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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FELDSTED -- From May until mid-August, parties engage in a madhouse of polling and toss up innumerable trial balloons in an effort to gauge the public mood


When legislation providing for fixed federal election dates was introduced in 2007, most people breathed a sigh of relief. The ‘snap election’ dragon had been vanquished. Those of us who had been active in politics for decades were less jubilant.
     
A minority government is still subject to defeat on a non-confidence motion. A democratic vote in parliament can still trigger a mid-term election and reset the fixed election date clock.
     
A fixed date election removed some uncertainty but also moved forward preparations for the next election. Whereas pre-writ political activity was usually short under the old system, that was no longer the case. Political parties begin preparations in May of an election year knowing the writ would be issued in early to mid-September for an October election.
     
From May until mid-August, parties engage in a madhouse of polling and toss up innumerable trial balloons in an effort to gauge the public mood. From mid-August on, pre-writ activities are fully underway.
     
This is important.

Pre-writ activities are mostly unregulated. Political parties and third parties can spend at will. Third parties in particular can spend large amounts supporting or opposing political parties.

Once the writ is issued (between September 1st and 15th) everything changes. All political campaigns are subject to spending limits and third parties are required to register with Election Canada and are subjected to strict spending limits.
       
Harper extended the writ period in 2015 to cap extensive and detrimental third-party advertising. The extension of the writ period nearly doubled all political spending limits.

     

Recent changes to the Election Act since restrict the writ period to not more than 50 days or less than 36 days prior to the fixed election date (third Monday in October). On defeat of a minority government, the same rules would apply. An election would have to be called not more than 50 days or less than 36 days later.
     
Timing of an election call and length of the writ period is tightly controlled and any strategy in the timing of an election call is illusionary. Pre-writ strategies are still in uncontrolled, wild-west territory. All parties are struggling to gain an advantage while fearful of releasing election platforms too early and giving opponents time to develop counter-attacks to be used during the writ period and debates.


The Way I See It ~~ John Feldsted
Political Commentator, Consultant & Strategist
Winnipeg, Manitoba

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