On October 10, NATIONAL Public Relations was honoured to host a highly distinguished panel that offered its views on #Elxn43 and how it has shaped up across the country thus far; the analysis still holds as we await this evening’s results.
Joining us at our Toronto office were three highly regarded panelists with deep experience in Canadian politics and elections. Award-winning journalist with the Globe and Mail, Laura Stone, led the panel discussion. A veteran of Global News and the Calgary Herald, Stone joined the Globe working initially at the Parliamentary press gallery in Ottawa for almost three years before making the move to Toronto where she now covers Queen’s Park.
Charles Sousa, Ontario’s former Finance Minister, joined the panel discussions. During his time leading Ontario’s economy, Sousa delivered six budgets and historic reforms to Ontario’s pension, insurance, and infrastructure. In addition, he served his community of Mississauga South as Member of Provincial Parliament for ten years and three terms, during which he also held several other cabinet positions, including President of Treasury Board, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Minister responsible for the Pan-Am/ParaPan-Am Games, and Minister of Labour.
Lastly, the Honourable John Baird, most notably Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Harper, also joined the panel. Baird spent ten years as a Member of Provincial Parliament at Queen’s Park, where he served as Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Energy, and Government House Leader. He then spent three more terms as a Member of Parliament in Ottawa, during which he led several key portfolios including President of the Treasury Board, Minister of the Environment, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
During the panel discussion, our esteemed guests dove right into an exciting debate, speaking to an audience made up of the legal, financial, insurance, telecommunications, energy, and technology sectors to name a few, as well as friends from the media and government at all levels. They shared the audience’s view that the election had not yet been fully defined and as a default had become a referendum on leadership.
Chief amongst the concerns both former ministers shared was that the rush to “affordability” (and who amongst the major parties could offer more in the way of tax cuts and credits, and other forms of fiscal goodies, while still increasing services) was a race to a Canada that might be less prosperous when the economic impact of such policies is considered.
Held the morning before the Debate Consortium’s French-language event, and four days after the English debate, our panel agreed that the format of the English event was a disaster. They also agreed that this campaign had been particularly acrimonious and that partisans on all sides were guilty of creating a toxic environment that was polarizing the election.
Baird and Sousa did joust on the best way forward when it comes to balancing the environment and the economy, with the former drawing on his experience as Canada’s Minister of the Environment under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the latter speaking to his time as Minister of Finance under the McGuinty and Wynne governments in an Ontario that had operated under a cap and trade system.
Most fascinating was their assessment of how election night could play out. Baird keenly noted that the People’s Party of Canada, while potentially winning no seats, could have an impact on the Conservative vote in close races by drawing away a small but potentially vital segment of votes. Similarly, Sousa spoke to his experiences in the final days of the last provincial election in Ontario, where progressive-vote switching left a very unpredictable scenario for campaigns, noting that this could lead to some unexpected results in close races for the Liberals.
——— Ali Salam is a former Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations