EDITORIAL — Now that the media are finished whining about the cost of the extra-long election campaign, we can get on with figuring out who’s best qualified to lead the country for the next few years.
It’s certainly not evident from anything Stephen Harper has said why we must endure such a long political exercise. He says we must go by the rules, and that the other parties had already, in effect, started their election campaigns. This, from the leader of the party that has been engaging in that relentless “He’s just not ready” attack ad campaign against Justin Trudeau, and was embarking on a similar one against Thomas Mulcair.
Certainly, Harper’s rationale that, “It’s important that these campaigns be funded by the parties themselves rather than taxpayers,” is a strange one. Adding weeks to the campaign will cost Canadians money, a lot of it. Elections Canada estimates the cost of a typical 37-day campaign at $375 million. This one, among the longest in history, will be 78 days.
The pundits were quick to get out their calculators and start adding up the prime minister’s “real” strategy, suggesting it might have to do with the fact his party is estimated to have at least double the war chest of either the Liberals or New Democrats. A long campaign gives the Conservatives a big advantage on that score.
Firing the starting gun now also blunts the amount of money third-party critics of the Conservatives can spend. And, it gives the Tories more time to use their most effective of all strategies — the attack ad.
The media seem more concerned than the public about such things. One editorial cartoonist published a likeness of Harper posing with a big-game rifle over the carcass of Cecil the Lion. On the vanquished beast’s corpse was the word “Democracy.”
But all the media- and Opposition-generated controversy over Harper’s muzzling of civil servants, anti-terrorism bill, “Fair Elections Act” and message-control measures have fallen on deaf ears with Canadians. They will forgive Harper for costing them a few hundred million dollars to interrupt their summer vacations with politics, and they’ve already forgiven him for much else. Even Mike Duffy has become old hat.
Harper is reading the situation right — the issue will be trust in the experience and ability of leaders to maintain relative stability, not in how much the election is costing them or how well he gets along with reporters. And if he wins on that, he wins another term.