Readers’ Turn: Canada’s Quick Election

This year’s seemingly brief 11-week run is actually much longer than the typical five-week Canadian campaign.

Comments: 35

  1. It's truly disturbing when you think not just about how much money is raised and spent by political campaigns in this country, but more specifically about where the money goes. The lion's share goes to paid advertising, largely on television. That's it. Because TV exists, and because campaigns are still fairly sure it's the best way to reach a large number of people at a time, our country is rapidly becoming an oligarchy. Candidates want to put themselves on TV, and the money to do so comes with strings attached. The only good news, I suppose, is that it's only a matter of time before TV advertising becomes passe...

  2. You mean t.v. Ads aren't passe already?

  3. Before there's too much praise for Canada's "short" election period, be aware that a significant change has been fixed election dates federally and in many provinces. Constitutionally, Parliaments can last up to five years but they almost never go on that long for the government can call for an election whenever they want. (They *must* call an election if they lose a significant vote in Parliament, but that seldom happens except by design.) For some time now, after an election, the winning party as Government states that the next election will be held on a certain date about four years hence, and usually keeps its word. That has resulted in an informal election period, with lots of advertising and political posturing, for several months in advance of the formal election period. The lengthy election period of the US is increasingly infecting Canada, despite a different system of Government, I fear.

  4. U.S. politicians spend so much money to say so little. If "America is no longer great," it's because of the absurd, childish, integrity-less, and dishonest campaign circuses that run far too long before elections and post-election partisan haggling. We have proven ourselves to be subject to, victims of, and entranced by the media-driven spectacle driven and eaten up by those who won't take the time for substance

  5. It would be physically possible for a woman to conceive and give birth twice during the interminable slog the American Presidential campaign has become. And Republicans would see to it that birth was given, regardless of the woman's health, ability to provide for the infants, or even if she had been raped both times.

    The national media is addicted to the money flowing in from campaign advertising. Thousands of year-round jobs depend on the Permanent Campaign, and tens of thousands more temp jobs are created during the crunch months of election run-up.

    We are Americans. We have a right to our "free speech" no matter how much we pay, directly or indirectly, for the privilege.

    I foresee a day in the future when prospective Presidential nominees will be cultivated from conception to election, their names nationally known while they're still spilling their Pablum from their highchairs, giving interviews from their roll-around bounce chairs, trashing their rivals during the first debate of election season, coinciding with graduation from kindergarten.

    Harvard University and Yale will establish competing Schools of Campaign.

    Oh, the things we will see
    The wannabes do,
    As they beg you and me
    Not for one vote but two.

    I see a Dr. Seuss book in the making.

  6. Public financing, along with fixed campaign dates is the only way to solve this problem.
    We have legislated hunting season and fishing season etc.
    We need congressional and presidential election seasons.
    Congress should be able to take care of this after they have fixed the drug and immigration laws.

  7. The problem with a fixed campaign season is enforcement; parties run ads that aren't official campaign ads outside of the fixed period and they go unregulated. It happens here in Canada and I think you have it in the US as well since your presidential campaign can't start until there are official candidates who won't be chosen till next summer. In the meantime lots of money is being spent.

  8. Canada's population is about one-tenth as large as the United States', and most Canadians live within 150 km of the border. So it's geographically much easier to run a national campaign here. They don't have primary elections, either. "Party leaders" are chosen by parliamentary caucus and occasional "leadership conventions". This saves a lot of time, money, and foolishness.
    Readers should also bear in mind that the present election is for control of the House of Commons only. The Senate of Canada is appointed, not elected, and the head of state, the Queen, holds her job for life.

  9. Hmmm. Maybe we need a queen.

  10. Whenever I consider a pressing Canadian political issue, I wonder first, "What does the Queen think about this?"

  11. It doesn't matter in the least what the Queen thinks as she is a mere symbolic figurehead with zero real power in Canada.

  12. Today American candidates are competing for the nomination but Canadian Candidates are selected at party conferences that simply vote for the leader who they like best - so the parties have internal election processes that do not cost very much money and take one weekend. Then the leaders wait for an election. But our elections are so boring compared to US elections and a presidential election is like the Super Bowl of global political events. We sit in the shadow of the U.S., and the winner of the presidency has more impact on my life than who is elected Prime Minister because, like it or not, we follow he leader. But why do any of us need representative democracy anymore? With the technology we have today we could vote on each issue directly, over the Internet and represent ourselves. Is it possible to have leadership without politicians? Our political systems were created in the 18th century and definitely need an upgrade to the 21st.

