So the federal election has been formally called, 42 days early but not a moment too soon. The politicians have been campaigning for many weeks now, and it is good that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has dropped any pretence about what is going on.
It made sense to come up with a fixed date for elections. The plan to have an election on the third Monday of October every fourth year was established in an amendment to the Canada Elections Act in 2007, but with minority governments, we have not seen Parliaments last long enough for the requirement to kick in.
Until now, that is. For four years, since the Conservatives won their majority in May 2011, we have known that Monday, Oct. 19, would be the date we head to the polls.
Think we would have received funding for a new intersection in Saanich if we weren’t in election mode? It’s hard to believe that the federal government just noticed the traffic tieups at the McKenzie Avenue intersection.
By law, an election campaign needs to be at least 36 days long, which allows time for all the behind-the-scenes election machinery to be put in place. At 78 days, this campaign will be the longest since 1872.
This election will result in 338 seats in the House of Commons, up from 308. British Columbia will get six new constituencies, with one of those on Vancouver Island.
But enough of the technical stuff. What will the election mean to Greater Victoria and Vancouver Island?
Much of the attention will be on Elizabeth May, the leader of the Greens and the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. She easily defeated incumbent Tory Gary Lunn in 2011, and despite a couple of minor stumbles, she has done much to raise the profile of her party.
She has also proven to be one of the most knowledgeable and capable debaters in the House of Commons, and has won the respect of people from throughout the political spectrum. It is important to have her voice on the national scene.
That is why it is a shame, an insult to Greens across the land and damaging to the electoral process to see that she has been excluded from at least two debates of national leaders.
One of these debates, on the economy, is sponsored by the Globe and Mail newspaper and Google Canada. Another, on foreign policy, is sponsored by Munk Debates. We know where all of these organizations stand on May: They don’t want her around.
In Greater Victoria, we wonder whether May’s profile and popularity will help the other Green candidates, such as photographer Frances Litman in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and former broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts in Victoria. Both are up against strong NDP incumbents, Murray Rankin in Victoria and Randall Garrison in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
Two Island MPs, New Democrat Jean Crowder from Nanaimo-Cowichan and former Conservative James Lunney from Nanaimo-Alberni, are retiring this year. Their retirements, along with the new constituency, mean that at least three of the seven MPs elected on the Island will be new.
As the election campaign gets into high gear, we will gain a better sense of the possible impact of the national leaders on the local results. The May factor is only one to consider.
Will Thomas Mulcair’s popularity strengthen the traditional NDP support on the Island? Will Justin Trudeau make believers out of skeptics? Will Harper be able to convince voters that despite all they have seen, there is a warm, caring person beneath that cold exterior?
This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting elections in decades. Hang on for the ride; it will be a fun one.
Editorial: TIMES COLONIST