It could be a long few months for candidates in this year's federal election, since the campaign period was kicked off weeks earlier this year. That's according to Brandon University Associate Professor of Political Science Kelly Saunders. She says the amount of money the Conservatives have in their campaign coffers, along with a relatively tight race between the NDP, Conservatives, and Liberals likely led to the early campaign start.
"The three parties, the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP are virtually neck and neck in the polls. That's the reason I think they went earlier, rather than later, so that the Conservatives can use their financial advantage to try and drive a wedge between them and the other parties, and hopefully split the vote on the centre-left and hold on to their majority government."
However, the three parties' standings in the polls could lead to a fascinating campaign period. Saunders says while parties traditionally focus on one of their opponents, this election truly will be a three-way race.
"Usually it will be the Conservatives and the Liberals going toe-to-toe in the majority of the bigger provinces, and then possibly some smaller fights happening with the NDP in various regions across the country. This time, you're really going to be seeing the Conservatives fighting both the Liberals and the NDP, the Liberals fighting both parties, and the NDP doing the same. It's really a three-way battle across the country."
While Saunders says there are obvious challenges associated with the increased cost of a prolonged campaign period, there are other risks. She notes voter turnout has been an ongoing struggle, and the historically long campaign period could lead to voter apathy.
"Voters are becoming more mistrustful, more cynical, they're dropping out of the political process and tuning out in greater numbers. I'm really worried about what a lengthy campaign, and what is probably going to be a very nasty campaign --given that it's a three-way battle-- what that is going to do may only lead to great mistrust and cynicism on the part of voters."
However, the extended campaign may also have a negative impact on the parties themselves, who will need to keep their ideas and proposals in the spotlight for 11 weeks. Saunders says this will likely be a key challenge, as the parties prepare for the upcoming election.
"That's certainly the risk for the Conservatives, in the sense that they may have the financial advantage going, and they're the incumbent government but there is a downside for them. That's the fact they can make voters angry by having a very lengthy and very expensive campaign, but also to hold voters attention for over 70 days is a big task."
As for the results of this year's election, Saunders says the polls change so often it's hard to make an accurate prediction. She notes a minority government is a real possibility, as the three parties remain relatively close in the polls. She notes if a minority government is elected, it could be interesting to see how things play out in the House of Commons.