  13. Yes, only 11 weeks to decide which party leader to effectively install as dictator. With current standards of party discipline, a majority government is a dictatorship, as the current Prime Minister of Canada is demonstrating.

  14. @ NRroad of Northport, NY. You make mention of "extremists on left and right dominating the [US political] process." Would you please identify the "extremists on left?" Bernie Sanders? Extremist? He's somewhat to the right of the NDP's Tom Mulcair who, himself, is hardly an extremist.

  15. jtckeg says "Perhaps Bernie will break away from the mold and make it a horse-race"

    Like Ralph Nader did? Unfortunately, with our present electoral system, the only role of a "third party" candidate is to spoil another candidate's chances. In any case, the election only takes place in a small number of states: Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Virginia, ... There is no serious Presidential election here in Illinois, and hasn't been since George H.W. Bush lost the 1992 election.

  16. The comparison between the US and Canadian political systems is sufficiently complicated that it would mislead the casual observer without informed guidance of how the executive and legislative branches in Canada work. For example, although the leader of a federal political party in Canada would become the Prime Minister of Canada if her Party won the majority of seats in a federal election the role and authority of the P.M. is comparable to the POTUS and Speaker of both the House of Representatives and Senate. In other words, a majority win by a Canadian political party makes the leader of that party a dictator who controls the passage of legislation and appoints senators to the Senate; and a slew of other political appointees across the depth and breadth of government - much like the POTUS, The Prime Minister of Canada also recommends to the British Monarch who should represent her/him as the "Governor General" of Canada - the representative of the (current) Queen Elizabeth who is, as the reigning British Monarch, titular head of the Canada - a proxy President that has a (mostly) ceremonial and subservient role to the Prime Minister of Canada. The bottom line is that the P.M. would direct Canada's military through her Minister of Defense and NOT the Governor General. This would be confusing to most outside observers who tend to be lost in the military regalia that the Governor General wears - medals, sashes, etc., on a uniform that looks like a throw-back to 19th century

  17. "Canadians who want to see Harper (at political events) must be vetted by the party and receive a bar-coded ticket bearing their name ..."

    "... ticket holders also were required to promise they would not transmit or aid in the transmission of 'any description, account, picture or reproduction of the event.'"


    They have backtracked somewhat.

    Harper, under whose watch Canada is almost in a technical recession, is fanning the flames of fear of terrorism and has promised to restrict our freedom of travel to countries and areas of his choice.

    GOP operatives are serving him well.

  18. You've got this right, TA! Harper's campaign operating points come straight from the right-wing's playbook of fear and loathing, collectively authored by the 17 angry clowns of America's cash-fueled political swamp.

  19. Go through all that just to see Mr. Harper? Me thinks not. Throw in the other 39 and,as an ex Canadian, Count me in.

  20. Harper is the gift the same conservatives running the show here gave to Canada.

  21. The Harper government has been producing campaign ads thinly disguised as "This is a message from the Government of Canada"for months. These, of course, are paid for by taxpayers. Right now the Harper government is trying to trump up hysteria over a minimal terrorist threat (all the "terrorists" to date have been victims of serious mental illness) to further persuade Canadians that we need to keep the Tories in power, and also in the hope that it will make us forget such things as loss of home mail delivery, suppression of free speech, undermining of science, bulldozing through major policy changes without Parliamentary debate, and other things that the Tories are NOT celebrating as "This is a message from the Government of Canada." We can only hope that enough Canadians are turned off by this and many other actions to choose another party to govern.

  22. Though one thing I forgot to mention in my other post was the Harper government's recent voter suppression legislation (not all Canadians want to be different from the US), which might make it difficult for people who want a change to vote (for example, the voter card sent to your home address will no longer be accepted as id at the polling station.....)

  23. Please be mindful of the fact that many times, people with serious mental illnesses are among the most sane people on the planet. Medication often works exceedingly well, but it does somtimes leave them with very little energy. Combine that with chronic pain and life becomes very constricted. Also, the state of "the mental heatlh system" in the U.S. is a travesty. I literally cry sometimes for those without financial and social resources. Yes, the mentally ill do horrible things (rarely,) but so does the general, so called normal population. Then, there is mental illness and there is evil. The two are not the same.

