It has been speculated that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may call an election as early as this Sunday (August 3rd). With Election Day firmly set for October 19th, a call for an election as early as Sunday would make this coming federal election the longest in modern history (competing with the record-holding election in 1926 at 74 days long). What does a longer federal election mean? Here are some key factors to consider this election:
Spending Limits for Third-Party Advertisers
Once parliament is dissolved and the campaign period has begun, advertising limits are set for any third-party advertisers. Third parties are allowed to spend a maximum of $150,000 on campaign advertising for a 37-day campaign. However, because of a longer election period, third parties would likely have an expanded budget of up to $400,000 to use for campaign advertisements – however, this limit would in no way compare to the generous spending limits afforded to registered political parties.
Expanded Spending Limits for Political Parties
The spending limit for registered parties is now set at $25 million. However, this limit applies to all money spent during the election period – not just money spent on advertising. In an election longer than 37 days, this spending limit adjusts upward for each extra day the campaign runs over the typical 37-day election period. This means that the spending limit per political party could potentially double given the probable length of this year’s election period.
A Longer Election Will Potentially Cost Taxpayers Millions
With a longer election, comes additional spending. Elections Canada estimates that a campaign of 37 days would cost roughly $375 million to administer. A much longer campaign would see costs skyrocketing with the need for longer office leases (required for returning officers in each of the country’s 338 ridings), additional telephone payments, equipment costs and furniture rentals. Extra funding would also be required for additional hours worked by staff. In addition, taxpayers would foot the bill for much larger tax rebates to parties and candidates who receive reimbursements for 50% and 60% of their eligible election expenses and for the subsidization of donations to party campaigns.
Bills of the Dissolved Government Die Off – Senate Continues to Function in Administrative Capacity
After parliament dissolves, all bills in progress die off and committees cease to function. However, since the senate does not run for re-election (because senators are not elected), it still operates during the election period.
Suspensions given to those senators recently charged with fraud – Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau – will come to an end since the suspensions were only for the parliamentary session. This will put Duffy and Brazeau back on the payroll, with salaries in the ball park of $142,000 and a full range of other benefits during the campaign period.
These are just some of the factors that will affect Canadians should Harper dissolve parliament this Sunday. What do you think? Is a longer election period necessary or is it just a nuisance to Canadians?