Stephen Harper is poised to fire the starting gun for the Oct. 19 federal election as early as Sunday. Sources say the prime minister is set to visit Gov. Gen. David Johnston within days, possibly as soon as Sunday, to formally dissolve Parliament and launch what will be the costliest and — at 11 weeks — one of the longest campaigns in Canadian history. Here are five things voters should know about Canada’s imminent 42nd general election campaign: Elections law requires a minimum campaign of 37 days. It does not impose a maximum length. Harper is choosing to make this the longest traditional campaign in Canadian history. Only the first two election campaigns after Confederation were longer — 81 days in 1867 and 96 days in 1872 — but in those early days voting was staggered across the country over a period of several months, necessarily extending the length of the campaigns. Since then, the longest campaign was 74 days, way back in 1926.
Four of the last five campaigns were just five weeks long. Due to legislation passed last year by the Harper government, campaign spending limits for parties and candidates will increase by 1/37th for every day longer than 37 days.
Even had this campaign lasted just the minimum length, it was already on target to be the costliest in history, with spending limits of about $25 million for each party running a full slate of candidates and an average of about $100,000 for each candidate. Those limits will more than double for an 11-week campaign.
That gives a tremendous advantage to Harper’s Conservative party as its candidates have raised more money than any other party.