And they’re off, not exactly sprinting (more like strolling or, perhaps, gambolling) to the finish line.
Now, the chore of explaining the strategic imperative of subjecting the Canadian populace to the longest federal election since John A. Macdonald toasted his victory in 1872 falls to the chattering class.
Where might we begin?
Clearly, Prime Minister Harper and his fledgling squawkers in the PMO are determined to distract the public from the inconvenient, albeit pedestrian, truth about an economy that has turned sideways and shows every sign of heading south.
According to Statistics Canada last week, national GDP shrank by 0.2 per cent in May (annualized). That followed four months of straight drops, including a first-quarter dip of 0.6 per cent. Said Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter: “There is no sugar-coating this one. It’s a sour result.”
Under the circumstances, then, what’s better than a general election to get one’s mind off dwindling manufacturing, a plummeting Canadian dollar, and persistent joblessness?
It’s not as if Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has been getting any traction criticizing the reigning Tories for their demonstrable exaggerations about the health of the economy or, in fact, their ministrations on its behalf. A long election campaign isn’t likely to pose any great danger of the Grits suddenly catching fire as they struggle to reorganize their talking points.
Meanwhile, as the Globe and Mail reported yesterday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair – who appears to have usurped Mr. Trudeau in the affections of voters – is too busy honing his rhetorical skills to comment substantively about the perils of government posturing.
“Mulcair has been waging mock debates, squaring off against fake opponents to prepare for the federal election campaign’s first leaders’ debate, which will test his ability to connect,” the Globe revealed. “He has taken the matter seriously, interrupting rehearsals for a single partisan rally in Montreal, and spending the rest of the election campaign, so far, outside the public’s view.”
Of course, calling an October election on the first of August also gives the Conservative machine sufficient time to explain away the otherwise disappointing economic numbers – to, as the publicists say, get ahead of the issue – even as they fill the summer airwaves with all manner of attack ads against their opponents. Lord knows, they have the money burn without wincing.
In any case, the long and winding road to democratic denouement has, itself, become the one election issue that all Canadians can get behind. To wit: It’s too long and winding.
“In his decade of power, Stephen Harper has rarely made himself or our ministers available to Canadians or the Canadian press,” Globe reader Robin Hannah wrote in a letter published earlier this week. “Yet he and they are suddenly everywhere. Now I face 11 weeks of scrambling for my mute button.”
Another reader of the newspaper, one Rod Yellon, noted, “Aside from who wins and whether victory is affected by the length of the campaign, perhaps the most interesting question will be the potential effect on voter turnout. . .Will the endless speechifying, photo ops and political ads encourage voters to tune out?”
Regardless, at least one Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist in the United States – where the election cycle can be as long as a year – thinks we’re all nuts up here. In a witty commentary for the Globe yesterday, David Shribman quoted former New Hampshire attorney-general Thomas Rath thusly: “The Canadians’ 11-week election is the same duration as a full season of The Apprentice.”
That’s a good point. Plus, we don’t have to worry about Donald Trump running for prime minister any time soon.