Today, Governor General Julie Payette officially dissolved parliament, and the writ was issued by the Chief Electoral Officer calling for an election to be held on October 21, 2019. The federal campaign will run for a short five and a half weeks.
Of note, the new Canada Elections Act rules mandate that federal writ periods must be a minimum of 36 days and a maximum of 50 days. These new rules have given governments in power less strategic wiggle room to call an election. Overall, the fixed election date, has also provided increased transparency and predictability.
How is an election called?
The multi-step process is often overlooked and misunderstood. Before an election is formally called, the Prime Minister asks the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. The Governor General formally decides if Parliament should be dissolved. Once Parliament is dissolved, the Governor General formally requests that the Chief Electoral Officer issues a general writ. The Chief Electoral Officer issues the writ which calls the election.
Are MPs still MPs during the writ?
Once Parliament is dissolved, members of Parliament (MP) revert to candidate status. MP offices are mandated to continue to service constituents in a non-partisan fashion during the writ.
What happens to cabinet?
The cabinet remains in place to provide continuity of government until a new cabinet is sworn-in.
How about Minister’s offices?
Typically, one to two staff will remain in each office to ensure continuity of government and basic functioning. The government is officially in caretaker mode once the writ drops. No new announcements or decisions are expected, except in cases of national security like responses to natural disasters.
Is the Public Service still in place?
The public service is also officially in caretaker mode once the writ drops. Public servants will be closely monitoring each campaign to prepare policy positions as well as transitional materials for the incoming government to consider following the election.
What happens next:
Although parties have been informally campaigning for weeks, the writ triggers a number of Elections Canada Act regulations. Each national party has a spending limit of about $28 million. Each candidate at the riding level will have a campaign spending limit (normally in the range of $110K) which is based on the number of registered voters in each riding, with various offsets to cover travel in more remote ridings.
Although the “sign war” has already started in many ridings, the next 24-48 hours will officially mark the beginning of the erection of election signs in places where provincial (i.e., Quebec) and municipal bylaws (i.e., Toronto) restrict the use of signs to the writ period. Local and central campaigns will seek to showcase their on-the-ground organization by being highly visible in ridings throughout the country.
The Liberals are likely to kick off their campaign aggressively in Ontario seeking to maximize both the Ford Factor and slumping NDP numbers. As such, we predict that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be spending plenty of time in places like Hamilton and Windsor in the first two weeks of the campaign.
While the Conservatives will want to maintain a strong presence in Ontario, they still need to carefully manage the Ford Factor, or associating themselves too closely with the Conservative government in Ontario. As such, Andrew Scheer will likely spend more time in Atlantic Canada and Quebec in the first few week of the campaign.
As for the NDP, Jagmeet Singh has mostly focused his energy on NDP held ridings in recent weeks, and their overall strategy seems to be to try and maintain as many of their current seats as possible. As such, you will likely see the leader’s tour focused on Metro Vancouver and targeted ridings outside of that.
The Green Party leader’s tour will likely mimic the NDP’s by focusing on Metro Vancouver, followed by targeted ridings (i.e., Guelph) throughout the country. The Greens are also exploring opportunities for gains in Atlantic Canada following their strong showing during the recent provincial election in PEI.
Our sense is that the Liberal campaign sought to communicate a number of “false starts” as of early September in order to try and get the other parties, and more specifically the Conservatives, to spend more funds in the pre-writ. This strategy does not seem to have worked, as all parties have kept the majority of their powder dry.
The Liberal government also coordinated a spree of large spending announcements over the summer, to offset what was relatively low partisan advertising. Of note, the week before Labour Day, Liberal MPs made 2,970 new spending commitments totaling $2.4 billion setting the stage for the fall campaign. The earned media coverage in targeted ridings was a clear attempt by the governing Liberals to give themselves a leg up.
At the national party level, the Conservatives have significantly more cash on hand than the Liberals at the start of the writ, with $9.9 million in the bank reported at the end of 2018, compared to $2.3 million for the Liberals. The NDP filed their 2018 returns late last week which indicated they were in debt by $4.5 million.
At the riding level, according to the 2018 annual financial returns for riding associations, the Conservatives and Liberals are evenly matched in their funding. Conservative ridings ended last year with about $24.2 million in combined net assets. The Liberals were not far behind, with about $21 million in net assets spread out nationwide. The NDP, meanwhile, reported about $3.8 million in net assets in 2018. The Greens had about $735,000, although only about half of their riding associations have submitted their reports so far.
There could be another general election in 12-18 months:
In the case of a minority government – which is highly possible right now – central campaign teams may decide to keep some of their resources aside for another possible general election in 12 to 18 months.
Campaign platforms & slogans
Liberal Party of Canada
No platform released.
Conservative Party of Canada
“It’s time for you to get ahead”
No platform released.
Andrew Scheer launched several major policy speeches in June related to fiscal management, immigration and foreign policy. The Conservatives also released their climate change strategy and announced tax credits for Canadian on parental leave.
New Democratic Party
“In it for you”
The NDP launched their platform in June.
“Not left. Not right. Forward together”
No platform released.
Maclean’s & Citytv Leaders Debate: September 12, 2019
Themes: The economy, foreign policy, energy and the environment, and Indigenous issues
Jagmeet Singh’s Speech at Canadian Club of Toronto: September 13, 2019
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will deliver remarks on the party’s “New Deal for People”
Jody Wilson Raybould Book Release: September 20, 2019
Candidate Nomination Deadline: September 30, 2019
Each candidate needs to be officially registered with Elections Canada by this date
The Munk Debates: October 1, 2019
Standalone election debate on Canada’s foreign policy
TVA Leaders Debate: October 2, 2019
English Leaders Debate: October 7, 2019
French Leaders Debate: October 10, 2019
Election Day: October 21, 2019