EDITORIAL: Switching into election mode

While Pentictonites were busy enjoying the B.C. Day long weekend, Stephen Harper was busy dissolving parliament.

While Pentictonites were busy enjoying the B.C. Day long weekend, Stephen Harper was busy dissolving parliament and kicking off one the longest election campaign periods ever.

Fixed election dates were supposed to prevent the tendency of parties in power to call an election when it suited them best: when they were high in the polls or had some other advantage over the other parties.

Harper followed through on the promise of a fixed election date — Oct. 19, 2015 — but still managed to gain advantage by calling the election early.

The federal Conservatives have a larger war chest than either their Liberal or NDP competitors — let alone the Green Party.  The 11-week campaign period gives them the opportunity to spend more of that money on election advertising, while the other leading parties are limited to a much shorter period of time.

Then there is the cost to taxpayers. A longer campaign period means Elections Canada will be spending more on salaries, rent for electoral offices and other expenses. The Canadian Taxpayer Federation has suggested the total extra costs could reach $125 million.

And while Elections Canada is spending more, the  11-week campaign also means the parties can spend more. Thanks to changes contained in the Conservative’s Fair Election Act — voted into law last year — spending limits can be increased if the campaign is longer than the 37-day minimum.

This 11-week campaign allows parties to spend more than $50 million, which thanks to the campaign rebate system, will be subsidized by up to 50 per cent by taxpayers.

Stephen Harper may have adhered to the letter of the law by sticking to a fixed election date, but he has broken the spirit of it by rigging the campaign period in his party’s favour, and at our expense.