The long-awaited 2019 federal election campaign was finally launched yesterday. Each party vying for the ultimate prize faces key questions as they embark on this 40-day campaign across our country:
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his troops hope to secure a second consecutive mandate, four years after their 2015 triumph. Their first mandate was highlighted by solid economic growth numbers, the lowest national unemployment rate in over 40 years, and decisive measures to tackle climate change. On paper, these accomplishments seem to point towards an easy re-election. Not so fast: billion-dollar budget deficits, coupled with ethics scandals and the purchase of a pipeline have weakened Trudeau’s aura. He will have to convince Canadians that his party still presents the best option for our country, which he strived to in his inaugural address by touting his government’s strong economic record, the positive impact of the Canada Child Benefit and the completion of two major trade deals: the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).
The current Liberal majority is at risk, the result of the steady climb by the Conservative Party, led by Andrew Scheer, who is capitalizing on tangible frustrations in various pockets of the Canadian electorate on issues like public spending, oil & gas, foreign affairs, border security and ethics. However, the CPC will have to define who Andrew Scheer really is. His popularity at the national level is a question mark, and his personal beliefs on certain social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage (which have strategically been highlighted by Liberals over the past few weeks) could deter Canadians unwilling to revisit these topics. His first post-writ allocution checked all of the usual Conservative boxes: fiscal management, lower taxes, a smaller government and federal asymmetry, while focusing on the Trudeau government’s ethical issues.
New Democratic Party
Fighting for the third place (and the likely balance of power in the event of a minority government) is the struggling NDP, whose leader Jagmeet Singh will be tasked with reconnecting the party with the various factions of the socio-democratic movement. In his first media scrum, Singh tackled the various elephants in the room: his party’s current misfortunes in Quebec (a nomination rate of less than 50% and backlash over Singh’s turban), its inability to stand out across the country, and even its fundraising issues. Mr. Singh seemed comfortable in forecasting his party’s resurgence and eager to engage with other leaders on issues like pharmacare, tax evasion, corporate cronyism and social housing.
The NDP is facing stiff challenge from the Green Party, who is bolstered by the emphasis on the environment as a key election issue this time around, and whose ceiling as a national political movement has yet to be defined. In her address before her BC supporters, party leader Elizabeth May spent significant time positioning her party as more than a single-issue movement, emphasizing that a Green government would have tangible solutions on issues like housing, Indigenous rights, healthcare and democratic reform. May’s allocution pointed towards making sure to showcase her party as a mainstream option, away from its fringe-contending days.
A reinvigorated Bloc Québecois plans to play spoiler all over la Belle province, surfing on the nationalistic pride that has resonated within Quebec since the rise to power of the governing CAQ. In his campaign kickoff in the province’s capital Quebec City, party leader Yves-François Blanchet indicated his intent to return the Bloc to its longstanding role as Quebec’s chien de garde (watchdog), tasked with ensuring that province-wide consensuses are respected in Ottawa. A significant part of his platform will be dedicated to the environment, an issue the separatist faction plans to levy as a key differentiator from the rest of Canada and as a vector for a rebirth of the sovereigntist movement. Mr. Blanchet hopes to challenge the Conservative Party in ridings outside of Montreal and will undoubtedly use his superior communications skills during the various leaders’ debates.
People’s Party of Canada
Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party will fight to prove that there is an ideological space (and political support) for a party sitting further right than the Conservative Party. His inaugural campaign address took place in the heart of Ford Nation, flanked by his star candidate in Etobicoke, Renata Ford, the widow of polarizing former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, the man credited with pioneering the anti-elite movement in Canada. Bernier projected his usual confidence, proclaiming that his brand of intelligent populism would win over Canadians throughout the campaign. Some of the policies presented include spending cuts, the reduction of immigration levels, the end of the supply management system, as well as the end of state multiculturalism. He will likely be a lightning rod throughout the campaign.
In 39 days, the fabric of our country could alter dramatically, brining seismic changes to a bevy of issues. NATIONAL will cover each day of this epic journey leading us to October 21.