After months of speculation, and half a summer spent in campaign mode it looks like it will finally happen this weekend. Stephen Harper is said to be meeting the Governor-General Sunday or Monday and will ask him to formally dissolve Parliament triggering a general election.
Under fixed election date legislation it has to happen no later than October 19, which is the date everyone seems to be working under. That makes it a 78-day campaign; the longest in Canadian history.
As much as it could work in the Conservatives’ favour in terms of money (Conservatives have the most in their war chest), it could backfire. Campaigns are weird creatures unto themselves, the longer they go the more likely something is to go wrong. And the downside of incumbency is all the baggage that comes with it. And these Conservatives have plenty from the Senate and Mike Duffy, to the economic problems they’re reluctant to talk about.
Harper’s shown he likes to be contrary. See what happened with the odd announcement on what he’d do the Senate? By the time he stood with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and told the press he wasn’t going to appoint any new Senators it wasn’t news. Lots of rumours that he was going to promise to abolish it. It wouldn’t surprise me if he came out and called it for around October 1st instead.
The longer campaign definitely benefits Harper. Voters won’t care for the first few weeks because nobody pays very much attention to politics during the summer. By the time they do, and realize they have to vote there may be an attitude of “do it, and get it over with.”
It’s a gamble no matter when it is.