  24. You misrepresent what the article is about. It is about the Conservative party running attack ads against the opposition New Democratic Party.

  25. During the Watergate mess I concluded a parliamentary form of government is superior to our tripartite, cumbersome government. We had to wait for Nixon to resign! Canada's governing system is more nimble and responsive to the electorate. My mother was a Canadian, and I have a sister and uncle who live in Ontario. I have spent a substantial amount of time in Canada and would move there if it were not for family and work commitments that keep me in the US.

  26. As a Canadian, I wish we had a government as "cumbersome" as yours. Essentially we elect a dictator every four years. Checks and balances are useful when your politicians are human, all too human. Your country prosecutes politicians on a regular basis and it never happens here, but it's not because ours are more honest.

  27. We have an honour based system. We elect a Parliament under Westminster rules, and the leader of the majority becomes Prime Minister and forms the government. Alas! We elected a dishonourable crook in the last election, who became, as Michael Harris wrote, a "Party of One", a dictator. Hopefully we will dispose of him on October 19, and hopefully we will become again a civil and civilized society, of which we will no longer have to be ashamed.

  28. Why don't we emulate our Northern Neighbor? Canada is just a hop, skip and jump away. Yet they are so different not allowing political strife to carry on endlessly. Why don't we appreciate the things they do right and take the lead from them? Oh, I forgot! We are Americans, exceptional in every way. We are the Leaders who will never follow. For us everything bigger is better.And just for that arrogance we have to suffer endless campaigns and sound bites while our politicians morph into cartoon characters singing loony-tunes.

  29. If U.S. Politicians weren't always in campaign mode they might actually get some things accomplished. What worked for a smallish population 200+ years ago is in need of some kind of fix now. Longer but term-limited seats for Congress? Maybe? And absolutely publicly funded campaigns. It was bad enough before Citzens United, now campaigns are a complete travesty.

  30. Not term limits. Campaign limits and total public funding. Not even a dime allowed from any other source because the tiniest crack wil become a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through at the first opportunity.

  31. Unfortunately, the Cdn federal campaign is all about money for the political parties. albeit on such a small scale that the dollars involved would not register on the U.S. measure of money to politicians.

    Spending after the writ calling an election is strictly regulated. The standard campaign is 37 days. The Conservatives have $6.3 million in their treasure chest. The Liberals and NDP have substantially less.

    For every dollar spent, a political party gets a refund of $0.50 from the public purse. Further, if a campaign last more than 37 days, a party is entitled to exceed its legal spending limit by 1/37 for each day.

    The 11 week campaign is an effort by the governing Conservatives, under the evangelical Harper, to outspend their main opposition.

    But while the rules might be pushed in Canada, the complete surrender of the U.S. system to cash is a long way off.

  32. A common criticism of Harper is that he is in favour of a more "Americanized" Canada. To that end he has introduced fixed election dates, ridiculously long campaigns, high spending and American-style attack ads to the Canadian political process.

    Such things have been tried before, but Canadians voters have generally seen through them and punished those who tried to move us in that particular direction. And judging by the current polls, that will remain the case.

  33. One must understand that much of the Canadian political authority is attenuated by non-legislated conventions, conventions which rely upon the good faith of "gentlemen". At present, the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, driven by a secret plan to destroy all but private enterprise activity, has demonstrated he has no status as a "gentleman", and no true dedication to the collective interests of Canadians. Hopefully, he will be defeated, but the egos of the other party leaders, who will not establish a coordinated effort to drive him out, may prevent his demise.

  34. Canada's former head of state, appointed in 2005, was a gracious black woman born in Haiti. Ask Americans why so many seem to have an apoplectic problem with a black President. Could it be racism?

    Ask Canadians why they seem puzzled by the backwardness of their southern neighbour, with its tsunami of handgun homicides, the white supremacists, the anti-Federal survivalists, the Confederate apologists, the blowing trash in city streets, the absence of universal health care, the evolutionists setting school science curricula.

    The two countries could not be more different if novelists had invented pure opposites. Let's not focus on minor differences, like the length of electoral campaigns.