Week One Highlights
- The 43rd federal election kicked off last week. With the writs “drawn up” on September 11, this 40-day campaign will be much shorter than 2015’s 78 days.
- The Liberals, Greens and Conservatives all had rocky starts to their campaigns:
- Justin Trudeau’s campaign launch at Rideau Hall was thrown off message by the news that the RCMP were blocked by the Clerk of the Privy Council from accessing cabinet confidences in the SNC-Lavalin inquiry, allowing Andrew Scheer to start the campaign on the offensive. To make matters worse, the Liberal media bus inexplicably drove into their Trudeau-branded campaign plane — requiring the campaign to switch planes.
- Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had to distance herself from comments by one of her star candidates, former NDP MP Pierre Nantel, in favour of Quebec separation. This came after the Green campaign had to clarify her comments that elected members of her party won’t be prevented from trying to reopen the abortion debate in the next Parliament.
- Andrew Scheer was dogged by his position on abortion on the first full day of the campaign, after an event with his York Centre candidate who has spoken in favour of the Conservative policy to allow free votes on matters of conscience. The Liberal war room threw the Conservative campaign off-message three days in a row by digging up controversial past statements by candidates Scheer was campaigning with.
- The first debate of the campaign took place last week – but without Trudeau, who is limiting his debate appearances to the October 7 English and October 10 French debates hosted by the first-ever Leaders’ Debates Commission, and an additional French debate on Quebec’s TVA network on Oct 2. The Liberals may have calculated that the lower viewership of the Maclean’s/City-TV debate was not worth the risk or investment of time.
- All three leaders performed well in the Maclean’s/City-TV debate, with Jagmeet Singh exceeding expectations in a polished performance. He was clearly targeting the Greens with prepared attacks.
- Each party had notable policy announcements in the first week:
- Trudeau released a housing plan targeted at millennial first-time home buyers in the high-cost markets of Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria (also key political battlegrounds.) Among the changes, the Liberals would expand the maximum income and purchase-price caps for buyers to take advantage of the 10% incentive introduced in Budget 2019.
- The Liberals also released their child care policy, pledging to create 250,000 before- and after-school spaces for kids under 10 and lowering child care fees by 10% across Canada. This pan-Canadian child care system would require interested provinces to opt-in.
- Scheer countered with a major announcement of his own – a 1.5% cut to the lowest income tax bracket by 2023 that would cost $6 billion and save the average couple $850/year. This came after his pledge to bring back the Harper government’s transit tax credit.
- Jagmeet Singh announced the NDP’s Quebec platform to shore up his flagging poll numbers there, including a provincial veto on energy projects, bilingual Supreme Court judges and taxation of the Internet platforms.
- The Green Party released their full platform, an extensive plan that in addition to doubling Canada’s climate targets would introduce national pharmacare, a guaranteed liveable income and free tuition. To help pay for these promises, the Greens would boost the federal corporate tax rate to 21 per cent from the current 15 per cent.
- Andrew Scheer announced the children’s arts and learning tax credit today that could save families up to $500 per child a year. For children with disabilities the credit would double to $1000.
- Candidates are dropping like flies as controversial past behaviour comes to light, thanks to digging by opposition researchers in the campaign war rooms. This week, the NDP lost two candidates, the Conservatives lost one and the Greens lost one.
- Justin Trudeau ended his week at Mississauga’s Celebration Square on Sunday along with thousands of cheering fans congratulating Bianca Andreescu on her massive win at the US Open. Andreescu became the first Canadian to ever win a major singles tennis event.
- Maxime Bernier’s campaign got a boost as the Debates Commission decided to include him in the two official debates. The decision was criticized by the Conservatives who are the most likely to lose votes to Bernier’s People’s Party.
“As long as someone takes responsibility for what they’ve said, and addresses the fact that in 2019 some things that may have been said in the past are inappropriate today, that if anything that they’ve ever said in the past caused any type of hurt or disrespect to one community or another and have apologized for that, I accept that.”
– Andrew Scheer on his candidates’ controversial past statements.
“We respect the decisions made by our professional public servants. We respect the decision made by the Clerk… my job as Prime Minister is to be there, to stand up for and defend Canadians’ jobs.”
– Justin Trudeau, commenting on SNC Lavalin
“When I was a kid, I never imagined that someone that looked like me would be running to be prime minister. People told me time and time again the things that I couldn’t do. But now, kids run up and say, ‘Seeing you do this, I feel like I can do anything.’ And that’s inspirational.”
– Jagmeet Singh at his campaign launch
– Quebec Green Party candidate and former NDP MP Pierre Nantel
“First and foremost — no other party leader is going to say this, but are you ready? — first and foremost, we are earthlings.”
– Elizabeth May at her campaign launch
Poll aggregators (CBC Canada Poll Tracker, 338 Canada.com) have the Liberals and Conservatives effectively tied nationally, with the Liberals leading in Quebec and Ontario, and the Conservatives dominating in the Prairies. The Greens and NDP are in a statistical tie for third place. This puts the Liberals in within reach of majority territory given the concentration of the Conservative vote in the West.
