Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for a general election on October 19, thus making the current election campaign one of the longest in the history of Canada.
The campaign is likely to focus on Canada’s sluggish economy, security issues and controversial immigration policies implemented by the current government.
Experts say the incumbent prime minister faces a tough fight for his political survival, especially from New Democratic Party (NDP) and centrist Liberals. The polling statistics reveal that the NDP has been receiving an average of 32.6% of popular support, with Conservatives trailing behind at 31.6% and Liberals at 25.6%.
However, it is too early to make predictions and campaigning can change things for the Harper government. “The government is trying at this stage to line up clearly as many advantage touch points as possible,” says John Wright of polling firm Ipsos Reid.
The NDP’s popularity rose after its historic victory in Alberta’s provincial election in May this year. The party recorded its first ever win in Alberta after defeating the Progressive Conservatives, who had held power since 1971.
The NDP is also an attractive option for Canadians who are frustrated with the current government and are looking for a clear policy change. The NDP is offering this by proposing to increase corporate taxes so as to finance new universal programs like national day care systems.
On the other hand, the current government is struggling for public support as the economy suffers from falling crude oil prices and rebound in exports. In the past two years, the Canadian dollar has lost more than 20% against the US dollar and is currently trading at its weakest level in ten years. These factors undermine the credibility of the Harper government, which puts economic progress at the centre of its campaigns.
The current trends vastly differ from the situation in 2011 election campaign, when the Harper government was quite ahead of other political parties in the polls, mainly due to their success in making Canada a fast growing economy with a strong currency and stock market. In 2011, the Conservatives won 166 seats out of the total of 308 in the House of Commons, followed by just 103 for the NDP, and 34 for the Liberals.
As 30 new electoral districts were created since the last election, a party must now win 170 seats out of the total 338 to secure a majority.