Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Will Mr. Harper Warp the Playing Field?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Will Mr. Harper Warp the Playing Field?

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Will Mr. Harper warp the playing field?

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published July 29:

The Oct. 19 fixed election date may have ended the suspense over when voters go to the polls, but it hasn't ended speculation on when the official election campaign actually begins.

Some Tory insiders say Prime Minister Stephen Harper could drop the writ as early as Sunday, rather than mid-September, which would mean a much longer campaign than the normal five-week period.

Of course the parties, and particularly the governing Conservatives, are always campaigning, but a longer writ period could theoretically tilt the election in favour of Mr. Harper, while substantially increasing the cost of the campaign for taxpayers.

Legislation requiring fixed election dates was one of the first things the Conservatives introduced after they were elected in 2006, but this is the first time it has been used.

When the legislation was introduced, the prime minister said fixed elections were necessary for the proper functioning of democracy.

They "prevent governments from calling snap elections for short-term political advantage. They level the playing field for all parties and the rules are clear for everybody," Mr. Harper boldly declared.

His feelings then were undoubtedly inspired by former prime minister Jean Chretien's habit of calling unnecessary elections just three years into his mandate in order to exploit the weakness of the opposition and the divisions on the right.

That was then. This is now.

The Conservatives are running neck-and-neck with the New Democrats, but neither is positioned to win a majority, if the election were held today.

Mr. Harper obviously wants to improve his odds, but it's not entirely clear dropping the writ early will achieve that.

The Conservatives have a much larger war chest than the opposition parties, which gives them an advantage in a longer campaign. …

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