POLITICS

Federal Election 2015: Pros And Cons Of A Summer Campaign

08/03/2015 04:57 EDT | Updated 08/03/2015 04:59 EDT

It's summertime — and the campaigning won't be so easy.

It's unusual, to be sure, for federal election candidates to be out drumming up votes in the summer. Only about a half-dozen federal campaigns in Canadian history — including this one — have taken up some part of the summer months, not counting votes in June.

Is it a good idea to campaign in the heat, or is it too hot for the hustings? The Canadian Press turned to five experts to outline some of the pros and cons of a summer campaign.

Pro: Knocking on doors in the summer sure beats doing it when the temperature is well below 0 C. And summer means more local events that candidates would have hit up, such as festivals, community barbecues, parades, tours, county fairs, says Joe Jordan, a former Liberal MP who is now a consultant with the Capital Hill Group. Such events can replace those campaign organizers would have had to plan on their own, says Tim Powers of Summa Strategies.

Con: You can be seen too much, Jordan says. People heading to festivals and fairs may be less interested in discussing policy, especially when the fourth or fifth candidate wants to talk. That's when candidates reach a point of diminishing returns.

Where is that line? "Where (voters) get mad," Jordan says. "You can tell."

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Pro: Parties and candidates can use the summer, with those festivals, community barbecues and generally more relaxed community events to target party supporters, shore up the base and strengthen their position in ridings they have a good shot at winning, says Jonathan Malloy of Carleton University in Ottawa. It also gives those candidates who voters perceive as rigid or stern a chance to show their more genteel side, Powers says.

Con: The longer a campaign goes, the more likely a candidate is to make a mistake, which can sink an election for a party, Powers says. There are also logistical issues that campaigns have to contend with like putting up and maintaining lawn signs over 70-plus days.

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Pro: If people aren't paying close attention, now is the time to shape the image of their opponents in the minds of voters. Conservative attack ads about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the NDP's attacks on the Tories are good examples. The basic themes in each ad are already taking hold. To wit, Brock from Queen's University says that in her work this summer with seniors' groups, participants who have voted Conservative for years are now talking about need for change; but where once they would naturally gravitate to the Liberals, they're just not sure they want to vote for Trudeau.

Con: The message can get away from the parties. Voters will have the chance to hear the parties' messages, but they then get to discuss it informally at the cottage, at the park or at the bar. That means there are fewer opportunities for candidates and parties to make sure the message is imprinted properly on voters, Brock says. What's more, prime television viewing doesn't happen in the summer, putting a dent in the effectiveness of traditional advertising — an issue that may be less of a problem in the age of social media and targeted ads, says Carleton University's Malloy.

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Pro: A summer campaign means that candidates have more daylight to go door-knocking, Jordan says. Candidates don't want to disturb voters during the dinner hour, and don't want to knock on doors after dark, so more hours of natural light give candidates extra canvassing time.

Con: Knocking on doors is not a lot of fun if there's no one home. People are on vacation, hanging out in the backyard or playing at the park and not interested in standing at the door and talking to politicians, says Kathy Brock, a politics expert from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. Plus, door-knocking and getting signs on lawns is a tiring endeavour in the summer heat. Former Liberal strategist Penny Collenette, who ran her husband's summertime campaign in 1974, recalls one of the biggest campaign expenses: "We had huge amounts of bottled water for the canvassers."

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