POLITICS

Rick Mercer Slams Canada's Change To Permanent Campaigning (VIDEO)

11/05/2014 12:45 EST | Updated 11/05/2014 12:59 EST

Rick Mercer is not happy that Canada is taking a page from the U.S. and plunging into a year-long election campaign.

In the past, Mercer laments, Canada was "blessed" with short campaigns of between five and six weeks. But recent campaign-style, family-focused promises from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair have alerted him to the lengthening of the lead-up to a federal vote.

"We are now looking down the barrel at twelve months of these three men, promising us the sun, the moon and the stars while wearing hard hats, cowboy hats, hair nets and stilettos" Mercer says. "It's like a never-ending episode of ‘So You Think You Can Govern Canada’ except we can't change the channel because the country is on remote control."

What Mercer doesn't mention is the number one reason why the campaign is starting sooner: a fixed election date.

A fixed federal election date became law in 2007, but hasn't actually been tested yet (Harper called a snap vote in 2008 and the 2011 election was triggered by a vote of non-confidence). With a majority government in power now, October 19, 2015 will likely be the first time a federal election actually takes place as scheduled.

A fixed date means the campaign no longer starts when the writ is dropped a few weeks before a vote. It can now begin as soon as the parties think it makes political sense. And if one party starts campaigning, you can be sure the others will be close behind. A sort of arms race can result, with parties competing to drop promises first, gradually pushing back the start of campaigns as the years pass.

This time around, Mulcair was first, promising a $15-a-day national child-care program. Harper and the Tories followed soon after with their long-anticipated income-splitting announcement.

When Harper was selling fixed dates back in 2007 he argued that it would prevent a prime minister from calling a snap vote for "short-term political advantage." He then did just that amid the coalition crisis of 2008 (the fixed date law does not stop the PM from calling an early election and is really more of a guideline than a legal imperative).

So while the law clearly does not stop the PM from calling a snap vote, it does allow for carefully-planned campaigning in a majority context (like promising a tax cut for families that will take effect just months before the vote).

Perhaps more importantly, a long campaign favours the party with the most money. The richest of the big three can wear down its opponents' reserves over time, ensuring it gets the maximum impact out of its financial advantage. At the moment, the Conservatives raise far more cash than either the NDP or Liberals -- nearly as much as both of its main opponents combined.

So get ready for a long ride and plenty more photo-ops. As Mercer says, it can't be long now before "Justin Trudeau will appear at a daycare, also making promises and simultaneously juggling three infants and a puppy."

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