Among public polls, this cluster analysis from Innovative Research Group caught our eye. Instead of national or provincial polls, they have clustered ridings across Canada based on their historical voting patterns, to show how recent trends could impact the election outcome. Among the insights:
- The Liberals may lose some seats to the Conservatives in the Atlantic, Prairies and BC.
- Liberals stand to gain the most in ridings where the NDP have lost support in Quebec. In the rest of the country, the NDP will have a tough fight with Liberals and Conservatives to hold their base.
- Higher Green support in three-way Liberal-Conservative-NDP races may benefit the Conservatives.
- Green support is only up slightly in their target regions, which may not be enough to win many seats.
- Seats where the Bloc Quebecois are competitive will be three-way races with the Liberals and Conservatives.
Abacus Data published an analysis of the voters who will decide the election – the 19 per cent of voters who would consider voting either Liberal or Conservative.
Ridings to Watch
St. John’s East
Incumbent: Nick Whalen (LIB)
Notable candidates: Jack Harris (NDP) and Bob Cadigan (CPC)
Counsel’s Preview: The high-profile rematch between Liberal MP Nick Whalen and popular former NDP MP Jack Harris will provide a strong signal for the NDP’s chances on election night. In the 2008 election, all of Newfoundland went to the Liberals except for St. John’s East, which Harris won with almost 75 per cent of the vote. In 2015, Whalen defeated Harris by little over 650 votes.
It is unlikely that controversial legislation like Bill C-69 will have much impact on Newfoundland voters, while new federal funding from the Atlantic Accord and ACOA has been well received. Hanging over the entire province is the disastrous Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, which has nearly bankrupted the province. It has been bailed out twice with federal loan guarantees but will still gouge ratepayers unless the federal government provides additional rate mitigation – an unlikely scenario. We believe this race will come down to Election Day preparedness and the performance of the NDP and Liberal leaders.
Incumbent: Bill Casey (LIB)
Notable Candidates: Lenore Zann (LIB), Scott Armstrong (CPC)
Counsel’s Preview: The Liberals swept all of Atlantic Canada’s 32 seats in 2015 and have nowhere to go but down. Within the region, they are most vulnerable in the anglophone ridings of New Brunswick.
First elected MP for Cumberland-Colchester in 1998, Bill Casey held the seat under multiple banners over the years.He held the seat as a Progressive Conservative and Conservative until 2008, when he won it as an Independent. He chose not to run in 2011 but returned in 2015 as a Liberal, when he defeated incumbent Conservative MP Scott Armstrong with a whopping 64 per cent of the vote.
Casey retired in 2019 and in his place Lenora Zann, a former NDP MLA for the area, will carry the Liberal banner as Scott Armstrong tries to win back his old seat for the Conservatives. Both candidates are well-known to voters so this will be a real test of party preference.
New Brunswick Southwest
Incumbent: Karen Ludwig (LIB)
Notable Candidates: John Williamson (CPC)
Counsel’s Preview: This traditionally safe Conservative riding was won in 2015 by Karen Ludwig for the Liberals. This election, former MP John Williamson of the Conservatives will be attempting to unseat her in a rematch. In 2015, Ludwig beat Williamson after his first term, a surprise win by around 2,000 votes that was part of the “Red Wave” that carried the entirety of Atlantic Canada. New Brunswick Southwest is a must-win riding for the Conservatives as they try to rebuild their base in Atlantic Canada. If the Liberals hold onto this seat, it will be a good sign for their campaign across the rest of the country.
St. John-Rothesay (New Brunswick)
Incumbent: Wayne Long (LIB)
Notable Candidates: Rodney Weston (CPC)
Counsel’s Preview: Wayne Long has made headlines for breaking ranks with his own party more than once, voting with the Conservatives to extend consultations on small business tax reform and speaking in favour of the Energy East pipeline. While he has remained in caucus, he was removed from two parliamentary committees. However, these maverick actions may have given Long the local clout he needs to stitch together a winning voter coalition.
Rodney Weston represented St. John-Rothesay for the Conservatives from 2008-2015, making this contest one of the many electoral rematches from 2015. It remains to be seen if Long’s contrarian policy stance will keep the support of enough right-leaning constituents to hold the riding. For the Conservatives to have any chance of forming government, they need to win back ridings like this, overcoming an 8,000 vote deficit from 2015.
Incumbent: Matt DeCourcey (LIB)
Notable Candidates: Andrea Johnson (CPC), Jenica Atwin (GP)
Counsel’s Preview: According to Innovative Research Group’s cluster analysis and 338canada.com, Fredericton is a three-way race between the Liberals, Conservatives and Greens. The New Democrats have yet to nominate a candidate as of [September 16]. Popular incumbent Matt Decourcey is facing challenges from local business owner Andrea Johnson for the CPC and Jenica Atwin, an education consultant, for the Green Party.
Elizabeth May hosted a fundraiser with Atwin in July, indicating the Greens’ strong interest in the riding, one of their targets outside of Vancouver Island. Provincially, this riding is uniquely split between three different parties, with MLAs from the Liberals, Greens, and the populist People’s Alliance of New Brunswick. While the Liberals are still favoured to hold the riding, a strong uptick in Green Party support could split the vote in favour of the Conservatives.
Candidate Resignations to date