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The writ will drop tomorrow, and the campaign season is officially here. Opposition parties can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Recent election laws introduced by the Liberals have put a hamper on the amount of campaigning federal parties could do during the pre-writ period.
The laws put a limit on the amount of money spent on advertising and restricted third-party advertising activity, among other changes.
The so-called “Election Modernization Act” virtually ensured that the only party able to sway voters during the pre-writ period. would be the governing Liberals, through gross and extravagent spending announcements.
While the other federal leaders waited patiently at the starting line, the Liberals were running laps around Canada throwing money in every direction.
Only last week, the Liberals announced over $2.4 billion in new spending commitments over only four days.
How much did the Liberals spend in August? They made a whopping $12.8 billion in new commitments. Not only was the spending extravagant, but it was also clearly targeted at contested ridings, and meant to benefit the chances a Liberal candidate or incumbent gets elected.
Since the other parties are limited by the new act to spend a maximum of two million dollars in advertising during the pre-writ period, the governing Liberals had free reign to play with billions of taxpayer dollars. That’s billions of dollars in local and national spending announcements which effectively served as free advertising.
As far as polls are showing, gaming the system in this way seems to have worked for the Liberals. According to polling aggregator, 338Canada the Liberals have mostly recovered from the hit in their popularity caused by the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Currently, the Liberals are sitting at a lead over the once-dominant Conservatives, with polls predicting that they will win the most seats in October.
Of course this puts the other parties at a several-billion-dollar disadvantage going into the writ. However, it’s not all rain and clouds for the competing Conservatives who have accumulated a war chest of over $24 million in funding, dwarfing the Liberal’s $15.9 million.
With these big-money players, opposition third party contenders, including the Green Party and the NDP will have to use their imagination to make an impact this upcoming election.
One thing is for certain however, now that the dogs have been unleashed, Canadians can expect a flood of door-knocking, electioneering, and vicious partisanship for the next forty days.