In exactly 5 months, Canadians will head to the polls for the 43rd federal election. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are fighting for re-election against Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, currently in opposition. Also hoping to make gains are the New Democratic Party, under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May’s now doubled in size Green Party, and the Bloc Québecois under leader Yves-François Blanchet.
As we head into June, with an eventful month behind us, MJPS has rounded up some of the most important election-shaping events of the last month, along with a preview of what to expect in federal politics over the next month.
Election Results in Prince Edward Island (April 23rd)
On April 23rd, voters in Prince Edward Island (PEI) broke provincial precedent by electing their first minority government since 1890. With the election of a minority Progressive Conservative government, however, voters also met national trends.
The Tories won 12 out of 27 seats, while the incumbent Liberals won just 5 seats, reducing them to third-party status. Such a result follows a ‘blue wave’ across Canada with conservative governments achieving victories in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and New Brunswick.
What was not fully anticipated, however, were the significant gains made by the Green Party in PEI. Winning 9 seats, the party achieved Official Opposition status for the first time in Canada in any province or territory. In the aftermath of the Green’s success in PEI, something to watch out for is how the strategies deployed by the provincial Green Party may be mobilized by Elizabeth May as the election season approaches.
The Green’s seat grab suggests that Islanders – and potentially Canadians in general – have begun to view the party as more legitimate. For instance, the Green Party is projected to triple its seats in the federal upcoming election. In PEI, this success can be attributed in part to now-opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker. Moving beyond environmentalism to emphasize social issues such as healthcare and income inequality, Bevan-Baker put forward a widely diversified platform.
Canada’s Economy Adds the Most Jobs in One Month Since 1976 (May 10th)
According to the latest Statistics Canada labour force survey, Canada added 106,500 net jobs in April, a monthly expansion not seen proportionally since 1976.
As it pertains to the federal election, employment numbers remain a sunny spot in the Liberal’s governing record despite recent turmoil in international trade relations. In fact, University of British Columbia professor Paul Evans described Canada-China relations as the “worst since Tiananmen Square”. Evans cited the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver and the subsequent detention of two Canadians in China on what the Prime Minister described as “illegal grounds.” With regards to trade, China has banned pork and canola imports from Canada in a move Evans argues points to further escalations on both sides.
As the federal election draws close, the Liberals have attempted to attribute this success to increased faith by employers in the Canadian economy. This also suggests that during the fall election campaign, economic success and affordability will be an issue that the incumbent government may not want to shy away from.
In fact, in a ranked list of Ontario Liberal Caucus priorities for the 2019 platform obtained by CBC news, personal finance issues are placed first with environmental concerns demoted to 7th place. Oakville MP John Oliver defended this positioning, suggesting that the lower ranking assigned to environmental concerns was not an indication that climate change issues are no longer relevant. Rather, Oliver claimed that this was instead a reflection of the pre-existing Liberal initiatives to address it.
The list was developed at the December 2018 Liberal Convention where pharmacare, housing affordability and income security for seniors were ranked highly. Overall, the 45-page document may reflect how the federal Liberals will campaign in such a competitive electoral landscape, especially in Ontario – where 121 federal ridings are up for grabs.
A Messy General Election in Newfoundland and Labrador (May 16th)
By electing a minority government for the first time since 1971, Newfoundland and Labrador joined PEI in breaking provincial precedent. The Liberal Party, led by Dwight Ball won 20 out of the 40 seats in the House of Assembly, just short of the 21 needed for a majority.
Unlike PEI, where the spirit of cooperation amongst provincial parties was apparent, Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie sharply stated: “I am not conceding victory to the Liberals. [The Liberals] will have to struggle for the next months and years to hang on to power”. Ball’s victory speech, conversely, emphasized accepting “the will of the people,” as well as unity between the parties.
Crosbie’s post-election plan is to form a coalition of three elected members of the NDP and two independents to counter the Liberals. The two independents he is counting on, however, are Eddie Joyce and Paul Lane — two former Liberal MHAs. This could muddy the PC leader’s ambitious plan by creating doubts over whether or not they will return to the Liberals or join such a coalition. The election itself was messy, with dramatic allegations of corruption, internal party politics and close calls making the results somewhat unpredictable.
(Still) Waiting for the Conservative Climate Plan
In recent days, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has been pushing for a motion that calls upon the House of Commons to declare a national climate emergency. The motion includes language that describes climate change as a “real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity,” and supports meeting Paris Agreement emissions targets through clean growth methods.
This move is considered a direct jab at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer who has maintained a generally unclear stance on the issue. If the motion is debated, Scheer could be forced to stand up and articulate his stance on the Paris Agreement targets. Consequently, Scheer’s office confirmed that they would not vote for the motion without amendments from his party acknowledging the “global contexts” of emissions. Regardless, his spokesperson Brock Harrison attacked the Liberal gesture, describing their take on climate change as “heavy on rhetoric, light on results”.
Overall, Scheer’s lack of a clear-cut and direct climate plan has become a key piece of the Liberal offensive this electoral season. The federal Liberals have been demanding the Conservative climate plan since it was promised during a CTV Question Period over a year ago. During the question period, Scheer advertised the plan as a way to limit global warming to below two degrees without a carbon tax. Eight months later, Scheer’s bold promise was demoted to language promising “meaningful reductions”.
If he follows through, the plan is projected to be what he describes as “the most comprehensive policy announcement by an opposition party in Canadian history”. Come October, climate change and each party’s plans to address it is likely to be a major election issue.
Edited by Lewie Haar.
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.