In exactly three 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 August, 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.
1. Trudeau Aims to Show that “Canada is Back” at International Meetings
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spent the last month at a variety of international meetings. Beyond impacting Canada’s international relations, Trudeau’s international presence has made waves back home too, where he is hoping to show voters that his handling of international affairs makes him deserving of a second mandate.
Trudeau met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on July 15th. Stoltenberg approved Canada’s defense spending, despite previous criticism that Canada was falling below its contribution targets to the military treaty organization. The Prime Minister drew special attention to the three Canadian women currently commanding NATO missions, perhaps in a nod to his party’s emphasis on increasing women’s participation in peace and security positions around the globe.
Back at home, Trudeau welcomed European leaders at the EU-Canada summit, where he pushed for the continued ratification of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) by all 28 EU member states. CETA was ratified in Canadian parliament last year, but now requires individual ratification by each member state of the European Union. More than half of the member states have yet to ratify the agreement.
To make matters more difficult for Trudeau, seven Canadian MPs – including Green leader Elizabeth May and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh – sent a letter asking French lawmakers not to ratify the agreement, which they say gives too many rights to corporations at the expense of “people, communities and the environment.” Several Canadian business organizations, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, issued a joint statement condemning these MPs for threatening trade certainty and “undermin[ing] Canadians.” Trudeau also denounced the NDP’s stance, calling it “unfortunate.”
An increase in media attention to this rift could create a shift in public opinion, perhaps influencing voters’ stances on each party’s handling of trade issues. There is significant potential that this will hurt the NDP and the Greens if their stance is perceived the same way it has been portrayed as by business leaders and the other parties: ill-informed. This could be dangerous for the two parties who, as third parties, already struggle to be perceived as legitimate by the electorate.
Trudeau also attended the Group of Twenty (G20) meeting in Japan, where he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the midst of a diplomatic and trade dispute between the two countries. The Prime Minister’s office claims that these talks were “positive” and “constructive,” but voters will likely need to see a real shift in relations before granting Trudeau leniency on his handling of Canada-China affairs.
2. Singh Tours Quebec
Jagmeet Singh has embarked on his summer tour around the country, hoping to shore up support for the NDP, which is currently lagging in the polls. The leader began his tour in Quebec last week, a province where all 15 NDP seats are currently projected to be lost.
While Singh has kept face with reporters, telling them he isn’t concerned about the dwindling Quebec support, the province is of crucial electoral and symbolic value to a party that won official opposition in 2011 thanks to the ‘Orange Wave’ sweeping Quebec.
Singh’s presence in Quebec is of special significance given that the tour comes during a time when the province is debating the legitimacy of public servants wearing “ostentatious” religious garb. Singh, who wears a turban and carries a kirpan, has vowed to lead the fight against Quebec’s secularism bill at the federal level. It remains to be seen whether Singh can effectively brand himself this way, or if his religious presentation will present a weakness in a province highly supportive of a ban on religious headwear.
3. Green Party Recruits Warren Kinsella to Campaign Team
A prominent former advisor to Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien has crossed the floor this campaign season. It was announced on July 12th that Warren Kinsella will help Green Party leader Elizabeth May in her bid to increase the party’s winnings from its current (historic) two seats in the House. Kinsella will specifically be helping with “strategic response and opposition research in support of the leader and [the] candidates.”
The Greens are likely hoping to steal votes from a pool of Liberals who have lost confidence in the government’s handling of climate change following Trudeau’s handling of environmental issues, including the controversial purchase of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline from Kinder Morgan. Kinsella’s insider knowledge of Liberal party strategy, as well as his dedicated attention to – and criticism of – the Trudeau Liberals will be a valuable asset to the party otherwise lacking in major campaign resources.
1. Candidates Informally Campaign in Ridings
With the House of Commons now on its summer break, most Members of Parliament and their staff have migrated to the ridings to begin getting things in place for the upcoming campaign. Door-knocking events are increasing in frequency across the country, and parliamentarians are spending additional time showing their face at community events.
The summer before the official launch of the campaign is a crucial time as candidates try to secure last-minute donations and boost popularity and name recognition in the community. We will likely see an especially strong pre-campaign push in ridings where incumbents’ seats are at risk.
These unsafe incumbents who are likely to push extra hard include virtually all non-retiring members of the NDP caucus, several Liberals in swing ridings, and even a few Liberal cabinet ministers – including Environment Minister and Ottawa Central MP Catherine McKenna.
Edited by Evelyne Goulet, Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu, and 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.