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Election’s over, so let’s start the campaign

It might have been nice to have a couple of days — heck, even a few unencumbered waking moments — to allow Manitobans to catch their collective breath.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/09/2019 (1112 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It might have been nice to have a couple of days — heck, even a few unencumbered waking moments — to allow Manitobans to catch their collective breath.

We all knew the federal election was coming, hard on the heels of a provincial election called by Premier Brian Pallister a full year earlier than prescribed by Manitoba’s fixed-date election law. The date of the federal vote had been nailed down long before Mr. Pallister made the bold and mostly unpopular decision to drop the writ here for a late-summer trip to the polls, but that probably won’t stop many Manitobans from feeling the latter of back-to-back election campaigns is the one that’s more annoying and more likely to be ignored.

JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at Rideau Hall.

Even though a fall federal election was an inevitability, the timing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stroll over to Rideau Hall to ask Governor General Julie Payette to dissolve Parliament is sure to have raised eyebrows in many parts of Canada. For starters, the fact he opted to unleash the election campaign on 9/11 — a date politicians usually reserve for solemn reflection — might be viewed by many as questionable.

That Manitobans are campaign-fatigued clearly did not factor into Mr. Trudeau’s decision-making. Not a moment’s peace was afforded to denizens of the Keystone Province, as news of the impending federal election call first broke on Tuesday — voting day — thereby turning the entirety of Manitoba’s summer-into-fall seasonal slide into an interminable, amorphous and verging-on-Sisyphean election-campaign grind.

And if the timing of Mr. Trudeau’s election call was a figurative disaster in Manitoba, dropping the writ on Wednesday amounted to a more literal one for Maritime residents, who are undoubtedly less than thrilled at the prospect of grappling with an election campaign while trying to pick up the pieces in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s direct impact on Nova Scotia.

In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything, and Mr. Trudeau’s choice of Wednesday — rather than this weekend or sometime next week — seems neither astute nor amusing.

Voter turnout for Manitoba’s provincial election, in percentage terms, hovered around a dismally low 50 per cent; imagine the depths of disengagement that might be plumbed as Manitobans are asked to gear themselves back up for another trip to the polls on Oct. 21.

Voter turnout for Manitoba’s provincial election, in percentage terms, hovered around a dismally low 50 per cent; imagine the depths of disengagement that might be plumbed as Manitobans are asked to gear themselves back up for another trip to the polls on Oct. 21.

One can’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for the candidates and workers for all federal parties who must now face the daunting task of knocking on doors, placing plaintive phone calls and requesting permission to put campaign signs on lawns from which provincial placards have not yet been removed.

Perhaps voters will be re-engaged by the knowledge that while Manitoba’s result was a foregone conclusion, the outcome of the federal election is anything but a slam dunk. Pre-election polls place Mr. Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in a virtual dead heat, which sets the stage for a campaign in which two generally unpopular candidates will see who can more effectively sling mud at the other right up until election day.

There’s sure to be drama, and it’s almost guaranteed to get ugly. But with Manitoba’s relatively modest representation in the House of Commons making it clear to most of us that the election will be decided in Quebec, Ontario and the far West, the most interesting story hereabouts might be how many — or how few — in this election-weary province turn out to vote or pay any attention at all.

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