Was the long election campaign good for Canadian voters?

Canada's very long election campaign is nearly over and it has given voters ample time to consider how they should cast their ballots.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper put the country on a path to an election when he asked the governor general to dissolve Parliament at the start of August. Eleven weeks later, Canadians are heading to the polls this Monday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

It's nearly over.

Eleven weeks after Conservative Leader Stephen Harper set the country's 42nd general election in motion, the Canadian public will finally get a chance to cast their ballots on Monday.

For voters, the longer-than-usual campaign period has left them with a lot of time to make up their minds about who they want to support.

What may be up for debate, however, is whether these same voters have felt more engaged in the issues.

Mary Bullard, a Windsor senior, told CBC News she keeps up with the news and reads the election materials that come her way. But as for the length and the timing of the election, she pointed to the fact that it is simply out of voters' control.

"When they have it, they have it," said Bullard.

Bernice Potvin, a voter from Windsor's east side, expressed a similar indifference to the campaign's longer lifespan. It gave her more time to consider the issues, but Potvin said she didn't end up dedicating additional time to election matters.

'In a way I've never seen'

Yet some candidates who have been knocking on local doors believe the longer campaign is having a positive effect on voters, even if they don't realize it.

"The longer election really has, I think, afforded more people more time to wade through the issues, so we're getting very substantive discussions at the doorstep, in a way I've never seen in 11 years," said Jeff Watson, the Conservative candidate and multi-term incumbent in the riding of Essex.

Jeff Watson, the Conservative candidate and incumbent in Essex, says that voters have taken advantage of the longer campaign period to become more informed about the issues. (CBC)

Watson said a traditional five-week campaign can go by very quickly, leaving voters with little time to get engaged in what's going on. This time around, he's seeing voters making a greater effort in the process.

"They're showing a tremendous concern for the sobriety and the importance of their vote," Watson said.

Kevin Page, the country's former budget watchdog, also sees benefits in the longer campaign.

"I think it's a good thing that we have this longer debate. Not everybody's happy with it," he told reporters during a recent visit to Windsor.

"I like the fact that we've had a longer campaign this year."

A waste of money?

Dave Sundin, the Liberal candidate in Windsor West, acknowledged the longer campaign period gave voters lots of times to get acquainted with the parties, their platforms and the issues.

But they also saw a lot of public money spent on the election.

"I'm disappointed that a lot of taxpayer money is going to be wasted on this long campaign that [Conservative Leader Stephen] Harper brought about in the hopes of using it for his own gain," he said in an interview this week.

"But I'm glad to see that Canadians have seen through that."

More time to reach voters

As Sundin noted, the extra time on the campaign trail has given both candidates and parties more time to make their case to voters.

Cameron Anderson, an associate professor of political science at Western University, said this scenario may have been a factor in driving up the number of people who took part in advance polls.

Liberal candidate David Sundin says the longer-than-average campaign was unnecessary and thus a waste of public money. (CBC)

If people have already read the pamphlets from parties, watched the debates and considered the issues, Anderson said these voters may have felt that their mind had been made up well before Oct. 19.

Lydia Miljan, an associate professor in the department of political science at the University of Windsor, said the election campaign was long and intense and it ended up getting into very substantive issues — including the economy and the needs of refugees.

"People were obviously very engaged in all of those and you could see, sort of, the poll numbers shift depending on how the parties responded to those issues," she said in a telephone interview.

But Miljan said Canadians should recognize that the end of this campaign does not mean that another one is not around the corner, particularly if a minority government is formed.

With files from the CBC's Joana Draghici and Julia Chapman