluable.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will almost certainly be in the area several times in the coming months as well, and it is possible Green Party leader Elizabeth May be in the vicinity. It’s likely she will spend a lot of time defending her Vancouver Island seat and trying to build on the strong interest in Green politics on the island.
Voters aren’t too engaged in federal politics right now, but the parties most certainly are.