COLUMN: Federal campaign in full swing

Voters may not be too engaged in federal politics right now, but the parties most certainly are.

One of the side effects of having fixed election dates in Canada, a move pioneered by the BC Liberals when they were first elected in 2001, is that campaigns have become much, much longer.

In fact, having a short campaign period is now considered a disaster by most political handlers. One of the criticisms made of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives’ recent campaign (after the fact, of course), is that they only had a 28-day period to campaign in.

Premier Jim Prentice in fact broke Alberta’s fixed election date law and called an election a year early. That didn’t go so well – his party placed third after being in power for 44 years.

The federal election campaign has actually been underway for some time – certainly since the beginning of the year. While Parliament is still sitting and passing laws, MPs and candidates of all stripes are hard at work getting ready for the October election.

Under redistribution, Surrey now has five ridings, while Delta has one. Candidates in the new Cloverdale-Langley City riding are mostly in place and several have already set up campaign offices. They are taking time off from their jobs to campaign, and that’s what they are spending much of their time doing.

Because of the long campaign period, voters need to treat almost everything said or done by political parties, and particularly by their leaders, with a great deal of skepticism.

They need to follow the advice of lead singer Sting of The Police in the song Every Breath You Take:

“Every vow you break

Every smile you fake

Every claim you stake

I’ll be watching you.”

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was in Surrey for a rally Friday. This clearly was an election-related visit. Two of the current Surrey ridings are held by NDP MPs, and the NDP are doing well in recent polls. The party has a decent shot at at least one, possibly two other Surrey seats.

The surprising win by the NDP in Alberta is causing more people across Canada to look at the federal party a little more closely. Some are, for the first time, actually considering it as a government in waiting.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also made a number of visits to the Lower Mainland in recent weeks – with at least two of them to Surrey. While they haven’t been election rallies, his visits are directly connected to the campaign. In particular, the time he spent with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Surrey was invaluable.

On Tuesday, Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay was in Surrey to announce a $3.5 million grant to Wrap, Surrey School District’s anti-gang program. She also confirmed the 100 new RCMP officers Surrey has requested will be coming – though she did not give a date.

Some of her remarks in making the announcement were aimed at other parties – no surer proof these announcements are part of the larger campaign.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will almost certainly be in the area several times in the coming months as well, as will Green Party leader Elizabeth May. Surrey is a key battleground, with at least three of the seats likely to be hard-fought.

The South Surrey-White Rock race, with former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts the Conservative candidate, is more likely to be a coronation. Cloverdale-Langley City will be closer, but the seat is the Conservatives’ to lose.

Findlay is almost certain to retain her Delta seat, as it too is a strong Conservative seat.

Voters may not be too engaged in federal politics right now, but the parties most certainly are.

 

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