Canada Conservatives likely to lengthen election campaign: sources
By David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's governing Conservatives are likely to lengthen this year's election campaign by launching it in August, three senior party sources said, a move that would benefit the cash-rich party.
Canadians go to the polls on Oct. 19. Given that campaigns must last at least 37 days, the latest date Prime Minister Stephen Harper could start this year's would be Sept. 13. Five of the last six campaigns have run about that length.
But the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Harper's party already has its machinery in place and is expected to launch the campaign in August, possibly the first week. This would benefit the Conservatives, who last year changed a law that had imposed a maximum spending limit of around C$25 million ($19 million) on campaigns.
The new law increased the limit by about C$700,000 for every day beyond the minimum 37-day length.
The Conservatives have a larger donor base than their rivals and raised C$6.3 million in the first quarter, more than the two main opposition parties combined.
"A long campaign financially exhausts the other parties," said one person familiar with Conservative strategy.
The right-of-center Conservatives, in power since 2006, are seeking a rare fourth consecutive victory. Opinion polls suggest they will find it tough to maintain their parliamentary majority.
Before the campaign starts, party spending is unlimited. The Conservatives have run many ads attacking their opponents. Despite this blitz, they have not been able to pull ahead in the polls. Continued...