Election Timing

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I follow politics the way a lot of guys follow sports. I’m all into polls and trends and analysis. Now that 2015 is here, I’m focusing on the upcoming federal election in Canada. We all know it will happen this year but the question is when?

First off let’s dispense with the concept of a fixed date election. Sure, the Conservatives passed a law setting the election date as the third Monday in October but so what? Harper went early  in 2008 and could do so again. Acts of Parliament can’t change the constitution — as the Supreme Court explained to Mr. H regarding the Senate.

So when will it be? Mr. Harper claims he intends to hold it on October 19th and I think that’s probably true. I’ll explain my reasoning shortly.

Several reasons are put forward as to why the election might come early. The first is that he wants to avoid the Duffy trial. That would require a vote before April 7th.  An election on Easter Monday is unlikely so we are looking at March 30th with the election called around February 20th. The big flaw here is that, besides being obvious as to timing, nothing will stop Mr. Duffy from talking during a campaign and plenty would listen. And he won’t be constrained by being under oath in a court of law. Do you imagine Harper would want that?

The more compelling reason is the opportunity to have a nice budget and avoid any consequences for the economy that caused by the downturn in oil prices. The difficulty is — the downturn has already eliminated any near future surpluses and most of the goodies have already been announced. And the budget would have to be released by February 20th to find that sweet spot. Parliament isn’t even sitting the week of the 9th so timing is tight. Still, an early budget could be a signal of an early election.

But what are the reasons to go long?

Money is the biggest one. The Conservatives have tons of it — way more than they can spend during an election campaign. (Yes —they cheated before but not by a huge amount and people will be watching). There are no limits on spending before a campaign and the Conservatives can use the cash for attack ads ad nauseum. Meanwhile they will use tax dollars to promote the positive accomplishments of the government.

Then there is that budget. The family allowance (let’s call it what it is) payment is being paid out in one big cheque in July. Millions of families will get nice cheques. This is a tactic borrowed from Klein’s Alberta where a dividend from oil revenues arrived conveniently just before an election.

But you don’t bribe someone for something they’ve already done. Hence, a fall election.

By October the Duffy trial will be done and the public will have once again forgotten it. As for the economy — who would bet their future trying to guess the price of oil or the direction of the economy? Doesn’t matter anyway — elections aren’t about facts; they are about whether you believe the narrative. And narratives take a while to create.

And that’s ten minutes.

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