More information has begun to trickle out about the major political parties’ platforms. According to an Abacus Data poll, the top issues impacting the Canadian vote this fall are: the cost of living, health care, and, for the first time ever, climate change.
When weighing the importance of these issues, each party has a relative advantage. Accordingly, each contributes differently to a party’s electability, and can be expected to be emphasized in each respective platform as such.
With less than three months until the Canadian federal election, here is a look at the key considerations of each major party going into fall’s election.
Liberals Recover from Painful Spring
Current Prime Minister and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is sticking with similar values to those he campaigned on in 2015. Trudeau’s core promises involve economic growth that benefits the middle class, respect for and promotion of freedom and diversity, and a more democratic government that represents all of Canada.
The Liberals’ stance on climate change, though, is arguably a little more unclear. While the government declared a national climate emergency, they did so just days before they approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. Additionally, the House resolution to declare the climate emergency does not warrant any action, nor is it binding.
The Trans Mountain approval was perhaps an attempt at addressing growing discontent throughout Western provinces due to a perceived lack of oil and gas infrastructure projects. In addition, the pipeline will potentially contribute to growth in the Canadian energy sector by creating jobs.
Ottawa has said that the proceeds from the pipeline post-completion would be invested into clean technologies aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps in an attempt to address the concerns of environmentally conscious voters. In doing so, the Liberals seem to be walking a fine line in balancing economic growth and environmental sustainability.
On another front, the party is just beginning to distance itself from the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which saw two Liberal MPs, both Ministers, removed from caucus. Following the controversy, the Liberals began to drop in popularity among key demographic groups, including women and Indigenous voters.
The Liberals have since seen their popularity fall below that of the Conservatives, despite a comfortable lead prior to the SNC scandal. Trudeau’s former Senior Advisor Gerald Butts, who resigned amid the scandal, is returning to help the 2019 campaign, perhaps bringing renewed attention to the SNC affair. With less than three months until the federal election, the government will be fighting an uphill battle to maintain power and retain a majority in the House.
Conservatives Crusaders Against Federal Carbon Tax
Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has a strategy to lower taxes, control government spending, and enact an economic plan that creates prosperity and opportunity for everyone. Additionally, though Scheer is personally pro-life, he pledged that a Conservative government would not re-open the abortion debate, although many Canadians are not convinced.
Earlier this year, Scheer rolled out a series of keynote speeches, titled My Vision for Canada. Scheer cast doubt on the Liberal carbon tax plan, stating it will hit hard-working families by increasing the cost of gasoline, groceries, and home heating. Additionally, the Conservatives claim the policy makes virtually no contribution to the fight against global emissions and climate change.
In A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment, the Conservatives aim to strike a balance between the need for Canada to combat climate change and leaving more money in the pockets of Canadians. Scheer plans to do this by implementing green technology, promoting a cleaner natural environment, and taking the climate change fight global by using technology to reduce the emissions of the world’s largest emitters, such as China.
As for the economy, Scheer advocates for limited government intervention and controlled spending to leave more money in the pockets of Canadians. If the defining issue of the campaign is climate change, perhaps the Tories will be in a difficult spot. In terms of economy, if Scheer is able to drive home the issue of affordability, he could work the issue to his advantage.
Also at play is the unpopularity of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government. This could cause headaches for Scheer’s party, perhaps explaining Premier Ford’s decision to suspend the legislature until after the federal election – in a move probably intended to shift attention away from the PCs.
Singh Attempts to Salvage NDP Seats
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh did not win a seat in Parliament until his successful by-election in Burnaby South this February – just ten months prior to the federal election.
Unlike the Conservatives, Singh’s NDP will leave the Liberal’s carbon tax untouched, although they would like to see it raised eventually. The New Democrats also promise drug decriminalization, the creation of 500,000 more affordable housing units, improved childcare, and to enact all recommendations of the National Inquiry into MMIWG.
Further, the NDP is advocating for a more socialized form of healthcare in their proposal to implement a universal pharmacare program for Canadians. They are also promising mental, dental, and hearing coverage for all following the implementation of universal pharmacare.
While Singh’s party has promising ideas, many question their financial feasibility. A New Deal for People accounts for these expenses via multiple measures aimed at boosting government revenues, such as raising taxes on the wealthiest Canadians and ending fossil fuel subsidies.
In Quebec, the New Democrats are at risk of being wiped from the province, as they are currently polling in fifth place, a stark contrast from the 59 seats won in the province in 2011. In an attempt to salvage their seats, Singh is making his way through Québec with the goal of holding onto some ridings this fall. Considering the provincial landscape, however, Singh – an observant Sikh – may find it difficult to win over Québecers who support the province’s new secularism law.
New Leader, Same Problems with the Bloc Québécois
Yves-François Blanchet took over the Quebec party in January, leaving the Bloc at a starting point of 4.3 percent support. The Bloc is within range of winning at least the twelve seats needed for official party status in the House, which could pose a problem for the Liberals, who need to win Quebec seats to offset losses elsewhere.
The Bloc Québécois campaigns on the promise to prioritize Quebec’s interests and environmentalism, as well as the province’s sovereignty. The Bloc has been slowly losing support since its peak in the mid-1990s, where they were the second largest party in parliament and only just lost a referendum on splitting the province from Canada.
With Quebec being a key playing ground for parties this fall, the Bloc Québécois will have to fight for their seats.
Increased Interest in Climate Change Fairs Well for the Greens
The Green Party, led by Elizabeth May since 2003, has been seeing record-level support among Canadians, perhaps due to the party’s emphasis on the issue of the environment, which has been deeply resonating with voters. The Greens have made significant gains provincially, as well as doubling their seat count federally by winning a by-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. While they are not expected to win more than ten seats this fall, if the environment is a salient issue, the party will certainly be one to watch.
What to Expect in October
With growing voter discontent of the incumbent party, many Canadians are looking at alternative parties to represent their best interests. Moreover, the blue wave that has been sweeping provincial governments, as well as the Conservative’s lead in the polls, perhaps point to a nailbiter of an election. With the polls constantly fluctuating, however, it is nearly impossible to predict the next Prime Minister, showing how the only poll that matters is election day.
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.
Featured image by Mercedes Labelle