338 ridings, 40 days, 1 vote: Election campaign kicks off

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau has set in motion the 2019 federal election campaign.

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette accepted his request to dissolve the 42nd Parliament, setting in motion Canada’s 43rd federal race, with campaigns in all 338 ridings.

It will be a 40-day race to the ballot box, with all party leaders crisscrossing the country in an effort to pitch themselves, their candidates, and their platforms to Canadians, before election day on Oct. 21.

Speaking to the media outside of Rideau Hall with a backdrop of Liberal supporters, Trudeau took the first opportunity to frame what the election will be about.

“This fall Canadians once again get to vote for the kind of Canada they want to live in. We’ve all got a choice to make, keep moving forward and build on the progress we’ve made, or go back to the politics of the Harper years,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau had a deadline of Sept. 15 to launch the campaign under new time limit rules passed since the last election, which kicked off four years, one month, and nine days ago.

Before visiting Rideau Hall, Trudeau joined his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in walking their three children to school.

This afternoon, Trudeau is departing for Vancouver, the same city he was in for the 2015 kickoff that resulted in his historic majority victory.

The main opposition party leaders also will address the media from strategically-selected locations across the country where they will respond to the election call, and offer their first real campaign messages.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will kick off his first federal election at the helm of his party from Trois-Rivieres, Que. Instead of flying directly in, however, fog has forced his plane to fly into Quebec City first, and the campaign will then travel by bus to the rally location. Before boarding his campaign plane in Ottawa ahead of the formal election call, Scheer took aim at Trudeau over the latest development in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. A new report in The Globe and Mail that published on the eve of the election call citing unnamed sources said the government has not lifted cabinet confidentiality for all witnesses, which has limited the RCMP’s examination of potential obstruction of justice in the handling of the Quebec construction and engineering firm’s prosecution.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is also embarking on his first campaign on the federal stage, will deliver his response to the election writs being issued from London, Ont. where he has already disembarked his campaign bus and was greeted by supporters.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will speak from her home territory of Victoria, where she’s looking to make big electoral gains; Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet will mark his party’s official campaign kickoff for more seats in the province, from Quebec City. People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier is beginning the first ever federal election for his team, from the Toronto area.   

The latest Nanos Research numbers show that the Liberals have a slight lead heading into the campaign, sitting at 34.6 per cent in the polls. The Conservatives have 30.7, the NDP are at 16.6, Greens are at 11 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois have 4 per cent, and the People’s Party are sitting at 1 per cent.

“We’ve got a tight race. There’s no majority government in sight right now, and it’s anyone’s game,” said pollster Nik Nanos.

Pre-campaign summer posturing

While the official campaign will last just over five weeks, the political positioning for votes has been underway all summer long. Parties have been ramping up their war rooms, testing out partisan attack lines, and unveiling campaign ads and slogans.

With the formal launch, expect the battling for votes to ramp up, more partisan mudslinging, contenders across the country knocking on doors and debating, as well as a daily offering of new platform proposals and policy ideas for Canadians to weigh when deciding who they’ll cast their ballot for.

New elections law, spending rules

Since the 2015 campaign there have been changes to the federal elections law. From new limits on third-party and foreign participation, to new measures aimed at boosting accessibility and voter participation.

There are also new campaign spending limits. Over the election, each registered party can spend approximately $28.1 million, while individual candidates can spend on average $110,000, but it varies depending on the riding. That means — should each party run a full slate of candidates — they can spend a combined total of approximately $65 million. Third-party interest groups have a spending cap at just under $512,000.

Party standings as of dissolution

Heading into the campaign the Liberals hold 177 seats, the Conservatives have 95, the NDP hold 39, the Bloc Quebecois have 10, and the Green Party has two seats. The 42nd Parliament also had eight independents as of dissolution. A party needs to win 170 seats for a majority government.


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