Tories facing a challenge

The governing Conservatives could face an uphill battle, according to a political science professor

The governing Conservatives could face an uphill battle, according to a political science professor.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament Sunday, triggering a federal election campaign, with Canadians voting Oct. 19.

“The overall dynamic favours the opposition parties,” said Wolfgang Depner, with the University of B.C.’s Okanagan campus.

“Governments that have been in power for almost 10 years have a limited shelf-life and the Conservatives have lost much of their bench strength to use a sports analogy. More so than ever, Harper will be the face of the Conservative campaign. But that is the problem, Harper is deeply unpopular.”

Depner says Harper’s task is to convince Canadians that the other party leaders have their own baggage.

“As Harper has already done so, he will frame (NDP leader Tom) Mulcair as an unstable socialist and (Liberal leader Justin) Trudeau as a pretty but empty shirt.”

According to Depner, the early election call provides Harper with some advantages.

“The Conservatives have the financial resources to run a long campaign, whereas both the Liberals and the New Democrats will have to spend their money wisely,” he said.

The Conservatives, for example, could come out of the gates with a massive advertising blitz, which the Liberals and New Democrats might not be able to match.”

However, Depner says there is a downside to the long campaign because it coincides with the trial of Mike Duffy and his alleged Senate spending.

“This accords the Liberals and New Democrats a chance to link Harper with Duffy specifically and corruption generally throughout the campaign,” said Depner.

“The second risk is that message discipline threatens to fray as the campaign unfolds. If you recall, Harper first assumed power after a campaign that had begun in late November 2005 and continued through early 2006. This campaign saw the Conservatives including Harper get off script, a development that cost them a majority. Which brings me to the third point and I will phrase it as a question: how many people will pay attention to a campaign that begins in the prime vacationing month of August?”