It’s the final stretch of the campaign — the time left to win over voters is measured in hours, not days.
With no party poised at this time to win a majority government, leaders will spend the next 72 hours making their closing arguments to an ever-shrinking group of undecided voters.
The switch from an air war conducted over media and advertising to the ground game focused on getting out the vote is well underway, as sophisticated voter identification systems in all main parties hope to produce the last minute bump in voter turnout that could make all the difference in the final seat count.
This election will come down to the wire and it’s anyone’s guess as to the formation of the next government of Canada.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, advance polls were open from Friday to Monday, with Elections Canada reporting a marked increase in advance voter turnout. A million more people voted in advance polls compared to 2015, with 4.7 million votes cast this past weekend. It is difficult to say if this foreshadows higher overall voter turnout at this time – this could be due to any number of factors, such as higher motivation to vote, or because polls were open for longer each day (from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. vs from noon to 8 p.m. in the previous election). In 2015, the total voter turnout was 68 per cent, which is just below Canada’s historical average of 70 per cent, but the highest since 1993.
Last Friday in Vancouver, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer released his party’s fully-costed platform. With a focus on affordability, the platform contained familiar promises previously announced, such as axing the price on carbon, but also detailed how the Conservatives plan to return the budget to balance within five years by reducing spending by $53 billion, including an $18 billion cut in planned infrastructure spending. While the Liberals were quick to pounce on the plan, comparing it to Premier Ford’s unfavourable spending cuts in Ontario, the Conservatives maintained that infrastructure projects already approved would move forward and the savings would come from delaying the construction of new projects over a longer time period.
Last week, CBC confirmed that they were taking the CPC to court, after the federal party reportedly used CBC TV clips and footage in an online campaign advertisement. In their official response to the CBC lawsuit, the Conservative Party claims that services funded entirely by taxpayers should be free to use by taxpayers.
Changes to Canada’s bankruptcy act
Late in the campaign, the Conservatives promised to restrict large payouts to executives at bankrupt companies with underfunded pension plans. This is in an effort to restrict the practice of paying management retention bonuses as employees lose their jobs and benefits.
Preparing to govern
Seeking to project a Prime Ministerial image to voters, Andrew Scheer spent much of this past week outlining his plans, should the Conservatives form government. This included:
- Appointing former BC Finance Minister Kevin Falcon and former VIA Rail CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano to lead a commission to slash corporate welfare by $1.5 billion annually
- Tabling a fiscal update within 45 days of the election to implement several promised tax credits
- Repealing the carbon tax by January 1 2020 as its first piece of legislation
- Meeting with Canada’s Premiers in January 2020 to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers.
Posturing has already begun regarding the terms under which a minority would have the right to govern – with the Conservatives, sensing that progressive parties would join forces in the House of Commons, making the argument that the party with the most seats should get the first shot at government.
This common sense argument runs contrary to constitutional conventions that permit the incumbent prime minister to attempt to form government. The most recent example of convention was demonstrated in British Columbia, where despite having fewer seats than the BC Liberals, the NDP formed government with support from the Greens.
Trudeau’s bullet proof vest
A Liberal rally in Mississauga was delayed by 90 minutes before Justin Trudeau took the stage wearing what was later revealed to be a bullet proof vest under his suit jacket. Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau was supposed to introduce her husband to the crowd but did not take the stage. During the event uniformed officers, in addition to the RCMP protective unit, were visible throughout the crowd. This episode highlighted how the nasty rhetoric of the campaign may have crossed a line to the point where our political leaders are now concerned about physical threats to their safety.
President Obama endorses Trudeau
In a surprise development on Wednesday, former US President Barack Obama tweeted out a glowing endorsement of Justin Trudeau, urging his “neighbors to the north” to keep his progressive voice in office. Despite similar past support for the election of France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, many complained about Obama’s foreign interference in the campaign.
