OTTAWA—Canadians will go to the polls Oct. 19 as Conservative Leader Stephen Harper kicked off a marathon election campaign Sunday that he painted as a “critical” decision on the future of the country.
Crossing the street from his residence at 24 Sussex, Harper arrived at Rideau Hall just before 10 a.m. to meet with Governor General David Johnston and ask that Parliament be formally dissolved.
Twenty minutes, he emerged, confirmed that the 42nd election was underway and laid out his case for re-election to Canadians, saying the fall vote would be a test of which party can provide leadership on the big issues of the economy and security.
“A national election is not a popularity contest,” Harper said.
Saying the global economy remains “uncertain and unstable,” Harper said that managing the Canadian economy remains the top priority for the Conservatives.
While not naming the other parties, he said now is not the time for “reckless economic schemes.”
“I think our plan has proven itself,” he said, boasting about the Conservatives’ “low-tax plan.”
The Conservatives’ campaign slogan is “Stephen Harper: Proven leadership for a strong Canada.”
At twice the length of recent campaigns, this election will the longest in modern Canadian history and likely the costliest.
But Harper tried to justify the early election call, charging that the other leaders were already on the campaign trail and because of that, it was necessary to get all the parties operating under the same rules that kick in once the election is underway.The contest will pit the Conservative leader, a political veteran gunning for a rare fourth straight election win, against NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, an experienced Quebec politician hoping to make history as the first NDP prime minister, and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, seeking to turn around the fortunes of the once might Liberal party.
Mulcair launched his campaign with a two-fold message: that Canadians want a change from the Harper Conservatives, and that he is the leader voters should choose to replace him because he has the most experience, shares their values and the best ideas.
“I want to speak to every Canadian who thinks Mr. Harper’s government is on the wrong track, to every Canadian who is looking for change in Ottawa,” Mulcair said Sunday morning from outside the Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., overlooking Parliament Hill.
“I believe that governing is about priorities. Mr. Harper’s priority is to spend millions of dollars on self-serving government advertising and an early election call. My priority is to invest in affordable, quality childcare, to help families and the economy,” said Mulcair before going on to list some of his highlighted promises, including more protection for the environment and a better relationship with indigenous peoples.
The NDP campaign slogan is “Ready for Change”.
Mulcair took no questions from reporters after delivering his speech.
Trudeau is scheduled to speak later in Vancouver.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will speak in her riding on Vancouver Island.
It won’t be long before those four leaders square off – the first debate of the election happens Thursday in Toronto, presented by Maclean’s magazine.
While the date of the election was known, thanks to fixed election date legislation, the launch of the campaign comes weeks earlier than expected.
This campaign – ringing in at more than 70 days – will span the weeks from the summer heat and BBQ circuit to the autumn chill and fall fairs. At twice the length of recent campaigns, it also promises to test the attention span of Canadians.
Still, this election promises to be one for the history books, whatever the outcome. Will Canadians vote to return Harper and his Conservatives to government in a rare, fourth straight election win? Will they cast their ballots for a first-ever NDP government? Or will the Liberals rebound from their time in the political penalty box?
At the very least, the Oct. 19 election will certainly new faces to the House of Commons. That’s partly because dozens of MPs are not running again. But also this vote will see the election of 30 additional MPs – bringing the total to 338 – as new seats are added to the Commons to account for population changes.
The Conservatives head into the campaign with 159 seats, the New Democrats 95, and Liberals 36. The Bloc Quebecois, Green Party and Forces et Démocratie had two seats apiece. There were eight independent MPs and four vacant seats.