Election 2008: Extended campaigns not a major issue, observers say

An extended campaign season has taken its toll on candidates in Guelph, Ont., according to the riding’s New Democratic campaign director.

Candidates in Guelph and two other federal ridings, spent August campaigning for a byelection scheduled for Sept. 8. The general election writ on Sept. 7 effectively cancelled the three byelections, forcing campaigns that had already worked for six weeks to continue campaigning for an extra month.

Justin Gniposky, campaign manager for Guelph New Democratic candidate Tom King, admitted that the extended voting season proved tougher on Guelph than on other campaigns. But, he said that the extended campaign also came with advantages.

“(We had) more time to focus on talking to the electorate,” he said. “I don’t think (that) can ever be a disadvantage.”

Current standings show King in second place in Guelph with 24.1 per cent plurality compared to Liberal candidate Frank Valeriote’s 33.8 per cent, according to Elections Canada’s website.

The extended campaign also affected the federal ridings of Saint Lambert and Westmount-Ville-Marie in Quebec. Contestants in a fourth byelection scheduled for Sept. 22 in Don Valley West experienced a similar fate, but had campaigned for less than a month before the general election call.

Gniposky said the extended campaign brought with it the risk of voter fatigue, but did not suspect that the extra campaigning altered the election’s final result.

“I think that the numbers will be different (than they would have in a byelection),” he said before polls closed. “(But) I don’t necessarily think it will change the result.”

Melanie Gruer, a spokesperson for Liberal Rob Oliphant in Don Valley West, agreed that campaign fatigue played a minor role, if any. She said the extra time spent campaigning might even have strengthened the resolve of Oliphant’s volunteers.

“I think the volunteers were enthusiastic and ready to go whether it was a byelection or a general election… I expect we’ll be celebrating a victory tonight,” she said.

Gruer’s prediction could prove accurate. The Elections Candidate website currently has Oliphant’s 43.4 per cent plurality leading Conservative rival John Carmichael’s 39.4 per cent.