by Colin Smith
It became official after Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Governor General David Johnson on Sunday: Canada’s 42nd election campaign is on.
Canadians will vote in a general election on October 19 following a 78-day campaign, more than double the usual length in recent decades.
The Conservative Party led by Harper is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office.
Prime Minister Harper justified the unusually early election call by saying the other parties had already been campaigning, although observers say that the long campaign will give the well-funded Conservatives the opportunity to substantially outspend their rivals.
It’s also been noted that the lengthy election will cost Canadian taxpayers more. Elections Canada’s costs go up from the $375 million it costs to administer a standard election because it has to keep returning offices open for a longer time. The increased spending limits of a longer campaign will result in parties and individual candidates receiving more in tax rebates.
In contention are 338 seats in the House of Commons, up 30 from the last election. New electoral districts have been added in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
Challenging for those seats will be candidates for the Conservatives under Stephen Harper, Green Party led by Elizabeth May, Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Quebecois, and the New Democratic Party headed by Thomas Mulcair.
At the time the Governor General dissolved the last Parliament the Conservatives held a majority of 159 of 308 seats in the House of Commons.
The NDP had 95 seats, Liberals 36 and the Green Party, Bloc Québécois, and Forces et Démocratie party had two seats each. Eight independent MPs and four vacant seats made up the total.
Recent polls have had the Conservatives and New Democrats neck and neck in terms of voter support, with the Liberals several points back. However a Forum Research poll August 2 put the NDP substantially ahead at 39 per cent, versus 28 per cent for the Conservative party and 25 per cent for the Liberal Party.
On election day, Morinville and area residents will be voting in the electoral district of Sturgeon River-Parkland, one of six new ridings in Alberta. Morinville is in the western half of the riding, which stretches to just past Redwater, and also takes in Legal, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
The community was previously in the Westlock-St. Paul electoral district and has been represented by Conservative MP Brian Storsteth, first elected in 2006, who previously announced he wouldn’t be running in this election.
In the 2011 election, Storsteth won with 32,625 votes, 77.8 per cent of the total cast. New Democratic candidate Lyndsay Sanders received 5,103 votes, Liberal Rob Fox took 2,569 and Green Party candidate Lisa Grant received 1,634.
Former Spruce Grove MP Rona Ambrose announced in January that she would be seeking election as a Conservative in Sturgeon River-Parkland. Other candidates who have announced their intentions are Brendon Greene for the Green Party and Guy Desforges for the New Democrats.
Individuals are eligible to vote in the upcoming election if they are Canadian citizens, are 18 or older and are registered to vote. Those who voted in a federal election since 1997 will already be on the National Register of Electors, which was created that year.
This database of Canadians who are qualified to vote is continually updated through information from agencies including Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency, National Defence and provincial and territorial drivers licence agencies, and used to produce the voters list at the beginning of the election.
New Canadian citizens, people who have just turned eighteen and anyone else who is unsure whether they are registered to vote can check Election Canada’s website. People who have recently moved may have to update their address information.
Between September 28 and October 2 registered electors will receive a voter information card in the mail that will tell them where to vote. In addition to entering the polling both October 19, electors can also use the advance polls on October 9, 10, 11 and 12, vote by mail, or vote at the nearest Elections Canada office.
Elections Canada will be providing mobile polling stations in some hospitals and long-term care facilities, and workers if necessary will carry the ballot box from room to room so residents can vote. For more information about mobile polls call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.
When electors do go to make their choice, they will be facing stricter identification requirements following the passage of the controversial Fair Elections Act in June. Now both name and address have to be shown on identification.
If a voter doesn’t have a driver’s license or provincial/territorial ID card that indicates both, he or she can use one piece with their name and a second with your address, for example a health card and a phone bill. Identity can no longer be vouched for, but voters can stake an oath at the polling station to verify their address. They will need two pieces of identification bearing their name and have someone corroborate their address. This person must have proof their own identity and address and be registered in the same polling division.
Your voter information card that comes in the mail cannot be used to corroborate your identity as it was in the 2011 election.
For further information on the electoral process go to the Elections Canada website, www.elections.ca
In addition to the major political organizations vying for votes, there are 18 other parties registered or eligible to have their names on the ballot.
These include the Communist Party of Canada, Libertarian Party of Canada, Canadian Heritage Party, Seniors Party of Canada, Marijuana Party, Pirate Party, Rhinoceros Party and the Bridge Party of Canada.
According to The Canadian Press, only Canada’s first two election saw campaigns longer than the current one, and those were “rolling” elections in which voting took place in different parts of the country at different times. The 1867 campaign lasted 81 days while the 1872 campaign went for 96 days.
The longest race in recent history was a 66-day campaign in 1980. Only one of the campaigns since 1997 has been longer than 37 days.