Barnstorming for votes
With a week to go in the campaign and the Liberals in minority territory, owing to a resurgent Bloc and NDP, Justin Trudeau set a blistering pace of events across key battlegrounds in Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Fredericton, Halifax, Sherbrooke, and Trois-Rivieres. His message to voters considering casting their ballot for the Bloc, NDP or Green Party is to vote for a progressive government, not a progressive opposition, while raising the spectre of Conservative cuts. Jagmeet Singh countered this messaging, saying that “nothing good has come from voting out of fear.”
Riding the crest of a rise in the polls, Jagmeet Singh laid out the six priorities the NDP would have if they held the balance of power in a minority situation. These priorities include universal pharmacare, affordable housing, waiving the interest on student loans, “bold action” on climate change, a super wealth tax and capping cell phone and internet bills.
Talk of coalition
Over the long weekend, Singh said he would “absolutely” work in a coalition of parties to stop a Conservative government, but by Monday shifted his message, saying that “my focus is not on a coalition government. My focus is on this: If you vote New Democrat, you’re going to get someone on your side.” He may have been reacting to Andrew Scheer, who pronounced that the Liberals and NDP would form a coalition “you can’t afford” to motivate Conservative voters.
Jack Layton’s heir
Amidst a flurry of campaign events in key BC, Ontario and Quebec battlegrounds, Singh made a couple of stops to remind voters of the legacy of Jack Layton, who brought the NDP to historic heights in 2011 before his untimely passing. He campaigned in Layton’s old riding of Toronto-Danforth and visited his birthplace in Hudson, Quebec, with Layton’s widow Olivia Chow.
“I think the guy loves me or something, ’cause he constantly mentions my name.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, referring to Justin Trudeau
“I don’t recall authorizing this use of my likeness.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, in response to CBC’s Rosemary Barton’s tweet of an Andrew Scheer hologram
“All of which may mean we are in for an exciting election night – one in which the ultimate outcome may take more than one evening to fully take shape. Canada was born in parliamentary coalition and alliance, and in an age of fractured political support, the necessity of political parties working together may be an important aspect of our constitutional future. Minority government may disappoint the parties vying for power, but a divided House may actually mean the public wins the election.”
Eric M. Adams, vice-dean and professor of law at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law in a Globe and Mail op-ed.
After weeks of consistent polling results, the polls finally broke late last week as the NDP and Bloc emerged as the clear winners of the English and French debates, biting into both Liberal and Conservative support, while support for the Green Party dropped to its traditional single-digit levels. This trend indicates that voters will wake up to a minority government on October 22.
One week before the election, Abacus Data indicates that Liberals and Conservatives are tied in a dead heat at 32 per cent with the NDP at 18 per cent nationally with the Greens at 9 per cent.
Nanos’ three day rolling average from October 14-16 has the Conservatives at 33 per cent nationally, with the Liberals at 32 per cent, NDP at 19 per cent, Greens at nine per cent. Even though election day is only a few days away, 10 per cent of the electorate remains undecided. This group could decide the fate of the election.
Mainstreet Research, through their partnership with iPolitics, indicates an even closer race at 30.9 per cent for the Liberals, 30.6 per cent for the Conservatives, 18.3 per cent for the NDP, 7.9 per cent for the BQ, and 7.7 per cent for the Greens.
Forum Research, released today show that the Liberals at 30 per cent Conservatives at 29 per cent, while the NDP are at 20 per cent and Greens at eight per cent.
CBC Poll Tracker has the Conservatives at 32.1 per cent and the Liberals at 31.1 per cent, while the NDP are at 18.3 per cent with the GPC at 8.2 per cent and the BQ at 6.9 per cent. This result would give the Liberals a slight edge in seat count at 137 versus 125 for the Conservatives, with the Bloc projected to win 39 seats and the NDP 34.
Which Party has the Edge?
All three major parties can claim an edge as we head into the final hours of the campaign:
The Liberals likely retain an edge in seat count due to a more efficient seat distribution, Conservatives remain convinced that their voters are more motivated to get to the polls, while NDP supporters are likely to be motivated to get out and vote for Singh on Monday to play kingmaker in a minority context.
Hang on to your hat Canada.