I have heard many people bemoaning the fact that, at 78 days, this will be a long election. Canadians are already complaining that they don’t want to be bombarded with election ads, door knocking and lawn signs littered over their fair cities for such a lengthy period of time. And in fact, they are right. This will be the longest campaign in modern Canadian history.
Now if you live in our nation’s capital of Ottawa you may still be blissfully unaware that the 42nd federal election has even begun, because you haven’t seen a single lawn sign. That’s because the city has by-laws that state how many days in advance of Election Day that signs can be put up. But lawn signs aren’t the end all be all of a campaign and can often be distracting from the real issues. The more time candidates spend rushing to put their signs up the less they have to door knock or phone and make a personal connection with the voter. So perhaps Ottawa residents are lucky that the lawn signs will be avoided temporarily, forcing the candidates to interact with them in a more direct way and have more meaningful discussions.
Because that’s what we should all want isn’t it? A more meaningful dialogue during this 42nd election. We have to face the facts that in the 2011 campaign, at only 38 days, that the voter turnout was only 61.1%, meaning that 4 in 10 Canadians didn’t bother voting. Reasons for not voting range from general apathy to complaints like we never see politicians and don’t understand the policy planks, to a general lack of motivation. Increasing the campaign from 38 to 78 days should give Canadians the time they need to make an informed decision and give candidates the time they need to meet and engage with their constituents. Of course none of us likes it when the candidate rings our doorbell and wakes the kids, but it is the reality of campaigns that politicians can’t wait for the voter to come to them, they have to go to the voter, whether the voter likes it or not.
I understand that the average Canadian is still in vacation mode, but the decision about which party to vote for and which leader presents the best vision for Canada is important. So next time you want to complain about the length of this campaign and how you’d rather avoid more calls, door knocking and signs, remember that these things are a small price to pay for to see our voter turnout increase. And maybe, just maybe, a 78 day campaign will lead to more engagement by Canadians.
Matt Triemstra is a Director at ENsight Canada where he provides public affairs advice. He spent nearly five years working for Conservative Members of Parliament and the Conservative Resource Group on Parliament Hill.