Another benefit to the early election call
Monday, August 10, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
By Bill Phillips
There has been a lot of talk about the early election campaign and how it favours the cash-flush Conservatives.
The suggestion is that the early call is a clever ploy by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to bankrupt the NDP and Liberals during the two-and-a-half month campaign. In other words, you’ll see a lot more Conservative ads than NDP or Liberals ads over the next couple of months. (Who says the media is struggling financially?)
There is another consequence to the early election call that hasn’t been widely talked about … third party spending limits.
While bankrupting the opposition parties during the election campaign was likely on Harper’s mind in making the early call, limiting third party spending was likely also a factor in his decision.
Once the writ is dropped, third party spending limits come into effect. The lengthy campaign does result in increased limits for third parties wishing to advertise during the campaign, but the amounts are paltry compared to what the parties and candidates can spend. According to the Elections Canada formula, third parties will be allowed to spend $378,260 on advertising during the campaign.
Engage Canada, a consortium of former Liberal and NDP folks who want to oust the Conservatives, launched the “Conservatives are not there for you” campaign a few months ago. No one knows how much money they have to spend but now their spending is limited to $378,260. Their ads were running almost as frequently as the Conservatives’ “Justin Trudeau – he’s just not ready” ads. (By the way, I think Trudeau gave a great response to those ads during the leaders’ debate.) At any rate, you’ll likely be seeing less of those ads as it doesn’t take long to eat up $378,260 in a national advertising campaign.
Unifor, Canada’s largest union, has vowed to mobilize to defeat the Conservatives. Once again, no one knows how much money they have to spend, but now it’s limited to $378,260 (at least on advertising).
This is likely what Harper was referencing when he suggested that political parties pay for their campaigns (even though not all third party advertisers are opposing the Conservatives).
The early election call has a double benefit for the Conservatives … it limits outside advertising while increasing the amount parties can spend, which benefits the party with the most moola.
So how much, exactly, can the candidates and parties spend trying to capture your vote?
Election expense limits vary from riding to riding and are based on the number of names on the preliminary lists of electors and they are increased for election periods longer than 37 days.
With the August 2 election call, triggering a 78-day campaign, each candidate in the Cariboo-Prince George riding is allowed to spend $263,421.38. Each party is allowed to spend $165,884.44 to help their candidate in the riding.
In the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding, each candidate is allowed to spend $259,460.73. Each party is allowed to spend $161,619.12.
In the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding, each candidate is allowed to spend $246,429.16. Each party is allowed to spend $133,996.83.
We won’t know until months after the election call whether any of the northern B.C. candidates even came close to raising that much and/or spending it.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at email@example.com