In exactly four 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 Green Party, and the Bloc Québecois under leader Yves-François Blanchet.
As we head into July, 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.
Canada and U.S. agree to lift steel and aluminum tariffs (May 17th)
The U.S. and Canada jointly announced an end to tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum squashing a nearly year-long trade conflict. The deal, which was reached on May 17th, brings an end to all tariffs the United States had imposed on Canada, as well as retaliatory tariffs Canada had imposed in response.
Speaking on the agreement, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed that “[the United States has] a great relationship with Canada,” and emphasized that the deal would be fantastic for the country. His counterpart, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, expressed similar sentiments, describing the development as a “good day for steel and aluminum workers right across the country.”
When asked to explain what had led to the resolution, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland cited a united approach from the Canadian government, support from the U.S. Senate and Congress, as well as impending discussions on NAFTA.
This agreement is well-timed for Trudeau. In the context of the impending fall election, it will most likely be cited as an example of the use of smart diplomacy to navigate a tricky issue. Furthermore, following a series of diplomatic disputes, namely with China and Saudi Arabia, the government can now point to Canada’s trade relationship with the U.S. for evidence of their effectiveness.
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) releases its final report (June 3rd)
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report on June 3rd. The report, which was commissioned by the government in 2016, draws on testimony from family members and survivors of violence, as well as experts, witnesses, and officials. The report equates the level of violence against Indigenous women and girls to “genocide”. It also includes various recommendations to the government, the police and the wider Canadian public on how best to address endemic levels of violence against Indigenous women.
In addressing the report, the Prime Minister accepted its findings and acknowledged, in particular, that the treatment of Indigenous women and girls in Canada amounts to genocide. In responding to concerns over using such a powerful term, Trudeau insisted that Canadians should focus on how to put an end to the issues raised rather than debate how to define them.
On the other hand, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer rejected the use of the term ‘genocide’ in the report. While agreeing that the issue is “something that politicians need to take seriously,” he also disputed that ‘’[the events] fall into the category, to the definition of genocide.”
During the 2015 election, violence against Indigenous women was widely discussed. As the fall election approaches, the report and the conversations around Indigenous relations that it has promoted will likely continue to expose deep tensions in Canadian society.
In ‘urgent letter’ Tory premiers claim Trudeau threatens national unity with the passing of two bills (June 10th)
In what they described as an “urgent letter,” six conservative premiers (from Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Northwest Territories) asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider or halt the passing of two bills they deem as damaging to Canada’s energy and natural resource sectors. The two bills are C-69, which would alter the process by which authorities evaluate new natural resource projects, and C-48, which places a moratorium on oil tankers off of Canada’s northern B.C. coast.
In claiming that the two bills threaten national unity and show the federal government’s “disregard… of the concerns raised by our provinces,” the confrontation is sure to fuel the pre-existing conflict between the Liberal federal government and conservative provincial governments.
Yet another show of conservative unity against what some see as an infringing federal government will surely have implications for the federal election. Considering Doug Ford’s announcement that his government is taking a break from the legislature until after the election, attention will be turned away from the unpopular Progressive Conservatives. This may potentially have the outcome of benefitting Andrew Scheer and the conservative movement across Canada come October.
House of Commons adjourned until mid-September (June 22nd)
As is common in Canadian politics, governments in the lead up to elections often roll out or announce new policies expected to shore up certain segments of the electorate, and, considering various announcements, the governing Liberals are no different.
With the House of Commons adjourning tomorrow until mid-September, expect Trudeau and Liberals to spend the next month boasting about various initiatives they announced and introduced in the last month. Some of these include plans to ban single-use plastics by 2021, to ban whales and dolphins in captivity, and the introduction of a national pharmacare program.
Edited by Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu
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.