In exactly 11 months, Canadians will head to the polls for the 43rd federal election. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will fight for re-election against Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, currently in opposition. Also hoping to make gains will be the New Democratic Party, under the new leadership of Jagmeet Singh, as well as Elizabeth May’s Green Party and interim-leader Mario Beaulieu’s Bloc Québécois.
With just 11 months until election day, MJPS has rounded up some of the most important election-shaping events from the last month, along with a preview of what to expect in federal politics over the next month.
1. Party leaders call on Trudeau to announce by-elections (Oct 30th)
Leaders of the federal Conservative Party, NDP, Green Party, and the Bloc Québécois signed an open letter demanding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau call by-elections in the three ridings which currently have no representation in the House of Commons. This letter came after Trudeau called a by-election in one of four vacant ridings, but refused to do so in the remaining three. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has been especially vocal in his criticisms of Trudeau’s action, speaking particularly about the riding he plans to run in Burnaby South. He has expressed concern that Burnaby South constituents “deserve representation and this government is not calling the by-election.”
Of all the leaders, Singh has the most at stake with the by-elections. Because he is currently without a seat in the House, he has been unable to participate formally in Parliament since being chosen as leader. The longer his absence continues, the less time he has to build a campaign around his actions as a legislator and leader. Trudeau has until March 18th to call the by-election, meaning the vote could potentially happen as late as April. The other impact this will have on the NDP is that their leader will be tied up in an election on the west coast, making campaigning around the country extremely difficult. NDP MP Peter Julian called Trudeau’s tactics “petty and manipulative,” but they may also be effective in dampening the NDP’s success.
2. Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada reaches 30,000 members (Oct 31, 2018)
On October 31st, Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada (PPC) informed the CBC that they had signed up 30,000 members across Canada to be “founding members” of the party. After placing second in the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race and some subsequent controversy, Bernier left the party and created the PPC. So far, the PPC has positioned itself to the right of the Conservative party on most issues but is most defined by the leader’s aversion to immigration and government intervention in the economy.
Saying Bernier’s young party has slim-to-no chance of governing in 2019 would be generous. However, his party could be another hurdle for the Conservatives to scale in their conquest to retake power. Bernier claims that his party will compete in all ridings, and this could cause trouble in tightly fought ridings. The ideological positioning of the PPC will make it possible to steal some traditional Conservative voters, but voters from other parties are unlikely to make the move. Bernier and his party splitting the vote with the Conservatives could be the deciding factor in the Liberals forming another government.
3. Singh comments on the relevance of the monarchy (Nov 4, 2018)
In an interview with CTV’s Evan Solomon, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was asked if he considers himself a monarchist or a republican, to which he replied that he is a Republican and that he does not see the relevance of the monarchy to Canada. He added that he thinks that most Canadians share his point of view. These comments were made in a conversation about the recent news that former governor general Adrienne Clarkson has claimed more than $1 million since leaving the position in 2005. He clarified that the monarchy is “not a priority” for the NDP, but this did not stop a flurry of mostly critical tweets.
As much criticism as Singh got, it is very unlikely that these comments will hurt the NDP come election time, or hurt Singh when he finally gets a chance to run in the riding of Burnaby South. Yahoo conducted an online poll following his comments, and with 7000 respondents, 46 percent agreed that the monarchy is no longer relevant in Canada. Although this could turn some older voters off Singh and draw some younger Republicans toward him, don’t expect this to sink or boost the NDP.
4. Results on proportional representation referendum in British Columbia (Mid December 2018)
On November 30th, mail-ballots are due in the referendum on proportional representation in British Columbia. British Columbians are deciding whether or not to scrap their current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system and move to a system of proportional representation (PR). Critics of the FPTP system argue that the PR system is inherently more democratic, and has produced better outcomes around the world when it comes to measures of democracy, quality of life, income inequality and more. At the federal level, Canada currently uses the FPTP system, but Trudeau’s inaugural campaign promised election reform.
Polls show that British Columbians remain divided in this referendum, but a vote to move to PR could spell trouble for Trudeau. A win for PR in BC would bring the debate on electoral reform back into the spotlight, shining a light on the Liberal’s breaking their campaign promise. This broken promise is a superb campaign talking point for opposition parties, and the BC referendum could determine the extent to which the issue becomes central to the 2019 campaign discourse.
5. G20 in Argentina (Nov 30 – Dec 1, 2018)
A large congregation of world leaders will meet in Buenos Aires in late November and early December. The summit has listed three priority issues: the future of work, infrastructure for development, and a sustainable food future. A number of countries have also expressed intent to come to an agreement on regulating cryptocurrency.
Among the many leaders expected to be attending is Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia. Over the past year, Canada has had a volatile relationship with the Saudi regime. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office publicly expressed concern about human-rights violations, and both the NDP and Conservatives have called on the Liberal government to cancel Canada’s $15-Billion arms contract with the country in response to the massacres in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trudeau doesn’t seem to have the best luck while traveling, and his interactions with King Salman are likely to be scrutinized by the opposition parties.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Feature image by Ishmael N. Daro, via Flickr Creative Commons.